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Sep 052013
 

I casually mentioned beet juice and its possible help in endurance in our running group last Saturday. I thought I would expand on that, versus talking about knee taping or pee.

Beet juice has caught on in the endurance world since several studies have come out indicating boosts in speed, longer time to exhaustion, higher power outputs, lower oxygen cost during exercise, and reduced blood pressure. Ryan Hall and several athletes have been known to drink beet juice during training.

beets

Why does it work? We don’t know all the details, but one of the main reasons seems to be the nitrate content of beets. The nitrate is converted to nitrite by bacteria on the surface of the tongue then converted to nitric oxide in the stomach. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which might improve delivery to cells. It might also improve the efficiency of the mitochondria – thus requiring less oxygen. Other nutrient factors besides nitrate might be involved as well.

How much? Some of the studies used 500 mL of beetroot juice. One used a beet relish. The blood pressure study found that just 250 mL of beetroot juice was enough to affect blood pressure. So the amounts in these studies varied from around 8 to 16 oz.

How to prepare it? You can use a juicer, but I prefer a Vitamix since you can keep the fiber. The beet greens have a lot of good nutrients as well as the beet root, so you might as well juice/puree both. There are some companies that are selling beetroot juice, so you might be able to find that. Heating beets will destroy some of the beneficial nutrients. A low temperature steaming is probably okay.

What if you don’t like beets? Is there anything else? Yes, lettuce, spinach and other green leafy vegetables are also rich in nitrates.

Words of caution. We are discussing nitrate in the form of beets. This is different than other inorganic or organic nitrate or nitrite sources which should be used at a doctor’s direction or not at all. Pregnant women should consult with their doctor before consuming beet juice or taking any supplement. Some individuals are sensitive to beets and may experience symptoms such as headaches. Beet greens contain oxalic acid which can affect certain types of kidney stones. Individuals that have heart problems, blood pressure issues or are on any medication should consult with the doctors before taking beet juice. Beets may temporarily color your teeth or leave a stain on a white shirt. Beets may make your pee and poo red.

 

References:
1. Webb AJ, Patel N, Loukogeorgakis S, et al. Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension. 2008;51(3):784-790.
2. Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vanhatalo A, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009;107:1144-1155.
3. Vanhatalo A, Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, et al. Acute and chronic effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure and the physiological responses to moderate-intensity and incremental exercise. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010;299(4):R1121-R1131.
4. Larsen FJ, Weitzberg E, Lundberg JO, Ekblom B. Effects of dietary nitrate on oxygen cost during exercise. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2007;191(1):59-66.
5. Bailey SJ, Fulford J, Vanhatalo A, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation enhances muscle contractile efficiency during knee-extensor exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2010;109(1):135-148.
6. Larsen FJ, Schiffer TA, Borniquel S, et al. Dietary inorganic nitrate improves mitochondrial efficiency in humans. Cell Metab. 2011;13(2):149-159.
7. Ferreira LF, Behnke BJ. A toast to health and performance! Beetroot juice lowers blood pressure and the O2 cost of exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2011;110(3):585-586.
8. Lansley KE, Winyard PG, Fulford J, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study. J Appl Physiol. 2011;110(3):591-600.
9. Lansley KE, Winyard PG, Bailey SJ, et al. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(6):1125-1131.
10. Kenjale AA, Ham KL, Stabler T, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation enhances exercise performance in peripheral arterial disease. J Appl Physiol. 2011;110(6):1582-1591.
11. Lundberg JO, Larsen FJ, Weitzberg E. Supplementation with nitrate and nitrite salts in exercise: a word of caution. J Appl Physiol. 2011;111:616-617.
12. Allen JD. Reply to Lundberg, Larsen, and Weitzberg. J Appl Physiol. 2011;111(2):618.
13. Jones AM, Bailey SJ, Vanhatalo A, et al. Reply to Lundberg, Larsen, and Weitzberg. J Appl Physiol. 2011;111(2):619.
14. Hord NG, Tang Y, Bryan NS. Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(1):1-10.5.


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