Professional swimmers go through a precise set of superstitious behaviours, tailored diets and pre-race warm-ups before entering the pool. Some athletes prefer to have a heavy carbohydrate based meal, earlier that day, to ensure that their muscles are prepared with a ready source of glycogen. Eighteen time gold medalist, Michael Phelps, was renown for consuming up to 10,000 calories a day when competing.
As the race approaches, swimmers start to adjust their mind frame. They may use music to help focus, visualising each section of the race, from entrance to finish, and concentrating on the individual motions their muscles go through. Walking out to the pool, tracksuits are whipped off and swimming caps are squeezed on. A quick leg shake, arm wiggle and funky dance; before it’s time to step onto the starting block.
With the Commonwealth Games coming to a close, it has come to light that there is one more secret element when preparing for a race in the form of beetroot. Many swimmers have been drinking beetroot juice prior to their race. A new study has revealed that beetroot significantly increases aerobic energy and increases the athlete’s stamina.
Researchers, from the University of Cagliari and the Italian Olympic Committee, set out to ascertain whether a swimmer’s performance could be improved by a week of beetroot juice supplementation. Fourteen male swimmers underwent two incremental swimming tests; whereby workload, oxygen uptake, carbon dioxide production, pulmonary ventilation, and aerobic energy were measured.
Results concluded that their stamina was significantly increased through beetroot juice supplementation. The naturally high nitrate content, found in beetroot, interacts with the enzymes in saliva to generate nitric oxide in the blood system. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles, thereby boosting strength and endurance.
Ellie Faulkner, who won bronze for England in the women’s 4x200m freestyle, is one of the many athletes who support purple power. Talking about the Beet-It Sport Pro-Elite shot she said: “They are a great natural product, which have become part of my nutrition. They are very suited for me, as a distance swimmer, and I would highly recommend them to all athletes.”
Other athletes, who pay tribute to the beetroot supplement drink, include; triathlete Gillian Curr Sanders, rugby league’s Shaun Ainscough, figure skater Phil Harris, cyclist Mike Augar and Crystal Palace football club.
A spokesperson from Crystal Palace said: “We have been using Beet-It since January 2013 and this has coincided with a reasonably good run of form that has helped us to retain our Barclays Premier League status for another season. The shots are extremely popular with the players and we go through about four boxes in the lead up to a game.”
Beetroot may enhance the performance of swimmers, however, it may not be the strangest of drink and food supplements athletes often use. Basketball superstar, Lebron James, has a secret penchant for sugary cereal pre-game. The towering 6ft8 American used to eat Lucky Charms as his source of sugar each day. After setting a new 100m World Record at the Beijing Olympics, Usain Bolt famously announced that his pre-race diet consisted of chicken nuggets.
Perhaps, the most peculiar of them all was former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Lyoto Machida, who told a Brazilian magazine: “I drink my urine every morning like a natural medicine.”
What is your daily food or drink craving?