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Whose performance benefits from nitrate supplementation?

The literature examining nitrates’ effects on performance is mixed. Part of the reason for the discrepancy may come down to training status

Study under review: Nitrate supplementation improves physical performance specifically in non-athletes during prolonged open-ended tests: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Introduction

Many athletes look for ways to boost performance to stay ahead of the competition and maximize their athletic potential. One of the most common supplements used by athletes to improve physical performance is nitrate (NO3-). As you can see in Figure 1, dietary nitrate is chemically reduced to nitrite, which can then be transformed to nitric oxide[1] in the body. Nitric oxide causes vasodilation and improves oxygen delivery, among other effects, which can lead to improved athletic performance[2].

However, many studies have explored the putative performance-enhancing effects of nitrate supplementation, and the results[3] are conflicting[4]. One recent meta-analysis[5] investigating the effects of nitrate supplementation on endurance exercise performance concluded that nitrate supplementation may benefit endurance exercise capacity (how much exercise one can do, often measured by the time to exhaustion), but not time-trial performance. An earlier meta-analysis[6] also reported disparate findings, with improvements observed for time to exhaustion tests, but not time trials or graded exercise tests. However, neither of these studies examined whether the effects of nitrate supplementation were influenced by the fitness levels of the participants, which was the impetus for the study under review.

Nitrate supplementation is popular among both professional and recreational athletes to boost exercise performance. Previous studies yielded conflicting results with respect to their efficacy, which could potentially be owed to differences in participant fitness levels. The study under review sought to evaluate whether nitrate supplementation has different effects in athletes compared to non-athletes.

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Other Articles in Issue #43 (May 2018)