If you hang around the sports nutrition world you’ll see there’s a lot of fuss about nitrate supplements at the moment. This is because nitrate supplements have been found to have a direct and measurable impact on exercise performance. The evidence supporting nitrate supplements is so strong, that they were recently promoted to being a Grade A supplement by the Australian Institute of Sport. Supplements are only rated Grade A when they have the strongest scientific evidence supporting their use. Let’s look at how nitrate supplements work and how they can help your performance.
What is Nitrate?
Nitrate is a naturally occurring organic compound of nitrogen and oxygen. It occurs in many natural foods we eat, especially leafy greens like spinach, silverbeet and bok choy. Beetroot is a particularly good source of naturally occurring nitrate. Within our body, nitrate is converted into nitric oxide. It is nitric oxide that has performance enhancing effects on our body.
What is a nitrate supplement?
A nitrate supplement is something you can take that either directly or indirectly increase your blood nitrate levels. Two nitrate supplements are beetroot powder, and AAKG.
How do nitrate supplements work?
Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator. This means that it relaxes the smooth muscles of your artery walls allowing them to open wider. This increases blood flow, and along with that, oxygen and nutrient delivery to working muscles. This affect keeps the blood vessels open and relaxed, helping to keep blood pressure down. Beetroot juice has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
What do nitrate supplements do?
Studies show that athletes who take beetroot juice can exercise for longer at consistent pace. The most commonly studied exercise situations have been 4- to 30-minute cycling and running trials.
Nitrate supplementation improves the exercise economy of athletes when working at a constant intensity. This mean the athlete can run, ride or swim for a slightly longer time until exhaustion. For elites, clinical trials show a small but still significant benefit in time trials. However, even a tiny improvement in performance could mean a win or a loss for professional athletes. Interestingly, recreational athletes appear to gain larger benefits than professionals. Thus may be due to less prior adaptation of the cardiovascular system to exercise.
Nitrate supplements reduce the rate of fatigue seen with continued muscle contractions involved in repetitive exercise. It is most beneficial for anaerobic exercise ranging from 1 minutes to 10 minutes such as when you participate in sports like It’s also useful muscular endurance events. Beetroot supplements also benefit prolonged cardiovascular exercise such as long distance running or cycling. They are so effective that even Eliud Kipchoge used beetroot in his “breaking 2” marathon.
Who should use nitrate supplements?
Nitrate supplements for endurance athletes
Beetroot powder is one of the best supplements for endurance athletes including runners, cyclists, swimmers and triathletes. Beetroot juice can increase the time it takes for you reach exhaustionby as much as 15%. Over set distance time trials it can increase your speed over. If you’re hunting down a PB on race day, or just trying for a new parkrun PB, beetroot powder can help you achieve that.
Nitrate supplements for strength athletes
For gym goers and those in strength sports, beetroot powder a great way to achieve the ultimate pump. The nitric oxide opens the blood vessels, promoting blood flow, allowing muscles to full up with blood and expand. If you’re seeking vascularity, beetroot powder is the supplement for you. Studies have shown that when they consume beetroot juice, strength athletes can push out more reps before reaching failure. Therefore beetroot powder can allow more volume to be lifted in a training session. In turn this leads to more rapid strength gains and muscle growth.
How should I take nitrate supplements?
The IOC state that we need to consume 310g to 560mg of nitrate per day to enjoy it’s benefits. This equates to needing to eat 200g of spinach, 100g of rocket, or drinking 500ml of beetroot juice. If you are an athlete, you know that those types of foods are likely to cause some digestive discomfort!
A more convenient option is to use a beetroot powder nitrate supplement such as VPA Beet-500. One serve of BEET 500 is 25g and it provides you with 500mg of nitrate. Ideally, you should consume 500mg of nitrate around 30 minutes before training or competing. Heavier people may require a larger dose. You can adjust the dose of Beet-500 by adding another 1/2 or full dose as required. You should experiment to see what dose is most beneficial to you. Due to it’s strong flavour, beetroot powder is best taken on its own and not mixed with other products. However, you can add other unflavoured amino acids to Beet-500 if you would like.
There only potential side effects of supplementing with beetroot is occasional minor GI upsets, pink pee and purple poo. Like any new sports aid, always use Beet -500 in training before using it for a big race. You’d rather find out in training that it doesn’t agree with you.
Is AAKG a nitrate supplement?
Another supplement that can produce nitric oxide is AAKG. AAKG is a compound that plays a role in the nitric oxide cycle. In fact, nitric oxide is produced as a byproduct when AAKG forms creatine. The production of nitric oxide increases blood flow to the muscles. This delivers nutrients and oxygen to fuel your muscles during training.
AAKG can increase endurance and strength during times of intense physical exercise. AAKG also stimulates protein synthesis, helping the body build lean muscle. Users of AAKG love how it delivers that sought after muscle pump. The increase blood flow means muscles are filled with blood for a long lasting pump.
Buy nitrate supplements online
If you have decided that you would like to experience the benefits of a nitrate supplement yourself, VPA has you covered.
Rachel Eagleton (MHumNut) is a university qualified Clinical Nutritionist based in Sydney, Australia. She is also the busy working mum of two teenagers, so is practical and realistic with her advice. Rachel offers private consultations to improve your sporting performance, or your general health and well-being. You can find her at racheleagleton.com.au and on Facebookand Instagram for more healthy tips.
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