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Can Eating Beetroot Help You To Run Faster?

Recent research suggests beetroot juice consumption improves time to exhaustion during exercise – meaning you’ll have more energy for a longer period – and reduces the oxygen cost of exercise. But does this translate into actual performance gains?

A small scale study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics demonstrates 200g whole baked beetroot or an equivalent nitrate dose from other vegetables, consumed 60 minutes before exercise improved 5 km running performance in healthy adults and also exercise capacity.

The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial assessing eleven recreationally fit men and women. Participants underwent two experimental treadmill trials in random sequence separated by a 1-week washout period. Participants consumed either an “active” beetroot or placebo cranberry dish before performing the trial.

Participants were advised to refrain from taking dietary supplements and medications, and to avoid nitrate-rich foods for 72 hours before testing, refrain from alcohol and caffeine intake and from exercise for 24 hours, and to refrain from resistance training for 72 hours before testing. Each beetroot portion contained 86 kcal energy, 19 g carbohydrate, and around 500 mg nitrate. For the placebo, the placebo cranberry dish contained 92 kcal energy, 24 g carbohydrate, and negligible nitrate. Participants then underwent two 5-km treadmill time trials in random sequence 75 minutes after consuming baked beetroot or the placebo cranberry dish.

The results found that beetroot consumption did improve running performance. Mean running velocity (speed in a given direction) during the 5 km run was slightly faster (3%) after beetroot consumption (12.3_2.7 vs 11.9_2.6 km/hour; P_0.06). During the last 1.1 miles (1.8 km) of the 5-km run, running velocity was 5% faster (12.7_3.0 vs 12.1_2.8 km/hour; P_0.02).

While the difference may not look like much, a 3% faster running velocity translates to about a 41 second faster finishing time – and in a short 5km run, 41 seconds is a lot.

Murphy M et al. Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012, 112: 548-552.

Categories: Nutritional News, Sport & Exercise