Beetroot for Performance?
Make sure you check out the first part of our Beetroot blog!
To get the required amount of nitrates for performance improvement, you’ll need between 1-2 concentrated beetroot shots for each session depending on your size. At the time of writing, you can get a shot for €1.50-2 each depending on whether you buy in bulk. 2 shots (about 800mg of nitrate) significantly lowers the amount of oxygen your muscles need for moderate intensity exercise. However, about 1 shot all that’s needed to max out the benefit in terms of time to exhaustion in a time trial by about 12-15% over placebo. The improved time to exhaustion is reasonably consistent across cycling and running at high intensity. That’s also consistent with other research showing a 1-2% improvement in time trial performance over various time trials.
1-2% you say? That’s hardly worth mentioning! Why not just get a carbon fibre bike? Race wheels? Wind-tunnel testing? Those Nike shoes they used in the Breaking 2 attempt?
OK, let’s assume you exercise 4 times per week and you ingest 1 beetroot shot per session plus 1 extra for your weekend session as a ‘just in case’ – that’s 5 shots per week giving you €10/week or €520 per year for a consistent 1-2% improvement in endurance performance.
An enthusiastic cyclist could go for wind tunnel testing which will set you back around €500-750 per hour (you could need 90-120 minutes) and might give you a slightly better than 2% improvement in your time trial performance. The benefit of this assumes you can hold that ‘ideal position’ during a race, it might be too uncomfortable.
Race wheels will do something similar when compared to bog standard factory wheels, but they cost around €2,500, give or take.
A carbon fibre bike compared to a steel frame?
Well, that works out at about 2.5 seconds quicker per 500g weight reduction on a quad-burning 7% incline – which most of us won’t do very often! What does that mean? That means you could spend thousands more on your bike, and it absolutely definitely will save you time in the Alps. Or, over a year, you could spend €520 on beetroot concentrate and the extra €2,000-3,000 on a gym membership (about €700/year), a personal trainer (about €700 for 10 sessions), a nutritionist (€350 for a few assessments) and lose more weight while also boosting your health and performance.
Nike’s Vaporfly 4% shoes?
They claim, in a Nike funded study, to improve running efficiency by 4% by returning more energy in each stride. That’s assuming you’re one of their testers already able to run 10k in less than 31 minutes. A 4% boost in running economy should translate from a 2:05 marathoner cropping that right down to just over a 2-hour marathon in his new shoes – but that’s not what happens; so whatever we’re missing in the puzzle there, a couple hundred euro for new shoes doesn’t equate to 4% improvement in real life.
So, in the grand scheme, beetroot juice looks pretty attractive as a dietary performance enhancement.
Hang on! I’m really into this so I’ve tested my performance with and without beetroot and I’m no faster after beetroot!
That’s an interesting point. Some research has shown that, while runners in a time trial performance run at the same speed regardless of beetroot ingestion over most of the trial – as fatigue sets in over the last mile, the beetroot fuelled runners maintain their high pace while the beetrootless runners slow down. RPE also seems to be lower at the beginning of the effort. So while it’s possible that you’re not going faster at max effort, you’ll feel more comfortable and hold that pace for longer.
We hope this helps with Your Personal Best!