Attack of the Killer Beets

Pretty regularly, I see in my Twitter feed or on Facebook (both of which are eminently followable) plugs for some beet-related supplements that seem to be targeting obstacle course racers.

I have absolutely know idea whether they work or not, or even what they’re intended to do, but they scare the crud out of me. And it’s not for a rational reason. That’s why I’m going to share it with you—in hopes that you will gain some measure of joy at my absurdity.*


Yep, it’s a beetnik.

No, I don’t have a beet allergy, and my pa wasn’t suffocated when a beet truck overturned on him, and my girlfriend never dumped me to run off with a beetnik.** The trouble is, in my world, beets are something you drive on.

Without going into incriminating detail: My day job involves writing about transportation, and one of the areas I focus on*** is winter road maintenance—plowing and salting and anything related to getting snow off roads.

There’s not really a good way to do this—salt works well (down to about 15 degrees F) and it’s cheap, but it corrodes cars and is sucky for plants and might get into groundwater; sand doesn’t work at all and is worse for groundwater; magnesium and calcium chloride work well and are less corrosive for cars, except that sometimes they’re more corrosive, and they’re more expensive; and other options are way more expensive or really bad environmentally. Still, there’s a lot of research going on, and it has found better ways to do it—mainly by finding ways to get the same results while using less salt.

That’s where beets come in. Beet juice is one product (out of many) marketed as an additive to help salt stick to the road, where it can melt snow, rather than bouncing off the road, where it can’t do anything helpful. I’m not sure precisely how effective this is, or how widespread the practice is—the whole additives approach is relatively new, and there’s a huge number of products on the market to do this or to counter some of the other bad things salt does, and the research hasn’t quite caught up to it, measurement-wise—but beet juice is certainly one of the options that gets discussed a lot.

So whenever I see one of these beet supplements being promoted or advertised or mentioned in a completely non-compensated way****, my background makes me think, “Wow, the stuff they put on the roads!”

It may have valuable side benefits the manufacturers never considered. I mean, a lot of people are deeply concerned about the danger of having slick, icy esophaguses. Or at least, they could be made to be deeply concerned about that danger if you talk about it enough, and in a shouty, “here’s what you need to be frightened of today!”-enough pundit voice.

I assume, however, that when you take the supplements orally you shouldn’t mix it with several pounds of salt per cup of beet juice. That would taste terrible and also mummify you. I think. I guess I don’t know for sure. I’m not going to be the one to try it, though.

Maybe I should be a bit more adventurous and not dismiss supplements out of hand just because they are also used to keep our roads safe. After all, phen-phen was originally developed to patch potholes. And we all know how well that turned out. There was a time when you just couldn’t beet it.*****

* While learning more than you have any really interest in about how snow gets cleared from roads in the winter. Yep, I’m sneakily making you knowledgier.

** Sorry not sorry. I also was never deafened by a set of Beets by Dre headphones turned up to 11.

*** AKA, one of my beets. Please stop throwing things at me.

**** Which is the way it always happens. I truly beetlieve that.

***** No complaints. You know perfectly well you’d have been pissed off that one hadn’t show up.

Beet image by darwin Bell,, used under Creative Commons. Mustache image by johnthan,, public domain.


1 Comment

Filed under Commentary, Funny

One response to “Attack of the Killer Beets

  1. Get out of here! Beets are delicious and I hate learning when I don’t mean to!


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