Beetroot is an extremely healthy vegetable, packed full of Vitamin B9 Folate and Manganese. These are good for the blood, nutrient metabolism and bone formation. Beetroot is also an amazing natural source of dietary nitrate – which is where the performance benefit lies.
What is dietary nitrate?
Natural nitrates are contained in some vegetables and have a wealth of benefits for the body, including reducing blood pressure. The word dietary simply means in the diet, and naturally ingested.
Unnatural nitrates are often added to low quality meat to colour and cure it – these are bad for the body and pose no benefits at all.
How do natural dietary nitrates found in Beetroot improve my performance?
Beetroot is a great source of natural nitrates. In the body dietary nitrates can change into Nitric Cxide which dilates the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure1.
The reason for this improvement may be due to nitrates increasing the efficiency of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the parts of cells that produce energy2 – and by increasing their efficiency, due to increased blood flow, they can more effectively supply energy.
It has been scientifically proven that beetroot improves endurance performance. Cyclists increased their maximum time of cycling by almost 20%3, and runners increasing their speed by 5%4. The high levels of nitrates found in beetroot reduces the oxygen cost of exercise. It opens up the blood vessels and allows more oxygen to flow and lowering blood pressure.
Studies have also shown that Beetroot can improve sprinting performance by 4%5. When races are often won by a split-second this could be the difference between coming last and winning.
Could I benefit from it if I strength train?
There is little conclusive evidence to prove that Beetroot increases strength. However there is lots of evidence to show beetroot dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow. When training, improved blood flow to the muscles you’re training will help remove lactic acid and bring fresh blood and oxygen to the muscle. So whatever form of training you do, Beetroot will inevitably help.
When is the best time to take it?
Having Beetroot or a source of nitrates in your pre-workout meal is going to the best option, as the nitrates will be flowing around your blood stream working their magic before you train.