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.
The potential beneficial effects of this supplement for other sport disciplines is no that clear
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.
Other products rich in nitrates are spinach, carrot or red cabbage, even though beetroot is still the king of nitrates
Beetroot Juice and Endurance Sports
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 study, taking 600mg of nitrates 2 hours before barely improved the performance of trained athletes in 500m Kayak (2).
Amateur cyclists at a simulated altitude of 2500m experienced an improvement of 16.1km in a time trial.
Beetroot and CrossFit
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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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