High nitrate beetroot juice improves sporting performance
Drinking high nitrate beetroot juice improves both sprint performance and decision-making during intermittent exercise such as rugby and football, research has found.
A team of scientists from the University of Exeter previously found that beetroot juice drinks can help people to exercise for 16% longer.
In their latest study, 16 male team sport players drank 140ml of Beet It Sport - a high nitrate beetroot juice - for seven days.
On the final day, the men, who were all players of rugby, hockey or football teams, completed an intermittent sprint test.
This consisted of two 40 minute sessions of repeated two minute blocks - a six second all-out sprint, 100 seconds active recovery and 20 seconds of rest, on an exercise bike.
At the same time, they were given cognitive tasks designed to test how accurately and quickly they made decisions.
The players completed the same tests after drinking the nitrate-rich beetroot juice and after consuming a placebo version with the nitrate stripped out.
Those who had taken the nitrate-rich version saw a 3.5% improvement in sprint performance and a 3% increase in their speed of making decisions without hindering accuracy.
Chris Thompson, of the University of Exeter, led the study, which is published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and available on PubMed.
"This research is a really exciting landmark in the work conducted on nitrate supplementation so far," he said.
"The improvement we found may seem small, but it's likely to provide a meaningful advantage to the athlete on the sports field.
"It could mean that team sport players are able to make those important decisions faster and cover more ground than their opponents in the seconds when it matters most."
The Beet It shots are being used in research by 150 universities across the world who are examining the benefits of natural dietary nitrate supplementation.
The research has identified that their naturally high dietary nitrate content - 400mg per shot - interacts with enzymes in saliva to generate nitric oxide in the blood system.
Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that increases the flow of blood and oxygen in the muscles to boost strength and endurance.
Professor Andrew Jones PhD, associate dean for research at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the university said beetroot juice "could make all the difference".
"These new results suggest that beetroot juice could improve both physical performance and decision-making during team sports such as rugby and football," he said.
"In events like the Rugby World Cup, every second counts in those crucial moments, so this improvement could make all the difference".