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  • Nicole Rubenstein, MS, RD, CSSD, CDE

Natural performance enhancement with beet root juice

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

Beets are one of many vegetables that contain nitrates. Nitrates can help lower blood pressure, inhibit platelet aggregation (good for your heart) and improve exercise performance. I will focus on the later. The nitrates in beets are converted to nitrites by the bacteria in your saliva and then converted to nitric oxide in your body. Higher levels of nitric oxide can lower the oxygen cost of exercise, allowing your muscles to work more efficiently. Therefore, you can work harder with a lower physical demand (oxygen demand) on your body. This supplement should be a consideration for athletes competing in long-duration submaximal exercise, as well as exercise involving repeated high-intensity, short duration bouts.

If you have ever tried beet root juice, you know it's not the tastiest beverage. If you plan to juice your own beets at home, consider juicing an apple and some lemon with it to make the beverage more palatable. The amount of homemade beet juice that will provide a performance-enhancing benefit is about 0.5L (16 oz). That's a lot of beet juice! However, you don't need to juice beets at home now that there are many companies that make a concentrated beet juice product. The beet juice shots allows you to get in more dietary nitrates in a much smaller volume. Our favorite brand to use is Beet It because it's guaranteed to have a therapeutic dose (400 mg) of nitrates in it. These are perfect for travel and when you are not at home a few hours before exercise to make a juice. They are also great for those who don't have a juicer.

A general recommendation is to consume beet juice in the days leading up to competition and on the day of competition, about 2-3 hours before exercise begins. This is because it takes 2-3 hours for nitric oxide levels to peak in your bloodstream. If using the beet root shots, consider 1-2 shots at that time (1 shot for smaller individuals, 2 shots for larger individuals).

Note that some individuals are non-responders, which we see in trials with most supplements. This means that some individuals do not have a performance enhancement from beet juice. If you do not notice any improvements with this supplement, you may be a non-responder.

Lastly, since it is the bacteria in our saliva that converts nitrate to nitrite, it is important not to brush your teeth or use mouthwash after consuming beet root juice.

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