I'm on a brain kick lately. What kind of nutrition can we take to help our brains? I came across this article about Beet juice in Science Daily. Essentially, giving an older adult 16oz of beet juice allowed more oxygen to get to the white matter of the frontal lobe. This area is associated with degeneration leading to dementia.
The mechanism is thought that beets contain a high quantity of nitrates. Bacteria in your mouth converts the nitrate to nitrite. Nitrites help open up the blood vessels and allow oxygen to get into areas of the body that normally don't get as much oxygen.
This is why it had been studied and shown some performance benefit for endurance athletes. Why products such as Nitric Oxide pop up. Why Viagra is sometimes taken by athletes, but not for that type of performance enhancement.
It was a small study done on cyclists, but the results were promising. I can't get a hold of the original study, but the participants showed some improvement with beet juice, via the same concept of increasing NO.
Ben Greenfield from Ben Greenfield fitness, states that probably the best way to use it for performance is to take 5oz for several days up to your big bike race. He also stated that a study done on elite XC skiers showed no improvement from beet juice.
Beet Juice probably won't be the "secret sauce" people are always searching for, but it shows a lot of promise for generally just increasing your health.