Beetroot to Improve the Sport Performance

Beetroot to Improve the Sport Performance

Does taking beetroot improve the performance in high intensity sports?

Nitrate Supplementation has become quite popular lately due to its potential vasodilatory effect on the blood pressure. Moreover, it also increases the strength and reduces the use of phosphocreatine (apart from improving its resynthesis).

Beetroot and performance

All of these are benefits that, at least theoretically, could improve our sport performance, giving us an extra second or repetition

We know that in endurance sports the nitrates from food like beetroot have an ergogenic effect. All in all, it delays the fatigue and decreases the muscle fatigue.

Man running

The potential beneficial effects of this supplement for other sport disciplines is no that clear

Precisely, this is what we are going to assess in this article:

Does beetroot have ergogenic benefits (nitrates) for disciplines that involve a high intensity and a short recovery?

How can we take Beetroot for the Performance?

An athlete can include nitrates in the diet through beetroot juice or sodium nitrate

The necessary amount to achieve its ergogenic effect is 300-600mg in absolute terms. Or 0.1 mmol/kg/day in relative terms. Get ready, because you are going to have a bad time if you do not like beetroot.

A kilo of this plant provides around 2500mg of Nitrates. Therefore, we are talking about almost a forth of a kilo of beetroot daily to get the necessary nitrates. This dose seems to be safe from a clinical perspective. In fact, there are no reports that suggest that there is a risk for our health. As we mentioned, the problem lies in the fact that not everyone likes beetroot.

Beetroot salad

Other products rich in nitrates are spinach, carrot or red cabbage, even though beetroot is still the king of nitrates

Now, let’s check some studies where beetroot does its magic

Beetroot Juice and Endurance Sports

1st Study

Buck et al assessed the effect of 6 days of supplementation with 6.3 mmol of Nitrates from beetroot juice or sodium phosphate (50mg/kg lean mass). The physical trial consisted of six sets of sprints of 20 minutes with a 25 second break between sets.

In this case, the beetroot group did not experience significant improvements (1)

2nd Study

In this study, taking 600mg of nitrates 2 hours before barely improved the performance of trained athletes in 500m Kayak (2).

To illustrate this point, the first and last position in the Pekin 2008 Olympics were separated by 1.47″ in the 500m male competition

3rd Study

Amateur cyclists at a simulated altitude of 2500m experienced an improvement of 16.1km in a time trial.

Apart from a drop in VO2 MAX after taking beetroot juice that provided around 310mg of nitrate (3)

Beetroot and CrossFit

1st Study

In Crossfitters, the supplementation with 8mmol of NO3 improved the performance in a 30″ trial in cycle ergometer (4).

Not all the studies are positive and many of them provide or not benefits depending on the protocol

In most of the studies, it seems that beet has a positive effect on submaximal efforts with breaks of at least 15-30 seconds. Above all, this is due to the potential effect that enhances the resynthesis of phosphocreatine.

Particularly, this could be quite useful in most CrossFit WODs, which combine maximum efforts with breaks that lasts a few seconds.

2nd Study

Another study by Clifford et al. assessed the effect of a single intake of beetroot juice on the performance. The participants had to perform a trial of 20 sets of 30m sprints with a 30″ break between sets.

The results of this study did not report any ergogenic effect due to the supplementation (5)

3rd Study

The last study we are going to analyze, Aucouturier et al. assessed the effects of beetroot juice (6.4 mmol NO3) in sets of 15″ of work and 30″ of rest in a cycle ergometer until failure (6).

Interestingly, there was a better tolerance to this type of high intensity trials, as well as more red blood cells in the muscle. Moreover, there were no changes in the blood pressure in the femoral artery flow.

The VO2 MAX did not change when compared to the placebo.

In addition, something that is worth mentioning is that the plasma nitrate peak occurred 2-3 hours after its intake. Therefore, we suggest taking the supplementation at least 150-180 minutes before the exercise.

Moreover, some studies have found a synergy in high intensity and intervals (CrossFit), endurance or strength, In fact, this happens when we combine the nitrates with sodium phosphate, caffeine or creatine, respectively.

Beetroot for health

Finally, there are special people with pathologies that can benefit from the use of nitrates due to its hemodynamic effects

Beetroot supplementation has proven that:

  • Lowering the blood pressure of elderly people.
  • Increasing the blood flow to the muscle in old people with peripheral arteriopathy.
  • Improving the endothelial function and arterial vasodilation.
All in all, these effects can play a crucial role in the onset or delay of cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, we should take them into account.

Conclusions

To sum up, despite needing much more information, we can say that beetroot juice can decrease the muscle fatigue caused by high intensity exercise. Although we still do not know if it is due to a lower muscle damage or to a better post-workout recovery.

In addition, beetroot can preserve the phosphocreatine reserves, improving its resynthesis in the muscles. Consequently, this helps to avoid the accumulation of metabolites such as ADP and inorganic phosphates, which cause muscle fatigue.

And last but not least, beetroot can improve the calcium release and absorption in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Therefore, it would help us gain strength and increase the muscle contraction speed.

There are still many things to find out. In fact, it is specially interesting to see how it interacts with other supplements for high intensity exercises. For example, with caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine or sodium bicarbonate

Bibliography

  1. Buck CL, Henry T, Guelfi K, Dawson B, McNaughton LR, Wallman K. Effects of sodium phosphate and beetroot juice supplementation on repeated-sprint ability in females. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015;
  2. Muggeridge DJ, Howe CCF, Spendiff O, Pedlar C, James PE, Easton C. The effects of a single dose of concentrated beetroot juice on performance in trained flatwater kayakers. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013;
  3. Muggeridge DJ, Howe CCF, Spendiff O, Pedlar C, James PE, Easton C. A single dose of beetroot juice enhances cycling performance in simulated altitude. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014;
  4. Kramer SJ, Baur DA, Spicer MT, Vukovich MD, Ormsbee MJ. The effect of six days of dietary nitrate supplementation on performance in trained CrossFit athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;
  5. Clifford T, Berntzen B, Davison GW, West DJ, Howatson G, Stevenson EJ. Effects of beetroot juice on recovery of muscle function and performance between bouts of repeated sprint exercise. Nutrients. 2016;
  6. Aucouturier J, Boissière J, Pawlak-Chaouch M, Cuvelier G, Gamelin FX. Effect of dietary nitrate supplementation on tolerance to supramaximal intensity intermittent exercise. Nitric Oxide – Biol Chem. 2015;

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Beetroot and Performance Review

Endurance Sports - 97%

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Decrease Muscle Fatigue - 94%

Gain Strength - 90%

Cardiovascular Health - 96%

93%

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About Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera is a young doctor who focuses on nutrition, exercise and metabolism, he combines his professional activity with his vocational dissemination and research.
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