Beets Boost Endurance, Stamina and Athletic Performance
If you are a competitive athlete you are probably looking for ways to increase performance. Turns out that beets will provide that boost.
Multiple studies on beets
Several recent studies have proven that beetroot increases not only athletic endurance and stamina, but promotes cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and reducing free radical damage.
Research from the UK’s Liverpool Hope University found that beet juice increases oxygen uptake and boosts exercise performance.
The researchers tested nine athletes who were either given 140 milliliters per day of beetroot juice or a placebo. The athletes were tested during extreme intensity exercise along with moderate exercise. The trial lasted for six days.
The research found that beetroot juice elevated the athletes’ blood nitrite levels and reduced oxygen requirements during both medium- and high-intensity exercise testing. It also increased time-to-task failure by 22%.
Time-to-task failure measures muscle exertion and fatigue. The point where muscle fatigue results in performance deficiency relates to the period of time-to-task failure.
Nitrate content extends performance
Other studies have confirmed that the nitrate within beetroot is one of the central active ingredients.
Illustrating this, a study from the UK’s University of Exeter studied 14 team-sport athletes. They gave them either 490 milliliters of concentrated nitrate-rich beetroot juice or a beetroot juice removed of nitrates.
The study found the nitrate-rich beetroot juice significantly increased performance during intense exercise.
Another study comes from the UK’s University of Exeter Sport and Health Sciences department. The research tested team sport players in a double-blind study. Fourteen of the athletes were given 490 milliliters of beet juice and a matched group was given the same beet juice but without the nitrate content.
They found that the beet juice with nitrate group performed at significantly greater levels than the other group and had faster recovery rates. The researchers concluded:
“Dietary nitrate supplementation improves performance during intense intermittent exercise and may be a useful ergogenic aid for team sports players.”
Another study, this also from the University of Exeter, found by testing nine athletes with cycling tests that 250 milliliters of beet juice twice a day significantly increased endurance during intense exercise. Several other studies from Exeter have confirmed these findings.
As researchers have struggled to find the mechanism and active constituent, it appears the nitrates in beets fuel the cell’s energy producers – the mitochondria.
Mitochondria and phosphorylation
A recent study from Mexican researchers found that beet’s nitrate constituents stimulate the voltage-dependent anion channels within the mitochondria. This creates a more streamlined production of energy within a pathway called oxidative phosphorylation.
This mechanism proves out in practical endurance situations as well. Researchers at the Saint Louis University studied 11 athletes (men and women). The subjects were either given placebo or 200 grams of baked beets prior to being tested.
Those who ate the baked beets ran 0.4 kilometers-per-hour faster than the athletes who ate the placebo for a five kilo run, and during the last kilometer, the beet-eaters ran 5% faster than those who did not eat the beets.
The researchers concluded that:
“Consumption of nitrate-rich, whole beetroot improves running performance in healthy adults.”
Research from The Netherlands’ Maastricht University Medical Centre found that 140 milliliters of concentrated beet juice a day significantly improved the times and speeds in cycling tests on cycling athletes.
Meanwhile, Polish university researchers found that the betanin in beets stimulated developing immune cells – neutrophils – and reduced free radicals.
Other studies have found that the nitrate content in beetroot juice increases muscle efficiency and exercise intolerance.
Beets also contain lutein, which has been shown to slow down age-related macular degeneration.
A study from Texas showed that beets and other nitrate-containing foods can increase endothelial function.
Certainly beets make for a healthier performance-enhancer than steroids.
Breese BC, McNarry MA, Marwood S, Blackwell JR, Bailey SJ, Jones AM. Beetroot speeds O2 uptake and improves exercise tolerance during severe-intensity exercise initiated from an elevated metabolic rate. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Dec 15;305(12):R1441-50. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00295.2013.
Wylie LJ, Mohr M, Krustrup P, Jackman SR, Ermιdis G, Kelly J, Black MI, Bailey SJ, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jul;113(7):1673-84. doi: 10.1007/s00421-013-2589-8.
Kelly J, Vanhatalo A, Wilkerson DP, Wylie LJ, Jones AM. Effects of Nitrate on the Power-Duration Relationship for Severe-Intensity Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Mar 7
Wylie LJ, Mohr M, Krustrup P, Jackman SR, Ermιdis G, Kelly J, Black MI, Bailey SJ, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Feb 1.
Alcántar-Aguirre FC, Chagolla A, Tiessen A, Délano JP, González de la Vara LE. ATP produced by oxidative phosphorylation is channeled toward hexokinase bound to mitochondrial porin (VDAC) in beetroots (Beta vulgaris). Planta. 2013 Mar 17.
Murphy M, Eliot K, Heuertz RM, Weiss E. Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Apr;112(4):548-52.
Kelly J, Fulford J, Vanhatalo A, Blackwell JR, French O, Bailey SJ, Gilchrist M, Winyard PG, Jones AM. Effects of short-term dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure, O2 uptake kinetics, and muscle and cognitive function in older adults. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Jan 15;304(2):R73-83.
Hobbs DA, Kaffa N, George TW, Methven L, Lovegrove JA. Blood pressure-lowering effects of beetroot juice and novel beetroot-enriched bread products in normotensive male subjects. Br J Nutr. 2012 Dec 14;108(11):2066-74.
Cermak NM, Gibala MJ, van Loon LJ. Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012 Feb;22(1):64-71.
Zielińska-Przyjemska M, Olejnik A, Kostrzewa A, Łuczak M, Jagodziński PP, Baer-Dubowska W. The beetroot component betanin modulates ROS production, DNA damage and apoptosis in human polymorphonuclear neutrophils. Phytother Res. 2012 Jun;26(6):845-52.
Vanhatalo A, Fulford J, Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Winyard PG, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate reduces muscle metabolic perturbation and improves exercise tolerance in hypoxia. J Physiol. 2011 Nov 15;589(Pt 22):5517-28.
Włodarek D, Głabska D. Influence of the lutein-rich products consumption on its supply in diet of individuals with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Klin Oczna. 2011;113(1-3):42-6.
Engan HK, Jones AM, Ehrenberg F, Schagatay E. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves dry static apnea performance. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2012 Jul 1;182(2-3):53-9.
Lansley KE, Winyard PG, Bailey SJ, Vanhatalo A, Wilkerson DP, Blackwell JR, Gilchrist M, Benjamin N, Jones AM. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jun;43(6):1125-31.
Ferreira LF, Behnke BJ. A toast to health and performance! Beetroot juice lowers blood pressure and the O2 cost of exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2011 Mar;110(3):585-6.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.