If you’re looking to increase your exercise performance, the answer could be in a glass of beetroot juice.
In a recent study, researchers from the Netherlands found that supplementing a workout with beet juice can improve performance. Scientists studied the effects of nitrate-rich beetroot juice in 32 male soccer players while they participated in high-intensity intermittent running.
Six days of beetroot juice ingestion spiked nitrate concentrations in the athletes’ blood and saliva and enhanced overall performance by 3.4 percent. The study authors said the nitrate supplement could work for those looking to enhance their exercise performance.
“Our findings suggest that nitrate supplementation could represent an effective nutritional strategy to improve exercise performance,” the authors wrote. “Especially towards the end of the match when sprint intensity/frequency has been shown to decrease significantly due to fatigue.”
The participants were either given nitrate-rich or nitrate-depleted beetroot juice for the study. They were then screened, received their supplemental beetroot juice drinks, and familiarized with the exercise test over a three-week period of visits to the research facility.
During the two six-day supplementation periods, the participants drank two 70 mL of beetroot juice a day around 5 p.m. They recorded their activities and dietary intake in the 36 hours before the first exercise trial as well, the authors said.
No strenuous physical activity, caffeine or alcohol consumption took place during the two days before the exercise trial days. There were no restrictions against nitrate-rich foods, and the participants were given a standardized dinner before each exercise test.
The researchers took blood and saliva samples, and the participants filled out questionnaires before each exercise test. During the tests, the athletes wore heart monitors that recorded their mean and peak heart rates.
In this study, the heart rate changes were new to the world of beetroot juice studies, the authors said. The study reported a heart rate decrease for those who supplemented their exercise with the nitrate-rich beetroot juice versus the nitrate-depleted juice.
“To the best of our knowledge, the current findings are the first evidence of changes in heart rate following nitrate ingestion in young healthy athletes,” the authors wrote. “Whether the decrease in mean heart rate is related to the improved exercise performance is unclear, as the only available literature describing effects of inorganic nitrate-nitrite on heart rate are from heart failure patients.”
Beetroot juice has been studied for its effects on athletes before, more specifically for swimmers and cyclists. The supplementation of beetroot juice as a method to enhance exercise performance shouldn’t have any major side effects, the authors wrote.
The athletes reported only mild gastrointestinal discomfort while drinking the juice, while plasma and saliva samples showed increased nitrate concentrations. The higher nitrate concentration didn’t necessarily mean better physical performance, the authors said.
“It is unclear what the exact explanation is for this lack of effect,” the authors wrote. “Although it seems likely that the large day-to-day variability inherent to the [exercise] test played a role.”
The authors said additional research should be done to determine just how far beetroot juice supplements can go toward enhancing exercise. The study was funded by the Dutch Technology Foundation STW.