Can beet juice really boost your workouts?

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Beet juice, specifically beetroot juice, has become a popular supplement for many people engaging in endurance and strength training. Like spinach, beets are rich in nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide, a molecule known to help improve blood flow. The logic is that drinking beet juice before a workout will allow you to push yourself further and lead to greater success. But is this really true? Researchers from Penn State decided to look into the science.

A shot of beet juice for the blood

When it comes to making the most from the time you spend exercising, every little bit counts. That’s what nutrient timing is all about, and that’s how the idea of nitrate-rich beet juice first came into practice. Because the notion that this could help you get fitter faster became so prevalent, David Proctor, a professor of kinesiology and physiology at Penn State began a study to see what really happens. His results were published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Proctor gave participants either a shot of beetroot juice before engaging in hand-grip exercises or a placebo. He and other researchers then measured blood flow throughout the forearm. Previous studies had found indirect evidence that beetroot juice increased the blood flow to skeletal muscles, but Proctor’s study found that this was not the case.

“The absence of any direct effect on forearm muscle blood flow or artery dilator function was not due to a lack of absorption of the supplement into the blood stream,” said Proctor.

So where did all the nitrates go then? According to the study, it became nitrite, a precursor to the nitric oxide that improves blood flow.

The study did find, however, that beet juice supplementation helped to “de-stiffen” blood vessels when the heart was at rest, easing the workload on your heart in the process.

So lay off the beets then?

Not necessarily! Proctor admits that there are some limitations to the study. It’s not quite time to draw any broad conclusions about the efficacy of beets, against or for. Since the subjects of this study were all in very good health in terms of blood pressure and cholesterol, the effects of beet juice on blood flow may not have had much to improve upon. Also, the exercises were of a small range of intensities.

Basically, if you’re looking to get healthy, beets in their whole form are a great idea for other reasons. Olumia Life recommends fruits and vegetables at every meal and beets are a great addition to salads and other dishes. They are rich in folic acid and manganese, and, like almost all fruits and vegetables, contain fiber. Plus, branching out your dietary options is a great way to keep your diet interesting and engaging.

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