Recently, more and more evidence has highlighted the effect of certain vegetables, including red beet, on nutrition and athletic performance2-3 through the beneficial effects of nitrate supplementation1.

The discovery of the role of nitric oxide (NO) in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular health received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1998. The high reactivity of NO and its ubiquity in our bodies is controlled by the nitrogen level through two main mechanisms:

1. Metabolism of organic nitrogen from basic amino acids like arginin. The efficiency of the NO conversion varies with age and health status.

2. Intake of inorganic nitrogen (mainly provided by nitrates). It has been highlighted in recent years that this mechanism is more direct and corresponds to the conversion of nitrates and nitrites to an exogenous source of NO.

Effects of nitric oxide

Mechanistically, the effects of nitrate and its reaction products seem to target the mitochondria and allow modulation of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress and reduced NO bioavailability are critically linked to hypertension during exercise. Several recent studies have shown that nitrate supplements could improve the performance of aerobic metabolism and provide a potential benefit to cyclists over medium and long distances, for which the respiratory metabolism is essential2. Most surprisingly, nitrate decreases whole body oxygen cost during exercise with preserved or even enhanced maximal performance3.

Inorganic nitrate in the diet is a substrate for the in vivo production of NO and other reactive nitrogen compounds and might supplement the endogenous sources of NO metabolism. A rich intake of vegetables or vegetable-based ingredients, which are particularly high in nitrate, such as red beet concentrate, can provide the amount of nitrate necessary to achieve all in vivo effects.  It should be noted that conversion of nitrates into nitric oxide is favored with vitamin C and polyphenols, which are naturally present in vegetables, in order to avoid conversion into nitrites or nitrosamines.

The main factors causing fatigue during exercise are the depletion of carbohydrate energy and dehydration. The use of concentrated red beet juice for formulation of sports supplements and functional beverages helps maintain performance by adjusting the intake of sugars and water for the duration of the exercise, while limiting the oxygen requirement by providing nitrates for nitric oxide metabolism.

Scientific studies have highlighted an effective dosage of 6.2 to 8 mmol nitrate/d4 from beetroot juice to support exercise performance improvement. This translates to a daily intake of approximately 48 grams of a concentrated red beet juice having 0.8 percent of nitrates (equivalent to 0.4 percent of potential nitric oxide). This daily intake makes suitable the use of red beet concentrate for all beverage formats, and at the same time, relies on scientific proof for previously mentioned expected benefits.

In terms of formulation, red beet juice is naturally sweet, has a slight earthy taste, and is bright red in color. Berry juice and berry flavors make a good combination in terms of finished product taste.

An ideal category for red beet concentrate formulation is sports beverages for elite or occasional athletes. Red beet has been clinically tested in different sports, such as swimming, running and cycling, and significant improvements, such as decreased pulmonary oxygen update, reduced time to complete a run, and increased power output, were seen in less than a week. These quick effects make red beet a solution to consider prior to a physical competition. 

 A second market of functional beverages related to cardiovascular health (blood flow increase, blood pressure reduction, etc.) could benefit from red beet juice concentrate thanks to its effect on vasodilatation. In this case, the beverages would contain less red beet juice, but consumption will be recommended for a longer period of time. Combination with sterols, betaglucans and fibers will provide a multi-approach solution against cardiovascular diseases.  

1. Archer, D. (2002). Evidence that ingested nitrate and nitrite are benefi cial to health. Journal of Food Protection, 65(5), 872-875.
2. Vanhatalo, A., et al. (2011). Dietary nitrate reduces muscle metabolic perturbation and improves exercise tolerance in hypoxia. J Physiol 589, 5517-5528.
3. Cermak, N., et al. (2012). Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. IntJ Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 22(1), 64-71.
4. Lansley, et al., Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: A placebo-controlled study. Journal of Applied Physiology, 110(3), 591-600.