Did you know that there is quite an impressive body of scientific evidence to suggest that beetroot juice may be one of the best natural performance enhancers?
The reason for this is that beetroots are a rich dietary source of inorganic nitrates which can be converted in the body to nitric oxide, a substance which helps to dilate our blood vessels (1)
A number of studies have demonstrated that drinking beetroot juice prior to training (particularly endurance training like cycling and running) can aid the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles during exercise; therefore, potentially reducing the amount of energy we require to exercise at a specific power output and leading to improved speed or performance (2-5).
In terms of dosage, the levels of nitrate consumed in most of the scientific studies was around 400mg/day. This represents roughly 500ml beetroot juice – which is quite a lot volume-wise for some people to manage. So, you may want to consider buying a concentrated beetroot juice shot, as a more practical form of consumption. (a single 70ml concentrated shot = 400mg nitrate). ‘Beet-It Sport’ and ‘Activ-Edge’ are two good examples which contain no addes sugars or nasties You can find them here:
Beet-It Sport: https://www.beet-it.com/beet-it-sport/
Active Edge: https://active-edge.co.uk/collections/beetactive
In relation to timing of consumption, the research suggests that the juice should be consumed approx. 2.5 hours prior to exercise for maximum effects during exercise.
It is also important to note that most of the studies showing a positive effect involved recreational or untrained athletes. So, whether beetroot juice can also benefit the performance of elite athletes still remains unclear.
From an additional health perspective however, beetroot has also been shown to have a number of heart-healthy and blood-pressure lowering effects (3-5). They also contain ‘betalains’, a type of antioxidant which may be beneficial for reducing inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness after strenuous exercise (6). So even more great reasons to at least make beetroot a regular staple in your diet!
So, this week, I've decided to trial it for my regular runs. Today, I was delighted to cut a few seconds per km, off my last running time last week, for a 10km distance. Not bad I thought, especially considering the weather conditions today and the crazy head-wind pushing me back along most of the route.
Of course, this could just be a placebo effect, but I will keep you updated with my progress 😊
Let me know how you get on, if you decide to give it a go too.
(1) Domínguez, R., Cuenca, E., Maté-Muñoz, J., García-Fernández, P., Serra-Paya, N., Estevan, M., Herreros, P. and Garnacho-Castaño, M., 2017. Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. A systematic review. Nutrients, 9(1), p.43.
(2) Rimer, E.G., Peterson, L.R., Coggan, A.R. and Martin, J.C., 2016. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation increases maximal cycling power in athletes. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 11(6), p.715.
(3) Bahadoran, Z., Mirmiran, P., Kabir, A., Azizi, F. and Ghasemi, A., 2017. The nitrate-independent blood pressure–lowering effect of beetroot juice: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Advances in Nutrition, 8(6), pp.830-838.
(4) Webb, A.J., Patel, N., Loukogeorgakis, S., Okorie, M., Aboud, Z., Misra, S., Rashid, R., Miall, P., Deanfield, J., Benjamin, N. and MacAllister, R., 2008. Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension, 51(3), pp.784-790.
(5) Lee, J.S., Stebbins, C.L., Jung, E., Nho, H., Kim, J.K., Chang, M.J. and Choi, H.M., 2015. Effects of chronic dietary nitrate supplementation on the hemodynamic response to dynamic exercise. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 309(5), pp.R459-R466.
(6) Clifford, T., Bell, O., West, D.J., Howatson, G. and Stevenson, E.J., 2016. The effects of beetroot juice supplementation on indices of muscle damage following eccentric exercise. European journal of applied physiology, 116(2), pp.353-362.