Question:

Will taking beet root help me gain muscle? How does it work?

Answer:

The evidence for beetroot supplementation is slowly gaining ground. Some studies show that it may be helpful for intermittent, high-intensity workouts as well as endurance training. Surprisingly, as a newer ergogenic aid, beetroot juice (BJ) has already met the Australian Institute of Sport’s highest evidence classification for effectiveness – joining beta-alanine, caffeine, creatine, glycerol, and bicarbonate – at threshold doses for certain situations in sport.

Beetroot, like several green leafy vegetables, has very high nitrate levels. According to a laboratory assay, about 100 ml (~3.5 fl oz) of beetroot juice provides between 48-150 mg nitrate and 10 grams of beetroot powder provides 165 mg nitrate, whereas studies generally used 300-600 mg of nitrate.

Beetroot juice’s effect may come from nitrate’s role as a precursor to nitric oxide, a vasodilator which can enhance oxygen delivery to muscle tissue. A review of 9 studies concluded that “the improvements observed were attributed to faster phosphocreatine resynthesis which could delay its depletion during repetitive exercise efforts. In addition, [BJ] supplementation could improve muscle power output via a mechanism involving a faster muscle shortening velocity.”

As with all ergogenic aids, the theory is that by enabling stronger/longer workouts, the increased output will promote muscle growth. Currently, the magnitude of research supports beetroot juice’s impact on performance, not body composition. So keep working out!

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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