We’re all endlessly looking for that magic bullet that will help us get the boat over the line before our competitors, so it’s hardly surprising that I pricked up my ears when I heard about the latest research on beetroot juice. I’ve been aware for a while that beetroot and its juice are getting a bit of a reputation for improving endurance, VO2 and sports performance – there’s a good round up of recent studies here (there’s a clear statement at the end about funding for the overview, but it doesn’t relate to the original studies). But now there’s a new study on the block from Maastricht University showing that a dose of two 70ml Beet It Sport shots (800mg of natural dietary nitrate) is associated with significantly improved performance amongst trained yet recreational athletes (a lot of us, I’d guess).
You can read a more detailed description of the study here.The trial was conducted on 32 first team male soccer players (in second and third Duth amateur league clubs) who were given either two 70ml Beet It shots (giving them 800mg nitrate per day – the equivalent of 500ml actual beetroot juice) or a nitrate-depleted placebo shot for six days. They were put through a bleep test (a high-intensity, intermitten sprint test) at the beginning and again on the sixth day. On the sixth day, the athletes given the beet shots showed an improvement of 3.4% (+49m distance) and a reduction in their heart rate of 1.7% (3bpm).
Of course you could attribute this to all sorts of other factors and the number of participants was fairly small, but it does seem to add to the growing body of evidence to suggest beet juice supplementation can give your sprint performance a little bit of a boost. The reason is thought to be that beetroot huice is naturally rich in nitrate which is converted to nitrite by saliva and then nitric oxide in the blood stream. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which increases blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles, which in turn improves muscle strength and endurance.
My own experiment over six days, thanks to a donation of shots and flapjacks by Beet It, was, admittedly, an n1 study. My erg scores improved slightly, but they ought to be improving slightly at the moment as we progress through sprint season and I get fitter. And my hopes to prove it in a race-smashing performance were kind of dashed when the race in question involved the wrong kind of smashing – see my account here.
But I’m still persuaded that it’s worth a shot (sorry) if you have a significant race in the offing – and most of us do. The shots taste as you would expect concentrated doses of beetroot juice to taste – intensely beetrooty and slightly sweet. If you hate beetroot you won’t enjoy them (my beet-loathing son spat his out, declaring them the most disgusting thing he’d ever tasted) but they’re easy to down in one.
If shots aren’t your thing, I can recommend the Beet It Sport Beetroot Flapjack as an alternative (though not if you really don’t like the taste of beetroot). They’re nicely chewy, not at all dry, and surprisingly good. They’re pretty light on the stomach, too, which is important if you’re sprinting, and each contains 200mg of natural dietary nitrate.
You can also water down the shot. I put some in my water bottle for a couple of outings, topped right up with water, and it made a decent drink between pieces.
If it sounds a bit too good to be true, there is a price tag attached. The flajacks have an RRP of £1.85 per bar (or £28 for a pack of 25), and the shots cost £25 for a pack of 15 – just a week’s worth if you’re downing two per day. If you’re feeling flush you might feel up to this kind of investment before an important race, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Of course you can make beetroot juice yourself much more cheaply, but you do stand the risk of spraying your entire kitchen with beetroot juice (don’t try it if you’re wearing white) and let’s face it, juicing is a bit of a pain in the neck.
One thing, though. If you’re experimenting with uses for beet juice, ignore the fad for a beetroot version of the Bloody Mary, which I’m reliably informed in huge in Hoxton and which I tried at home. Don’t. There is nothing good about it, and I speak as a fan both of beetroot and the Bloody Mary. This one is a beetrooty step too far.
Beet It shots, bars and other products are available here.
I received no payment for this post and my reviews are independent and honest.