Will Beetroot Juice Improve Your Running?

Beetroot is the bulbous, reddish-purple part of a beet plant. The other part of the plant is the beet top (or beet greens), which are also highly nutritious. Beetroot juice is obtained by putting beets through a juicer and extracting its liquid.

This liquid is high in nutrients including folate, potassium, and vitamin C. It also has a high nitrate content, which is being credited for boosting runner's performances. Scientists aren't certain, but they think having more nitric oxide (a byproduct created by metabolizing nitrate) in your body helps athletes exercise with less oxygen.

Beetroot's impact on athletic ability was tested in two small studies performed at Exeter University. In these studies, athletes drank a half liter of beetroot juice several hours before taking part in cycling. Tests performed on the athletes determined they were able to exercise using less oxygen than normal and for twenty percent longer than control subjects who drank a placebo of black current juice.

The scientists concluded that the beetroot juice allowed them to reduce the amount of energy their muscles required, which increased their stamina.

Casual runners shouldn't expect that drinking beetroot juice will turn them into marathoners, but scientists think it can improve performance for serious runners. It might also help athletes bump past stubborn performance plateaus.

Beetroot juice provides benefits for athletes and non-athletes alike. Studies show that drinking beetroot juice lowers blood pressure and keeps it low for up to 24 hours.

It may also help fight inflammation, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

What's the downside of drinking beetroot juice? It takes a lot of juice to receive all the athletic and health benefits that have been attributed to beet juice and it has a strong, distinct flavor that not everyone loves.

You can mix it with other juices to improve its flavor, but watch out that you're not adding too many extra calories to your diet by drinking all that juice.

Can you get the same benefits by eating beets? Beets are high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins and are a healthy ingredient for any diet, but it appears it's the juice (consumed in high quantities) that's responsible for increased athletic performance.




A toast to health and performance! Beetroot juice lowers blood pressure and the Ocost of exercise
Journal of Applied Physiology, December 2010
Leonardo F. Ferreira and Bradley Jon Behnke