Red Beet Juice Power

September 23, 2011 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

In the field of athletics, the term “performance enhancers” has taken on a negative connotation of late. The very mention of it frequently conjures up images of professional athletes “juicing up” on anabolic steroids or synthetic stimulants. Fortunately, in recent years, scientists have uncovered an all natural and much safer alternative that may just improve physical capacity and support cardiovascular health. According to several, peer-reviewed scientific studies, the solution may lie in the humble red beet (Beta vulgaris). Athletes who consume red beet juice, a rich source of naturally occurring antioxidants and nitrates, consistently find benefits in trial performance in a number of activities ranging from bicycling to knee-extensor exercises. The key to the greater stamina reported likely involves the ability of beet juice to improve circulation and increase peripheral tissue oxygenation. What’s more, beet root juice also supports cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, irregular blood clotting and, possibly, high triglycerides as well.

If there is a down side to drinking red beet juice, it would be its high sugar content. The best way to derive the benefits of beet juice while limiting sugar intake is to supplement with beet root juice extracts or powders. For instance, one the most popular products on the market yields only 5 grams of sugar per concentrated tablespoon of beet juice powder. Finally, if you decide to try beet root juice and you find a distinct reddening when you use the bathroom, don’t worry. This is a well known reaction known as beeturia which affects approximately 14% of the population.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Acute Dietary Nitrate Supplementation Improves Cycling Time … (link)

Study 2 - Dietary Nitrate Supplementation Enhances Exercise Performance … (link)

Study 3 - Dietary Nitrate Supplementation Reduces the O2 Cost of Walking … (link)

Study 4 - Acute and Chronic Effects of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation On (link)

Study 5 - Dietary Nitrate Supplementation Enhances Muscle Contractile (link)

Study 6 - All-Natural Nitrite and Nitrate Containing Dietary Supplement (link)

Study 7 - Acute Blood Pressure Lowering, Vasoprotective, and Antiplatelet (link)

Nitrate-Rich Beet Juice May Lower Blood Pressure

Source: Hypertension. 2010 Aug;56(2):274-81. (link)

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Posted in Exercise, Food and Drink, Nutritional Supplements

13 Comments & Updates to “Red Beet Juice Power”

  1. Craig Hitchens Says:

    Great article and some good research sources there my friend. Nice and simple for folks to understand. I use juicing therapeutically in my practice often and many people are amazed at how quickly their well being turns around from poor to great for them! Awesome stuff!

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and success with us, Craig. In general, I recommend whole foods or even blended whole foods over juicing. But, the research supporting the benefits of red beet juice seem quite solid to me. Perhaps future inquiries will clarify whether similar or better results can be expected from the use of low-sugar versions of the actual juice (extracts, powders).

    Be well!


  3. Roby Mitchell MD(Dr Fitt) Says:

    In general,foods that are purple or cyanic will improve vascular endothelial call production of nitric oxide. These cells and other epithelial cells get damaged by fungal overgrowth and the subsequent process of inflammation. The cynanic color in produce is due to phenolics,anthocyanidins and other antifungals plant make to protect themselves. Cranberry and pomegranite will have the same effect. These not only lower blood pressure,by increasing vascular endothelial cell production of nitric oxide,erectile function is also improved. Indeed,erectile dysfunction is many times an early indicator of vascular disease that later manifest as coronary or carotid artery disease.

  4. JP Says:

    Good day, Roby.

    I agree that richly pigmented fruits and vegetables tend to benefit endothelial function and health. However, it appears that red beets impart added support due to their naturally occurring nitrate content. I’m also a big fan of cranberries and pomegranate extracts. I certainly think they’re health promoting for the cardiovascular system and beyond. Excellent foods and supplements.

    Be well!


  5. Coffeecup Says:

    JP, what’s the difference between Nitrites in beets and nitrites in hot dogs. Why is one good for you and one bad for you. Thank you for any light you may be able to shed on this.

  6. JP Says:

    Hi Coffeecup,

    Beets and various vegetables (green leafy veggies in particular) contain naturally occurring nitrates – which appear to enhance circulation, physical performance, etc. Isolated sodium nitrate is included in some processed foods to maintain product integrity.

    Hot dogs contain a chemically-related, synthetic preservative called sodium nitrite – a suspected carcinogen.

    Most refined foods with added nitrites (spelled with an ‘i’) *may* have harmful effects. On the other hand, vegetables that contain nitrates (spelled with an ‘a’) tend to possess a multitude of anti-cancer components (carotenoids, fiber, phytochemicals, etc.).

    My advice: 1) Don’t worry about vegetables that are rich in nitrates. In fact, these may be worth seeking out under certain circumstances. 2) Avoid processed foods that contain sodium nitrate and nitrite.

    Be well!


  7. Coffeecup Says:

    Yes, I am into the vegetables, not the hot dogs. Thanks so much.

  8. JP Says:

    Nutrients. 2015 Apr 14;7(4):2801-2822.

    The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease.

    Conclusions: Based on the available data, beetroot appears to be a powerful dietary source of health promoting agents that holds potential as therapeutic treatment for several pathological disorders. The powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and vascular-protective effects offered by beetroot and its constituents have been clearly demonstrated by several in vitro and in vivo human and animal studies; hence its increasing popularity as a nutritional approach to help manage cardiovascular disease and cancer. In the human studies to date, beetroot supplementation has been reported to reduce blood pressure, attenuate inflammation, avert oxidative stress, preserve endothelial function and restore cerebrovascular haemodynamics. Furthermore, although beyond the scope of this review, several studies have now established beetroot supplementation as an effective means of enhancing athletic performance.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:

    Hypertension. 2015 Feb;65(2):320-7.

    Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

    Single dose administration of dietary inorganic nitrate acutely reduces blood pressure (BP) in normotensive healthy volunteers, via bioconversion to the vasodilator nitric oxide. We assessed whether dietary nitrate might provide sustained BP lowering in patients with hypertension. We randomly assigned 68 patients with hypertension in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to receive daily dietary supplementation for 4 weeks with either dietary nitrate (250 mL daily, as beetroot juice) or a placebo (250 mL daily, as nitrate-free beetroot juice) after a 2-week run-in period and followed by a 2-week washout. We performed stratified randomization of drug-naive (n=34) and treated (n=34) patients with hypertension aged 18 to 85 years. The primary end point was change in clinic, ambulatory, and home BP compared with placebo. Daily supplementation with dietary nitrate was associated with reduction in BP measured by 3 different methods. Mean (95% confidence interval) reduction in clinic BP was 7.7/2.4 mm Hg (3.6-11.8/0.0-4.9, P<0.001 and P=0.050). Twenty-four-hour ambulatory BP was reduced by 7.7/5.2 mm Hg (4.1-11.2/2.7-7.7, P<0.001 for both). Home BP was reduced by 8.1/3.8 mm Hg (3.8-12.4/0.7-6.9, P<0.001 and P<0.01) with no evidence of tachyphylaxis over the 4-week intervention period. Endothelial function improved by ≈20% (P<0.001), and arterial stiffness was reduced by 0.59 m/s (0.24-0.93; P<0.01) after dietary nitrate consumption with no change after placebo. The intervention was well tolerated. This is the first evidence of durable BP reduction with dietary nitrate supplementation in a relevant patient group. These findings suggest a role for dietary nitrate as an affordable, readily-available, adjunctive treatment in the management of patients with hypertension (funded by The British Heart Foundation).

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:

    J Nutr Sci. 2014 Apr 30;3:e9.

    Effects of a beetroot juice with high neobetanin content on the early-phase insulin response in healthy volunteers.

    Produce rich in phytochemicals may alter postprandial glucose and insulin responses by interacting with the pathways that regulate glucose uptake and insulin secretion in humans. The aims of the present study were to assess the phytochemical constituents of red beetroot juice and to measure the postprandial glucose and insulin responses elicited by either 225 ml beetroot juice (BEET), a control beverage matched for macronutrient content (MCON) or a glucose beverage in healthy adults. Beetroot juice was a particularly rich source of betalain degradation compounds. The orange/yellow pigment neobetanin was measured in particularly high quantities (providing 1·3 g in the 225 ml). A total of sixteen healthy individuals were recruited, and consumed the test meals in a controlled single-blind cross-over design. Results revealed a significant lowering of the postprandial insulin response in the early phase (0-60 min) (P < 0·05) and a significantly lower glucose response in the 0-30 min phase (P < 0·05) in the BEET treatment compared with MCON. Betalains, polyphenols and dietary nitrate found in the beetroot juice may each contribute to the observed differences in the postprandial insulin concentration.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 09/03/15:

    Nitric Oxide. 2015 Aug 29.

    Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves arterial endothelial function at high altitude: A double-blinded randomized controlled cross over study.

    INTRODUCTION: Dietary nitrate (NO3-) supplementation serves as an exogenous source of nitrite (NO2-) and nitric oxide (NO) through the NO3- – NO2- – NO pathway, and may improve vascular functions during normoxia. The effects of NO3- supplementation in healthy lowlanders during hypobaric hypoxia are unknown.

    PURPOSE: Determine the effect of acute oral NO3-supplementation via beetroot juice (BJ) on endothelial function (flow mediated dilation; FMD) in lowlanders at 3700m.

    METHODS: FMD was measured using ultrasound and Doppler in the brachial artery of 11 healthy subjects (4 females, age 25±5 yrs; height 1.8±0.1m, weight 72±10 kg) sojourning to high altitude. In a randomized, double-blinded crossover study design, FMD was measured 3 hours after drinking BJ (5.0 mmol NO3-) and placebo (PL; 0.003 mmol NO3-) supplementation at 3700m, with a 24-hour wash out period between tests. FMD was also measured without any BJ supplementation pre-trek at 1370m, after 5 days at 4200m and upon return to 1370m after 4 weeks of altitude exposure (above 2500 m). The altitude exposure was interrupted by a decent to lower altitude where subjects spent two nights at 1370m before returning to altitude again.

    RESULTS: Ten subjects completed the NO3- supplementation. FMD (mean±SD) pre-trek value was 6.53±2.32% at 1370m. At 3700m FMD was reduced to 3.84±1.31% (p<0.01) after PL supplementation but was normalized after receiving BJ (5.77±1.14% (p=1.00). Eight of the subjects completed the interrupted 4-week altitude stay, and their FMD was lower at 4200m (FMD 3.04±2.22%) and at post-altitude exposure to 1370m (FMD 3.91±2.58%) compared to pre-trek FMD at 1370m.

    CONCLUSION: Acute dietary NO3-supplementation may abolish altitude-induced reduction in endothelial function, and can serve as a dietary strategy to ensure peripheral vascular function in lowland subjects entering high altitude environments.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 09/03/15:

    Circ Heart Fail. 2015 Jul 15.

    Acute Dietary Nitrate Intake Improves Muscle Contractile Function in Patients with Heart Failure: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Trial.

    BACKGROUND: Skeletal muscle strength, velocity, and power are markedly reduced in heart failure (HF) patients, which contributes to their impaired exercise capacity and lower quality of life. This muscle dysfunction may be partially due to decreased nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability. We therefore sought to determine whether ingestion of inorganic nitrate (NO3 -) would increase NO production and improve muscle function in patients with HF due to systolic dysfunction.

    METHODS AND RESULTS: Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover design, we determined the effects of dietary NO3 – in nine HF patients. After fasting overnight, subjects drank beetroot juice containing or devoid of 11.2 mmol NO3 -. Two hours later, muscle function was assessed using isokinetic dynamometry. Dietary NO3 – increased (P<0.05-0.001) breath NO by 35-50%. This was accompanied by 9% (P=0.07) and 11% (P<0.05) increases in peak knee extensor power at the two highest movement velocities tested (i.e., 4.71 and 6.28 rad/s). Maximal power (calculated by fitting peak power data with a parabola) was therefore greater (i.e., 4.74±0.41 vs. 4.20±0.33 W/kg; P<0.05) after dietary NO3 – intake. Calculated maximal velocity of knee extension was also higher following NO3 – ingestion (i.e., 12.48±0.95 vs. 11.11±0.53 rad/s; P<0.05). Blood pressure was unchanged, and no adverse clinical events occurred.

    CONCLUSIONS: In this pilot study, acute dietary NO3 – intake was well-tolerated and enhanced NO bioavailability and muscle power in patients with systolic HF. Larger-scale studies should be conducted to determine whether the latter translates into an improved quality of life in this population.

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Updated 11/07/15:

    Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Nov 4.

    The effects of beetroot juice supplementation on indices of muscle damage following eccentric exercise.

    PURPOSE: Foods rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals might attenuate skeletal muscle damage; thus, the present study investigated whether consuming an antioxidant rich beetroot juice would attenuate the muscle-damaging effects of eccentric exercise.

    METHODS: Using a double blind, independent groups design, 30 recreationally active males were allocated to consume a high dose of beetroot juice (H-BT; 250 ml), a lower dose of beetroot juice (L-BT; 125 ml), or an isocaloric placebo (PLA; 250 ml) immediately (×3 servings), 24 (×2 servings) and 48 h (×2 servings) following completion of 100-drop jumps. Maximal isometric voluntary contractions (MIVC), countermovement jumps (CMJ), pressure pain threshold (PPT), creatine kinase (CK), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8) and tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) were measured pre, post, 2 (blood indices only), 24, 48 and 72 h following the drop jumps.

    RESULTS: CMJ performance recovered quicker (relative to baseline) in H-BT vs. PLA at 48 (91.7 ± 12.2 vs. 74.4 ± 17.3 %; P = 0.009, ES = 1.00) and 72 h postexercise (93.4 ± 7.7 vs. 86 ± 5.9 %; P = 0.046, ES = 1.25). PPT was greater in both the H-BT and L-BT vs. PLA at 24, 48 and 72 h postexercise (P < 0.001); PPT had returned to baseline in H-BT and L-BT at 72 h postexercise, but was still reduced in PLA (80.1 ± 28.9 % of baseline values). MIVC, CK, IL-6, TNF-α and IL-8 were unaffected by beetroot juice (P > 0.05).

    CONCLUSIONS: Acute beetroot juice supplementation attenuated muscle soreness and decrements in CMJ performance induced by eccentric exercise; further research on the anti-inflammatory effects of beetroot juice are required to elucidate the precise mechanisms.

    Be well!


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