Can beet juice improve athletic performance?

Like a lot of athletes, I am always on the look out for something to give me an edge. Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to sort out fact from fiction when it comes to fitness aids. However, if something repeatedly survives intense scientific scrutiny, especially double blind, placebo controlled studies, they are likely to be beneficial.

Whatever the truth may be, you can’t go wrong by consuming more beets, although their sugar content is kind of high compared to most other vegetables. The phytochemicals that give it its distinctive dark reddish-purplish color may have some important health benefits, but besides this, beet juice may also give your athletic performance a boost. This boost seems to be due to the nitrates in beets, not the phytochemicals. According to Department of Human Movement Sciences, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands:

Six days of dietary nitrate supplementation in the form of beetroot juice (~0.5 L/d) has been reported to reduce pulmonary oxygen uptake (VO₂) during submaximal exercise and increase tolerance of high-intensity work rates, suggesting that nitrate can be a potent ergogenic aid. Limited data are available regarding the effect of nitrate ingestion on athletic performance, and no study has investigated the potential ergogenic effects of a small-volume, concentrated dose of beetroot juice. The authors tested the hypothesis that 6 d of nitrate ingestion would improve time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Using a double-blind, repeated-measures crossover design, 12 male cyclists (31±3 yr, VO2peak=58±2 ml·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹, maximal power [Wmax]=342±10 W) ingested 140 ml/d of concentrated beetroot (~8 mmol/d nitrate) juice (BEET) or a placebo (nitrate-depleted beetroot juice; PLAC) for 6 d, separated by a 14-d washout. After supplementation on Day 6, subjects performed 60 min of submaximal cycling (2×30 min at 45% and 65% Wmax, respectively), followed by a 10-km time trial. Time-trial performance (953±18 vs. 965±18 s, p<.005) and power output (294±12 vs. 288±12 W, p<.05) improved after BEET compared with PLAC supplementation. Submaximal VO₂ was lower after BEET (45% Wmax=1.92±0.06 vs. 2.02±0.09 L/min, 65% Wmax 2.94±0.12 vs. 3.11±0.12 L/min) than with PLAC (main effect, p<.05). Whole-body fuel selection and plasma lactate, glucose, and insulin concentrations did not differ between treatments. Six days of nitrate supplementation reduced VO₂ during submaximal exercise and improved time-trial performance in trained cyclists.

This is neat. So the beet juice improved performance. I think this is due to nitrates being powerful vasodilators(it opens up the blood vessels). I am going to get some beets next time I go shopping.

13 responses to “Can beet juice improve athletic performance?

  1. The Vegan Green

    They taste brilliant too!

  2. Finally, I really like something that is good for me 🙂

  3. I love them too, but I find it difficult to find good ones around here.

  4. How’s it going for you with the beets? I’m trying the Mediterranean diet at the moment, not for any specific benefits, just general health. So far it’s fantastic and man, I can’t eat that much fruit. But I hope the beets are going well!

    • Drinking beet juice for some reason gives me stomach pains and doesn’t seem to improve my athletic performance. But this was store bought beet juice. If I get a juicer, I will make my own and mix it with carrot and report back if I notice any improvements. Good luck going Mediterranean, it really is one of the best diets.

  5. Low fat chocolate milk. I know, I know…sounds too good to be true, but it’s legit. God, i already sound like an infomercial, but I recently worked one of the Rock n Roll marathons, educating people about this very thing. Premixed, store bought chocolate milk can help with recovery after intense workouts (45 minutes or more) and may even give you a boost on your next workout. The thing that gives you the ‘edge’ you’re looking for is the ratio of carbs to protein and it’s actually the chocolate that does it. No…you cannot dump a bunch of hershey’s syrup into a tall glass of moo juice and get the exact result (as the premixed) because you’re messing with the science/ ratio at that point. A lot of runners (marathon or not) and Ironman participants, swear by it. Lactose intolerant folks should consult a doctor first and if you’re among say…the three people on the planet who don’t care for chocolate…well…then strawberry or vanilla premixed milk can be a substitute but won’t give quite the effect as the chocolate.

    Here’s a link that will back me up, but of course consult your doctor or dietician beforehand;)

    • That is true based on my readings, but I avoid chocolate due to its caffeine content and because of the fact that I am allergic to chocolate. Thanks for posting.

      • Ugh! That’s horrible! Well…would be for me anyway. O_O Semisweet dark chocolate has been my favorite since I was a kid, so it was a bonus when I learned of its antioxidant properties and health benefits. 🙂 What kind of juicer will you be using? If you’ve never seen the doc Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead… I highly recommend.

      • Wild Juggler

        I used to be able to eat chocolate but in my teens I developed an allergy to it. I can’t say I really miss it though. As far as juicers go, I’m looking into one of the Omegas, though I’ve also considered a Vitamix blender and using cheesecloth to strain out the juice from the pulp. I’ve always been more of a juice than smoothie person. Will watch that doc soon, thanks for sharing!

  6. Well isn’t that something? I had beets with my supper tonight. Will run around tomorrow and get back to you!!

  7. I never thought much about beets…but of course, now I will have to try them!

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