Beet juice for the brain, pre-exercise dynamic stretching

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Beet juice for the brain

You’re late in a race. Maybe you’re running a 10 miler, shooting for 80 minutes, and you just went through 9 miles in 1:11:34 after going through mile 8 in 1:03:42. Quick. How much time do you have to cover the last mile and is that faster or slower than you covered the prior mile? Right now, that’s easy to answer. You know as well as me that it would be a far different story if you were trying to do the math during the race.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about the likely endurance benefits of beet juice and its key ingredient, nitrate (also found in dark leafy greens and some other foods). What if there were another benefit?

Well, Alex Hutchinson finds a study that points to another potential benefit.

When you’re exercising hard and hyperventilating, levels of carbon dioxide in your blood drop, which can in turn cause your blood vessels to constrict, reducing the amount of oxygen reaching your brain. The nitrate in beet juice, which is converted to nitric oxide, plays a crucial role in dilating blood vessels, so it may counteract this effect.

That’s just a hypothesis right now. However, with those taking beet juice able to respond to a cognitive test more rapidly, there definitely appears to be some benefit.

Pre-exercise dynamic stretching

What do you do in regards to stretching or mobility exercises before workouts or races? Nothing? Static stretching? Dynamic stretching? There is plenty of debate as to what kind of exercises are good to do pre-exercise or whether it’s best to do none.

In the battle of none vs. dynamic, let this be a vote in favor of dynamic:

The results demonstrated that the DS [dynamic stretching] treatment improved the endurance performance of running at a velocity equivalent to 90% VO2max in well-trained male runners, although it did not change the RE [running economy]. This running velocity is equivalent to that for a 3000 or 5000 meter race. Our finding suggests that performing DS during warm-up before a race is effective for improving performance.

This is when compared to non-stretching. I’d definitely consider this pretty significant. Time to exhaustion at 90% VO2max was significantly longer on average and total running distance was, on average, nearly 700 meters longer (just over 4301 meters vs. just short of 3617 meters). That’s a result to pay attention to.

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