Beet root juice is the rave new supplement for vasodilation, as just about every supplement contains beetroot juice. Nitrates, found in highest concentrations in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and beetroot, are converted naturally in the body to nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes and widens blood vessels and affects how efficiently cells use oxygen. Until recently, nitrite was thought to be relatively inert biological substance meaning scientists didn’t really think it caused physiological responses in the body.
However this thought that nitrates did nothing in the body changed when scientist’s infused nitrate’s into the forearms of volunteers, which lead to elevated forearm blood, flow and were associated with nitric oxide (NO) formation. Surprisingly, relatively small levels of nitrite in plasma that are shown to improve blood flow can achieved by consuming foods high in nitrate. Documented physiological effects from increasing dietary nitrate include reduction in blood pressure, improvement in intestinal health, and increases in exercise performance.
The really cool thing about dietary nitrites is they can be achieved by a high nitrate meal and the responses are similar in magnitude to those obtained in nitrite infusions, which led to increased forearm blood flow. A number of manufacturers have found ways to liquefy beetroots and concentrate the nitrate into beetroot juice “shots.”
Beet Juice Enhances Vasodilation During Aerobic Exercise
It has been reported that beet juice can enhance exercise performance by increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle and reduce oxygen cost of exercise. Researchers had subject’s consume experimental beet juice supplement before an exercise protocol for 15 days, the subjects consumed a 0.5-liter dose or 500 mL of beet juice over a 15-min period and rested for 2.5 h. During this time subjects were allowed to drink water, but no other beverages or food were ingested.
The test protocol consisted of two 5-min bouts of moderate-intensity cycling and a ramp incremental test to exhaustion. At the end of the exercise protocol, plasma nitrite concentration was significantly elevated by about +39% at 2.5 h post-ingestion of beet juice; +25% at 5 days; +46% at 15 days) and systolic and diastolic BP was reduced by ∼4% throughout the beet juice supplementation period. Interestingly, compared with placebo group, the steady-state oxygen consumption during moderate exercise was reduced by ∼4% after 2.5 h and remained similarly reduced after 5 and 15 days of beet juice. These results indicate that dietary beet juice supplementation acutely reduces blood pressure and the oxygen cost of submaximal exercise and that these effects are maintained for at least 15 days if supplementation is continued.
The same research group performed a second study with the exact same protocol as that listed above but this time they measured muscle contractility strength and completed a series of low-intensity and high-intensity “step” exercise tests. They consumed 500 mL of nitrogen rich beet juice for 6 days before the study.
Once again, the researchers reported that dietary supplementation with nitrate-rich beet root juice reduced both the O2 cost and the degree of muscle ATP/phosphocreatine concentration degradation during both low- and high-intensity exercise. Therefore, dietary nitrate supplementation, by reducing the ATP cost of force production culminating in an improved tolerance of intense exercise.
Dietary beet root juice supplementation resulted in a 25% improvement in the time to task failure during high-intensity exercise. This means that beet root juice by reducing the total ATP cost of muscle force production, which means more ATP for muscle contractions.
Additionally, the researchers observed reductions in the systolic BP (–5 mmHg) and diastolic BP (–2 mmHg)as well as mean arterial pressure (–2 mmHg) over days4–6 in addition to lower oxygen utilization during exercise.
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Newest Study Finds Beet Root Does Not Augment Blood Flow in Healthy Young Men.
It seems like beet root was an unstoppable supplement roll, until the latest study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism failed to produce an increase in blood flow during handgrip exercise. Although several studies have reported indirect evidence of improved muscle oxygenation during exercise after consuming nitrate-rich supplements such as beetroot juice, none of these studies directly measured blood flow to the contracting muscles. Here is how the study was conducted.
The researchers hypothesized that acute dietary nitrate supplementation from beetroot juice would augment the increases in forearm blood flow, as well as the progressive dilation of the brachial artery, during graded handgrip exercise in healthy young men. In a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, 12 young healthy men consumed a beetroot juice (140 mL Beet-It Sport, James White Juice Company) that provided 12.9 mmol (0.8 g) of nitrate or placebo (nitrate-depleted Beet-It Sport) on 2 study visits. At 3 h postconsumption, brachial artery diameter, flow, and blood velocity were measured (Doppler ultrasound) at rest and during 6 exercise intensities.
Nitrate supplementation raised plasma nitrate (19.5-fold) and nitrite (1.6-fold) concentrations, and increased vasodilation versus placebo, indicating absorption, conversion, and a biological effect of this supplement. The beet root did have an effect of arterial vasodilation, meaning the heart received more blood but despite these systemic effects, nitrate supplementation had no effect on brachial artery diameter, flow, or shear rates at rest or during any exercise workload. These findings suggest that acute dietary nitrate supplementation favorably modifies arterial vasodilation, but does not augment blood flow or brachial artery vasodilation during nonfatiguing forearm exercise in healthy young men. So what makes this study different from some of the other studies were a few factors:
- One, the subjects were young individuals with blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the very healthy range. Many of the beetroot studies have been performed on older adults and the younger age of the subjects could have resulted had well-preserved vascular endothelial function to begin with. Therefore, much less of a ceiling effect from the supplement could be observed.
- The second contributing factor could be the relatively small range of forearm exercise intensities that were examined in this study. It is possible that any blood flow enhancing effect of dietary nitrate was only be apparent during higher intensity and fatiguing work intensities; conditions within the muscle that favor the conversion of nitrite to nitric oxide.
While beetroot juice rich in nitrates did not enhance muscle blood flow or vascular dilation during handgrip exercise, researchers found that it did “de-stiffen” blood vessels under resting conditions, potentially easing the workload of the heart.
So Beetroot is still a kick ass supplement to take as it can enhance blood flow to the heart at rest and it seems to work a high intensity exercise conditions but based on the newest study, it may not work with smaller body parts worked such as forearms. Its still a great supplement to take for heart benefits and at higher intensity exercise, it can facilitate blood flow.