You may have seen athletes slugging beet juice before a workout. Or perhaps you’ve read the multiple headlines that tout beets as the way to enhance your fitness (move over, tart cherry!). We talked to experts to find out the deep red beverage’s impact on physical performance. Read on to find out if you should be stocking up.
Benefits of Drinking Beet Juice
Beets provide a natural source of nitrate, which increases nitric oxide in the body, explains Jessica Crandall, R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is necessary for vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels, to help improve blood flow and circulation. Better blood flow easily translates to better exercise, as your body can work more efficiently. This means your muscles get the blood they need to push you to the finish. According to Crandall, beets could also be the reason muscles seem to need less oxygen for that hard work.
While some research still questions the correlation between beets and better fitness, other findings show a strong link between the two. For example, a few studies show that beets can help delay muscle glycogen depletion (the main source of fuel for exercise). This means you could potentially work out for longer without feeling so fatigued. Other research shows that they can reduce the lactate buildup in muscles. This is another way to feel stronger through a longer sweat session.
Meanwhile, research from the European Journal of Sports Science indicates that beet juice could increase how quickly you reach peak power. In other words, you can hit HIIT intervals faster when you’re on the beet. One study even demonstrated that the extra nitrate from beets allows your body to better acclimate to a high altitude—a pro for avid travelers—thanks to the boost in oxygen delivery to muscles.
How to Use Beets in Your Favor
With all these payoffs, it’s easy to assume beet juice has some downsides. But Crandall says studies haven’t found any harm in drinking the pink-colored beverage. (Just make sure you check labels for sky-high added sugar content. That comes with its own set of negatives.) But you should tread carefully if you decide to go for a supplement over regular juice, she warns. Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. So, you can never be 100 percent sure what you’re getting with ingredients or amounts.
To best use beets to your athletic advantage, aim to drink 300 to 500 milliliters about 90 minutes to three hours before you break a sweat. Considering the potential pros, it’s easy to go pink.