The power of beetroot...
Beetroot and its juice is a rich source of nitrate. Other vegetables such as celery, spinach, cabbage, etc. contain nitrate, however in smaller amounts. Nitrate can also be consumed in supplement its form, sodium nitrate.
What does it do?
Nitrate in the blood is converted into nitric oxide throughout the body. Nitric oxide plays a major part in dilating blood vessels which decreases blood pressure, commonly known as vasodilation. Increasing nitric oxide levels in the body through consuming nitrate rich foods such as beetroot before exercise can benefit performance. An increase in nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, reducing uptake of oxygen in the muscles, allowing muscles to be more fuel efficient.
What is the evidence?
Many studies claim that nitrate obtained from beetroot/beetroot juice has the ability to enhance stamina and performance, reduce resting blood pressure and allow athletes to tolerate higher training intensities for a longer period of time. Below are some examples of what researchers have discovered from their studies:
* Researchers from the University of Maastricht discovered that having 170ml of beetroot juice concentrate over a period of 6 days, improved 10km time trial performance and power output in cyclist (Cermak et al., 2012).
* Athletes who ate 200g of cooked beetroot one hour prior to exercise were able to run faster in the latter stages of a 5km run (Murphy et al., 2012).
Results from these studies imply that obtaining beetroot can reduce muscle oxygen uptake, improve exercise economy and allow athletes to train longer.
How much is beneficial?
Typically, athletes wishing to improve performance through consuming beetroot will be performing in events lasting between 4-30minutes. Studies recommend consuming an equivalent of 300mg of nitrate. In beetroot form that’s either 500ml of beetroot juice, 170ml beetroot juice concentrate or 200g cooked beetroot. Athletes are advised to consume either form of beetroot daily over one week or 1 -2 ½ hours prior to exercise.
Are there any side effects?
There are no side effects associated to eating beetroot. There have been claims that nitrate rich fruit and vegetables like beetroot decrease the risk of the body producing nasty compounds that increase cancer risks. The only likely side effect from consuming beetroot is the discolouration of your urine due to the deep red colouring of the beets.
*As mentioned throughout beetroot can be consumed in juiced, concentrate or cooked