When it comes to pre-workout, most of us think about highly caffeinated powders that will leave you twitching for the next 12 hours and with a ruined sleep schedule. These supplements usually contain artificial stimulants that make you feel wired to the moon. Whilst that may boost your performance temporarily, it's not good for you in the long run. You'll find that your body quickly desensitises itself to the stimulants, and you need more and more to feel the same effects you did at the start.
Thankfully, there are more natural means to help boost your performance before exercising. And no, they're not synthesised from chemicals or manufactured in a top-secret lab.
One of the most potent pre-workout tools is the humble beetroot.
If you don't fancy eating beetroot in its whole food form daily, you can opt for beetroot powder. Made from dried and ground beetroot, beetroot powder has increased in popularity lately due to recent science showing a long list of benefits. These benefits are especially powerful when taken before exercising (psst… that's why we've included a potent dose in our pre-workout).
So what is it that makes beetroot powder so great?
The power of nitrates:
Beetroot (and beetroot powder) contains nitrates, which the body converts into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is hugely important in the body, and you should want to increase your levels. More nitric oxide in the body means improved blood flow - meaning more efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. Nitric oxide helps to dilate the arteries and veins throughout your body. This reduces heart stress and improves overall blood flow.
Beetroot is one of the most nitrate-rich foods on the planet. In its powdered form, it's simple to add to a smoothie or mix with water. For best results, studies found that you want to take a supplement with beetroot powder up to 2 hours before you exercise.
Beetroot powder has become a staple for endurance athletes, and it's easy to see why.
If you're an endurance athlete, oxygen cost is the primary concern you're dealing with. You want your body to be as efficient as possible. The nitrates in beetroot powder help you accomplish that. A boost of nitrates before exercising reduces VO2, essentially reducing the oxygen cost of exercise. This means you can last longer and feel less tired during your endurance exercise.
Studies found that endurance athletes who consumed beetroot powder before exercise were able to complete their workout faster and with less fatigue than those who did not consume it.
If your idea of exercise is more rusty iron barbells and less bikes and running shoes, don't worry, you can still take advantage of the power of nitrates.
Beetroot powder has been shown to increase power and reduce muscle fatigue, allowing strength and power athletes to train harder and perform better.
A 2021 study (Coggan et al.) analysed the performance of 268 strength athletes. It measured the effect of nitrate supplementation (versus a control who did not receive them). They found that a boost of nitrates before exercise increases maximal muscle power at an average of 5%.
In a supplement world of false promises and 'magic' potions, 5% may not seem like much. But we know that supplements aren't magic, and nothing will double your strength and power in a serving.
In fact, a 5% boost in power is enormous: and you can unlock it simply from a dose of beetroot powder before exercising. This means you can achieve your strength goals faster and have a much better workout.
If you're strength training, another advantage of nitrates is that you'll feel more of a pump in your muscles due to the dilation of your veins and arteries, allowing more oxygen through. This benefits recovery and performance, but it also feels good! Your muscles will work optimally during your strength and power training - and you'll see and feel the difference first-hand.
Beetroot powder isn't just for a short boost during exercise. The effects can also last long after you're finished. Beetroot powder can help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery after exercise. This is because nitric oxide has been shown to reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process, so you can return to your training regimen sooner.
Studies have shown that beetroot juice can help reduce muscle soreness after exercise. We're not yet 100% sure why this happens, but one theory suggests that the nitrates in beetroots help to reduce inflammation and allow your muscles to repair themselves faster and more effectively.
Lowered blood pressure:
Did you know that beetroot has been used since the middle ages to help with blood and digestion disorders? Now, we know a fair bit more than they did, and medical researchers of today have confirmed the effects.
They found that one small glass of beetroot juice a day (around 200mg of nitrates) helped to significantly reduce blood pressure in those with high blood pressure.
This is huge: high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Those who were given a placebo saw no changes in blood pressure, vessel function, or artery stiffness. However, those that received the nitrate-rich beetroot juice had a 20 per cent improvement in blood vessel dilation, and artery stiffness was reduced by 10 per cent.
Even if you don't have high blood pressure, taking a form of nitrates daily (especially before exercise) can help reduce your overall blood pressure, keeping your heart working as it's supposed to.
Powdered or whole beetroot?
Of course, you can get the benefits of nitrates from eating whole beetroot. However, if you don't want to eat it every day, consider powdered beetroot or beetroot juice.
While both will do the job, there are a few extra benefits to using a supplement containing beetroot powder instead of beetroot juice.
Firstly, it's super convenient to use. If you're not a fan of beetroot, you can mix it with a smoothie, and you will barely taste the powder.
It's also more affordable than beetroot juice and lasts for longer before going bad.
Finally, like most juices, beetroot juice has a relatively high sugar level, with over 17 grams of sugar found in the average 200ml glass.
By using a beetroot powder supplement, you can get all the benefits of beetroot at a more affordable price and with less sugar than traditional beetroot juice.
Do I need it daily?
Studies have shown that getting a source of nitrates into your diet daily benefits heart health and lower your risk for a long list of diseases.
As mentioned, you'll also see a particularly potent boost if you decide to unlock the power of nitrates before you exercise.
As with most things in life, balance is the key. Vegetables such as raw spinach, celery, and lettuce also contain high concentrations of nitrates. By including these vegetables in your diet and supplementing with a pre-workout powder containing beetroot powder before your exercise sessions, you can ensure you're getting all the nitrates you need to help support your short and long-term health goals.
Beetroot powder is a powerful supplement that can benefit athletes and fitness enthusiasts - especially when used before exercise.
Its high concentration of nitrates means improved power, endurance, and recovery. Even if you're not an athlete, nitrates can help lower your blood pressure and protect your heart.
A better pre-workout
Beetroot juice is expensive, and you might not like the strong flavour. Thankfully, there are other ways to get those nitrates.
At Vivo Life, we've developed a beetroot-powered pre-workout containing a potent dose (200mg) of nitrates.
Unlike other pre-workouts on the market, it's not loaded with artificial stimulants or flavourings. Our pre-workout contains a gentle and natural source of caffeine from Guarana extract.
With 50mg of caffeine, you'll feel a natural boost in energy without the crash later. We've also added ingredients like Rhodelia Rosea and B vitamins to help boost energy and mental focus in the gym.