Beetroot juice to improve sports performance

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Beetroot juice is the latest hype in endurance sports. Beetroot juice would improve endurance performance because the nitrate in beetroot juice would ensure that less oxygen is needed to produce energy (ATP) in the muscles. The athlete should use about half a liter of beetroot juice a day for 6-15 days before the race for a positive result. The first results from scientific research seem promising.

Method of use of beetroot juice
When an endurance athlete (runner, cyclist, triathlete etc) wants to benefit from the potential benefits of beetroot juice, the endurance athlete should take 300mg daily nitrate. A pint of beetroot juice contains about 300mg nitrate. This pint of beetroot juice must be divided in to 5 portions. The greatest effect is achieved when the endurance athlete starts 6-15 days before an important race with the use of beetroot juice. A prolonged use of beetroot juice will not further improve the results.

Working mechanism of beetroot juice
The muscles are capable to produce energy (ATP) in a variety of ways. The body knows anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. The anaerobic energy systems are the phosphate pool and the breakdown of glucose to lactate. The aerobic energy system produces energy from the breakdown of glucose and fat into carbon dioxide and water. The aerobic degradation of carbohydrates and fats occurs in the citric acid cycle and the electron transport system. For the aerobic breakdown of carbohydrates and fat oxygen is needed. If an athlete can take up much oxygen per minute, the athlete can burn a lot of carbohydrates and fats, and therefore produce a lot ATP. The endurance (aerobic endurance) of athletes is expressed in oxygen uptake per kilogram of body weight per minute. The greater the oxygen uptake, the greater the performance of the endurance athlete. All of the energy which is produced in the muscle is in the form of ATP. The ATP is used for the muscles to contract (contraction). The endurance athlete is particularly dependent on aerobic endurance. The nitrate from beetroot juice ensures that less oxygen is needed to release energy. This is because the nitrate is converted into nitrite. Nitrite is composed of oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Nitrite has the effect that in the muscle less oxygen is required to produce ATP. When there is less oxygen needed to produce energy, the athlete can produce more energy (ATP) with less oxygen and therefore the (sub)maximal performance could increase. However, the athlete is not using less carbohydrates used to produce energy. Use of beetroot juice has no effect glycogen sparing effect.

Disadvantages of the use of beetroot juice
Use of beetroot juice is not without disadvantages. There is weak scientific evidence that a high nitrite use increases the risk of getting certain types of cancer. Also, a high use of beetroot juice cause red urine and feces. Also, a large amount of beetroot juice can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, which of course is detrimental to the sport performance. Furthermore, the content of nitrate in beetroot juice throughout the year can change. Finally, the user of beetroot juice should get used to the taste.

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