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Beet Juice Can Increase Muscle Strength, New Study Shows

Sip on this nitrate-heavy drink for stronger muscles.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

Along with making you look buff, there are plenty of reasons why you may want stronger muscles. Not only can they help you tackle physical activities without injuring yourself, but they also allow you to burn calories in an efficient way, according to the Mayo Clinic. That's why you should give your muscles the strength-building TLC they need, which surprisingly may include drinking beet juice. Yes, beet juice. A new study has found that this particular beverage, as well as other nitrate-rich food and drink options, can increase muscle strength.

The study that was published in Acta Physiologica involved researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, the University of Queensland, Australia, and the United States National Institutes of Health. During the randomized, crossover study, 10 men who were all considered to be healthy were asked to consume potassium nitrate or a placebo. The participants also took part in muscle biopsies at four stages, including before they consumed either the nitrate or placebo, 1 hour afterward, 3 hours after, and, finally, after they had exercised (specifically, 60 maximal contractions of knee extensors).

When the results were compared, researchers found that the participants who had ingested the potassium nitrate had more nitrates in their leg muscles for hours after taking the solution. The researchers also noted that those who had taken potassium nitrate saw a 7% increase in muscle torque and muscle strength compared to participants who had been given the placebo.

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Ginger beet smoothie juice

"We show for the first time that nitrate levels in the muscles before exercise is related to the amount of force muscles can produce," said the study's corresponding author Dr. Andrew M. Jones, professor of applied physiology at the University of Exeter, according to Medical News Today. Jones explained that this is possibly due to the fact that "[t]he muscle appears to use the nitrate to improve its ability to contract, we think by converting nitrate to nitric oxide which, in turn, has effects on the contractile apparatus."

"Based on the study, I do agree that nitrates found in certain food and drinks can help improve muscle strength," Dan Gallagher, RD, registered dietitian with Aegle Nutrition, tells Eat This, Not That!.

Gallagher explains that "nitrates are nitrogen-oxygen molecules that are produced by the body and can also be found in certain foods like celery and lettuce, as well as beet juice and beetroot juice." When you consume food or drinks with nitrates, "they help convert oxygen into energy more efficiently, which increases endurance and power when exercising."

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If you're interested in adding more nitrate-rich options to your regular menu, Gallagher suggests "spinach, arugula, endive, radishes, cherries, cranberries, grapefruit juice, tomato juice, carrot juice, and other green leafy vegetables."

"Eating these foods can help reduce blood pressure levels due to their high nitrate content," Gallagher says. "Additionally, these vegetables contain vitamins A and K, as well as minerals including calcium, magnesium, and iron—all of which have further health benefits such as promoting healthy skin and bones."

Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more about Desirée
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