Why beetroot juice?
Beetroot is one of the best sources of nitrates, compounds that are broken down by saliva to form nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps with the dilation of small blood vessels which can improve athlete’s efficiency by reducing energy requirements for a given work rate. So, what’s the best way to get enough nitrates from beetroot? Drinking some beetroot juice!
It’s safe to consume and experiment with
As opposed to most other supplements, there are virtually no drawbacks to experimenting with beetroot juice, you can have it on a daily basis. It is low in calories and doesn’t contain vitamins or minerals in dangerously high quantities. The distinctly earthy taste will probably be the only limiting factor. It does have only one known side effect – it colours your urine pink.
How much and when?
The amount of beetroot juice that provides the nitrate needed for the average person to sufficiently increase their blood nitrite is about 300 – 500 ml and should be consumed about 2 – 3 hours before the given race or training session. But you don’t need to rely only on juices, beetroot is a tasty ingredient for salads and risottos too. You can also mix it up with celery or spinach, the second best sources of nitrates. Also note that if you’re a highly trained athlete, close to the elite level, you might need to do this several days in a row to see any benefits because your nitric oxide levels might already be pretty high.
What are the alternatives?
Keep in mind that the nitrate content of beetroot can vary significantly based on the soil it’s grown in, the time of year, the fertiliser used, how fresh it is when consumed, and so on. So, if you’re unsure whether the beetroot that’s available in your area is good enough, you might try some quality bottled beetroot. Or, if you want to be even more precise and try supplements, then 5 – 8mmol of nitrate is the dose equivalent to 300 – 500 ml of beetroot juice.
Finally, note that the performance benefits shown in studies are in single digit percentage points, so don’t expect miracles. But if you do measure your rides regularly, you will be able to tell the difference. Try it and let us know!