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Beetroot for Running Performance


Do you like beetroot? Have you thought about using it strategically to enhance your running performance? 

In today’s episode we discuss the nitrate compounds within beetroot (and other foods) and how they could potentially support your running training as well as keep your heart healthy. 

 We begin by determining what nitrates are, how they work within the body and how they support health.  We then delve into how these nitrate compounds may impact your running performance and then we end by looking at which foods contain nitrates and sharing some meal and snack ideas for you to introduce into your nutrition plan for your running.


Defining nitrates found in certain foods and outlining how they are metabolised to Nitric Oxide and utilised in the body to support heart health and sports performance. The impact of oral microbiota (mouth bacteria) on the conversion of nitrates to their bioactive form are considered whilst also focusing on potential lifestyle factors leading to reduced quantity and diversity of mouth bacteria. Factors such as: antibacterial mouthwashes and chewing gum 


Summarising what has been discussed before moving on to delve into the impact of nitrates on sports performance, which includes: 

  • Greater power output, 
  • Improved VO2Max
  • Reduced oxygen cost of low impact exercise

all of which will support overall sports performance.

Current scientific research into the subject of nitrates and sports performance are also discussed. We also deliberate their outcomes and what that means for us as amateur/recreational female runners. 


Outlining how nitrate supplementation through food/beverages could be introduced into a nutrition plan to maximise the ergogenic effects.


  • Introducing the Female Factors:
  • Insufficient research into this topic on female athletes
  • Women generally have increased levels of nitrates in the body besides men
  • Following consumption of nitrates women appear to experience a greater elevation of blood nitrates and nitrites besides men
  • Following nitrate supplementation, women have a lower resting blood pressure than men 


Moving on to discuss how nitrate rich foods could be introduced into the diet to support your running training. The foods being discussed are: 

  • Beetroot
  • Rhubarb       
  • Spinach

Lots of lovely meal and snack ideas are shared


Key Takeaways:

  1. Nitrates are compounds found in various vegetables including beetroot and rhubarb that are known to have benefits in supporting heart health, reducing the risk of stroke, lowering BP and increasing sports performance
  2. Optimal oral microbiota is needed to support the conversion of nitrates to nitrites and certain lifestyle factors are thought to reduce its levels and diversity including the use of mouthwash and chewing gum
  3. Nitrites are metabolised into Nitric Oxide, which is thought to have the most performance enhancing effects. 
  4. Remember nitrate intake needs to be between 6 mmol to 8mmol, which is the equivalent of 500ml beetroot and this needs to be consumed approx 2–3 h before exercise for enhanced effects
  5. The performance enhancing effects of nitrates include: Greater power output and improved tolerance to high-intensity exercise BUT no studies have yet shown any performance benefits during prolonged endurance exercise. So the benefits to your running may be around the strength and HIIT exercise you complete to support your endurance running.
  6. Finally, there are many delicious foods out there containing nitrates including beetroot, rhubarb and spinach. Have fun in the kitchen producing some delicious meals and snacks that will also support your training.

Related Topics:

Food For…Winter Running


The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and

advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.

If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact

your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell met at as nutrition students (Institute for Optimum Nutrition, London) and became lifelong friends and nutritional buddies! Both have a love of running and a passion for nutrition, delicious food and healthy living.

Together they host RUNNERS HEALTH HUB. A place for like-minded runners who are looking for simple ways to support running performance, energy, endurance, and general great health.

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Aileen and Karen