How Beetroot Juice Affects Performance and Oxygen Use in Experienced Rowers

Greg Howard
3rd July, 2024

How Beetroot Juice Affects Performance and Oxygen Use in Experienced Rowers

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by Universitat de Barcelona found that beetroot juice (BRJ) improved rowing performance in well-trained master rowers
  • BRJ intake led to a 4-second improvement in time trial performance compared to a placebo
  • Both relative and absolute maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) significantly increased after BRJ consumption
Beetroot juice (BRJ) has been gaining attention as a potential performance enhancer among athletes. A recent study conducted by the Universitat de Barcelona explored the effects of BRJ intake on performance, cardiorespiratory, and metabolic variables during a simulated 2000-meter rowing ergometer test in well-trained master rowers[1]. This investigation adds to a growing body of research examining the ergogenic (performance-enhancing) effects of dietary nitrate, a key component of beetroot juice. In this study, ten well-trained male master rowers aged 30-48 years participated in a randomized, double-blind, crossover design over three weeks. Participants were tested in two rowing ergometer sessions, separated by a 7-day washout period. They consumed either BRJ or a placebo (PL) three hours before the tests, and performance parameters, oxygen saturation, and blood lactate levels were measured before and after the tests. The results indicated that BRJ intake led to a significant improvement in time trial performance, with a mean difference of 4 seconds compared to the placebo. Additionally, both relative and absolute maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) increased significantly after BRJ consumption. Specifically, there was a mean difference of 2.10 mL·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹ in relative VO2max and 0.16 L·min⁻¹ in absolute VO2max. However, no significant changes were observed in ventilatory efficiency and blood lactate concentrations post-BRJ intake. These findings align with earlier studies that have demonstrated the potential of dietary nitrate to enhance athletic performance. For example, a study involving trained cyclists showed that six days of nitrate supplementation in the form of concentrated beetroot juice improved time-trial performance and reduced oxygen uptake during submaximal exercise[2]. Similarly, another study found that beetroot juice supplementation improved short-distance time trial performance by 1-3% in club-level cyclists, although the effects were less pronounced in longer endurance events and better-trained athletes[3]. Interestingly, a meta-analysis of 80 studies revealed that the ergogenic effects of nitrate supplementation were more pronounced in recreationally active young men, while well-trained endurance athletes did not experience significant benefits[4]. This suggests that the degree of training and fitness level may influence the effectiveness of nitrate supplementation. In contrast to these findings, the current study demonstrated that well-trained master rowers did benefit from acute BRJ intake, as evidenced by improved time trial performance and increased VO2max. This discrepancy could be attributed to differences in the type of exercise, the specific population studied, or the acute versus chronic nature of supplementation. Furthermore, another study involving elite fencers showed that long-term beetroot juice supplementation not only improved VO2max but also influenced biomarkers of oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle damage[5]. This highlights the potential broader health benefits of beetroot juice beyond its immediate ergogenic effects. In summary, the recent study by the Universitat de Barcelona supports the notion that acute BRJ intake can enhance performance and VO2max in well-trained master rowers. These findings contribute to the growing body of evidence suggesting that dietary nitrate, particularly in the form of beetroot juice, can be a valuable ergogenic aid for athletes. However, the variability in response among different populations and exercise modalities underscores the need for further research to fully understand the mechanisms and optimal conditions for nitrate supplementation.

NutritionHealthFitness And Diet


Main Study

1) Effects of acute beetroot juice intake on performance, maximal oxygen uptake, and ventilatory efficiency in well-trained master rowers: a randomized, double-blinded crossover study.

Published 2nd July, 2024

Related Studies

2) Nitrate supplementation's improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists.

Journal: International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, Issue: Vol 22, Issue 1, Feb 2012

3) Influence of acute dietary nitrate supplementation on 50 mile time trial performance in well-trained cyclists.

4) Ergogenic Effect of Nitrate Supplementation: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

5) Changes in Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Muscle Damage Markers Following Diet and Beetroot Juice Supplementation in Elite Fencers.

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