A study has determined that muscle force when exercising is significantly increased with the consumption of dietary nitrate, which is the active compound in beetroot juice.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1111/apha.13924
Although it’s already known that exercise is enhanced with dietary nitrate, both improving high-intensity exercise and boosting endurance, scientists still have a lot to learn about why this happens, and how the body converts dietary nitrate that’s ingested into the nitric oxide that’s made use of by the cells.
The researchers tracked the distribution of ingested nitrate in the urine, muscle, blood, and saliva of 10 healthy participants, who then carried out maximal leg exercises. The researchers wanted to determine exactly where the dietary nitrate was active in the body to give a clearer picture of the mechanisms involved.
One hour following consumption of the nitrate, the individuals were requested to complete 60 quadriceps (the thigh muscle active when the knee is straightened) contractions, at maximum intensity for 5 minutes on a fitness machine.
The researchers observed a significant increase in the muscle’s nitrate levels. This nitrate boost generated a muscle force increase of 7% during the exercises in contrast to when the individuals had taken a placebo.
The researchers have already provided a considerable amount of evidence in other studies regarding dietary nitrate’s performance-improving properties, which are found in beetroot juice. This current study provides evidence of the mechanisms behind why muscle performance is improved with dietary nitrate.
Earlier research had shown a nitrate increase in body and tissue fluid after consuming labeled dietary nitrate. By making use of the tracker in the current study, researchers could accurately evaluate where active nitrate is increased, and also provide new insights on how the nitrate consumed is used for enhancing the performance of exercise.
The study provides direct evidence that levels of muscle nitrate are necessary for exercise performance, most probably by acting as a nitric oxide source. The results have important implications for the exercise field, and also potentially for other areas of health which include diseases associated with nitric oxide deficiency such as metabolic and neuromuscular diseases.
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