|Tour de Fance|
When every second counts, riders do all they can to gain competitive advantage, from aerodynamic carbon fibre bikes to the latest sports nutrition.
Now there could be a new, completely legal and rather surprising weapon for riders aiming to shave vital seconds off their time – beetroot juice.
Research by the University of Exeter, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, has shown drinking the juice enables competitive-level cyclists to cut down the time it takes to ride a given distance. This is the first study which has shown that beetroot juice can be effective in a simulated competition environment.
For the study, nine club-level competitive male cyclists were asked to compete in time trials over 4km (2.5 mile) and 16.1km (10 mile). All the riders were asked to do each time trial twice. Each time they drank half a litre of beetroot juice beforehand. On one occasion they had normal beetroot juice, on the other occasion – unbeknown to the trialists – the beetroot juice had a key ingredient, nitrate, removed.
The researchers monitored athletes’ VO2 levels (showing the amount of oxygen consumed) during exercise to ensure that the cyclists worked at maximum effort on each occasion.
Results showed that when the cyclists drank ordinary beetroot juice they had a higher power output (measured in watts) for the same level of effort – suggesting their muscles and cardio-vascular system were being more efficient.
On average, riders were 11 seconds (2.8%) quicker over the 4km distance and 45 seconds (2.7%) faster over the 16.1km distance.
Professor Andrew Jones, from the University of Exeter, lead author on the research, said: “This is the first time we’ve studied the effects of beetroot juice, and the high nitrate levels found in it, on simulated competition.
“The findings show an improvement in performance that, at competition level, could make a real difference – particularly in an event like the Tour de France where winning margins can be tight.”
Beetroot juice is a natural source of nitrate, which is thought to be the active ingredient in affecting athlete’s performance.
Previous studies by the University of Exeter uncovered the impacts of beetroot juice and have begun to look in detail at its effects on different kinds of physical activity.
Unlocking the power of beetrootWhat do root vegetables have to do with athletic endurance and why is the sporting world getting so excited about findings by the University of Exeter? Trials by Sport & Health Sciences at the University of Exeter have shown that beetroot may not only help improve sports performance but also help cardiovascular conditions. The breakthrough has prompted keen interest from not just global sporting institutes but also the medical world and health and nutrition-based industries.
The beetroot juice used in this research was provided by James White Drinks.