Beetroot has gained popularity in recent years as a boost to performance, especially for runners and cyclists.
Some people juice the beetroot. Others eat it. Still others use powdered forms to make a drink. Will it have a noticeable impact on our ability to run a race or climb a hill faster?
Some people will benefit from small benefits
In 2020 , a large systematic review included 80 clinical studies in which participants were randomly assigned whether to drink beetroot or not. The study found that athletes who consumed beetroot-juice performed better.
This can make a big difference in sports like cycling, where every second counts. In a 16,1 kilometre time trial, the benefits of beetroot consumption equated to 48 seconds.
When the authors analysed subgroups in these studies, they found that beetroot was not effective for women or elite sportsmen – although this could be due to too few participants in these study groups to draw conclusions.
Beetroot juice can provide some performance benefits. Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels
Similar results were found in a 2021 large systematic review of 73 studies that examined endurance runners who run, swim or bike long distances. The supplementation of beetroot and other vegetables high in nitrate improved the time taken to exhaustion on average by 25.3 seconds, as well as the distance covered by 163 meters.
The improvement was only seen among recreational athletes. It wasn’t observed in elite athletes or in sedentary individuals. This analysis did not focus on women.
What’s so special about beetroot?
Beetroots contain a lot of nitrates and anthocyanins. Both have health benefits, but nitrates are the main contributor to performance.
The local bacteria in the mouth convert the nitrate into nitrite once it is ingested. In the stomach’s acidic environment, the nitrite is transformed into nitric oxygen, which is then absorbed by the bloodstream.
Nitric Oxide dilates the blood vessels which allows oxygen to be delivered more quickly to the muscles. This energy can then be used to fuel the muscles.
This results in less energy being used to perform, so it takes longer for you to tire.
Read more: Why nitrates and nitrites in processed meats are harmful – but those in vegetables aren’t
How can I use beetroot juice?
Australian Institute of Sport has classified beetroot as a group A supplement. It means that there are strong scientific reasons to use beetroot in certain situations.
The AIS recommends that beetroot supplements can be beneficial in sports, exercise and training events lasting 4-30 minutes as well as team sports involving intermittent exercise.
The AIS recommends that the product (whether it is juice, powder, or food) contains between 350 and 600mg of inorganic nitrate for performance benefits. Labels are important. On the market, you can find a variety of concentrated juices.
Beetroot has about 250mg per 100g, so to achieve the same result you will need at least 200g baked beetroot.
To get the same result, you need to eat a lot of beetroot. Shutterstock
Consume The Product 2-3 Hours Before Training or Competition. This will give the nitrates the time they need to convert into nitric oxide and be absorbed in your bloodstream. Drinking beetroot for several days before training or competing can have additional benefits.
Do not use antibacterial products such as mouthwashes or chewing gums. They will kill the bacteria that is needed to convert nitrate into nitrite.
What are the downsides of using a teleporter?
It will be difficult to tell if you’re dehydrated if your urine turns red. You may also notice that your poop is red.
Some people experience stomach upset after consuming beetroot. You can drink it during training to see if there are any issues. This is not something you want to discover on the day of your competition.
What about the nitrate in your other diet?
It’s hard to get enough nitrate from vegetables to improve your athletic performance before an event. However, eating five servings of vegetables per day can help to keep your nitric-oxide levels high in your blood.
Celery, rockets, spinach, endive leeks, parsley, Chinese cabbage, celeriac, and celeriac are vegetables that contain more nitrate. It’s not clear whether cooking or storing vegetables affects nitrate content. So, it’s best to cook and keep them the way that you like.
It’s better to avoid cured nitrate meats. It is added to add flavour and color and stop bacteria growth. However, the sodium nitrite that results can increase cancer risk.
Although beetroot can give you a slight performance boost, it’s important to also tailor your rest of the training. Make sure you get enough protein and carbohydrates, and drink plenty of water. For the best results, you may need to consult both an accredited practising sport dietitian and an exercise scientist.