Before you dive into that intense, sweat-filled workout, you might want to ditch the plain water and get a glass of beetroot juice instead. It can actually give you the brain and performance of a younger person, according to a study.
Scientists at Wake Forest University found that when older adults drank a beetroot juice supplement before exercising, it boosted their brains to the point where it performed like a much younger brain.
“We knew, going in, that a number of studies had shown that exercise has positive effects on the brain,” said W. Jack Rejeski, study co-author. “But what we showed in this brief training study of hypertensive older adults was that, as compared to exercise alone, adding a beetroot juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.”
The study was the first of its kind to test the aftereffects of beetroot juice and exercise combination on brain networks in the motor cortex and the insula. These are the areas of the brain that support mobility and movement.
Researchers examined 26 men and women who were all non-exercisers and were 55 years and older in age. They all had high blood pressure, but took no more that two medications to treat their condition. For six weeks, three times a week they consumed the beetroot juice supplement Beet It Sport exactly one hour before an intense 50-minute treadmill walk. Then, researchers split the group in two; half received Beet It with 560mg of nitrate, and the others received the Beet It placebo, which had a small quantity of nitrate.
Beets contain high levels of nitrates, which are transformed into nitric oxide when consumed. Several studies have shown that beets can actually improve the exercise performance levels in people of all ages.
“Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule. It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic, or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body,” said Rejeski.
Adding beetroot juice to your pre-exercise routine pumps more oxygen to the brain and creates the perfect environment to make your somatomotor cortex stronger. The somatomotor cortex is the area of the brain that controls your muscles and voluntary movement.
When the study participants were analyzed post-workout, researchers found that the beetroot juice group had much higher levels of nitrate than the placebo group. Overall, that translated to them having a higher quality and better performance exercise session.