Can Drinking Beet Juice Boost Your Running Performance?

Studies indicate drinking beet juice can boost athletic performance. However, the research is mixed on beet juice for runners—showing that it may only be beneficial to untrained people or those performing at altitude. I speak with nutrition experts and look at the research to answer whether runners should drink beet juice. The bottom line? It’s no guarantee that it will help your performance but if it doesn’t upset your stomach (or you don’t mind pink urine), it won’t hurt.

Beet juice for runners is not well researched in all types of runners.

In the span of a week, I have been bombarded with beets. That’s a funny sentence…But seriously, everywhere I turned I was hearing about the benefits of drinking beet juice for runners. On Instagram, on this Jeremy Miller YouTube video, and even my doctor was telling me to try beet juice to increase my nitric oxide.

Well, if you can’t beet them, join them…see what I did there?

I am here to give you the deets on beets.

Sorry—I’ll stop.

Okay, here’s the deal. Beet juice is high in nitrates which, when consumed turns into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide has been shown to increase the size of your blood vessels so you can take in more oxygen, giving you a performance boost. Yeah, it sounds like a natural way to blood dope.

However, the studies are mixed on the benefits for runners. I got with registered sports dietitian, Megan Robinson, and notable running coach Laura Norris, who also studied exercise nutrition for her graduate degree, and looked at the research to determine whether runners should drink beet juice

Let’s go!

Related: Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice for Runners

What is beet juice good for?

Beet juice also known as beetroot juice can have a lot of health benefits—most notably, for increasing blood flow. Beetroot juice has nitrates which are converted in the mouth and stomach to nitric oxide (NO).

(You can also find nitrates in leafy greens, root vegetables, celery, and carrots. There are also bad nitrates that can be found in cured meats. More on that here. This article discusses healthy nitrates that can be converted into NO not nitrites.)

For athletes or runners specifically, research has shown that NO is a vasodilator, meaning that it opens blood vessels and allows more blood and oxygen to be delivered to working muscles. This means that it may increase stamina, improve muscle contraction, and accelerate recovery (this study on young untrained males—not athletes or women).

Related: The Top 12 Supplements for Runners

Other benefits of drinking beetroot juice  (nitric oxide) may include:

beet juice for runners pin
Beet juice for runners can improve performance for some reasons. Learn how to supplement with beetroot juice to boost your running performance.

Is beet juice good for runners?

Wow, that all sounds really promising. But let’s take a closer look at the research on beet juice for runners. While there is research that shows that drinking beetroot juice before running increased performance, the devil is in the details (aka who the subjects are, what they did, and how much beetroot juice they consumed and when.)

Related: How to Tell if a Supplement is Good Quality?

Promising studies

Initial research showed some promising findings:

  • A 2011 study of nine healthy men who consumed 17 fluid ounces of beetroot juice for six days consumed less oxygen while walking and running at various speeds. They also lasted 15 percent longer on the treadmill.
  • A 2015 study of male sprinters found that their speed and reaction time improved by about 5 percent after 6 days of drinking 140 ml of beetroot juice.
  • Similarly, a 2012 study of 12 male cyclists who did ingested a concentrated shot of beetroot juice for 6 days. Their 10k performance improved along with their power output by 1 percent.
  • Research in 2013 found that the amount of beets ingested can make a difference. A study 10 healthy men ingested 70, 140, or 280 ml of beetroot juice and then cycled. No change was found at 70 ml, but improvements in oxygen uptake were noted at 140 and 280 ml of beetroot juice 2-3 hours before exercise. Time to failure was also extended by 12-14 percent.
  • A 2013 study of nine trained cyclists at altitude who ingested bloodroot juice had lower oxygen consumption at submaximal exercise and enhanced time trial performance.
  • A 2018 meta-analysis of 9 studies found that beetroot juice given as a single dose or over a few days may improve performance at intermittent, high-intensity efforts with short rest periods.
  • Finally, a 2017 meta-analysis of 23 studies found that “beetroot juice can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency, which improves performance at various distances, increases time to exhaustion at submaximal intensities, and may improve the cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities and maximum oxygen uptake.”

Related: Healthy Habits to Avoid Getting Sick

Not-so-promising studies

  • A 2012 study of 20 trained cyclists who took 140 ml of beetroot juice before a one-hour time trial found no change in performance leading the researchers.
  • A 2022 study of 70 recreational runners examined four 5k time trials in which the runners ingested 70-ml nitrate-rich beetroot juice 2.5 hours before running. No difference in their running performance was found.
  • Furthermore, Norris highlights research that shows trained athletes, especially trained women, do not respond as well, or they may need a higher dose.
  • A 2013 thesis study found no change in ten male elite runners’ performance at different effort levels for a 1500-meter run—in either chronic consumption of beetroot juice over 8 days or an acute consumption of one dose before running. This despite large and significant increases in plasma nitrate.
  • Norris points to research that shows if nitric oxide it aids in performance, it is most beneficial in events lasting 12-40 min (under VO2max but above the second lactate threshold).
  • Another 2013 study of 8 trained male kayakers who consumed 70 ml of beetroot juice 3 hours before performing various exercises from a sprint to 1 km kayak found no difference in performance, despite a reduction in oxygen consumption.
  • A 2015 study found that beetroot juice didn’t promote dilation or blood flow at all—theorizing that the fact that healthy young male subjects may be one reason along with the fact that they did not do strenuous exercise which would require more conversion of nitrates to nitric oxide.

Related: Can Taking Collagen Prevent Injuries?

beet juice for runners pin
Beet juice for runners can improve performance for some reasons. Learn how to supplement with beetroot juice to boost your running performance.

Key takeaways from the research on beet juice and running:

A lot is still unclear from this research and clearly, more needs to be examined since most of these are more than a decade old!

  • Specifically, it’s unclear WHO may benefit from drinking beetroot juice before running. Women, people of different age ranges, and different athletic levels, are not well-studied.
  • It appears your fitness level may impact how much nitrate consumption affects your performance. Notably, the fitter you are, the less of a positive impact the nitrates will have.
  • Also, the effect on long distance events such as half marathon or marathons have not been well studied.
  • Finally, there were mixed results on whether taking a concentrated dose before exercise was just as effective as chronic dosing a week before the athletic event.

Related: 7 Best Adaptogens for Runners

How much beet juice do you need to drink to boost performance?

You need to eat about four whole beets or to drink about two full glasses of beet juice a day, for a performance boost.

Robinson points to the International Olympic Committee‘s recommendation on nitrate supplementation for performance:

Acute performance benefits are generally seen within 2–3 hours following ingesting 310-560 mg of nitrates. Taking nitrates over 3 or more days may be “a positive strategy for highly trained athletes,” notes Robinson, citing NIH results.

The NIH states that studies show benefits from drinking 500 ml a day (about 2 cups) of beetroot juice taken once about 2.5 to 3 hours before exercise or daily for up to 15 days. The potential benefits last for up to 24 hours after ingestion. 

What are the cons of drinking beetroot juice?

There are three main drawbacks to drinking beetroot juice before running.

  1. The taste of beetroot juice isn’t great. (Studies indicate chronic consumption may be more effective, so you have to get used to drinking the stuff!)
  2. It changes the color of your urine to a pinkish hue. (A little unsettling if you aren’t expecting it).
  3. Beetroot juice may upset your stomach. This is especially true if you have low blood pressure, notes Norris. (You will want to try drinking beet juice during your training runs before drinking it on race day.)
Beet juice holds promise for runners but not everyone will benefit–and it matters how and when you take it.

How should runners take beetroot juice?

There are four main ways you can take beetroot juice (or nitric oxide) outside of including it in your regular diet, according to Robinson.

  1. You can load up your nitric oxide stores by drinking about 16 ounces daily for a week.
  2. You can do one to two shots of concentrated beet juice 2-3 hours before a race or training run.
  3. Eat beets in your salad or roasted (aim for 4 a day).
  4. Or you can try nitric oxide supplements.

As noted, results are mixed on what is the best way to take nitric oxide before a run, so it is trial and error.

Personally, I would try drinking a shot before a workout and see how you feel before intaking more.

Side note: If you use beetroot juice, avoid mouthwash or gum as they reduce the bacteria available in the mouth, essential for the conversion of nitrate to nitric oxide.

You juice beets yourself (about 2 beet equals an 8 oz. glass) or buy one of the many brands that sell it.

Related: Is AG1 Worth It?

Are nitric oxide supplements or beetroot juice supplements good for runners?

Obviously, popping a tasteless pill to get a performance boost is more palatable than drinking a giant glass of gross juice. But the supplement world is unregulated and dicey (learn how not to be fooled by slick marketing here!).

And the efficacy of taking a nitric oxide pill versus drinking beetroot juice has not been well-studied, note both Norris and Robinson. Though, in general, eating real food is going to be absorbed better than taking a pill.  

“Beetroot powder and capsules are also a lot more convenient than consuming freshly juiced beets or whole beets. However, beetroot pills versus juice, the juice wins. Fresh beetroot juice contains a wider variety of nutrients, along with larger amounts of phenolic compounds and nitric oxide,” shares Robinson. 

If you can’t bear the beet juice, put beets in your salad or roast them, recommends Robinson. 

If you really want to take a supplement, Norris reminds runners to make sure the nitric oxide supplement you choose is third-party tested and includes an effective dose of nitric oxide which is 300-560 mg.

Renewable Energy is a quality pre-workout with beet powder for runners.

My doctor recommended Renewable Energy Pre-Workout with beet and pomegranate powder.

(If you are looking for quality supplements for a multivitamin, probiotic, immune defense, heart health, muscle health, or protein powder, check out Previnex! Previnex is a high-quality supplement brand with science-backed results. Save 15% with code TMR15).

Bottomline:

Beetroot juice has a host of health benefits and drinking it won’t harm you and MAY help your performance. But if you try it, make sure you try it on a training run and NOT race day!

If you want guidance with your running goals including nutrition guidance, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:

 

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