A performance enhancer that’s hard to beet

The next time you hear about an athlete “juicing,” he may be beetroot juicing.

A pair of recent studies have found that athletes who throw down some beetroot juice before an event tend to do better from an endurance standpoint. In November, a study appearing the Journal of Applied Physiology found that runners who beetroot juiced increased their endurance by 15 percent during high intensity running. And a study just published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise finds that competitive cyclists are likewise affected. (Beetroot juice has also been found to lower blood pressure and cleanse the kidneys and gall bladder.)

Researchers at the University of Exeter took nine “club-level competitive male cyclists” and had them do time trials over 4K (2.5 mile) and 16.1K (10 mile) routes. They did both time trails twice: Before one time trial they drank half a liter of beetroot juice, before the second they drank a half liter from which the nitrates had been extracted.

When the cyclists drank straight beetroot juice, they had a higher power output measured in watts, and completed the 4K course 11 seconds faster and the 16.1K course 45 seconds faster. (The cyclists’ VO2 levels were monitored to make sure maximum output was consistent throughout the test.) The findings suggest the cyclists’ muscles and cardiovascular systems were more efficient under the influence of beetroot juice.

Could a new Gatorade flavor be far behind?

Photo: That’s beetroot juice, not Beetlejuice.

2 thoughts on “A performance enhancer that’s hard to beet”

    1. GNC sells a 32-ounce bottle of beetroot juice for $19.99, so I’m guessing you don’t throw down a whole bottle before working out like you might with, say, Gatorade. Though the study did say that the athletes tested drink a half liter (roughly a pint) of the stuff.

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