IMPROVES VASCULAR FUNCTION DURING LOW OXYGEN AVAILABILITY AT HIGH ALTITUDES
Vascular function is crucial in environments of high altitude because there is low oxygen availability (hypoxia) and thinner air. This forces the body to work harder to provide muscles with oxygen. In fact, during conditions of hypoxia there is a greater potential for nitrite to convert to nitric oxide (Vanhatalo et al., 2011). Therefore, increasing dietary nitrate as the precursor to nitric oxide is a strategy to combat hypoxic conditions.
In 2015 Bakker et al. used 11 healthy people to investigate the effects of beetroot juice on endothelial function at 3700 m (equivalent to about twice the elevation as Denver, Colorado). The researchers found beetroot juice improved vascular function. They concluded that beetroot juice is a dietary strategy to maintain optimal peripheral vascular function (Bakker et al., 2015).
Nitrate supplementation for 6 days increased power output during the 10-km time-trial performance.
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In 2014 Kelly et al. used 12 healthy athletes to investigate beetroot juice related to exercise tolerance in hypoxic and normal oxygen environments. Each athlete completed moderate- and high-intensity bike tests: twice in normal conditions and twice in hypoxic conditions. For three days before the tests, the athletes drank 140 ml/day of beetroot juice or placebo.
THE RESULTS FOR BEETROOT JUICE DRINKERS IN HYPOXIA:
Moderate-intensity exercise: steady-state VO2 was lower (1.91±0.28 l/min for beetroot juice and 2.05±0.25 l/min for placebo)
Severe-intensity exercise: tolerance improved (214 ± 43 sec for beetroot juice and 197±28 sec for placebo)
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? High altitude (at least 1,500 m or 4,921 ft above sea level) results in a decrease in the partial pressure of oxygen (PO2), which affects oxygen transport between blood and muscles. Consequently, this decreases endurance performance at altitude. Beetroot juice is useful for athletes who train at altitude for improved sea-level performance and/or compete at a higher altitude.
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