Power of the purple stuff

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When every second counts, elite athletes will go to extreme lengths in search of those marginal gains. Beet-it is the UK’s leading producer of beetroot juice. Since the 2012 London Olympics they have played a part in the preparations of many elite athletes, supplying international rugby teams, premiership football teams, UK and international Olympic teams and UCI world tour cycling teams. Last summer’s Rio Olympics also saw several athletes using the nitrate supplemented nutrition strategy, including Paralympian Gold medalist David Weir.

Ok so good enough for elite athletes, but can it make a difference to me?

What is it?!

Beet-It Sport shots provide a 100% natural source of nitrate. The only ingredients are concentrated beetroot juice (98%)and lemon juice (2%). (Absolutely NO preservatives, additives or artificial flavours). Each shot contains a minimum 400mg natural nitrate (they claimed the optimal dose for sports performance enhancement.)

Good research or good hype?

At a glance:

– Enhance cycling time-trial performance by 1.2%
– Increase maximal cycling power (W) by 5.1%
– Increase maximal muscle power and force production by 4%
– Increase team-sport high-intensity sprint running performance by 1.7%
– Increase reaction-time during sprint running by 3.5%
– Accelerate recovery and oxygen delivery

There are number of well respected, peer-reviewed articles that describe benefits of nitrate supplementation. For those of you unfamiliar with the chemical, nitrates are believed to increase the oxygen-carrying abilities of the blood i.e. athletes might be able to perform at a higher intensity for a longer duration. For endurance athletes this sounds pretty much ideal!

Beet-It Sport has been used independently in over 200 universities worldwide for medical, nutritional and sports performance research. Leading research has also taken place at the University of Exeter looking into dietary nitrate supplementation for sports performance, together with developing a nitrate placebo to ensure the true benefits of the active ingredient are revealed.

Since the initial research, the literature has shown mixed support for nitrate usage. Although several studies have reported indirect evidence of improved blood oxygenation during exercise, none of the studies directly investigated contracting muscles. Some investigators were able to see a direct correlation between nitrate levels in the blood and slowing of arterial pulsation velocity (ie the arteries ‘de-stiffen’ potentially easing the work load for the heart), but they used dubious experimental designs that hindered the ability to draw broad conclusions.

How much?

Professor Andy Jones of Exeter University studied the optimum nitrate supplementation dose for performance benefits. Surprisingly, more is not always better. In their study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, 10 healthy males took different volumes of the concentrated beetroot juice sold under the Beet-It brand. They found taking two or four beetroot shots reduced V02 levels during moderate exercise (ie the amount of oxygen you need to maintain performance so subjects used less energy to cycle at the same pace), 3% less in the case of those taking four shots and 1.7% less for those taking two shots. However, in the time-to-exhaustion cycling trial, subjects taking two shots of beetroot juice performed better (equivalent to a 1-2% reduction in race time) than those taking four shots. Performance benefits produced from using concentrated beetroot juice products was again elucidated.

Researchers find the greatest benefits are shown when beetroot juice is taken about 2.5 hours before a race or long training session. Two shots is better than one, or four in a race.

Fair enough, I hear you say, there is some proof behind the logo. But, can I not just east NORMAL foods instead?!

Although foods like beetroot, spinach, kale and broccoli are typically high in nitrates, concentrations can vary. The Beet-It Pro Elite Shot contains 400mg of dietary nitrate per 70mL bottle – the amount required for sports performance improvement, EVERY TIME.

The taste test

Benefits and marginal gains aside, Beet-It Sport certainly has an acquired taste. Some people like the earthy after-taste, whilst others find consuming the drink almost as hard as the endurance event itself! But conveniently contained in a shot, Beet-It sport can be ‘downed in one’. A little expensive maybe at £1.89 each, but arguably more convenient and reliably effective than preparing vast quantities of beetroot, kale and spinach salad!

To buy or not to buy, that is the question?

So shall you buy it? Well that really depends on your goals. For a serious triathlete, Beet-It Sport could give you the marginal edge you need. For myself, Beet-It will be part of my race nutrition strategy in the coming season – give it a go or never know right?! But for the everyday athlete, I’d say save your pennies (and your taste pallet). As always, no amount of supplementation or fancy gear will ever make up for poor preparation or lack of training. An extra hour or two in the gym or on the bike maybe be just as good for you.

 

Written by Jemima Cooper

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Jemima is an Age Group triathlete, Pilates instructor and psychology undergraduate student at the University of Bath. After 16 years of classical ballet training, Jemima took a completely new direction when she went off to university in 2017, where she began training and competing in triathlon. Jemima is a true lover of endurance sport and she is always in search of a new challenge. She has big dreams and aspirations to become a professional athlete and is ready to work hard to achieve this.