beetroot juice

Health & performance effects review
Beetroot juice has become a popular nutritional supplement for both professional and amateur athletes.
 
The main reason why beetroot juice and beetroot supplements have become popular is that they contain nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide (NO) in the body. It is the NO that is associated with several benefits for health and performance.
 
 

A recent systematic review {Source} looked at the evidence on beetroot juice consumption for it’s effects on health and performance.

 
“Beetroot juice (BRJ) has become increasingly popular amongst athletes aiming to improve sportperformances. BRJ contains high concentrations of nitrate, which can be converted into nitric oxide (NO) after consumption.”
 
In the review they included 86 articles done on human and animal models and divided effects into several categories:
  • health benefits
  • effects on performance
    • in well-trained men / women
    • in recreational men / women
    • possible negative effects

Effects

  • dilates blood vessels and thus allows higher blood flow, which is important in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and as a performance enhancing supplement
  • reduces oxygen consumption (higher power)

Increase performance:

  • 1-3% for 12-40 minutes of activity
  • 4-25% increase in endurance (Source)

DoseS

  • 200g baked beetroot, 2-3 hours before the activity

Foods richest in nitrates are 

  • kale,
  • spinach,
  • arugula.
However, you will do nothing wrong even if you add another dark leafy vegetable and the aforementioned beetroot to the menu.
 
There are a number of nutritional supplements on the market that promise to increase performance through nitrogen oxide. However, it is often NO2 that the body has to convert to NO! This conversion does not have to take place as it is affected by many factors, but there are supplements that contain NO (they have a patent and studies of a particular supplement on humans).
 
  Women Men  
Well trained Only 2 studies that shown no improvements. Increased time to exhaustion, high intermittent exercise and maximal rowing repetitions. Also decreased oxygen utilization was observed which is beneficial for performance.  Inconclusive, and are dependent on field of sport and method of testing.
Amateur has an effect on time performance, but not on cadence of endurance Improvement in time to exhaustion, maximal sprint performance and high intensity intermittent performance. Also recovery has been found to be quicker after short term BRJ supplementation.  

 

Conclusion

High concentrations of nitrates, as in the case of beet juice, can result in the formation of carcinogenic elements.
I propose you eat your NO rich foods such as green leafy vegetables and beetroots and maybe reconsider habitual drinking of beetroot juices or extracts.
 
Keep in mind that the study pointed out a possible risks, not a causality.
 
Also, vitamin C seem to prevent formation of those compounds and this seem to play into eating a varied diet rich in vegetables. That way you get nitrates, vit. C and a number of other minerals.
 
It is a nice example how one nutrient in isolation can cause harm if consumed in excess but within the context of food matrix, it is still beneficial.
 
If you want to learn more about nitric oxide visit podcast where you will find an in-depth information about nitric oxide.

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