Beetroot Juice: An Athlete’s Elixir?

May 31, 2022

Keeping abreast of all the latest nutrition trends can be daunting, even for a dietitian. It seems that every week there is a new “miracle food” on the market, making it hard for consumers to really understand what best helps their bodies.  For an athlete, performance hinges on a variety of things, one of the most important being, how they fuel their body.  With that in mind, today we’re going to take a look at a performance enhancer making the news quite a bit lately – beetroot juice.

Beets, themselves, have long been touted for their many benefits, among them, protecting the liver.  The root vegetable is nutrient-rich, containing phytonutrients, fiber, folate, manganese, vitamin C, iron and ~180 mg nitrates/cup.  Since they are chock full of nitrates, which your body can convert to nitric oxide (NO), beets have been shown to enhance muscle function and efficiency, as well as blood flow.  There is growing evidence that consuming the root vegetable in juice form may prolong time to exhaustion and improve power output during endurance exercise.

The effective nitrate dose for performance benefit is 310-560 mg/ serving, which is equivalent to approximately 2 cups (500 mL) of unconcentrated beetroot juice. For elite athletes, studies show that benefits likely come after consumption of the juice and or supplements that lasts longer than three days.  In fact, the current recommendations are to consume beetroot products 2-3 hours before exercise or daily for up to 14-28 days prior to an event.  That said, it is important to remember that, as with any new regimen, trying beetroot products during the training phase is crucial to assess gastrointestinal tolerance.  They may not work for everyone!

While more studies are certainly needed, it does appear that beetroot juice holds promise and may, indeed, be beneficial for athletes.  

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