Many Elite Athletes Drink Beetroot Juice to Get a Competitive Edge

Written by Rebecca Turley

One option to help give your clients a competitive edge is to have them drink beetroot juice before an endurance event. A number of studies have shown that the nitrates in beetroots help to enhance stamina, endurance, and strength.

Elite sport clubs took notice of this trend, and the Leicester City soccer team attributes their title-winning performance in the 2015/16 season to the use of beetroot juice.

One of many studies is one from March 2016 in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. This controlled study looked at the effect of consuming beetroot supplements before time trials. The Australian researchers used male and female elite kayakers. They tested the men in lab-based tests while the women competed in a field-based time trial.

Beetroot juice improved the energy that the men needed to improve their speed by 5%. The women’s team improved their overall performance by 1.7%. To put the magnitude of this in perspective, the margin between a gold and silver medal in the Women’s K1-500 m race was 1.0% during the 2012 London Olympics.

Why does beetroot juice have this effect? It appears that the nitrates decrease the amount of oxygen required during exercise by improving the efficiency of processes that take place in mitochondria (the cell’s source of energy). The end effect of reducing the amount of oxygen needed is that people can endure more strenuous exercise for longer periods of time.

While this study examined kayaking, cyclists can expect the same effect if they take part in time trials up to 10 miles. Another benefit of drinking beetroots is a decrease in blood pressure along with more oxygen flow to the heart.

Scientists say that drinking beetroot provides the maximum benefits. Cooked beets lose a lot of their chemicals and are not as beneficial to health. The only major problem that can happen from drinking a lot of beetroot juice is that it can increase the likelihood of oxalate kidney stones in people who are susceptible to getting them.

The primary author of the study—Dr. Peter Peeling—told Medical Daily that “seeing an athlete with red beetroot stained lips at an endurance event is no longer unusual.”