You may have read my post a couple of weeks ago about blood pressure and use of nitrates, specifically beetroot juice. You can find it here in case you missed it. I’ve also been talking to my athlete clients about it. Why? One reaction made me laugh, and explains it quite well: ‘So you basically mean that it’s like a performance enhancer, but this one is legal? Sweet.’
So, how is beet root juice able to improve your sports performance?
Research shows that consuming nitrate rich substances, such as Beet It shots, for six days in a row can result in a significant reduction in VO2. Another study found similar reductions in steady state VO2 2.5 hours after consuming a single dose of beetroot juice.
Several studies have indicated that beetroot juice supplementation can result in significant elevation of plasma nitric oxide. For example, high intensity cycling has shown a 16% improvement in time to exhaustion in one study (Bailey et.al, 2009). Another showed 16% improvement when running, as a result of beetroot juice supplementation (Lansley et.al, 2011). It has been suggested that 20% improvement in time to exhaustion can equate to 1-2% improvement in performance (Hopkins et.al, 1999).I can hear you thinking, ‘that really doesn’t sound like a lot!’.
For example, in a 4km time trial, research showed an 18 second reduction in finish time. 18 seconds over 4km? Especially in an event that is often decided in milliseconds? I’d say that’s significant! Similar results were found in a 16km and a 10km trial as well (Lansley et.al, 2011; Cermak et.al, 2012).
So, is there any down sides?
Current research is showing that the better trained you are, the less well it will work. That said, elite athletes can still see improvements, and still use it; just ask the AIS what they’ve been using!
Another side effect is possible gastrointestinal upset, so as always, avoid using for the first time before an event, just in case. It can also turn your urine pink.
So what’s my verdict? Well, when asked if I would use it myself? The answer is yes.
If you’d like to find out more, don’t hesitate to give me a call!
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you'd like our help in managing diet-related health issues.