How Beets Can Give Athletes The Edge
Beetroot juice has several benefits when it comes to athletic performance. Thanks to its high nitrate content which, when consumed, is converted into nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Here's a breakdown of the benefits:
Enhanced Endurance and Performance:
- Beetroot juice supplementation has been shown to improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency, which in turn enhances performance across various distances and intensities. It's particularly beneficial in increasing time to exhaustion at submaximal intensities and may also improve cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities1.
- In specific instances, competitive cyclists who supplemented with beetroot juice improved their performance by 0.8 percent in a 50-mile test. The ergogenic effects of beetroot juice were notable, especially in cardiorespiratory endurance, as evidenced in a 16.1-kilometer cycling time trial where the benefits of beetroot consumption translated to a time gain of 48 seconds2.
Improved Exercise Stamina:
- Numerous studies suggest that the naturally occurring nitrates present in beetroot can enhance physical performance during high-intensity endurance exercise. Additionally, dietary nitrates have been shown to reduce the oxygen use during physical activity, which can be beneficial in improving exercise stamina3.
Vasodilation and Blood Flow:
- The conversion of nitrates to nitric oxide (NO) has a vasodilatory effect, which helps in widening the blood vessels, thereby improving blood flow. This is crucial for athletes as it ensures that more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the muscles, which can be beneficial in enhancing athletic performance4.
Reduced Blood Pressure and Elevated Nitrate Levels:
- Supplementation with nitrates through beetroot juice significantly elevated resting plasma nitrate levels by 82% and reduced blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2013 found that runners who took a beetroot juice shot before racing cut 1.5% off their 5km race times5.
Nitric Oxide (NO) Enhancement:
- Beetroot juice increases levels of nitric oxide (NO), serving multiple functions related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction. These biomarker improvements indicate that beetroot juice could have ergogenic effects on cardiorespiratory endurance, benefiting athletic performance6.
The evidence underscores the potential of beetroot juice as a natural supplement to bolster athletic performance across various metrics like endurance, blood flow, and exercise efficiency.