Drink yourself fast!

Just lately I’ve found myself talking to athletes a lot about improving exercise economy.  Exercise economy relates to the volume of oxygen required to move at a given speed and has been shown to be an important predictor of endurance performance.  How you improve economy comes in different shapes and sizes.  In this instalment looking at examples of how you can improve economy I will share a proven nutritional intervention you may have come across – nitrate consumption.

Once in the body nitrate can be converted to a signalling molecule called nitric oxide (NO).  One of the key functions of NO is vasodilation (widening) of blood vessels which promotes increased blood flow in turn allowing a greater volume of oxygen to be shuttled to working muscles.   Studies have shown the significant performance benefits in various endurance sports of this increased oxygen supply and other resulting improved economy as a result of nitrate consumption prior to exercise. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)  One British study (7) found that consuming beetroot juice before exercise improved muscle economy and extended the time-to-exhaustion during intense cycling by 16%!

Most of the studies using beetroot juice as a source of nitrate prescribed the James White ‘Beet It’ product which can be purchased at NutritionStore.online  I have used this product prior to heavy training sessions and can vouch for the benefits! Try ~500ml’s of Beet It ~2.5 hours before your scheduled race or heavy training session.

Other great dietary sources of nitrate include celery, cress, lettuce, spinach, rocket, celeriac, Chinese cabbage, fennel, leeks, and parsley. As an example 1 cup of raw spinach contains approximately 900 mg of nitrate.

Paul Cadman