Meeting with a friend the other day, who recently joined the club of insane homejuicers, we talked about the benefits of beetroot juice. Though I have heard about the benefits before, I am most often sceptical, if something seems too good to be true. Nonetheless, I wanted to look into the hype.
Beefroot juice is like natural doping! – Anonymous friend
The drink is dark red, and it taste like…. well, dirt. However, drinking according to recommended amounts, and you will find your visit to the bathroom is becoming extremely colorful. However, you may also find that it will enhance your athletic performance.
So what is actually going on with beetroot? The benefits comes from the high level of nitrate in the beetroot, which the body can transform into nitrite, and then afterwords into nitric oxide. The latter has two major upsides for atheletes: First and for most, the blood vessels dilates, increasing the amount of blood going through. Second it improves the performance of mitochondria, so they are able to create more energy with less oxygen consumption. So the synergy effect of beetroot is actually less oxygen cost due to increased mitochondria efficiency, and additional oxygen supply from the added bloodstream.
Though there is a common fear that nitrates and nitrites in combination are forming into nitrosamines, which has been found to be carcinogenic! However, the beetroot only contains nitrate. There are no nitrate and no protein that would lead to the formation of cancer. Other vegetables with similar nutritional values are celery, chard and spinach, but those have not been examined at this point.
I want to juice up – How much beetroot to intake?
Most studies consider 300mg of nitrate 2-2,5 prior to exercise. Though higher amounts have shown additional benefits, but there is a diminishing return in regards to performance boost. The optimum serving was around 600 mL of beetroot juice, also considering the side effects in regards to gastric distress.
Though the benefits are not just limited to short, intense performance! I found a study about performance improvement with beetroot in context of a 80 kilometers cycling race.
Despite the above does conclude that there are no significant evidence, the study do shown some interesting points:
Compared to placebo, beetroot juice supplementation resulted in a group mean reduction in completion time for the 50 mile TT of 0.8 % or 1.2 min (PL: 137.9 ± 6.4 vs. BR: 136.7 ± 5.6 min), but this difference did not attain statistical significance (P > 0.05)
The study do show a 0,8% performance improvement, but due to a limited sample size it is considered scientifically insignificant. And when considering competitive cycling, the races are most often won by seconds, not by minutes. A 0,8% performance increase is equal to 1,2 minutes for a 80 kilometer race.
Furthermore, one must also consider the subjects ability to absorb the nitrite. Of the eight participants, five of them increase the plasma nitrite levels by 30% of more. However, the remaining three did not see the same boost. Actually one of them experienced a decrease in his nitrite level. So the aspect of the individual response is quite relevant to consider, and for elite athletes, who are physically developed, their ability to improve from beetroot might be limited against the response that ordinary people such as myself would experience.
What are the benefits of beefroot?
- Up to 3% added performance for events that last between 5 and 30 minutes
- Majority of research done based on 5-600 mL of beet root juice 2-2,5 hours prior to event
- Lack of evidence for the benefits at endurance events
- Individual response to beetroot, consider whether you benefit or you are just pissing rainbows