Beetroot can be consumed in a variety of different forms such as raw, cooked or juiced. Quite often we consume the root portion of the vegetable with many also consuming the leaves in raw salads or by steaming or stir frying them.
This vegetable has a delicious earthy taste and has a significant amount of potassium and folate. It contains a unique group of red pigments called betalians, which can aid with improving the body’s detoxification processes and can possibly reduce inflammation.
When looking at Beetroot in the context of exercise, the portion of the vegetable we’re concerned about is the root. Beetroot contains one of the highest levels of nitrate when compared to other vegetables. The nitrate content is determined by many environmental factors as well as the quality of the soil the vegetables are grown in.
This dietary inorganic nitrate has been shown to produce beneficial effects on the vascular system, including reducing blood pressure, regulating blood clotting but most of all, in the content of physical activity, it has been shown to enhance exercise performance in healthy individuals and in those patients with peripheral arterial disease.
During exercise, we naturally utilise a lot of energy and it is when we deplete our glycogen (storage form of sugar in the body) and our ability to absorb sufficient amounts of oxygen also becomes depleted, we become fatigued and unable to continue with the physical activity at hand. Muscle recovery also becomes an issue and recovery time tends to be much longer than expected. Studies have indicated that nitrate rich foods such as beetroot, positively influenced exercise performance as well as recovery. It also increased time to exhaustion, especially during severe exercise. A study specifically looking at beetroot juice supplementation for 6 days found to reduce the time for trained cyclists to complete a 10km time trial by 12 seconds(1).
Essentially, dietary inorganic nitrates work by reducing the oxygen cost that occurs in exercise and also reduces the uptake of pulmonary oxygen during moderate and severe exercise. As well as this, it reduces the breakdown of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the muscles, meaning more efficient muscle activity and improved recovery.
When considering exercise performance and recovery, don’t overlook the role this delicious, earthy vegetable can play. After all, many elite athletes are turning to beetroot juice as a safe, effective and natural exercise performance enhancer.
- Lidder S, Webb AJ. Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. British journal of clinical pharmacology. 2013;75(3):677-96.