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In the past few years, several supplement brands have developed products that include beet in them. Now, if you’re like me this conjures up memories of your mom forcing you to eat this red bulbous vegetable because “it’s good for you.” Well, it turns out that your Mom was right…especially if you happen to be an endurance athlete who wants to gain an advantage over your competition. The good news for you is you don’t have to eat beets by the fistful or choke down some nasty juice to get the endurance-enhancing effects of this wonder vegetable. Beetroot powder is a more palatable option, and an easier way to get the necessary compound found in them responsible for improving your next run or ride. The compound found in beets responsible for supercharging stamina are nitrates.
If you’ve ever heard of nitrates, it’s likely come from the news media. That means you’ve only heard about nitrates’ false association with heart disease or cancer. You see, many individuals are convinced that meat is bad for health (it’s not), and in an effort to figure out why meats might be harmful, the finger has been pointed at added nitrates at some time or another. However, the scientific evidence doesn’t support the notion that nitrates adversely affect health. As it pertains to cardiovascular health, it’s quite the opposite.
One of the biggest holes in the outdated theory was the nitrate content in foods. Vegetables, such as beets, actually have a much higher nitrate content than do meats, and it’s pretty much unanimous that vegetables promote good health (1). More specific research that has directly examined the effects of nitrate have found it to decrease blood pressure (2). Now, let’s talk about something we all care about; getting faster!
Nitrates don’t just affect blood pressure and blood flow; they actually increase our cellular and metabolic efficiency. Six days of beet-sourced nitrate supplementation decreased the oxygen cost of exercise at low, moderate, and high intensities (3). What does that mean? To perform the same amount of work, less oxygen is required! This is like increasing your VO2Max, but just pushing on the other side of the scale. How, though?
Every movement, from chewing to running, requires a muscle contraction, and every muscle contraction requires a little cellular currency, called ATP. With nitrate supplementation, each muscle contractions ATP cost is reduced by about 25% (4). The result is improved performance. In both of the previously cited studies, participants experienced an average ~20% extension in time to exhaustion.
Those well-versed in the endurance scientific literature know that time to exhaustion is not the same as time trial performance. Fear not! Nitrate supplementation from beetroot consumed 2 hours before a cycling event improved 4km time trial performance and 16km time trial performance by ~3% (5)! What about longer events? Well-trained cyclists reduced their time to cycle 50 miles by 1.2 minutes after only a single serving of nitrates. What’s more is the nitrate supplemented participants maintained a higher power output to oxygen consumption ratio, confirming the aforementioned metabolic efficiency (6).
Want to give it a shot yourself? It’s certainly worth a try. EndurElite’s PerformElite contains an efficacious dose (~500mg) of nitrates in the form of beetroot powder plus nine other performance enhancing ingredients. If your current beet product doesn’t have this amount you're flushing your money down the toilet. The beetroot powder used in PerformElite also contains anthocyanins and betalains, which each have their own unique effects on components related to endurance performance. Check out PerformElite.