Hot off the scientific press is a new review of the popular endurance supplement ingredient, beet root (Can we still use the phrase, “hot off the press,” if there’s no printing occurring?). Within, the question is posited if beet roots beneficial effects are limited to longer, steady bouts of exercise or if supplementation can improve high-intensity, interval (HIIT) training type exercise (1).
What Do We Already Know?
The main key to beet root’s efficacy is its high nitrate content. The nitrates are reduced to nitric oxide, which then contributes to improving athletic performance by enhancing blood flow, gas exchange, and mitochondrial efficiency and biogenesis. The authors correctly identify that beet root supplementation improves oxidative exercise performance by 3-6%, and that this amount is up to 10x more than is sufficient to make a difference in a competitive setting.
What is “oxidative” exercise? It refers to the oxidative energy system. The oxidative system is the one most of us care about – it is the major energy system utilized for exercise bouts lasting longer than 1-2 minutes. In other words, ALL endurance activities. The other two energy systems are the phosphagen system (dominant energy system for weightlifting or powerlifting, 1-15 seconds of exercise) and the anaerobic system (dominant energy system for short distance sprinters, 15-90 seconds of exercise). So can beet root confer benefit to HIIT type exercise?
The authors of this review paper found over 700 studies after a keyword search (1). After discarding studies not including high intensity exercise and some form of nitrate supplementation, they were left with 9 applicable studies from which to draw conclusions. Seven out of those 9 found positive results for high-intensity exercise performance, and 2 of those found improvements of 19-20%! Impressive!
What does this mean for the athlete? If you’re already supplementing with beet root in some form on your longer days (probably most of your training), they you’re already doing an incredible job at progressing towards your maximum potential! This study tells us that you will also benefit from supplementing beet root on your short runs, sprints, and even weight training sessions! (yes you SHOULD BE WEIGHT TRAINING AS AN ENDURANCE ATHLETE!)
The Nitty Gritty
For the inquisitive minds out there, this is a more in-depth look at the mechanisms of beets for improving high-intensity performance. If this is just a review for you, go ahead and skip to the end!
We already knew beet root could enhance endurance performance by reducing the energy and oxygen cost of muscle contractions. By reducing metabolic byproduct, sensations of muscle fatigue are reduced. This fact extends into all exercises regardless of intensity. Above, we stated that weightlifting type exercise relies on the phosphagen system. Well, the phosphagen system also relies on oxidative type metabolism to regenerate high-energy phosphate molecules, like ATP. Beet roots known benefits to mitochondrial health and energy production capacities can accelerate phosphagen resynthesis. As a third mechanism, beet root aids muscle contraction via improving nervous system signaling. The result is improved power output from stronger contractions.
Beets for HIIT?
Turns out, it had been a secret that beets could enhance ALL modes of exercise! Now you know! You can get your hands on an efficacious dose of beets by consuming about 1 pound of beet roots, drinking a half liter of concentrated beet juice, or in 1 serving of PerformElite. Except with PerformElite, you get 9 more scientifically proven ingredients to enhance your performance even more! Don’t get left in the dust by those performing elite – get PerformElite today!
- Domínguez, R., Maté-Muñoz, J. L., Cuenca, E., García-Fernández, P., Mata-Ordoñez, F., Lozano-Estevan, M. C., ... & Garnacho-Castaño, M. V. (2018). Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on intermittent high-intensity exercise efforts. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 2.