The power of beetroots

Can beetroots help you work out harder, faster, better? Professor Tim Crowe explains the benefits

Beetroot juice has had a meteoric rise to become the latest hot sports nutrition supplement. With a growing amount of research supporting its use, this may be a rare case where the hype is actually not too far from the fact.

The interest in beetroot juice comes from the presence of naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates are found in many vegetables, but beetroot is one of the best sources. The research interest in dietary nitrates is because they can be converted by our body to nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator, meaning it improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to working muscles. As a bonus, it also improves the action of insulin and has a role to play in the immune system. There is also some interesting research showing that beetroot juice may help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.

So will drinking beetroot juice improve athletic performance? With several dozen exercise studies looking at beetroot juice and sports performance now published, the results are looking promising.

Beetroots fresh from the ground

“Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator, meaning it improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to working muscles.” 

 

Athletes who supplement with beetroot juice containing an adequate amount of nitrate on average gain a small benefit in exercise endurance. The most commonly studied exercise situations have been 4- to 30-minute cycling and running trials.

Taking in extra nitrate in the form of beetroot juice can improve the exercise economy of athletes when working at a constant intensity, which translates into a slightly longer time until exhaustion. At an elite level, clinical trials show a small but competitively meaningful benefit in time trial performance. Recreational athletes seem to gain a greater benefit from beetroot juice than the pros, which could be because of less prior adaptation of the cardiovascular system to exercise.

The Australian Institute of Sport nutrition team gave their nod to beetroot juice by recently moving it to a Group A classification. Only supplements that are supported by evidence for use in certain sports are given this rating.

_blank

There are very little concerns about harmful effects from taking beetroot, juice apart from some occasional, minor gastrointestinal upsets. But as anyone who has tried beetroot juice will tell you, be prepared for a ‘colourful surprise’ on visits to the bathroom – what goes in purple comes out pink!

So how much nitrate do you need to consume to get a potential sports performance benefit? An effective ‘dose’ of nitrate is about 400 mg. Popular commercial ‘beetroot shots’ will give this dose – or instead, you could just eat foods high in nitrate. Beetroot, celery, lettuce, and spinach all contain about 250 mg of nitrate per 100 g, though levels can vary (hence the popularity of the commercial shots).

Beetroot juice is now moving into the realm of the mainstream with some credible science behind it to support its use. As with all sports supplements though, at best they may give a small performance benefit. The greatest benefits in sport come from a broad healthy diet, adequate rest and recovery and plenty of hard work in training.

Recommended reading - Issue Five Spring 2013

Experts

Natural alternatives to sugar

Enjoy sweetness sans the sugar. Practitioner Katie Molloy shares the top natural alternative.

Read more
Lifestyle

How to keep your pet cool in summer

Here’s some safety tips to care for your pet on scorching (and potentially deadly) summer days.

Read more
Lifestyle

7 ways to cool down this summer

Feel refreshed with these simple tips for beating the heat.

Read more
Community

Run faster Mr Hale!

PE teacher Nathan Hale's motivational marathon journey.

Read more
Community

The journey to IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns

Documenting the physical and mental preparation for a half ironman.

Read more
Experts

Is it time for reading glasses?

Ophthalmologist Darryl Gregor explains why objects up close become more difficult to read as we age.

Read more
Community

Why the Mediterranean diet is so good for you

Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos explains why eating Mediterranean-style can make you healthier.

Read more
Community

5 ways with a foam roller

How to use foam rollers to keep your muscles limber, especially after running and weightlifting

Read more
Community

Brighton Icebergers

“Swimming in the morning is just fantastic; it leaves you exhilarated,” – Timothy Lynch, Iceberger.

Read more
Travel

Travels on two wheels

Swap the gym for the open road and make your next holiday a cycling adventure.

Read more
Community

Five tips for the aspiring runner

Lightning quick Liam Adams offers a word of advice to aspiring runners.

Read more
Experts

How Chinese medicine can help boost fertility

Spring is the season of new life. What better time then, to discuss our own reproductive health?

Read more
Experts

How exercise can transform your child’s life

Establishing good health and activity habits early may have long term learning and health benefits.

Read more
Community

Healthy mum, healthy baby

A new resource provides a wealth of information on healthy weight gain and pregnancy.

Read more
Experts

The multivitamin dilemma

Should you supplement your diet or not?

Read more
Recipes

Baked sardine recipe

These sardines can also be served as a meze. A tasty way to get a boost of omega-3 fats on a budget.

Read more
Recipes

Baked eggplant recipe

Serve this dish warm or cold with a side salad of cos lettuce, cucumber and spring onion.

Read more
Experts

Myth busting obesity

Seven prevalent obesity myths are put under scrutiny, with some results belying conventional wisdom.

Read more
Travel

Meet my city: Los Angeles

Fitness fan Amanda Grandinetti shows us the healthy hotspots around her city, Los Angeles.

Read more
Recipes

Healthy fish tacos recipe

Babes on Grill’s Alicia Twohill shares a delicious and simple way to make healthy fish tacos.

Read more
Experts

Easing the burden of cancer treatments

Medical oncologist Dr Ross Jennens explains how cancer treatments can be done in patients' homes.

Read more
Community

5 tips for mindfulness at work

How the practice of mindfulness can introduce awareness and acceptance to our workplace.

Read more
Guides

The relaxation response

How to combat stress with one simple concept – ‘eyes closed silence’.

Read more
Recipes

Chilli duck salad recipe

Darren Robertson and Mark LaBrooy of the Three Blue Ducks café share this delicious duck recipe.

Read more
Experts

Depression and dementia risk

It is not widely recognised that depression increases the risk of late-life dementia.

Read more
Lifestyle

Carrot and lentil salad recipe

Brighten your day with this hearty salad

Read more
Travel

Summer in Hong Kong

Things are heating up in Hong Kong as the city gears up for summer.

Read more
In Brief

Kids who bike or walk to school

Boost children's concentration by encouraging cycling or walking to school.

Read more
Lifestyle

Ducks with a difference

“We want to eat real food, from good, ethical sources…” Darren Robertson and Mark LaBrooy.

Read more
Community

Girls’ Night In

Swap a night out for a Girls’ Night In this October to support women with cancer.

Read more
Lifestyle

Innovative ways to achieve good health

A round up of what’s hot in the health gadget world this spring.

Read more
Lifestyle

Health Shelf with Ash Hart

Green smoothies, laughter and yoga are key ingredients in Ash Hart’s life.

Read more
Community

The final countdown

We hear from Alicia Loxley, female ambassador for the Medibank Melbourne Marathon Festival.

Read more
Lifestyle

Back on home turf

It’s bye bye Bani Yas as Nick Carle returns home.

Read more
Experts

Powerful proteins

Professor David Cameron-Smith delves into why protein is such a vital component of a healthy diet.

Read more
In Brief

Yousli

Yousli lets you pick and choose exactly what’s in your breakfast bowl.

Read more
Community

Libby looks back

Recently retired Olympian Libby Trickett reflects on the highs and lows of her decorated career.

Read more
Community

No stopping Matt Cowdrey

With a Paralympic medal haul of 23, Matt Cowdrey isn’t slowing down.

Read more
Community

A star from her marathon debut

With a rower, a footballer and an Olympic runner, sporting prowess runs deep in the Trengove family.

Read more
Community

Health of the nation

Health industry leaders offer their thoughts on the health of Australia, today and into the future.

Read more
Community

Cairns 70.3

Always had it in mind to complete a long distance endurance event?

Read more
In Brief

Medibank members are flying high

Medibank members are racking up flybuys points for making healthy choices at Coles.

Read more
Lifestyle

Health blogger – Dr Ginni

Sydney GP Dr Ginni discusses health issues at drginni.com.au

Read more
Lifestyle

Health blogger – Emma Stirling

Accredited Practising Dietitian Emma Stirling shares nutrition news at scoopnutrition.com

Read more
Lifestyle

Health blogger – Stacey Roberts

Parenting and vegetarian food are on the agenda at Stacey’s blog theveggiemama.com

Read more
Community

Open Gardens Weekend 2013

Spring has sprung and with it comes a very special time to be out amongst the blooms.

Read more
Community

Tips to achieve optimal health

Physiotherapist Jason Smith believes we need to adopt a new approach to health and wellbeing.

Read more
Lifestyle

Health blogger – Cassie Mendoza-Jones

Naturopathy and natural medicine are explored in Cassie’s blog elevatevitality.com.au

Read more

be. magazine spring 2013

The spring edition of be. magazine is now in store.

Read more
Community

Health of the nation – Jerril Rechter

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six health organisations.

Read more
Community

Health of the nation – Manny Noakes

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six health organisations.

Read more
Community

Health of the nation – Steve Hambleton

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six health organisations.

Read more
Community

Health of the nation – Warwick Anderson

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six health organisations.

Read more
Community

Health of the nation – Janina Nearn

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six health organisations.

Read more

Bringing you Bared

Ensuring comfort is the number one component of great looking shoes.

Read more
Community

playgolfWEEK

playgolfWEEK is an initiative of Golf Australia and Golf South Australia.

Read more
Community

R U OK? Day

Thursday 12 September is R U OK? Day, a reminder of the life-altering impact of a conversation.

Read more
Community

Health of the nation – George Savvides

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six Australian health organisations.

Read more
Community

A flexible approach to activity tracking

A look at how the latest offering from Fitbit stacks up.

Read more
Lifestyle

Dogs on show

The Royal Melbourne Dog Show showcases obedience, agility and responsible dog ownership.

Read more
In Brief

Sunscreen works in more ways than one

A new study by the Queensland Insititute of Medical Research gives us more reasons to use sunscreen.

Read more
In Brief

Coffee Encounters

New book Coffee Encounters encourages reflection on the origins of our morning brew.

Read more
Community

The power of generosity

Social experimenter Shanaka Fernando on life, lentils and how to achieve better health.

Read more
Community

Personal best

If you're aiming for more than just the finish line, Sports Dietitians Australia is here to help.

Read more
Community

Connecting with those around you

Wendell Sailor supports R U OK? Day and wants more men to ask for help when they need it.

Read more
Community

Tough mudder

Group exercise, the hardcore way.

Read more
Community

On the med school road

The journey to becoming a doctor requires dedication and commitment to a lifetime of learning.

Read more
Community

The ritual of tea

The health benefits of a humble cuppa.

Read more
Community

In it together

Prostate cancer is now the most common male cancer in the western world, excluding skin cancers.

Read more
Community

Big Red Kidney Walk

This September, you can help support Kidney Health Australia.

Read more
Community

Giving back

Joining Medibank has helped Simone Spry give back to those that assisted her with her studies.

Read more
Travel

A weekend of discovery

Simple ways to empower others with the tools to improve their quality of life.

Read more
Community

Kirigami – the Japanese art of paper cutting

Simplicity, focus and creativity come together when bringing paper to life.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.