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You could keep going 16% longer...

Drink beetroot juice to go faster and further. That's the finding of a group of researchers at Exeter University who have been studying the effects of organic nitrate compounds in beetroot on oxygen in the blood. In tests they found that oxygen uptake was reduced, making exercise less tiring and delaying exhaustion.

The article, which was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, consisted of a study of eight men aged between 19 and 38. For six days some of the participants were given beetroot juice and others blackcurrant cordial, then they were put through their paces on static bikes. After testing the two groups switched drinks and were tested again.

The researchers found that on average the beetroot juice enabled the cyclists to cycle for longer at moderate to severe intensity. The results would translate into a 2% reduction in time over a set distance. That's a pretty significant finding that'll no doubt prick the ears of professional cyclists; ove a 40km time trial, for example, it equates to the best part of a minute. It's especially noteworthy as the researchers seem to indicate that the stamina improvement isn't something you could train your body to achieve but an effect that's directly linked to the nitrate consumption.

The researchers say that they're not sure exactly by what mechanism the nitrates are helping. Other studies have linked the use of phramacological Sodium Nitrate with the reduction of oxygen use in exercise, but this is the first time a dietary supplement has shown the same effect. The team suspect that the stamina increase may be a result of the nitrate turning into nitric oxide in the body, reducing the oxygen cost of the exercise

Professor Andy Jones of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, said: “Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can increase exercise endurance. We were amazed by the effects of beetroot juice on oxygen uptake because these effects cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training. I am sure professional and amateur athletes will be interested in the results of this research. I am also keen to explore the relevance of the findings to those people who suffer from poor fitness and may be able to use dietary supplements to help them go about their daily lives.”

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.