Many athletes rely on energy drinks and caffeine for a pre-race boost. A study led by the University of Exeter, published in 2009 in the "Journal of Applied Physiology," reported that beet juice may have the most benefits when it comes to improving athletic stamina. Not only has beet juice been found to help boost athletic performance, but the vegetable has also been linked to helping those with lung and heart problems and aiding in general overall health.
Beet Juice and Cyclists
A 2011 study on beet juice and the nitrates they contain measured the level of nitrates in the blood of male cyclists. According to the findings, published in "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise," The cyclists were given a half liter of beetroot juice, which is the same as beet juice, a half hour before performing a time trial. Some of the beetroot juice, however, had the nitrates removed. When completing both 4- and 16-km time trials, the cyclists rode much faster after ingesting the juice with nitrates.
The Exeter-led study pointed to the benefits of nitrates, concluding that they boost a cyclists's endurance by 16 percent. Nitrates are helpful to athletes because they quickly bring oxygen to muscles, essentially making the hard efforts easier. Nitrates can be found in other vegetables as well, including radishes, lettuce, celery, parsley, Chinese cabbage and endive.
Athletes aren't the only ones that benefit from nitrates. Elderly people and those with lung, heart and metabolic disease could also benefit from the increased oxygen that nitrates supply to the body. In the Exeter study, scientists found those that ingested nitrates also had a lower resting blood pressure because the juice dilates blood vessels.
Beet juice is also beneficial for an athlete's hydration. Maintaining electrolytes is challenging, especially when athletes compete in the heat. Beet juice, which is high in potassium, can help regulate fluid levels and balance electrolytes. Beet juice is also an effective anti-inflammatory because it contains betaine. This can help reduce an athlete's risk of chronic inflammation and illness. It's also high in vitamins C, A, B1, B2 and B6.