Whether you are an athlete, recreational runner or exercise enthusiast, performing your best is important to you. Nutritionally improving your health and performance can be challenging to navigate given the vast amounts of products and their claims. If you haven’t yet, you may want to consider adding beetroot juice to your diet. A natural, vegetable-derived product, beetroot juice has built strong evidence for its efficacy. Research has shown that supplementing with beetroot juice can increase blood flow, decrease oxygen needs at various intensities, and improve cardiorespiratory performance (1,2).
What is so special about beetroot juice? It contains a high concentration of dietary nitrates, which are needed for the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is responsible for (1):
- Regulating blood flow and oxygen consumption by the muscle
- Promoting energy production in the mitochondria
- Assists glucose uptake by the muscle
- Enhances muscle contraction and relaxation
These actions involving nitric oxide enhance overall muscle function, leading to increased cardiovascular exercise performance (1). Through these mechanisms, studies have shown that an acute supplementation 90 min-3 hours prior to exercise improved finish time, power output, oxygen usage, and time to fatigue (1). Chronic usage, over the course of several days, can have an even greater effect on these acute outcomes as well as improved muscle contraction and mitochondria synthesis, improving energy production (2).
A recent study on soccer players has added to the growing evidence on the efficacy of beetroot juice supplementation for high-intensity activities. The study, out of The Netherlands, compared the performance high-intensity exercise protocol on 32 male soccer players who supplemented with beetroot juice and those who did not (2). The group that supplemented did so for 6 days, using a concentrated beetroot juice product (2). Upon comparison, the supplementation group scored significantly higher on a high-intensity performance test and had higher levels of plasma and salivary nitrate (2). This study utilized a strong design and protocol, strengthening these findings.
While more research is needed in order to determine distinct protocols for different populations, endurance and high-intensity cardiovascular exercise may benefit from supplementation. The recommended protocols require products with a high concentration of nitrates such as concentrated juice products and powders (1,2) versus nitrates found in whole beetroots. Since beetroot juice may not be the most pleasant tasting, concentrated shots or powders blended with juices or smoothies are better tolerated.
If you are looking to utilize beetroot juice for your next race or competition, here are some concluding recommendations:
- Purchase a product from a reliable source. Two products that are used in the industry are Beet-It Sports Shots and Humann SuperBeets.
- Begin supplementation 6 or more days prior to your race or performance, scheduling intake preferably at the same time each day.
- For acute usage or day of the performance, consume the supplement 90 minutes to 3 hours before. Acute supplementation peaks at 2-3 hours, so time acutely for the length of your performance.
- The general recommendation is 300 ml-500 ml of concentrated products, though some studies have used higher dosages especially with the concentrated shots.
- GI discomfort has been reported. Try different products and dosages to see what works best for you.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
(1) Domínguez, R., Cuenca, E., Maté-Muñoz, J., García-Fernández, P., Serra-Paya, N., Estevan, M, Garnacho-Castaño, M. (2017). Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(12), 43. doi:10.3390/nu9010043
(2) Nyakayiru, J., Jonvik, K., Trommelen, J., Pinckaers, P., Senden, J., Loon, L. V., & Verdijk, L. (2017). Beetroot Juice Supplementation Improves High-Intensity Intermittent Type Exercise Performance in Trained Soccer Players. Nutrients, 9(12), 314. doi:10.3390/nu9030314