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Eat your beets! and beetroot juice

A diet rich in leafy green vegetables has cardiovascular benefits and some scientists believe this is due to their high inorganic nitrate content. There is also a suggestion that dietary nitrate intake is beneficial during endurance exercise. Studies investigating dietary nitrate supplementation on cycle TT performance found that acute dietary nitrate supplementation improved TT performance in competitive cyclists. New evidence suggests a similar benefit to supplementing with beetroot juice, which contains high levels of nitrate.

A recent study investigated the influence of dietary nitrate rich beetroot juice on blood pressure and oxygen uptake during the transition from walking to moderate- or severe- running. This study indicated that short term dietary supplementation with nitrate rich beetroot juice increased plasma nitrous oxide, reduced blood pressure, reduced the oxygen cost of walking and moderate- to severe- intensity running, and increase the time to exhaustion during constant speed severe-intensity running.

Many of the research articles used a large dose of beet juice (approximately 4 cups of beet juice was used), not to be confused with beetle juice. Drinking a large amount of beet juice could lead to a condition called beeturia, which is a condition in which urine and stools turn a red color. It is also important to note that nitrites are not the same as nitrates and it is important not to confuse the two. Sodium nitrate may be safe to use, however, Sodium nitrite can be toxic. Using anything is excess can be detrimental, so stick to whole food sources or juices that contain nitrates and avoid using anything in a concentrated form. The best thing to remember when using beetroot juice or any supplement for endurance exercise is that there is no replacement for proper training and good nutrition. Rather than drinking 4 cups of beet juice a day, it might be a better idea to eat a diet high in leafy green vegetables such as spinach or mustard greens. It is advised that Beetroot juice only be utilized as a supplement when an athlete is already training and eating correctly and cutting a couple seconds off their time could mean the difference between first and second place.

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