Skip to main content

22-04-2012 | Sports medicine | Article

Eating beetroot improves running performance


Free abstract

MedWire News: Individuals who consume beetroot an hour before exercise could improve their running performance, research suggests.

Because beetroot is known for its high nitrate content, and nitrate ingestion has previously been shown to enhance exercise performance, Edward Weiss (Saint Louis University, Missouri, USA) and team investigated whether whole beetroot consumption improved exercise performance in healthy adults.

The study included 11 recreationally fit men and women with no history or evidence of cardiovascular disease or hypertension, and an average age of 25 years.

The participants underwent two 5 km treadmill time trials in random sequence 1 week apart: once 75 minutes after consuming 200 mg of baked beetroot (containing ≥500 mg nitrates) and once 75 minutes after consuming cranberry relish (placebo).

The authors note that although the beetroot and cranberry relish were distinguishable, the participants had no knowledge of which food was expected to enhance performance.

During the run, participants were only allowed to view the distance ran on the treadmill control panel, not speed or time, and were told to adjust the speed as frequently as desired, with the goal of completing the 5 km run in as little time as possible.

Times were documented after each mile (1.6 km) at the end of the run, and were used to calculate running velocities.

The findings, reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed that average running times ranged from 19.9 to 25.5 minutes.

The 5 km running velocity after beetroot consumption was marginally faster than after placebo, at 12.3 versus 11.9 km per hour.

Interestingly, during the last 1.1 miles (1.8 km), beetroot consumption was associated with a 5% faster running velocity compared with placebo (12.7 vs 12.1 km/hour), with no differences in velocity in the earlier portions of the run.

"It is not clear why the ergogenic effect of beetroot occurred only late in the 5-km run," say Weiss et al. "It is possible that during the 5-km run, serum nitrate, or more importantly, nitrite levels continued to rise to the point at which benefits became more pronounced late in the 5-km run."

They conclude that, although these findings need to be confirmed in elite athletes and in exercise tasks of different durations and modes, they have "obvious implications for food and nutrition practitioners in the area of sports nutrition and athletes."

By Nikki Withers

Related topics