Over the last decade, beets have become popular among distance runners, not for their earthy aroma or bright purple hue, but for their 100 per cent legal performance-enhancing properties. If you’re among the beet-eaters, you can get even more bang for your buck. New research shows that by combining beets with a source of citrulline, such as watermelon, you can improve your running performance even further.
Beets and performance
Beets rose in popularity several years ago because they contain inorganic nitrate, which is converted to nitrite and then into nitric oxide. This increases blood flow to the muscles and improves aerobic energy utilization, which allows you to run harder for longer.
Citrulline and performance
Studies have shown that citrulline, which is found in watermelon, squash, nuts, chickpeas and gourds, can decrease fatigue during exercise and decrease muscle soreness, which allows you to perform more work before getting tired.
Beets and citrulline: the study
In previous studies, consuming citrulline appears to improve the rate of nitric oxide production in your body, but the research has been minimal. The goal of this most recent study, which was published in the journal Nutrients, was to determine how citrulline plus beetroot extract supplementation affected the performance of endurance athletes.
To do this, the researchers split a group of male triathletes into four different groups: a placebo group, a citrulline plus beetroot group, a citrulline-only group and a beetroot-only group. The supplementation protocol lasted nine weeks, before and after which the athletes performed several physical condition tests to determine their strength, power and endurance.
The researchers found that the combination of citrulline and beetroot extract improved participants’ VO2 max and endurance strength, and compared with citrulline or beetroot supplementation alone, “this combination improved performance in tests related to aerobic power.”
This research is still new and more study needs to be done, but for now, if you’re looking for a boost in performance, the citrulline and beetroot combo seems to be effective. It’s also legal and doesn’t appear to have any significant side effects, but remember to speak with a dietitian or sports doctor before adding any supplement into your daily routine to ensure that you’re taking it correctly.