Sports Nutrition Print How Does Beet Juice Improve Athletic Performance? By Darla Leal Updated July 25, 2019 Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman More in Sports Nutrition Improving Performance Reducing Body Fat In This Article Table of Contents Expand Beet Nutrition Athletic Performance Research Findings Sport-Specific Results Other Health Benefits Foods High in Nitrate View All Back To Top Athletes and active adults are leaning more towards nutrient-dense foods to improve athletic performance. Diets rich in vegetables like beets are shown to have a significant impact on body functions during exercise. In fact, beetroot juice has become one of the most popular ergogenic supplements for athletes. What makes the beet such an athletic nutritional powerhouse? Beets Contain Amazing Nutrients The beetroot (beta vulgaris) is enjoyed as a food source, is used medicinally, and continues to grow in popularity as an ergogenic supplement. Although there are several varieties of the heart-shaped vegetable, the most common among health-conscious people are the red beetroot. Beets are a rich source of potent antioxidants and also high in nitrate levels. Nitrate is a chemical naturally occurring in certain foods and is converted into nitric oxide when consumed. Studies indicate vegetables high in nitrate promote improved health and athletic performance. Drinking beet juice raises nitric oxide levels in your body. Research shows nitric oxide can increase blood flow, improve lung function, and strengthen muscle contraction. This combination has stimulated athletes to supplement with beet juice for improved cardiorespiratory endurance and performance. Beet Juice Improves Athletic Performance The importance of cardiorespiratory fitness for athletes and active adults is essential. This component of physical fitness refers to the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to working muscles during prolonged exercise. Nitric oxide (NO) from beet juice helps this process. It is shown to increase cardiorespiratory performance and improve muscle function. Nitric oxide (NO) works by stimulating body functions affecting oxygen utilization. It opens up your blood vessels (vasodilation) increasing blood flow and feeding more oxygen to working muscles. Nitric oxide also functions as a signaling molecule communicating with your cells and body tissues. This communication ensures more blood flow to the muscle and adequate oxygen intake inside the muscle. Beets can provide a competitive edge for athletes and can improve performance by almost 16 percent according to a 2014 study by the University of Exeter. What Are the Benefits of Drinking Beet Juice? Positive Research Findings Beet juice studies have been conducted on athletes in a variety of sports including running, swimming, cycling and power walking. The common goal of all research was to examine the beneficial effects of beetroot juice on athletic performance. A study was published on beetroot juice supplementation and aerobic response in fourteen male swimmers. The participants were master athletes aged in their mid to late thirties and in excellent health. Controlled swim tests were conducted with and without beetroot juice supplementation. The athletes were evaluated throughout the swim test for maximum volume of oxygen (VO₂) and aerobic energy cost. The swimmers significantly increased their anaerobic threshold after beet juice supplementation compared to testing without. This means increased oxygen capacity allowed them to swim longer before reaching exercise failure after drinking beet juice. The athletes were also shown to have a decreased aerobic energy cost supplementing with beet juice. A lowered energy cost enabled the swimmers to sustain an increased exercise time. The results indicate beetroot juice supplementation may enhance the athletic performance of master trained swimmers. Why Beet Juice May Not Help In Some Cases Numerous studies have shown beet juice effective to improve athletic performance. Most of this research has taken place under normal environmental conditions. There appears to be conflicting evidence on beet juice benefiting those athletes competing at higher elevations. Working out in high altitudes places additional demands on the body, especially decreased oxygen supply to working muscles. The primary reason oxygen is decreased occurs as a response to a reduction in oxygen pressure at a higher elevation. The change in elevation may have an effect on how nitric oxide (NO) in beet juice affects the body. One small study indicated increased nitrate levels in the blood after supplementing with beet juice but showed no enhanced running performance of well-trained athletes. Another clinical review suggested research on athletes like mountain bikers and endurance runners competing in high altitudes remains contradictory. However, it was suggested that beet juice supplementation may still be beneficial even when hypoxia is present. Hypoxia refers to a condition where a region of the body is deprived of oxygen at the tissue level, including muscle tissue. According to the review, there is a small percentage of the population that doesn’t perceive a benefit from beet juice supplementation training at high elevation. The reason for taking it is to enhance athletic performance but may not be the case for all athletes. Sports Specific Results Using Beet Juice A systematic review was conducted on several articles studying the effects of beetroot juice and improved cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. More than twenty articles were selected to be studied. The focus of the review was to determine the effects of beetroot juice alone and in combination with other supplementation on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. The articles covered a wide spectrum of sports and included both male and female athletes. Among the athletes indicated were kayakers, triathletes, cyclists, swimmers, runners, and healthy active adults. Results from these studies and are summarized below: Beetroot juice supplementation appears to enhance aerobic performance in both trained male and female athletes. The volume of oxygen utilized at varying intensities was greatly improved after beet juice consumption.Kayakers supplementing with beet juice before competition showed improved oxygen capacity compared to a placebo group.Trained swimmers exhibited greater exercise capacity and improved endurance after beet juice consumption.Competitive cyclists who supplemented with beetroot juice improved their performance by 0.8 percent in a 50-mile test. Significant improvements were observed during the last 10 miles. Both oxygen efficiency and time to exhaustion were greatly improved after beet juice consumption.All athletes were able to maintain exercise intensities from 60 to 80 percent significantly longer during exercise with beet juice supplementation.Trained runners ran 5 percent faster in the later part of a 5000-meter race supplementing with beetroot juice 90 minutes prior to their event.Athletes seem to benefit most from beet juice supplementation 150 minutes prior to their events.Research suggests supplementing with beetroot juice at least six days prior to intense exercise or athletic events for best ergogenic benefits.Active healthy adults supplementing with beet juice for 15 days showed an increase in power and oxygen during sustained exercise.Beetroot juice supplementation is shown to promote mitochondrial biogenesis. Exercise causes cellular stress and mitochondrial biogenesis is a process where our body increases energy in our cells.It is suggested beetroot juice supplementation may improve muscle contraction functions.Beet juice is indicated to improve cardiorespiratory fitness in athletes performing in higher altitudes. Best results were reported when beet juice was supplemented at least six days prior to their events.The timing of beetroot supplementation appears to be a factor for best athletic performance results. Consuming beet juice at least 150 minutes prior to intense exercise is recommended.Caffeine appears to interact with beetroot juice and mask the ergogenic benefit.Peak nitric oxide (NO) blood concentration occurs within 2 to 3 hours after beetroot juice consumption. Optimal ergogenic effects have been observed after 150 minutes of consuming beet juice.Oral antiseptic rinses can lessen the effect of nitrate levels in beet juice and are not recommended.Most research was conducted using a 500ml beetroot supplement dose for best ergogenic results. This is approximately 2 cups of juice or 384 grams.The most common side effect reported was beeturia (red urine) and red stools. Other Health Benefits Consuming beets or beet juice may boost your athletic performance but is also a popular superfood for overall health improvement. Consuming beetroot juice has shown to help with the following: Reduces HypertensionAccording to chronic studies on hypertension, beetroot juice is high in nitrate. When you eat beets or drink beet juice, nitrate is converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator and functions by relaxing and dilating your blood vessels for increased blood flow. This directly affects the pressure within your blood vessels. The research indicates a significant decrease in blood pressure three hours after drinking 500ml of beetroot juice. These findings suggest dietary nitrate found in beets as a natural low-cost way to treat hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Anti-cancer PropertiesBeets contain powerful antioxidants or phytonutrients that may help reduce the risk of cancer. It appears red beetroot extract has similar cancer-fighting compounds as some anti-cancer prescription drugs. Betanin, which is a food dye extracted from beets is shown to be biologically active. Research has discovered betanin helps reduce the size of breast and prostate cancer cells. These findings have stimulated further examination to confirm the chemopreventative potential of beetroot extract. The Benefits of Antioxidants DetoxificationBeets are a rich source of antioxidants that help cleanse the body of toxins. They contain betaine and pectin essential to cleansing the liver so toxins are not reabsorbed by the body. Drinking the beet juice instead of cooking raw beets is said to better preserve betaine levels. Higher betaine levels stimulate the liver to get rid of toxins. Decreasing the toxin levels in your body helps reduce inflammation, promotes healing, and is shown to reduce the risk of chronic illness and disease . Anti-inflammatory PropertiesBeets and beet juice are a rich source of betalains. Betalains are phytonutrients shown to help reduce inflammation in the body. They function by lessening the activity of certain enzymes that can trigger inflammation. Studies show decreased inflammation from beetroot juice can help reduce the risk of heart disease and Type-2 diabetes. Foods High in Nitrate Beets are an amazing source of concentrated nitrate and other nutrients are shown to improve your health and fitness. Research indicates that approximately 80 percent of dietary nitrates come from vegetables like beetroot. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the following chart will be helpful in selecting vegetables according to their level of nitrate: Nitrate content (mg/100g fresh weight) Vegetable Varieties Very low, <20 Artichoke, asparagus, broad bean, eggplant, garlic, onion, green bean, mushroom, pea, pepper, potato, summer squash, sweet potato, tomato, watermelon Low, 20 to <50 Broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, pumpkin, chicory Middle, 50 to <100 Cabbage, dill, turnip, savoy cabbage High, 100 to <250 Celeriac, Chinese cabbage, endive, fennel, kohlrabi, leek, parsley Very high, >250 Celery, cress, chervil, lettuce, red beetroot, spinach, rocket (rucola) A Word From Verywell The nitrate found in beets and other foods can be metabolized into nitric oxide (NO) shown to enhance athletic performance and improve cardiovascular health. The strength of the evidence indicates nitrate-rich plant foods and especially beets to provide significant health benefits. Beets can be consumed by cooking the vegetable, drinking the juice or even through a dehydrated powdered supplement. Enjoying a glass of beetroot juice before your next workout may just provide the boost you need. The Nutritional Value of Beets Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Get nutrition tips and advice to make healthy eating easier. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ. The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015;7(4):2801-22. DOI: 10.3390/nu7042801 Jones AM, Thompson C, Wylie LJ, Vanhatalo A. Dietary Nitrate and Physical Performance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2018;38:303-328 DOI: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-082117-051622 Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-muñoz JL, et al. Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(1) DOI: 10.3390/nu9010043. Arnold JT, Oliver SJ, Lewis-jones TM, Wylie LJ, Macdonald JH. Beetroot juice does not enhance altitude running performance in well-trained athletes. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015;40(6):590-5. DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2014-0470 Khodaee M, Grothe HL, Seyfert JH, Vanbaak K. Athletes at High Altitude. Sports Health. 2016;8(2):126-32. DOI: 10.1177/1941738116630948 Bonilla ocampo DA, Paipilla AF, Marín E, Vargas-molina S, Petro JL, Pérez-idárraga A. Dietary Nitrate from Beetroot Juice for Hypertension: A Systematic Review. Biomolecules. 2018;8(4) DOI: 10.3390/biom8040134 Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ. The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015;7(4):2801-22. DOI: 10.3390/nu7042801 Kapadia GJ, Azuine MA, Rao GS, Arai T, Iida A, Tokuda H. Cytotoxic effect of the red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract compared to doxorubicin (Adriamycin) in the human prostate (PC-3) and breast (MCF-7) cancer cell lines. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2011;11(3):280-4. DOI: 10.2174/187152011795347504 Guan YS, He Q. Plants Consumption and Liver Health. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:824185. DOI: 10.1155/2015/824185 Brkić D, Bošnir J, Bevardi M, et al. Nitrate in Leafy Green Vegetables and Estimated Intake. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2017;14(3):31-41. DOI: 10.21010/ajtcam.v14i3.4 Hord NG, Tang Y, Bryan NS. Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;90(1):1-10. DOI:10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131. Additional Reading Arnold JT et al., Beetroot juice does not enhance altitude running performance in well-trained athletes, Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2015 Jonvik KL et al., Habitual Dietary Nitrate Intake in Highly Trained Athletes, International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2016. Lee J. Wylie et al., Beetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationships, Journal of Applied Physiology, 2013. Marco Pinna et al., Effect of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Aerobic Response during Swimming, Nutrients, 2014. Raúl Domínguez et al., Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review, Nutrients, 2017. Continue Reading The Power of Pomegranate for Athletic Performance What Are the Benefits of Drinking Beet Juice? Why Tomato Juice Is an Effective Workout Drink How Coffee Is a Natural Way for Athletes to Improve Their Performance The Health Benefits and Nutrition Advantages of Beets Do Pre-Workout Supplements Improve Your Strength and Performance? How Essential Oils Improve Lung Function and Exercise Performance Boost Your Athletic Performance With Baking Soda Top 12 Healthy 100-Calorie Snacks for Optimal Fitness Why Nutrition From Eating Well Is the Most Important Part of Fitness Some People Are Concerned Reheating Leftover Vegetables May Be Harmful How Athletes Can Stay Safe When Trying to Achieve Body Weight Goals BCAAs Preserve Muscle While You Reduce Calories on a Diet How to Get Fit With Sports Nutrition These 'Bad Rap' Foods Are Actually Pretty Healthy Why Is Taking Erythropoietin (EPO) Dangerous?