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Is resistance exercise the next frontier for nitrates?

Nitrate use for athletics has exploded in the past few years, but research typically focuses on aerobic activities like longer-distance cycling or swimming. Could nitrates also show benefit for weightlifting?

Study under review: The Effects of Nitrate-Rich Supplementation on Neuromuscular Efficiency during Heavy Resistance Exercise

Introduction

Although it is well established that eating plant foods is healthy, we are still far from fully understanding why. Researchers are still investigating many plant compounds whose health benefits remain poorly understood. For example, nitrate, the topic of this review, is a compound found in beetroot and dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula.

Nitrate was discussed in Study Deep Dives #5, which analyzed a recent study[1] that found oral ingestion of nitrate-rich beetroot juice reduced the blood pressure of hypertensive individuals for a 24-hour period. Nitrate was again discussed in Study Deep Dives #9, Volume 2, in the context of exercise. The analyzed study[2] reported that seven days of supplementation with nitrate-rich beetroot juice led to improved performance during a repeated cycle sprint test. Corroborating this finding, other studies have shown that supplementation with nitrate-rich beetroot juice led to improvements in running[3], swimming[4], cycling[5], and rowing[6] performance.

All the studies to date, with the exception of the one analyzed in Study Deep Dives #9, Volume 2, focused on aerobic exercises. But one[7] of the proposed mechanisms behind nitrate’s potential ergogenic effect involves an increase in blood flow to fast-twitch muscle fibers under hypoxic conditions. So, the authors of the study under review explored how a nitrate-rich supplement bar may affect physical performance during resistance exercise.

Researchers have recently begun understanding how particular plant compounds affect our health and performance. This study is the first to analyze the potential of nitrates to enhance resistance exercise performance.

Who and what was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #19 (May 2016)