Research behind beet juice and athletic performance is compelling. In fact it's compelling for your health in general. A series of small but mostly well-designed studies have associated beet juice intake with increased exercise performance. Apparently beet juice allows your muscles to perform the same amount of work while using less oxygen, making your body's energy production more efficient. Here are some of the main findings:
Beet juice increased time to exhaustion: cyclists who drank beet juice could ride 16 per cent longer than without beet juice in their diet. The beet juice also allowed them to increase intensity or measured wattage with less oxygen cost.
Beet juice improved performance (1-3 per cent) and power output in 4km, 16km, and 10km cycling time trials.
The results were significant. The beet-juice group was able to cycle an average of 16 per cent longer. The author, Professor Andy Jones, noted: “Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can increase exercise endurance. We were amazed by the effect of beet juice on oxygen uptake because these effects cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training.”
Beets contain many health promoting substances, including the antioxidants betalain, resveratrol, and quercetin. But several studies have revealed that nitrates are responsible for the performance benefit of beets.
How this occurs is that the nitrates in beets convert to nitrite, some of which is converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide's role in regulating blood pressure and promoting cardiovascular health is well-established.. Nitric oxide regulates vasodilation, relaxing blood vessels and improves blood flow, which allows more oxygen to reach the muscles. Secondly, nitric oxide helps muscle mitochondria become more efficient.
I personally put whole beets as well as the roots and leaves, which by the way are nutrient rich, in my Vitamix machine along with an apple or other fruit to sweeten it up. There's nothing like getting these elements from natural whole food sources - nothing processed or synthetic. Oh and a little thing to remember is your stool or urine can have a reddish tint so don't be alarmed. Here's a video from Exeter University explaining their findings...