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Dietary Nitrate and Exercise Enhancement

Dietary Nitrate and Exercise Enhancement
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Athletes from the amateur to professional levels have long sought methods to improve their performance, with some even resorting to risky and unsafe strategies that can lead to poor long-term outcomes. However, there are many natural methods to enhance exercise performance that are nutrition-based and safe.  One such compound that has gained attention is dietary nitrate, which is also known as inorganic nitrate in a supplement form.

Dietary nitrate is a compound most abundant in beets and in leafy green vegetables, like spinach, arugula, and lettuce. Following ingestion, nitrate is converted in the body to nitrite and stored and circulated in the blood.  During conditions of low oxygen availability, it’s converted into nitric oxide, which plays a number of important roles in vascular and metabolic health. In particular, it can relax blood vessels and increase the efficiency of transporting oxygen to muscle tissue, which can enhance exercise tolerance and performance.

In 2023, researchers conducted a systematic review with meta-analysis on the effects of dietary nitrate during single and repeated bouts of short-duration, high-intensity exercise. Compared with a placebo, the investigators observed that dietary nitrate supplementation provides positive effects on performance outcomes.  The authors concluded that athletes competing in sports requiring single or repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise may benefit from nitrate supplementation.

Interestingly, the research team cited a survey of more than 1,400 active adults about inorganic nitrate, and the vast majority were either unfamiliar with it or didn’t think they needed it. This prompted the authors to comment that in spite of evidence supporting its benefits, inorganic nitrate is under-utilized and improved education to coaches, nutritionists, and others is needed.

Past research has found that consuming 5-9 mmol of nitrate per day for 1-15 days can enhance performance. While inorganic nitrate can be taken as a supplement, researchers point out that this dose can be readily consumed within a healthy eating pattern and there is no evidence of additional nitrate will provide more benefit.


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