Beetroot juice boosts performance at altitude research suggests
Results from the Leeds Beckett study, published in the journal Nitric Oxide, showed that a high nitrate dose in the form of a concentrated beetroot juice supplement may improve running performance in individuals with a range of aerobic fitness levels conducting moderate and high intensity exercise in a low oxygen environment.
The study, led by PhD student Oliver Shannon in the School of Sport at Leeds Beckett, examined the effects of nitrate-rich beetroot juice on treadmill running performance at an altitude of 2,500m in participants with a range of aerobic fitness levels. Results from the study found that the supplement increased the bioavailability of nitric oxide (a multi-functional signalling molecule in the human body), reduced the oxygen cost of exercise and elevated arterial oxygen saturation, leading to increased performance in a 1,500m running time trial.
Oliver explained: “We already know that beetroot juice can improve exercise performance in moderately trained individuals exercising at sea level, however previous research has shown that well trained athletes are less responsive to dietary nitrate supplementation.
“In this study we found that there was no apparent relationship between aerobic fitness and the improvement in performance at altitude. The research shows that both trained and less well-trained individuals might benefit in terms of exercise performance from consuming beetroot juice when ascending to altitude”
Results from the study also showed that the individual’s average oxygen uptake was significantly lower after taking the beetroot supplement, whilst arterial oxygen saturation was significantly greater. This suggests that the beetroot juice improved the exercise efficiency of the participants – an effect likely to be especially beneficial for individuals exercising at altitude where ambient oxygen tensions are reduced. Each of the participants took part in a timed 1,500m run and following the beetroot juice supplement, performance was enhanced by an average of 3.2%.
The participants took part in the research study over a six week period and performed a number of physical tests in an altitude chamber at Leeds Beckett, known as a normobaric hypoxic chamber, set to an altitude of 2,500 metres.
During the trials the researchers at Leeds Beckett measured the rate of oxygen used by the body, the amount of oxygen in the blood and the participant’s heart rate. They also monitored blood pressure and took a number of blood samples. Perceptions of exertion were measured using a 15 point ratings of perceived exertion scale.