Written by Rachel Eagleton, Running Science’s Nutritionist. Find out more about Rachel here:
If you hang around the sports nutrition world you’ll see there’s a lot of fuss about beetroot juice, which has recently been promoted to a Grade A supplement by the Australian Institute of Sport. Supplements are only rated Grade A if there is an evidence level that the supplement directly contributes to optimal performance. Studies have found that athletes supplementing with beetroot juice are able to exercise for longer at the same pace. The most commonly studied exercise situations have been 4- to 30-minute cycling and running trials.
Supplementing with nitrate in the form of beetroot juice appears to improve the exercise economy of athletes when working at a constant intensity, which translates into a slightly longer time until exhaustion. For elites, clinical trials show a small but still significant benefit in time trials. Interestingly, recreational athletes appear to gain larger benefits than professionals, which may be due to less prior adaptation of the cardiovascular system to exercise.
Why is beetroot special? The naturally occurring nitrates in beetroot are converted in the body to nitric oxide which is is a potent vasodilator – it relaxes the smooth muscle lining the artery walls to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to working muscles. This affect also keeps the blood vessels open and relaxed, helping to keep blood pressure down – beetroot juice has also been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
There only potential concern about harmful effects of supplementing with beetroot is occasional minor GI upsets and pink pee. Like any new sports aid, I’d recommend experimenting with a beetroot shot or smoothie on a training run before using it for a big race.
Whether you are trying to improve your exercise endurance, improve your blood pressure or just add more veggies to your diet – check out my beetroot smoothie. I’ve based it on the awesome “can’t beet me smoothie” recipe in Run Fast, Eat Slow but changed it to have more veggies and less fruit. This brings down the calorie content for people not knocking out 2 hour runs. Or you could try a Beet-It Shot – now stocked by Running Science.
- 2-3 baby beetroots
- 250ml coconut water (unsweetened)
- 1 apple cut into chunks
- cup of frozen raspberries
- knob of ginger, peeled
- 1 tab almond butter
- Blend in a high speed blender for 1 minute
- Serves 2
Did you know that using a scientific approach to nutrition in a marathon takes, on average, nearly 11 minutes OFF an amateur runner’s finish time? Support your training by making nutritious food choices a priority so that you can get to the start line of your event feeling great. Find out more about Rachel’s Endurance Nutrition Program here.