Breaking Boundaries: Powered by beetroot
Professor Andy Jones and team have generated a substantial evidence base over the past 12 years for beneficial effects of nitrate-rich dietary supplements on sport and exercise performance as well as cardiovascular and metabolic function.
Nitrate is particularly prevalent in beetroot juice. The team’s first study in 2009 found that beetroot juice had a positive effect on exercise performance with 0.5 litres of beetroot juice per day for three days resulting in a 16% increase in time-to-exhaustion during high-intensity exercise.
In 2013, the researchers also found that two concentrated 70ml ‘shots’ of juice was the optimum amount to enhance performance, with the peak coming at 2-3 hours.
This research has inspired a revolution within sports nutrition, with athletes at all levels and across many sports around the world now utilising dietary nitrate supplements to enhance their performance. One example was David Weir, winner of four gold medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games, who told Boris Johnson it was instrumental in his success.
Since 2014, the research team have furthered the evidence that nitrate-rich diets can also aid sprinting performance and decision-making during prolonged intermittent high-intensity exercise such as football or rugby.
Their findings have led to a significant rise in the use of nitrate supplements in international rugby union, premiership rugby union, association football, basketball, baseball, ice hockey and American football.
Nitrate was also recognised as one of four safe, legal and effective supplements (along with caffeine, creatine and bicarbonate) in an International Olympic Committee statement. This cited 12 articles published by Jones and colleagues as evidence for the benefits of nitrate supplementation for enhancing performance both in endurance exercise and in events requiring single or repeated high-intensity sprint efforts.
The research has contributed to more than 20 companies producing beetroot or nitrate-related supplements (juices or powders) for fitness and health and informed product development by Beet It, a company created by James White Drinks to cope with and capitalise on increased demand for beetroot juice. They now distribute to 35 countries worldwide.
Exeter research was also instrumental in the development of concentrated beetroot juices for use by athletes, including the Beet It Sport ‘Nitrate 400’ Shot and the Beet It Sport ‘Nitrate 3000’ Concentrate, as well as the Beet It Sport Flapjack.
Breaking boundaries provides a bitesize look into the variety of leading research that has, and still is changing the world from the University of Exeter.
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