Roasted Beet Hummus

Dietary Nitrate to Support Performance and Health 

Dietary nitrate supplementation may have positive effects on an athlete’s physical response to exercise.¹ Increased intakes of food or beverages containing nitrates may help to reduce the energy costs of exercise, positively impact muscle contraction, and improve athletic performance. Once ingested, the dietary nitrate is converted, with the help of oral bacteria, to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts to widen blood vessels which allows blood, oxygen and nutrients to be more efficiently delivered to muscles.²

One of the more popular forms of supplementation is commercially made beetroot juice (i.e. Beet-It), but athletes can also increase dietary nitrate by eating beets or other nitrate rich vegetables such as rocket lettuce, spinach, bok choy, broccoli, and radishes. It is also possible to make your own beetroot juice at home with a juicer.²

*Athletes hoping to reap the benefits of beetroot juice should avoid using mouthwash or gum as they may reduce oral bacteria, essential for the conversion of nitrate to nitric oxide.²

Which type of athletes would benefit the most from supplementation is still an area under investigation; however, there is some evidence that increasing dietary nitrates might have performance benefits for endurance athletes like runners, triathletes and cyclists. There may also be some benefit for individuals competing or training at high altitude (low oxygen environment).² Additional research is also required to determine optimal doses and timing; however, it has been suggested that about 300-500mg of nitrate (in the form of beetroot juice or other) may have the greatest impact on performance.²ʼ³ Commercially available beetroot juice concentrate can be taken up to 2 hours prior to exercise for immediate benefits.ᶟ

Mild intestinal discomfort has been reported in some athletes (large volume of fluids, increase in fibre – if having beets in their whole form). These symptoms may be reported more frequently in those with a medical history of irritable bowel disease.² Individuals interested in trying beetroot juice or increasing foods naturally containing nitrates who have a history of GI intolerance or who wish to use this product prior to an athletic event may wish to use a concentrated form like Beet-It shots.¹ Beetroot juice may also make your urine or stool pink, but this is harmless.²

*Athletes hoping to reap the benefits of beetroot juice should avoid using mouthwash or gum as they may reduce oral bacteria, essential for the conversion of nitrate to nitric oxide.²


Beetroot Hummus

Roasted Beet Hummus

Makes about 2 cups of hummus


1 19oz can no added sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup tahini

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium beet, peeled and roasted

1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp olive oil


  1. To roast beet: preheat oven to 375F, then rub the beet with oil and wrap in tin foil. Roast for about an hour or until beet is tender. Allow to cool and peel off skin.
  2. Place all ingredients (excluding olive oil) in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Adjust seasonings.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Serve with whole grain crackers or pita and vegetables.


  1. Wylie LJ, Kelly J, Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Skiba PF, Winyard PG, et al. Beetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationships. J Appl Physiol.2013;115(3):325-336. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00372.2013
  2. Nitrate (Beetroot Juice). Sports Dietitians Website. Published 2015. Accessed October 24, 2015.
  3. Sports Dietitians Website. Published 2015. Accessed February 24, 2016.

Berry Kefir Smoothie with Spinach

Probiotics to Support Athletic Performance

Probiotics are live food supplements with beneficial effects on the health of the host.¹ Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee and soybean-based miso and tempeh.² Over the past several years, the consumption of fermented foods has gained in popularity as a way to naturally improve intestinal tract health, enhance the immune system, reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance and allergic conditions, and reduce the risk of certain cancers.¹ʼ² The adult human intestinal tract contains approximately 400 different bacterial species. Although these species are usually stable, they can be influenced by a number of factors including age, immune status, antibiotic use, stress, alcohol use, and diet. The consumption of probiotic containing foods may help to promote reestablishment of “good” bacteria and help to balance the colonic intestinal flora.² The mechanism behind the potential beneficial effect of probiotics is still under investigation, but it has been suggested it may be related to their ability to modify gut pH, produce antimicrobial compounds, out compete “bad” bacteria for available nutrients and/or through the production of lactase (the enzyme required to digest lactose).¹ʼ³

Since different strains of bacteria exert different effects on human health it can be difficult to draw definite conclusions from research on probiotics. There is even less research investigating the role probiotics might play in athletic performance. At present, there is no scientific evidence to indicate that probiotics have a direct performance enhancing effect.² However, it has been suggested that consuming probiotics may provide athletes with secondary health benefits that could positively influence athletic performance. These potential benefits include improved recovery from fatigue, enhanced immune function and assist in the maintenance of healthy intestinal tract function.²

Summary of proposed benefits for athletes:

  • Probiotics may help to improve immune function in fatigued athletes and help to reduce the number of sick days experienced during training .
  • Probiotics may assist in the reduced severity of respiratory infection and gastrointestinal upset (if/when they occur).
  • No negative effects have been reported regarding probiotic ingestion among athletes.
  • No current evidence to suggest that probiotics can improve athletic performance.

* Probiotics are not recommended for severely, immune compromised individuals.



Berry Kefir Smoothie with Spinach

Makes 2 large servings


1 cup plain kefir

1/2 cup low fat milk

2 cups frozen berries

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup spinach


  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until smooth. Serve at once. (If mixture is too thick to blend, add a bit more milk)

Recipe adapted from:


West African Peanut Soup

Fluid Needs for Athletes

Water plays an essential role in a number of functions in the body. It is required to help keep tissues moist, lubricate joints, regulate body temperature, assist in the removal of waste products and carry nutrients and oxygen to cells.¹ The human body is about two-thirds water, so it is important to drink enough fluid to stay healthy and hydrated.² Adequate fluid intake is important for athletes as dehydration can negatively impact performance and may have adverse health outcomes. Common symptoms of dehydration during exercise include increased heart rate, impaired body temperature regulation, increased feelings of perceived exertion, reduced mental sharpness, reduced skill level and gastrointestinal upset.³

Fluid needs vary considerably between athletes. Requirements can be affected by a number of factors including genetics (heavy versus light sweat rates), body size (larger individuals need more fluids), fitness level, exercise environment and exercise intensity.⁴ Most individuals should aim for about 6-8 cups (1500-2000mL) of fluid per day; however, athletes can also estimate needs using their body weight. To meet day-to-day fluid requirements, the average person needs about 25-30mL of fluid per kg of body weight. For example, a 75kg individual would aim to consume about 1875-2250mL of fluid/day. To determine fluid needs related to exercise, athletes are encouraged to weigh themselves before and after exercise to estimate their own fluid requirements. Each kg of weight lost is equivalent to approximately 1 litre of fluid.⁴  Although it is important to stay hydrated before, during and after activities, it is important to note that there is no benefit of over hydration. In some cases consuming too much fluid can actually be detrimental to health (causing gastrointestinal discomfort or diluting blood sodium levels – if water is over consumed).

A common way to monitor hydration status is by the colour of your urine. If your urine is a dark yellow colour during the day, you are likely not drinking enough. While if you are passing urine often and it is a very pale colour you may be drinking too much. Hydrated individuals usually have a urine colour resembling pale straw.²

In addition to water, athletes can use an assortment of fluid foods to help meet hydration needs. Foods that are considered fluid foods include: coffee and tea (if you are a habitual caffeine consumer), gelatin containing products (i.e. Jell-O), ice chips/ice cubes, ice cream, juice, milk and milk substitutes, popsicles, sherbet, soup and sorbet.⁵


West African Peanut Soup

Makes about 6 servings


1 tbsp olive oil

2 small yellow onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 – 1 tsp salt

2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbsp Louisiana hot sauce

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 medium)

3 cups water

3 cups low sodium tomato juice

1 cup natural peanut butter

Optional Toppings: chives, scallions, cilantro


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, celery and salt. Cook, stirring often for about 10-15 minutes until soft.
  2. Stir in grated ginger and hot sauce.
  3. Add sweet potatoes and water. Bring contents to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes (sweet potatoes should be tender).
  4. Mix tomato juice and peanut butter in well.
  5. Using a blender, immersion blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth.
  6. Adjust seasonings as per taste.
  7. Serve topped with chives, scallions or cilantro.

Recipe adapted from the book Moosewood Restaurant Favorites (2013).


  1. Nutrition and healthy eating. Mayo Clinic Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 10, 2016.
  2. Healthy hydration guide. British Nutrition Foundation Organization Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.
  3. Hydration. Australian Institute of Sport Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.
  4. Fluid – Who Needs It? Australian Institute of Sport Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.
  5. Food that Counts as Fluid on the Kidney Diet. DaVita Website.

Golden Beet Noodles with Feta Cheese, Pumpkin Seeds and Dried Cranberries

Healthy Fats for Athletes:

When it comes to training and performance, carbohydrates and protein often overshadow dietary fats. However, fats are important for many metabolic processes such as energy production, transportation of fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K) and play a key role in the synthesis of hormones.¹ Good choices include liquid at room temperature oils (olive oil, avocado oil), nuts, seeds, fatty fish and avocados. Saturated fat (fats solid at room temperature) should be limited and trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oil) should be avoided completely.¹

More recently, researchers have investigated the role of omega 3 fatty acids in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness. There are three types of omega 3 fats: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).² ALA is an essential fatty acid and needs to be consumed in the diet, while small amounts of EPA and DHA can be made in the body from ALA. It is recommended that men aim for about 1.6g ALA per day, while women aim for 1.1g ALA per day.² It has also been suggested that consuming EPA and DHA in 1-2g per day doses may help to decrease exercise induced inflammation.³

Food sources of Omega 3 include:

Food Portion Size Amount ALA (grams) Amount EPA/DHA (grams)
Edamame, cooked 125 mL 0.29-0.34 0
Soy beverage 250 mL 0.19 0
Eggs, cooked 2 eggs 0.06-0.28 0.07
Anchovies, canned with oil 75 grams  0.01 1.54
Cod, Pacific, cooked 75 grams  0.04 0.79
Oysters, Pacific, cooked 75 grams  0.05 1.04
Salmon, pink, cooked/canned/raw 75 grams  0.03-0.06 0.87-1.06
Tofu, cooked 150 grams 0.27-0.48 0
Chia seeds 15 mL 1.0 0
Flaxseed, ground 15 mL 2.46 0
Flaxseed oil 5 mL 2.58 0
Walnuts, English, Persian 60 mL 2.30 0



Golden Beet Noodles with Feta Cheese, Pumpkin Seeds and Dried Cranberries

Makes about 4 side servingsDSC_0377

** To make this recipe you will need a spiralizer (I have the OXO Hand-Held Spiralizer, $20 from Cook Culture – pictured to the right). You could also try using a grater to shred the beets.


4-5 medium golden beets

3 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup dried cranberries (you could also use pomegranate seeds)

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp honey

1/4-1/2 tsp pepper (or more to taste)


  1. Using a spiralizer, prepare beets.
  2. Using kitchen scissors, snip beet noodles into bite sized pieces. Place into a large bowl.
  3. Combine the last 5 ingredients and mix together with the beet noodles. Allow to marinate for at least an hour.
  4. Top with feta cheese, cranberries and pumpkin seeds before serving.

Recipe adapted from:


  1. Sport nutrition for young athletes. Canadian Paediatric Society Website.
    Published April 2, 2013. Accessed February 1, 2016.
  2. Food Sources of Omega-3 Fats. Dietitians of Canada Website.
    Omega-3-Fats.aspx. Published 2016. Accessed February 1, 2016.
  3. Michleborough TD. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in physical
    performance optimization. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013;23(1):8396.