Beetroot Juice Enabled Better Sprint and Decision Making Times

Beetroot juice Interview with:
Chris Thompson BSc MSc ANutr AFHEA

University of Exeter
St. Luke’s Campus
Exeter Devon

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Response: Dietary nitrate has been shown to favourably alter the contractility of type II muscle fibres and enhance blood flow to working muscles that are predominantly type II. Dietary nitrate may also improve perfusion to areas of the brain responsible for cognitive function. It is therefore possible that through these mechanisms, nitrate-rich beetroot juice supplementation may improve both physical and cognitive performance during exercise which reflects the high intensity intermittent nature of team sport play.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Response: Participants were able to complete greater total work during an intermittent sprint test following nitrate-rich beetroot juice supplementation. We also found that dietary nitrate enabled a reduction in response time to decision making during the cognitive tasks performed throughout the exercise test.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Beetroot juice high in nitrate is able to enhance repeated sprint performance and attenuate the decline in decision making reaction time which occurs over the course of prolonged exercise. A high-nitrate diet containing beetroot and green leafy vegetables should be encouraged to team sport athletes for its performance enhancing capabilities. However we cannot always be sure how much nitrate is contained within these, as a number of factors such as where the vegetables are grown can influence this. If athletes wish to explore the use of nitrate as a dietary supplement it may be more convenient to use a beetroot juice shot with known concentrations.

The consumption of nitrate-rich foods is to be encouraged to other populations too. Although the performance enhancing effects of dietary nitrate is becoming increasingly recognised in a number of exercise settings, the existing data for the positive impact on cardiovascular health is already very strong.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: With the evidence mounting for the targeted effect of dietary nitrate on type II muscle fibres, the potential of nitrate supplementation to improve muscle speed and power must be further explored. It is important to identify the populations and activities in which dietary nitrate will have the greatest applications.


Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Sep;115(9):1825-34. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3166-0. Epub 2015 Apr 7.

Dietary nitrate improves sprint performance and cognitive function during prolonged intermittent exercise.

Thompson C1, Wylie LJ, Fulford J, Kelly J, Black MI, McDonagh ST, Jeukendrup AE, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM.

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Chris Thompson BSc MSc (2015). Beetroot Juice Enabled Better Sprint and Decision Making Times 

Last Updated on September 21, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD