The purple root, which grows abundantly in the UK, is a nutrient powerhouse. A series of recent studies have shown eating it regularly can help improve speed and stamina.
Its secret lies in compounds called nitrates, in which beetroot is rich. Once in our bodies we convert nitrates to nitric oxide, a gas that widens our blood vessels. Opening up the vessels improves the circulation of oxygen to our muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently. A study on time-trial cyclists published by scientists from Exeter University in 2010 suggests regular beetroot consumption can improve stamina by over 10%.
Beyond, beetroot is loaded with B-vitamins, magnesium and iron, all of which are critical for energy metabolism.
Teff, a staple of the Ethiopian diet, is often held up as the secret behind the African nation’s incredible marathon running success.
Some of the greatest endurance athletes that ever lived – notably former marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, and Abebe Bikila (who won the 1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome barefoot) – were brought up on teff and credited it as a key factor behind their evolution into world-beating runners.
The grain is higher in protein and resistant starches than most grains, making it an ideal slow-release energy source. It is also loaded with calcium and iron, and for coeliacs is gluten-free.
It’s increasingly available in health food stores and you can substitute it for quinoa in most recipes, or use teff flour for baking.
Like many red and purple berries, sour cherries are rich in antioxidants. These compounds help the body fend off damage to cells which can be brought on by intensive training.
Sour cherries are particularly high in a group of antioxidants called anthnocyanins. Studies carried out over the past ten years have begun to show that regularly eating foods that are high in anthnocyanins can help athletes perform better, by reducing the impact of muscle damage during intense exercise, and assisting with recovery post workout. Of all the natural foods high in these molecules, sour cherries are the most effective.
Give them a try in juice or dried fruit format.
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