Beetroot juice is used by rugby players to improve performance. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Beetroot juice – the winning formula for team sports

New research shows that drinking beetroot juice can significantly improve performance in team sports involving bouts of high intensity exercise.

Trials by the University of Exeter Sport and Health Sciences department have found a direct link between the high nitrate content of beetroot and the chemical processes needed to get muscles working at their most efficient during intermittent bursts of activity.

During the tests, sportsmen were either given beetroot juice with a full complement of nitrates, or juice which had had the nitrate removed. Those who had taken the nitrate-rich juice were found to have a distinct advantage when exercising over those who had been given the control juice to drink.

Professor Andy Jones from the University of Exeter said: “We have previously shown that athletes can benefit from the performance enhancing qualities of beetroot juice. However, this study shows for the first time that short-term dietary nitrate supplementation can improve performance during the intense intermittent exercise experienced when playing team sports.”

A number of sports stars are known to drink beetroot juice regularly to boost energy and stamina. David Weir said beetroot juice was one of the ingredients making up his recipe for success at the 2012 Paralympics - where he won four gold medals.

Beetroot juice is also used by Welsh Rugby players Richie Pugh (current Wales Sevens captain, Scarlets player and Wales international cap) and Joe Rees (Ospreys) as part of their sports nutrition programme.

The research has been published online in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Date: 13 March 2013