Beetroot juice has been one of the biggest stories in sports science in recent years, after researchers at the University of Exeter found it enables people to exercise for up to 16% longer.
The startling results have led to a host of athletes – from Premiership footballers to professional cyclists – looking into its potential uses.
When consumed, nitrate found in beetroot juice has two marked physiological effects.
- widens blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and allowing more blood flow.
- affects muscle tissue, reducing the amount of oxygen needed by muscles during activity.
Professor Andrew Jones, from the University of Exeter, lead author on the research, said: “The findings show an improvement in performance that, at competition level, could make a real difference – particularly in an event like the Tour de France where winning margins can be tight.”
Beetroot juice is an easy way to quickly ingest a substantial amount of dietary nitrate. However, some may find the taste of beetroot juice unpleasant. Fortunately, beetroots are just one of many vegetables that are high in nitrate. Leafy green vegetables tend to be the top sources.
The dose of dietary nitrate used in the research to reduce the oxygen cost
of exercise, improve athletic performance, and lower blood pressure ranges from 300 to 500 mg. This is about 300-500ml of Beet It 100% Pressed drink.
This amount can also be obtained by eating the following foods:
High nitrate levels: celeriac, Chinese cabbage, endive, fennel, leeks, and parsley (approximately 100 to 250 mg/100 g)
Ultimately, eating beetroot, drinking beetroot juice, or eating foods high in nitrate is unlikely to increase your exercise endurance unless you are already an athlete and at the peak of fitness. Even for athletes, it is fundamental to get the basics of diet right before putting your faith in nitrates to improve performance.
For most of us, the best way to increase endurance is to exercise regularly so aim to work towards achieving the recommended 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five times a week.