You may have noticed that beetroot juice is becoming more readily available in health shops and supermarkets recently. You may even have seen sports people drinking the Beet It shots before training or competing, in particular the Olympians at last years London olympics, where many were supplementing with the drink.
So why is it suddenly coming into the spotlight? This is all happening due to a special ingredient it contains and all the research thats been carried out on it as a sports supplement recently. So what is it about the foul tasting drink that is making it so desirable to sports people and gym goers all over the world. It’s all down to a key ingredient that makes beet root a potential super fuel and that is its naturally high levels of nitrate.
So why is Nitrate so special and what does it do in our bodies?
It’s been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce the oxidative stress on the body and from a sports perspective its been shown to reduce oxygen consumption during exercise.
According to Exeter University sports science research, it can reduce the energy cost of exercise in sub maximal work by between 5 and 10%. It has also been shown to increase the time to exhaustion by around 15-20%. These results are massive from a sports perspective where every second and every inch counts and can be the difference between winning and losing. This could be massive from a health perspective as well with many possible benefits.
With so many studies on the effects of nitrate in the body its amazing that scientists still don’t know the mechanics of how these amazing effects take place. Its also not yet known if there is a certain dose level where the effects begin to negate themselves. So it would make sense to still approach nitrate with a little caution until more is known. Sticking to supplementing with it from natural sources like beetroot would a sensible route!
Beetroot juice contains 1mg of Nitrate per 100ml. You can also buy concentrated shots of the stuff from Beet It. These 70ml shots contain 3mg of Nitrate and there is also a sports shot that contains 4mg in it’s 70ml shot. I have now personally been taking the Beet It sport shots for about 3 months. I have one shot the day before a game and another shot just over an hour before kick off. Personally I have found there to be a definite positive effect, I’ve noticed that I have more energy later on in games when I would normally start to tire. I have also noticed that the day after games I feel a lot better than I did before I started taking the shots, my legs feel nowhere near as tired as they used to. With the pile up of fixtures I have coming up for the last 2 and a half months of the season I hope this continues to be the case as I’m going to need all the help I can get!
This is a video I made of a few exercises you can do on a suspension trainer to work the whole body in one session. The suspension trainer is a great piece of kit as it can be used practically anywhere and packs away into just a small bag so is convenient to carry with you. The one I am using here is called the Rip 60 but there are many others like the TRX for example. The great thing about suspension training is how almost every exercise you do on it hits your core muscles due to the free moving straps. Simply adjusting your feet position or the length of the straps alters the resistance instantly, so no need for heavy weights! I think this type of training is great for sports people as it is very functional with lots of multi joint and multi muscle exercises that can be done on it.
When you look around your average gym there seems to be a lot of people all doing the same type of training, particularly in the weights area. Now I’m sure that all these people don’t lead identical lives and have the same goals. When a personal trainer first meets a new client one of the first things the client will say is ‘I want to get fit’. This can mean absolutely anything and often a personal trainer will have to delve deeper to find out exactly what the client means.
The key question to ask yourself is “fit for what”. Why are you training? Is there a sport you are trying to improve performance at? Are you trying to make everyday life easier? Are you just trying to reduce general body fat or tone up a specific area of your body? There can be many different reasons why you have made that decision to begin exercising. All of these questions will lead to an individual training plan and it’s important that if you are not working with a personal trainer who can advise you on this, that you are aware of what your individual goals are so you can create your own plan. Most of us don’t have lots of spare time, so it is important to make the best of the little time you do have when exercising.
A good example of how people just go to a gym and train without really thinking of their goal is in football. Throughout my career I have seen footballers in the gym weight training just to get ‘big’. The problem with this is that getting big will not necessarily help them in their footballing performance. A lack of guidance and understanding means that they may be wasting valuable time and effort in shaping their body in an ineffective way for their sport. Strength is an important aspect of football but it is not the only one. You need to think about your outcome, if you want to improve your performance at a certain sport look at what skills and attributes play a big part in that sport.
I have put together a few tips that you should try to think about when putting together your training plan to ensure you make the most of your valuable time you have in the gym.
Training Plan Thoughts and Tips
- What are you training for, what is your goal? (weight loss, lower body fat, build muscle mass, build strength, increase cardiovascular endurance, increase flexibility, sport specific, reduce vital statistics (waist measurements etc))
- If sport specific, what energy system does the sport work? (is it aerobic, anaerobic or both)
- How much time do you have in the gym? Plan your session, how long will you spend on each exercise?
- Remember that your diet is just as important if not more important in helping you achieve your health and fitness goals.
I made this video from a couple of sessions I took with friends both professional footballers. The session was mainly speed, agility and quickness work (SAQ). There was also some plyometric training done.
Adam or ‘Newts’ to his friends and teammates has given up some of his time to give us a little insight into his footballing career where he has amassed over 300 league appearances. He has also represented England at U21 level and played full international football for Saint Kitts and Nevis. In this brief chat we talked about the different roles that health and fitness have played in his career so far and what motivates him.
So Newts, how long have you been playing football and at what levels?
“I started my career at West Ham Utd when I was just 16 signing a 2 year scholarship. I moved into digs and learnt a lot about the disciplines of football. I then went on to do 3 years as a pro there. I had a great time making appearances in the Premiership and in Europe. From there I moved to Peterborough Utd where I stayed for 6 years and became club captain. I then moved to Brentford for a season before then signing for Luton town for 2 years and now I am at Woking FC”
What do you normally eat on a Friday and Saturday before a game?
“I try to eat pasta based dishes on a Friday like spag bowl and pasta bakes. This has become a routine for me. The morning of a game I usually have porridge and a banana and then a pre match a bit closer to the game which would usually be some form of pasta again.”
Has this changed much since you have been playing football?
“It is a habit now so I have stuck mostly to what I have always done. Although on match days now that I have to leave a little earlier for a game it is sometimes a bit different. I generally only get to eat once so I will have a slightly larger meal with eggs or chicken for some protein and pasta.’
What does your general gym session typically involve?
“A bit of everything, I don’t have a great deal of time to get to the gym so I can’t do split sessions. I do lot’s of core work as this is very important for football. I’ve done more free weights as I’ve got older and learnt more. The majority of work I do though is done using my own bodyweight, stuff like pull ups, press ups and dips. I tend to not do a great deal of leg work as I’m working these quite hard in training anyway.”
How have you seen the game change in your time with regards to nutrition and training?
“I think its changed quite drastically in the last 5-6 years with the majority of clubs particularly in the league bringing in sports scientists and specialised fitness trainers. It’s meant that players at these clubs are educated with the importance of diet, hydration, stretching and specified weight training in order to bring out the best in your performance. They also help with making you aware of what supplements you may need such as recovery drinks after games. In a way I think its going to help many players prolong their careers. Fitness work has also changed a lot, the days of just running continuously round the pitch as many times as you can have gone! It now consists of a lot more short, sharp, agility type work. There’s also a lot more speed and explosive dynamic training now.”
What do you love most about football and what do you hate?
“I’ve always wanted to be a footballer for as long as I can remember. I love the personal challenge I get from it, I like the fitness side of it too. I also like the responsibility I have with the individual role I play in a team. The part I hate most is losing, I play to win as well as enjoying the game!”
How do you keep yourself motivated?
“I stay motivated through the enjoyment of the game and wanting to win. I also don’t like to let my teammates down.”
Do you have any superstitions?
“I used to have to wear under socks but as I’ve got older I’ve grown out of that, I guess now I don’t really have any superstitions!”
Thank you Newts for taking the time to have a chat, hopefully this will be an interesting insight for people into the football world!