Physiological Effects of Beetroot in Athletes and Patients

Cureus. 2019 Dec 11;11(12):e6355. doi: 10.7759/cureus.6355.


Dietary supplementation with beetroot juice (BRJ), a naturally rich source of nitrate, is an area of considerable interest to elite athletes as well as recreational exercisers. Nitrate and nitrite have previously been thought of as mainly final elimination products of nitric oxide (NO), but this view has been challenged and evidence indicates that these compounds can be converted to NO in vivo. We conducted a narrative review summarizing the literature regarding evidence of beetroot used as dietary supplement and its effects on training physiology and athletic performance in healthy and diseased populations. The databases PubMed and Web of Science were used to obtain articles. It was evident that BRJ supplementation had an effect on oxygen cost and consumption during exercise by more efficient adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production in combination with lower ATP consumption. However, the effect seems to be dependent on dose and duration. Effect on exercise performance is conflicting, time to exhaustion seems to increase but its effect on time-trial performance needs further elucidation. Ergogenic benefits might depend on individual aerobic fitness level, where individuals with lower fitness level may gain higher benefits regarding athletic performance. Dietary nitrate supplementation appears to have some effect on training performance in patients with peripheral artery disease, heart failure, and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease. However, larger randomized controlled trials are necessary to determine the overall utility of beetroot as a dietary supplement.

Keywords: beetroot juice; exercise; nitrate; nitric oxide; nitrite; nutrition; sport; training physiology.

Publication types

  • Review