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Dietary nitrate intake (Rocket, Beetroot, etc.) - Performance and Health


Nitric Oxide (NO) is a molecule playing a major role in performance and health...

Briefly, Nitric Oxide (NO) release in veins and arteries’ wall results in vasodilatation and increase in blood flow. NO is greatly involved in oxygen transport and use and any increase in its concentration will affect our health and performance:

- Lower blood Pressure and better cognitive performance.

- Better movement economy (reduced oxygen cost)

- Better overall performance.


1) How to increase NO levels?

Training or regular physical activity itself will have an effect on NO concentrations. Another way of optimising NO levels is to increase dietary nitrate intake and eat high nitrate content foods (see picture below).



In addition to increase our nitrate containing foods intake (leafy veg.), beetroot juice can be ingested before a competition or a game. Note that commercially available beetroot juices have different nitrate concentrations which should be checked.


2) Basic mechanisms:

A short and simple explanation is that, once ingested, nitrate is converted into nitrite, resulting in NO concentration to increase. That is why, in scientific studies, the variable of interest is plasma nitrite (NO2-). As can be seen on the graph below, NO2- concentration was measured in the blood (i.e., plasma nitrite) to show how much it increased following dietary nitrate supplementation of different doses (i.e., beetroot juice; nitrate concentrations of 4.2; 8.4; 16.8 mmol) and at different time points (i.e., 1h, 2h, 3h, etc. after ingestion, see horizontal axis).


Picture from: Webinar; Presenter: Prof. Jones, Exeter University.



3) Performance and Health implications:

Following dietary nitrate supplementation, significant improvements have been reported in the scientific literature and not only in endurance sports:

- Improved cycling time trial performance,

- Improved running performance,

- Improved sprint (6 sec. sprints) and Yo-Yo R1 test performances (team sports),

- Improvement in power during knee extension exercises (Isokinetic dynamometry).


Health markers:

- Lower resting blood pressure,

- Better cognitive function.


4) When to ingest?

2-3 hours before a competition and depending on the dose ingested, it can be up to 12 hours before a competition (example: race or game on Sunday at 10am. One shot on Saturday evening at 8pm then one or two shots on Sunday morning at 7am). Practice this whether before a training session or a B goal race or friendly game.


5) To consider:

- Timing and dosage before a competition (Drink beetroot juice 2-3 hours before a competition).

- Fitness level (low – moderately aerobically fit individuals experience greater performance improvements).

- Avoid Mouthwash - Antibacterial agents (Vademecum; Corsodyl) as they significantly interfere with nitrate absorption.





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