Yes, beetroot juice can improve athletic performance and the science supports it!
The actual ingredient in beets that gives this boost in performance is naturally occurring nitrate. Nitric oxide (NO) is a vasodilator. In other words, it causes the muscles in blood vessels to expand, increasing their internal diameter. This in turn increases blood flow, quickly bringing oxygen to the working muscles. Another consequence of this action is reduced blood pressure.
According to one study, running speed was improved during a 5km run after beetroot juice ingestion. The rate of perceived exertion was also lower. We all want to run faster (or bike faster or swim faster or kick box harder) while feeling like you didn’t work harder!
Endurance also increased by 15% during high intensity running after drinking beetroot juice.
Six days of supplementing .5L of beetroot juice/day resulted in reduced oxygen consumption during steady-state exercise and also increased tolerance of high-intensity work rates in a study whose subjects were cyclists.
Obtaining nitrates from whole beets (or beetroot juice) is recommended because other sources may have negative health benefits. And I am all about using real food for performance benefits.
I like my beets roasted. Cut the ends off beets and peel the skin. Slice into 1/4″ pieces. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet with sides. Put beet slices on cookie sheet, pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over beets and sprinkle with salt. Mix well and spread out on sheet. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, or until tender.
This picture is courtesy of Meg’s Food Reality.
Next week I am going to the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) Symposium in Baltimore, MD. One of the talks is on Beetroot Juice and its benefits. I’ll share any updates! Can’t wait!
Article in the American Heart Association journal called Hyptertension as cited in Science Daily (6-28-2010)
Margaret Murphy, MS, RD, LD; Katie Eliot, MS, RD, LD; Rita M. Heuertz, PhD; Edward Weiss, PhD. Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance; Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, April 2012.
Cermak NM, Gibala MJ, van Loon LJ. Source Department of Human Movement Sciences, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists; Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2012 Feb;22(1):64-71.