For several years now, beet juice (beetroot juice if you are in Europe) has been an exciting topic of discussion in human endurance performance. Our coaches have been utilizing beet juice — as well as a number of our athletes — and many of them have experienced and benefited from the increased blood nitric oxide boost that beet juice provides. This nitric oxide has great effect on our bodies from both health and performance standpoints.
Let’s break down the benefits, and you can decide if you’d like to add this ingredient to your nutrition.
When it comes to health issues in the United States, the greatest benefit of beet juice has to be decreased blood pressure. With one of the top 5 U.S. prescribed drugs of 2015 being a blood pressure regulator, this offers a great alternative. By drinking as little as 8 ounces of juiced beets a day, you can see a nearly immediate decrease in blood pressure. Healthy blood pressure is great for all, but what benefits will athletes be most drawn to? Consuming beet juice has also shown a reduction in oxygen cost of exercise in some subjects. This ultimately means that, per oxygen molecule your body is utilizing, you are now producing more work. Think of it like this: you are boosting your bodies miles per gallon! This increase in efficiency allows you to get more out of your workouts or performances for less energy.
A great amount of research has shown that beet juice supplementation has lead to an increased blood flow to the brain due to its associated vasodilation. (Vasodilation is the dilation of blood vessels, i.e. that decrease in blood pressure we talked about earlier!) We also found it interesting that it has even been shown that, when paired with exercise, consuming beet juice has resulted in an increase the neuroplasticity of the brain in older subjects. This means that functions are able to be “remapped” in the brain. This definitely sparked our curiosity about a benefit to subjects with brain trauma.
Let’s be honest. Most of you who are reading this are more concerned about whether or not this is an ergogenic aid. (Scratching your head? An ergogenic aid is something that enhances performances or gives edge to an athlete.) While beet juice supplementation has shown some small benefits in sprint performance with the most significant area being in a reduced time of athletes reaching peak force generation, there is no significant evidence of beet juice being a major performance enhancer. That is not to say that beet juice does not have performance benefits. In our opinion, the biggest benefit to our endurance athletes is the findings of increased endurance exercise capacity. What that means to you is that you will be able to sustain your effort for a longer period of time before reaching failure. There is some potential of beet juice to also be an ergogenic aid at altitude. This may be of interest to many who live at sea level and go to altitude for events.
If this post sparked your interest, here’s how to add this into your diet.
The amounts of
- 6/8 mMol which is roughly 1-2 shots a day
- 2-3 hours prior to competition (time it takes (approx.) for the body to process)
- Take 4-15 days prior to competition – (if not taking daily)
One thing to note if you are drinking beet juice: It can discolor your urine and fecal matter. This is called beeturia.