Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels has had a hard time staying healthy. The 249-pound Illinois native has a fearsome reputation on the field, but he's spent much of the last few seasons on injured reserve thanks to a torn ACL and a non-displaced fibula fracture. Despite his injury, Daniels is on a quest to be ready for the next season. He hits the gym hard and eagerly follows doctors' orders. "I take the nutrition stuff seriously," Daniels says. "As long as it's legal, I'll take it." It's that reflexive desire for an edge that led Daniels to start drinking beet juice.
"I've discovered this thing called BeetElite that's concentrated organic beetroot," he explains. "I found that when you're working out, it gets more oxygen to your muscles."
The phenomenon that Daniels is observing has everything to do with nitrites. Nitrites are a little understood ion proven to increase blood flow and neurotransmission. Though scientists haven't quite nailed down the reason why metabolized nitrites (nonmetabolized nitrites from meat are inefficiently processed) allow athletes to function more efficiently with less oxygen, research clearly shows that they do. Beet supplements such as BeetElite, which comes in crystal form and dissolves in water, are the ideal delivery device because they distribute the goods quickly. Pink urine is the only notable downside – not something you're going to think about twice when you're trying to stay in the NFL.
"Beetroot is something I'm going to keep taking going forward," says Daniels, who is about to enter the last year of his contract with the foundering Texans. "I've got to do whatever I can to help myself."
Daniels, who also uses supplements from Advocare, plays an evolving position. Thanks to players like Jimmy Graham, tight ends on many teams are spending less time blocking and more time receiving. That means Daniels need to be fitter. Next season is eighth months off and that's a lot of beet juice. [BeetElite NeoShot, 10 pouches for $34.99; neogenissport.com]