The beet juice revolution among endurance athletes has roots in a 2009 study done by Exeter University in the United Kingdom. Its findings were pretty simple: drinking regular beet juice increased blood nitrate levels and reduced resting blood pressure.
Also, and perhaps more importantly for runners, it reduced oxygen consumption during moderate running and increased time to exhaustion by 15 percent.
At the time that the study started making its way around endurance sports circles, there were few beet-related products marketed toward endurance athletes. As a result, Olympic athletes, Tour de France riders and even age-group endurance athletes had to make beet juice the old-fashioned way—which is probably ideal, of course, though often messy—while awaiting the market of beet-related products.
Due to increased media attention on the super vegetable and its perceived benefits for endurance, beetroot juice has become vogue among athletes of all levels. The Auburn University football team drinks it. Ryan Hall has said he consumes it. So do top professional cyclists. And its surge in popularity with the general public is reflective in the market, which now has plenty of options geared specifically toward athletes.
We tested a few of them out:
Red Ace Organic Beet Performance Supplement
Based in Boulder, Colo., Red Ace started distributing its 2-ounce beet performance supplement shots in January 2013 to 47 Whole Foods retailers. They are now in 350 Whole Foods stores nationwide and 500-plus locations overall.
Each bottle contains the equivalent of three organic beets. If beet juice is a taste your buds just can’t acquire (and you’re not alone), this shot is probably your best bet. It’s potent and a bit strong, but it goes down fast. ($45 for a 12-bottle case, redaceorganics.com)
Neogenis Labs entered the sports nutrition market in 2012 with the creation of BeetElite. One serving consists of 10 grams of beetroot crystals that you mix with 4 ounces of water. You can buy individual 10-gram packages or as a larger jar. Neogenis claims that with their patented product, the nitrates start impacting performance in as little as 15 minutes, and has the nitric oxide power of six beets in each serving.
Of all the beet products we tested, the BeetElite crystals with black cherry flavoring had the best taste, hands down. ($29.95 for 10 individual packs, neogenissport.com)
The newest product on our list, Beet Performer launched in 2015 and comes in 8.4-ounce cans in two varieties—one with vitamin B12 (80 percent daily value) and one with passion fruit juice added for more sweetness. The B12 drink is 110 calories per can while the drink with passion fruit juice is 120 calories.
Our testers preferred the drink with passion fruit juice over the B12 on taste alone. And definitely drink it straight out of the refrigerator for maximum enjoyment. ($15.50 for a 6-pack, beetperformer.com)
Beet It is one of the longest-running companies marketing beetroot toward athletes, starting in the United Kingdom and just recently entering the market in the United States (in fact, Exeter University used Beet It’s products in follow-up studies). Beet It has a 2.4-ounce beet shot that delivers 400mg of dietary nitrates. But their most intriguing product is their sport bar, which has the same amount of dietary nitrate but in an oat flapjack bar that consists of 50 percent oat flakes along with the 27 percent of beetroot concentrate (along with sugar, sunflower oil, rice syrup, emulsifier and salt.)
Though Beet It touts their bar as being easier to consume over the stronger flavor of their shots, the beet taste still looms large in these bars (and takes longer to consume). Still, it’s a welcome alternative in the market and combined with the oats, the taste isn’t too strong. ($2.99, beet-it.com)
CLIF Organic Energy Food
Several brands like Plum Vida and Peter Rabbit offer fruit and vegetable pouches that contain beet. One marketed toward athletes, though, is CLIF, which recently launched their energy food line. One of their first flavors is banana beet with ginger. The beetjuice concentrate is the second ingredient listed behind banana puree, and banana is definitely the dominant flavor (which makes it taste great, according to our testers). CLIF doesn’t tout the beet benefits specifically like the other products here and it likely isn’t as nitrate-heavy, but we envision this product as a great mid-race boost for ultrarunners. ($13.75 for a 6-pouch box, clifbar.com)