Beetroot. Why is this incredibly nutritious food so frequently overlooked by the common gym goer, sports person and bodybuilder? What if I told you that beetroot was used by Gold medallists during the 2012 Olympic Games, is used by Premier League football teams including Arsenal and Manchester United, and is thought to be a must have by some teams competing in the Rugby World Cup!
The ergogenic benefit (ability to enhance performance) is very well documented, and yet people seem to put their taste preference ahead of performance benefit! Why? Beetroot is now available in supplement form as Beet It Pro Elite (SPORTS) Shot and delivers all the nitrate you need to fuel an exercise bout beyond your norm.
The research surrounding the benefit of beetroot is solid and plentiful. The Gatorade Sports Science Institute explains that nitrates are precursors to nitric oxide, the well-publicised physiological signalling molecule that modulates skeletal muscle through its role in regulating blood flow through vasodilation, enhancing muscle contraction and mitochondrial respiration (energy production) and cell formation. If nitrates are consumed through the diet, there is a significant increase in circulating nitric oxide.
Beetroot and improvements in sport
A recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology has added to the acceptance of beetroot and performance enhancement in both elite and amateur athletes. The study showed that the consumption of a nitrate-rich beetroot juice (specifically Beet It Sport) improved sprint performance (3.5%) and decision making speed (3%), without negatively impacting on actual decision accuracy i.e. athletes made the right decisions, faster!
Although 3-3.5% may seem small, on the field of play these differences result in a significant improvement in performance. Speed of thought is a major limiting factor in sport, so the improved perfusion of blood and oxygen to the brain as a result of beetroot juice is potentially a landmark finding in the sports nutrition sector, says Chris Thompson, one of the leading researchers in the study.
So if you aren’t currently using beetroot in your current training regime I urge you to give it a go, if you can put the taste to one side (although I personally love it), then you will reap the benefits to be had.
Thompson, C. et al. (2015). Dietary nitrate improves sprint performance and cognitive function during prolonged intermittent exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3166-0