Performance Benefits of Beets


beet blog title photo

I admit, I’ve always loved beets! I can remember eating beets right out of the can as a kid. My grandma would also pickle them. YUM! I love beets! I actually never had a fresh beet until I got a little older and was cooking for myself. The difference between a canned beet and a fresh beet is just huge!

Beets are so underappreciated, although it does seem like they have become more popular just recently. Beets really are a superfood. Not only are they a great source of folate, potassium and fiber, but they are also loaded with powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants!

Several studies have found that beet juice lowers blood pressure. In one study, 500mL per day dropped blood pressure by over 10 points! Betalains, one phytonutrient found in beets has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer actions. Other compounds in beets support our bodies natural detox process.

Current research is also finding that the naturally occurring nitrites in beets have some pretty impressive effects on athletic performance. Current research is discovering the powerful effects #beets have on athletic #performance. #saslife Click To Tweet

Beets are naturally high in nitrates, which are converted to the potent vasodilator nitric oxide in our bodies. Nitric oxide is important for cardiovascular function, blood flow, and increasing oxygen to the muscles. This increases the power and length of time the muscles can exercise. One study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that after eating 7oz of roasted beets, recreational runners ran an average of 3 percent faster (in the study it was a 5km run, this translated into a 41 second faster finishing time!). 7oz of roasted #beets resulted in a 41 second #faster finishing time in 5K run! #saslife Click To Tweet

The beet eaters also perceived the run to be easier. Another study showed that beet juice enabled cyclists to ride 16 percent longer. There are many other studies reporting similar results! This is pretty powerful stuff! #Beet juice enabled cyclists to ride 16 percent longer! #saslife Click To Tweet

beet juice

The majority of the studies out there used beet juice, and the dosages ranged from 140ml to 500ml per day several days before the event. On the day of the event, the juice should be consumed 1 ½ to 3 hours before. You can also try eating roasted beets as well like in the running study I mentioned. The studies have also all used the common red beet.

Note: The naturally occurring nitrates in beets are not the same thing as the sodium nitrates that are in processed meats and that have been linked to cancer.


Roasted Beet and Kale Salad with Toasted Walnuts
Adapted from
Makes 4 Servings


This makes a great nutrient dense side salad, or add some grilled chicken or other protein for a meal.


For the salad:
1.5 lbs beets, peeled and quartered (or cut into bite sized pieces if you're using large beets)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 oz walnut halves
4 packed cups of curly kale, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
2 oz goat cheese (a diced avocado makes a great vegan alternative)

For the dressing:
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, very finely minced
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 425⁰ F Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the beets on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle the oil over top. Use your hands to toss them in the oil. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until they are tender and starting to caramelize.
  3. While the beets are roasting, prepare the rest of the salad.
  4. Add the walnut halves to a small skillet over medium high heat. Let them cook until they are fragrant and start to brown in places, shaking the pan frequently.
  5. To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the oil in a medium sized bowl. Slowly add the oil in a thin steady stream while whisking the dressing constantly. If the oil starts to build up at all stop pouring it and whisk the dressing vigorously. It will take you about 1 minute to whisk in the oil. Taste the dressing and season it with extra salt, to taste. This makes double what you will need for the salad.
  6. Put the kale in a large bowl, pour half the dressing over top and toss well. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour or massage dressing into kale.
  7. When serving, top kale with roasted beets, toasted walnuts and goat cheese.


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About Author

Kelly Gehle, MS, RDN, LDN, IFNCP


Kelly is a Nutritionist at the HCC at SAS Institute Inc. in Cary NC. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Arizona State University and her Master of Science degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Her areas of expertise include functional nutrition, health and wellness education, prenatal nutrition, food allergies and intolerances and culinary nutrition.

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