Should you beet’ it? Can beetroot juice improve athletic performance?

Perhap’s not everyone’s favourite vegetable but can it be used to improve athletic performance? 

Beetroot continues to grow as an ergogenic supplement.

It is a rich source of antioxidants and is high in nitrates which is a chemical converted to nitric oxide when consumed. Nitric oxide helps to increase the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to working muscles during exercise. This process involves the vasodilation of (opening of) blood vessels, thus increasing blood flow to the muscle and adequate oxygen intake inside the muscle.

Is is a magic remedy for endurance? Of course not, there is no substitute for proper nutrition and training. However; if you are looking for an extra edge on race day or game day, perhaps it could be worth a try?

Some Studies

  • Lansley et al. found that the six-day beetroot juice protocol caused the subjects to consume less oxygen while walking and running at a range of speeds, implying they became more efficient. Further, they lasted 15% longer on a treadmill run to exhaustion.
  • Another study, this one published in 2012 by Naomi Cermak, Martin Gibala, and Luc van Loon, found that a similar six-day stretch of beetroot juice consumption in trained cyclists improved performance and power output by about 1% each over the course of a 10km cycling time trial.

 1. Lansley, K. E.; Winyard, P.; Fulford, J.; Vanhatalo, A.; Bailey, S. J.; Blackwell, J. R.; DiMenna, F. J.; Gilchrist, M.; Benjamin, N.; Jones, A. M., Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study. Journal of Applied Physiology 2010, 110, 591-600.

2. Cermak, N. M.; Gibala, M. J.; van Loon, L. J. C., Nitrate Supplementation’s Improvement of 10-km Time-Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 2012, 22, 64-71.