I first wrote a blog on the benefits of drinking beetroot juice shots before endurance training or races just over a year ago. Click here to read it. This blog mentioned some of the research that had been undertaken by early 2012, and explained the connection between the nitrate found in beetroot and its effect on endurance performance. Last summer’s Olympics saw several athletes mention their use of beetroot shots as part of their nutrition strategies, including gold medal winning Paralympian David Weir.
Since then, the sports science research team at Exeter University, led by Professor Andy Jones, have been busy building on their earlier research to help answer the question: “How should I use beetroot juice to help me perform better in training and races?” In their new study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology earlier this month,1 10 healthy males consumed 1 shot, 2 shots or 4 shots of the concentrated beetroot juice sold under the Beet It brand (70ml per shot, each containing 0.4g of dietary nitrate), or a placebo, before completing a moderate or high intensity cycling exercise 2.5 hours later. This was the time when tests showed the amount of the nitrate in the blood of the cyclists to be highest. The exercise was repeated 6 times.
The researchers found that taking 2 or 4 shots of beetroot juice reduced VO2 levels during moderate intensity exercise, i.e. the amount of oxygen needed to maintain performance. This meant the subjects used less energy to cycle at the same pace; 3% less in the case of those taking 4 shots and 1.7% less for those taking 2 shots.
In the time-to-exhaustion cycling trial, however, those taking 2 shots of beetroot juice performed better than those taking 4 shots: extending their time by 14% compared to 12%. This apparently equates to a 1-2% reduction in race time.
This paper was published two months after another by the same team earlier in 2013 in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, which showed that concentrated beetroot juice improved endurance but not power. 2
So what can be concluded from this research which you can use to potentially improve your own performance? I would suggest:
- Take beetroot juice about 2.5 hours before a race or long training session
- Use 2 shots rather than 1 or 4 in a race
- Experiment with using up to 4 shots prior to long training sessions
I would also recommend using the concentrated Sport Shots from Beet It rather than the un-concentrated juice, which would have to be consumed in large volumes (300ml of juice equates to one 70ml shot) and might cause digestive distress or unscheduled pit-stops. Beet It products can be bought from health food shops or directly from this website http://www.jameswhite.co.uk/store/beetit/beet_it_shot_sport (£27 for 15 shots, free P&P).
1 Wylie et al. Beetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationships. J Appl Physiol. 2013 May 2. [Epub ahead of print]
2 Kelly et al. Effects of nitrate on the power-duration relationship for severe-intensity exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Mar 7. [Epub ahead of print]
Jo Scott-Dalgleish BSc (Hons) is a BANT Registered Nutritionist, writing and giving talks about nutrition for endurance sport. Based in London, she also works as a Registered Nutritional Therapist, conducting one–to–one consultations with triathletes, distance runners and cyclists to help them eat well, be healthy and perform better through the creation of an individual nutritional plan. To learn more about these consultations, please visit www.nutritionforendurancesports.co.uk