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Neither Beetroot Juice Supplementation nor Increased Carbohydrate Oxidation Enhance Economy of Prolonged Exercise in Elite Race Walkers

Louise M Burke, Rebecca Hall, Ida A Heikura, Megan L Ross, Nicolin Tee, Georgina L Kent, Jamie Whitfield, Sara F Forbes, Avish P Sharma, Andrew M Jones, Peter Peeling, Jamie R Blackwell, Iñigo Mujika, Karen Mackay, Marta Kozior, Brent Vallance, Alannah K A McKay


Given the importance of exercise economy to endurance performance, we implemented two strategies purported to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise within a 4 week training camp in 21 elite male race walkers. Fourteen athletes undertook a crossover investigation with beetroot juice (BRJ) or placebo (PLA) [2 d preload, 2 h pre-exercise + 35 min during exercise] during a 26 km race walking at speeds simulating competitive events. Separately, 19 athletes undertook a parallel group investigation of a multi-pronged strategy (MAX; n = 9) involving chronic (2 w high carbohydrate [CHO] diet + gut training) and acute (CHO loading + 90 g/h CHO during exercise) strategies to promote endogenous and exogenous CHO availability, compared with strategies reflecting lower ranges of current guidelines (CON; n = 10). There were no differences between BRJ and PLA trials for rates of CHO (p = 0.203) or fat (p = 0.818) oxidation or oxygen consumption (p = 0.090). Compared with CON, MAX was associated with higher rates of CHO oxidation during exercise, with increased exogenous CHO use (CON; peak = ~0.45 g/min; MAX: peak = ~1.45 g/min, p < 0.001). High rates of exogenous CHO use were achieved prior to gut training, without further improvement, suggesting that elite athletes already optimise intestinal CHO absorption via habitual practices. No differences in exercise economy were detected despite small differences in substrate use. Future studies should investigate the impact of these strategies on sub-elite athletes’ economy as well as the performance effects in elite groups.

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  1. Burke LM, Hall R, Heikura IA, Ross ML, Tee N, Kent GL, Whitfield J, Forbes SF, Sharma AP, Jones AM, Peeling P, Blackwell JR, Mujika I, Mackay K, Kozior M, Vallance B, McKay AKA. Neither Beetroot Juice Supplementation nor Increased Carbohydrate Oxidation Enhance Economy of Prolonged Exercise in Elite Race Walkers. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 12;13(8):2767. doi: 10.3390/nu13082767. PMID: 34444928; PMCID: PMC8398364.
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