1) What is Beet Root Extract?
Beet root extract is a concentrated form of the beet root vegetable. Since beet root is rich in various bioactive compounds such as nitrates, antioxidants, flavonoids, and phytochemicals, it is often considered a “superfood”. Most notably, beet root is very rich in nitrates – a nitric oxide-booster. Dietary nitrates serve as a precursor to nitric oxide (NO), whereby nitrates (NO3-) are converted to nitrite (NO2-), and nitrite is eventually reduced to NO. Nitric oxide is a gaseous signaling molecule with a wide array of effects on the human body that could favorably impact exercise performance. For example, NO plays a critical role in promoting vasodilation and blood flow which could increase oxygen and nutrient delivery to the working muscles.
Additionally, boosting NO can reduce the oxygen cost of exercise, enhance the efficiency of energy production, and improve strength expression. Nitric oxide boosters such as beet root extract are commonly marketed to increase “the pump” during weight training because of their potential effects on blood flow. Thus, along with healthy antioxidants, flavonoids, and phytochemicals, beet root extract offers a natural supplemental strategy for increasing dietary nitrate intake to support exercise.
Beet root extract is a concentrated form of the beet root vegetable, which is rich in various bioactive compounds including nitrates, antioxidants, flavonoids, and phytochemicals.
2) Evidence for effectiveness
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3) Pre-workout benefits of Beet Root Extract.
Beet root consumption has been associated with several benefits to vascular health and exercise performance. Over the past several years, an extensive body of research has investigated the effects of dietary nitrates on cardiorespiratory endurance – with most providing nitrates in the form of beet root juice. Collectively, the evidence suggests that beet root juice can improve aerobic performance such as distance events or time-to-exhaustion tests by enhancing exercise efficiency. The ergogenic effects have been largely attributed to the nitrate concentration; however, the benefits of beet root are not solely attributed to the nitrate content. Nitrate-depleted beet root has also shown to improve endurance performance and recovery. This finding suggests that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of betalains found in beetroots can also contribute to a performance boost. Overall, beet root juice supplementation appears to reduce fatigue, improve exercise tolerance, and enhance exercise performance during sustained submaximal exercise such as running or cycling, and the favorable effects seem to be more pronounced in recreationally or moderately trained individuals. Some evidence also suggests that nitrate-rich beet root juice can improve some markers of exercise-induced muscle damage allowing for better recovery.
Beet root juice supplementation has shown to reduce fatigue, improve exercise tolerance, and enhance exercise performance during sustained submaximal exercise such as running or cycling
4) The latest science
Most of the research examining the effect of beet root juice or dietary nitrate supplementation on exercise performance has focused on cardiorespiratory endurance exercise, with less attention dedicated to high intensity exercise. Nevertheless, strong mechanistic and experimental evidence has recently emerged for dietary nitrates to improve high intensity exercise such as weightlifting, sprints, and interval training. Specifically, NO synthesis does not require the presence of oxygen and is potentiated by the hypoxic and acidic environments that are induced during higher exercise intensities. Additionally, improved blood flow via NO mechanisms has been shown to preferentially enhance blood flow to the stronger and powerful fiber types (i.e., fast twitch muscle fibers). This has shown to enhance muscular contraction speed and power output during high-velocity movements.
While there is a substantial amount of research conducted on submaximal endurance exercise, the research on intermittent, high intensity exercise and weight training is limited – yet growing. A recent review of the current literature indicated that beet root juice supplementation may improve intermittent, high-intensity exercise with short rest periods. Another review found that beet root juice supplementation improves fatigue resistance during activities requiring multiple sprints. These improvements are suggested to be attributed to enhanced intramuscular phosphocreatine resynthesis, improved muscle power output, and reduced markers of fatigue. Some studies have also shown that chronic nitrate supplementation (3-6 weeks), when combined with high-intensity interval training, can enhance performance adaptations and aerobic adaptations (i.e., VO2max).
Because of all the potential benefits on exercise efficiency and muscle contraction, scientists have recently started to examine the effects of beet root supplementation on resistance exercise. While nitrate-rich beet root is commonly marketed as a NO booster to increase “the pump” during weight training, it turns out that it may be directly boosting performance. The latest reviews of the preliminary research indicate that nitrates can significantly improve muscular strength, muscular power, and the number of repetitions completed during weight training. For example, one study found that nitrate-rich beet root juice supplementation 2 hours prior to a free-weight bench press protocol significantly increased power output during explosive repetitions and increased the repetitions completed to failure during 3 sets of bench press using 70% of one-repetition maximum separated by 2-minute rest intervals. Although the preliminary evidence is encouraging, more research on this topic is needed.
Lastly, evidence has recently emerged showing that skeletal muscle has the capacity to store nitrate. Therefore, regular supplementation should improve the ergogenic effects of nitrates because of increased intramuscular storage over time.
Most of the research examining the effect of beet root supplementation has focused on cardiorespiratory endurance exercise. Recently, emerging evidence has indicated that beet root supplementation can improve strength and power performance.
5) Other health benefits of Beet Root Extract
Beet root supplementation has been shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors including blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and endothelial function. These benefits are attributed to the high-nitrate concentration in combination with its other phenolics, Vitamin C, carotenoids, and betalains. For example, one study found that one month of beet root juice supplementation increased nitrate bioavailability, decreased blood pressure, and improved endothelial function in healthy older adults – an effect that would likely be more pronounced in individuals at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Although the effect of beet root extract on cardiovascular risk factors has not been directly studied, it is possible that this ingredient could lead to some beneficial effects.
Based upon research on ingestion of beet root juice, beet root extract may improve cardiovascular risk factors.
6) What to look for on the label.
There is definitely a strong case for simply eating a diet high in nitrate-rich vegetables including beet root. However, beet roots are not a desirable tasty treat, to say the least, and several people find it difficult to get enough vegetables in their diet. Therefore, supplemental intake can help fill this gap. Beet root is typically provided in research studies in the form of beet root juice (e.g., a puree or smoothie). Sometimes subjects are actually provided baked beets. Therefore, most of our understanding of the ergogenic effects of beets are from the consumption of the whole vegetable. The amount of beet root provided in these studies is often dosed based upon nitrate content. The recommended acute dose of dietary nitrate is around 400-800 mg or 6–12 mmol administered 2 to 3 hours before exercise since nitrates take time to be absorbed and converted to nitrite. Yet, the precise, optimal dose and timing is not yet clear.
When included in a multi-ingredient pre-workout product, the powdered form of beet root extract is commonly used. However, be aware that 500 mg of beet root extract is not the same as 500 mg nitrate. The dose of beet root extract found in pre-workout typically ranges from a couple milligrams to 2000 mg (2 grams). While little is known about the powdered form of beet root extract, it would seem probable that a higher dose would exert more favorable effects.
Regular intake of up to 2000 mg (2 grams) as part of a multi-ingredient pre-workout may exert the positive effects associated with beet root juice supplementation.
7) Synergistic Effect with Other Pre-workout Ingredients?
It is possible that beet root extract could work synergistically with other pre-workout ingredients. This ingredient would serve well with other “pump” ingredients such as L-citrulline and other nitrate-rich extracts including red-spinach leaf extract. L-citrulline improves NO bioavailability via a separate pathway known as the arginine-nitric oxide pathway and may work synergistically with nitrates which act through the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. Red spinach leaf extract is a science-backed ingredient that offers even more nitrates than beet root extract. The combination of NO precursors may work better in combination. Also, ingredients with the ability to improve blood flow could aid in the delivery of other ingredients including stimulants and other amino acids. Lastly, antioxidants have shown to improve the production and bioavailability of NO. Therefore, the inclusion of antioxidants such as co-enzyme Q10 and certain vitamins may enhance the effectiveness.
The combination of beet root extract with other nitrate-rich ingredients, L-citrulline, and antioxidants may enhance the effectiveness of the pre-workout.