Increasing dietary nitrate intake is becoming a popular supplement strategy among strength and endurance athletes, as nitrates can be reduced to nitric oxide (NO) in the body to widen blood vessels and increase 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.
One of the best ways to accomplish all of this is with high-nitrate beetroot extract. 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 the study, 16 male team-sport players received nitrate-rich beetroot juice and placebo (nitrate depleted beetroot juice) for seven days. On day seven 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 and tennis, 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 recommend choosing 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.