Beetroot has made a massive surge in the sports nutrition market as a potential NO booster. Research has shown that beetroots which are comprised of nitrates, are one of the most promising nitric oxide boosters, which may produce positive ergogenic benefit and the ability to improve exercise performance. With athletes becoming more health conscious and opting for naturally derived whole food products, beetroots could be a great addition to your supplement regimen.
Beets are a low-calorie vegetable packed with antioxidants such as polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin c, vitamin B2, potassium, manganese, folate, potassium, betanin and nitrates. Research shows that beetroot has a host of health benefits, with recent evidence purporting that the nitrate content may improve athletic performance by increasing nitric oxide (NO) levels.
Nitric oxide boosters are dietary supplements that are marketed to help support athletic performance, specifically by increasing strength, delaying muscle fatigue, promoting endurance, improving workout volume, and optimizing recovery [Basically, a magic bottle of gains.] Nitric oxide boosters are not actually made with nitric oxide, but rather foods high in nitrates, which promote the process of nitric oxide production, such as beets, kale, watermelon, leafy greens, and/or amino acids derived from natural foods such as l-arginine and l-citrulline.
Nitric oxide widens blood vessels increasing blood flow and circulation without increasing blood pressure. Research has shown that nitric oxide is essential for overall health, especially cardiovascular health as it supports the transport of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your body and muscle tissue efficiently and effectively.
In addition to an ergogenic aid, beets are a popular superfood and provide numerous health due to its nitrate, betanin, and antioxidant content. Research suggests that betalains a powerful phytonutrient, may reduce inflammation in the body, which are associated with chronic disease states such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes [R]. Nitrate content has also been associated with a reduction in blood pressure and hypertension, by relaxing and widening blood vessels thus increasing oxygen and nutrient uptake [R].
One cup of beetroot contains around 60 calories, 10g of net carbs, and 2g of protein.
Can Beetroot Improve Performance?
Recent studies suggest that beetroot can improve cardiovascular endurance in athletes by increasing exercise efficiency increasing time to exhaustion, anaerobic threshold and maximum oxygen uptake or VO2 max [R]. Studies have been performed on a wide variety of training protocols, including swimming, sprinting, cycling, and high-intensity interval training.
In a randomized cross-over study, published in the Journal Medicine Science in Sports Exercise, nine athletic trained cyclists, 0.5L of beetroot juice or placebo two hours prior to the completion of a 4 and 16km time trial. The study concluded that beetroot juice supplementation increased plasma nitrate levels, producing higher power output at the same VO2 max [R]. A research group with a similar study design from the Netherlands produced similar results and showed an increase in power output and optimized VO2 in a group of twelve trained cyclists over a study period of six days [R].
An additional study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology investigated the effects of nitrate beetroot supplementation on exercise performance and cognitive function using an all-out sprint test. The results showed an increase in total work capacity and cognitive reaction time, suggesting that beetroot enhances repeated sprint performance and may attenuate the decline in cognitive function (and specifically reaction time) that may occur during prolonged intermittent exercise [R].
A study published in Nutrients investigate the effects of beetroot supplementation on fourteen moderately trained swimmers to investigate performance outcomes and measures. Study participants significantly increased their anaerobic threshold with beetroot supplementation compared to placebo. Aerobic energy cost was also significantly reduced, thus enabling the swimmers to increase time to exhaustion with an improvement in oxygen consumption or VO@ max [R].
High Intensity Interval Training
A systematic review was conducted to find Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. From the search 23 articles were selected for analysis. The compounded results suggest that supplementation with beetroot juice can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency, which improves performance at various distances, increases time to exhaustion, and may improve the cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) [R].
Beetroot On Athletic Performance: Takeaway
Overall, several studies have shown that beetroot can provide athletic performance benefits to anaerobic threshold, increased time to exhaustion, and increased exercise endurance capacity by promoting the natural release of nitric oxide. If you're looking for more natural ways to increase performance, adding in some beets to your daily diet, is a great way to get the added nitrates to promote optimal endurance capacity.
Want to add beetroot to your diet and increase your athletic performance?
Swolverine's Greens+Reds powder contains 500mg of beetroot, pomegranate, bilberry, turmeric, and blueberry to help reduce inflammation and improve overall health and athletic performance.
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Thompson, C., Wylie, L.J., Fulford, J. et al. Dietary nitrate improves sprint performance and cognitive function during prolonged intermittent exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 1825–1834 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3166-0
Domínguez, R.; Cuenca, E.; Maté-Muñoz, J.L.; García-Fernández, P.; Serra-Paya, N.; Estevan, M.C.L.; Herreros, P.V.; Garnacho-Castaño, M.V. Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients 2017, 9, 43.
Cermak NM, Gibala MJ, van Loon LJ. Nitrate supplementation's improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012;22(1):64-71. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.22.1.64
Domínguez, Raúl et al. “Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on intermittent high-intensity exercise efforts.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 15 2. 5 Jan. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0204-9
Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ. The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015;7(4):2801-22. DOI: 10.3390/nu7042801
Bonilla ocampo DA, Paipilla AF, Marín E, Vargas-molina S, Petro JL, Pérez-idárraga A. Dietary Nitrate from Beetroot Juice for Hypertension: A Systematic Review. Biomolecules. 2018;8(4) DOI: 10.3390/biom8040134