Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Apr;112(4):548-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2011.12.002.


Nitrate ingestion improves exercise performance; however, it has also been linked to adverse health effects, except when consumed in the form of vegetables. The purpose of this study was to determine, in a double-blind crossover study, whether whole beetroot consumption, as a means for increasing nitrate intake, improves endurance exercise performance. Eleven recreationally fit men and women were studied in a double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial performed in 2010. Participants underwent two 5-km treadmill time trials in random sequence, once 75 minutes after consuming baked beetroot (200 g with ≥500 mg nitrate) and once 75 minutes after consuming cranberry relish as a eucaloric placebo. Based on paired t tests, mean running velocity during the 5-km run tended to be faster after beetroot consumption (12.3±2.7 vs 11.9±2.6 km/hour; P=0.06). During the last 1.1 miles (1.8 km) of the 5-km run, running velocity was 5% faster (12.7±3.0 vs 12.1±2.8 km/hour; P=0.02) in the beetroot trial, with no differences in velocity (P≥0.25) in the earlier portions of the 5-km run. No differences in exercise heart rate were observed between trials; however, at 1.8 km into the 5-km run, rating of perceived exertion was lower with beetroot (13.0±2.1 vs 13.7±1.9; P=0.04). Consumption of nitrate-rich, whole beetroot improves running performance in healthy adults. Because whole vegetables have been shown to have health benefits, whereas nitrates from other sources may have detrimental health effects, it would be prudent for individuals seeking performance benefits to obtain nitrates from whole vegetables, such as beetroot.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology
  • Beta vulgaris / chemistry*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nitrates / adverse effects
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Nitrates / pharmacology*
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / adverse effects
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / analysis
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / pharmacology*
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects*
  • Physical Exertion / drug effects*
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Running / physiology*


  • Nitrates
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances