Many sports supplements do not live up to their hype, but beetroot on the other hand consistently seems to help improve performance – and if you’re less fit, you are likely to notice the benefits even more!
What I love about taking beetroot is that it can simply be a standard part of your diet – eat it / juice it / whack it in a smoothie – you get all the amazing health benefits whilst also improving your training and performance.
How we think it works
Other benefits of nitric oxide include: stimulating gene expression and supporting the immune system by modifying it’s response to a threat.
Research on the performance benefits
A large scale review of 23 studies points to beetroot juice consistently improving endurance exercise at a range of distances (1). Benefits include increased efficiency and time to exhaustion at submaximal intensities and better oxygen uptake. You could expect to see an improvement in race time between 1-3% (2).
A large scale review shows that beetroot juice may also improve sprint performance, helping you recover quicker and reducing muscular fatigue (3).
Beetroot juice may also improve muscular contraction and efficiency (4) allowing for more repetitions in your strength set before you fatigue (3).
Possible side effects
Nitrates inhibit the absorption of certain nutrients and plant-based sources of iron (non-heme), so you’d want to be mindful about your overall intake in conjunction with your current diet patterns.
Also if you’re at risk of kidney stones that would be another consideration.
Again not really a side effect but taste preference – some people dislike the taste so it’s a bit tricky! Putting it into a smoothie with other ingredients is a possible solution.
When to take it
Take as a pre workout approximately 1-2 hours before training. Acute use may help with:
Longer term (daily basis)
You’d want to do this for a minimum of 6 days before seeing benefits that look like:
When you take beetroot consistently over a period of time there are likely adaptations that begin to occur at a gene level and to the power house of the cell (mitochondria) because of the nitric oxide and also the polyphenols that further improve performance (5).
How to take it & how much
You can juice it or bake it (6)! Either 500 ml of beetroot juice (or in a smoothie) or 500 mg of beetroot raw or baked. Avoid other methods of cooking as they will reduce the nitrate content.
You could also go for a supplement form (powder or crystals) but then you’d miss out on the health benefits of beetroot as the vegetable.
Firstly, don’t take the beetroot around mouthwash time since this can prevent the desired increase in nitric.
Secondly if you take caffeine pre workout then beetroot may negate its effects since caffeine constricts blood vessels whereas beetroot (the nitric oxide formed from the nitrates) relaxes the blood vessels. So better to go for one or the other.
Thirdly, don’t be alarmed by your stools turning beetroot colour – that is totally normal if you eat enough of it.
It’s a regular part of my diet and I’m off to buy some now.
Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!