Can Whole Beetroot Consumption Improve Running Performance?

Well, the short answer is yes! So, how is this possible? It is simply the result of a chemical known as nitrate.

Nitrates are commonly used for food preservation, especially in processed meats such as sausage and bacon, but are also found in drinking water and other foods. Nitrate intake has received both positive and negative critic, of particular note, nitrates endogenously produced nitroso-derivatives which have been linked to serious medical conditions such as cancer. However, it is important to realise that the nitrates found in vegetables, such as beetroot and celery, fail to produce the nitroso-derivatives found in processed meats, as the vitamin C and D content of these foods inhibit its formation. So feel free to consume vast amounts of celery and beetroot!
Previous studies using nitrate supplementation (sodium nitrate capsules or beetroot juice) at a dosage between 347 milligrams and 476 milligrams per day has been shown to enhance endurance performance. For this reason, researchers from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States sought to evaluate the hypothesis that the ingestion of 200 grams of whole baked beetroot (containing 500 milligrams of nitrates), before exercise, improves running performance during a 5 kilometre treadmill time trial.

In the foregoing study, eleven recreationally fit men and women underwent two 5 kilometre treadmill time trials in random sequence, the first 75 minutes post consumption of baked beetroot (200 grams, @ 500 grams of Nitrate) and the second, 75 minutes after consuming cranberry relish as placebo.

Average 5 kilometre run times ranged from 19.9 to 35.5 minutes, suggesting that participants were moderately fit. Results of the study found that running velocity was marginally faster (41 seconds) after beetroot consumption compared to placebo and that during the last 1.8 kilometres, beetroot consumption resulted in a 0.6 kilometre per hour running velocity. 0.6 kilometres per hour equates to running the final 1.1 kilometres approximately 1 minute faster than placebo. Moreover, during the first 1.6 kilometres the rating of perceived exertion was lower in the beetroot trial.

So, if you are running the park this Saturday (5 kilometre Park Run) perhaps you could incorporate beetroot as an ergogenic aid to enhance your running performance. It may be the difference between running in the 25 minute group or the 30 minute group.

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1 Response

  1. Nissa Phillips

    Park run is great! I am in the 25 min group, keen to see if beetroot picks up my speed! Nissa

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