Increasing dietary nitrate intake is becoming a popular supplement strategy among strength and endurance athletes. This is generally accomplished by supplementing with high nitrate beetroot extract. Supplementing nitrates are becoming popular because they can be reduced to nitric oxide (NO) in the body and we all know that NO promotes widening of blood vessels and increased blood flow to active muscles. Beyond the purported blood flow boosting effects, high dietary nitrates have also been shown to increase exercise efficiency during endurance training.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology investigated the effects of dietary nitrate on exercise performance and cognitive function using a protocol designed to mimic work patterns observed in team sports. In this double-blind randomised crossover study, 16 male team-sport players received nitrate rich beetroot juice and placebo (nitrate depleted beetroot juice) for 7 days. On day 7 of supplementation, subjects completed intermittent “all out” sprint training on a cycle ergometer while cognitive tasks were simultaneously performed. They found that beetroot juice gave a 3.4% improvement in total work completed and mitigated the decline in reaction time observed in the placebo condition.
ACTION POINT: This study provides great support for the use of beetroot extract in athletes who play intermittent power sports (like hockey, football, tennis, etc) where reaction time is important. There are many products available on the market that aim to boost dietary nitrate, based on differences in potency, we commend choosing a high quality beetroot extract or juice and taking as directed.
Reference: Thompson C, Wylie LJ, Fulford J, Kelly J, Black MI, McDonagh ST, Jeukendrup AE, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate improves sprint performance and cognitive function during prolonged intermittent exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Sep;115(9):1825-34.