Tips & Fun Facts, Vegan

Can Nitrates from Beetroot Juice Enhance Sports Performances?

What are nitrates and nitrites?

Nitrates (NO3-) and nitrites (NO2-) are substances naturally present in many fruits and vegetables or added to foods to prolong their shelf life. In this text, we will discuss the subject of nitrates naturally present in foods.

In the human body, nitrates and nitrites can be reduced to nitric oxide (NO) and used. This substance plays a role in the vasodilatation of veins and arteries, the oxygenation of tissues, the energy cycle of cells and muscle contraction. Although this component can be synthesized by the body when the oxygen level is sufficient, nitrates can be a major source of nitric oxide when the oxygen level is suboptimal for our body to synthesize. Therefore, many believe that beetroot juice can enhance sports performance when it comes to cardiovascular activities.

Why beetroot juice?

Several researchers have studied beetroot because it is the vegetable with the highest nitrite concentration. Other vegetables that are also rich in nitrates and nitrites are celery, watercress, lettuce, radish, Swiss chard, chervil and arugula.

Who can benefit from beetroot juice?

Based on the results of studies, supplementation of beet juice or nitrate-rich beet juice concentrate could be beneficial in untrained or recreational endurance athletes to improve cardiovascular performances for jogging, cycling, rowing, etc. In addition, supplementation over several days prior to exercise seems to have more benefits than a single dose. The amount typically consumed is 2 cups of beetroot juice or 70-100mL of beetroot juice concentrate per day.

However, in trained athletes, the beneficial effects of natural nitrates on physical performance in endurance sports are reduced by their adaptation to training. Often, trained athletes have a more efficient oxygen use and nitrate levels that are higher than untrained people. Therefore, beetroot juice might not be effective for well-trained athletes.

Nitrates and Cancer

Contrary to popular belief, nitrates are not cancer-causing substances. Nitrates and nitrites can often be confused with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic substances. Nitrosamines are the result of a chemical reaction between nitrates chemically added to a food and proteins (or amino acids). This cancer-causing substance is often the result of the addition of nitrates in protein foods and food processing. The most at risk foods to avoid are highly processed meats, such as bacon, ham, sausages with added nitrates.

Rosemary Beet Chips4


Sources

  1. Song P, Wu L, Guan W. Dietary Nitrates, Nitrites, and Nitrosamines Intake and the Risk of Gastric Cancer: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2015;7(12):9872-95.
  2. Extenso. Les nitrates et les nitrites 2012 [Available from: http://www.extenso.org/article/les-nitrates-et-les-nitrites/.
  3. Lidder S, Webb AJ. Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2013;75(3):677-96.
  4. Arnold JT, Oliver SJ, Lewis-Jones TM, Wylie LJ, Macdonald JH. Beetroot juice does not enhance altitude running performance in well-trained athletes. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2015;40(6):590-5.
  5. Stamler JS, Meissner G. Physiology of Nitric Oxide in Skeletal Muscle. Physiological Reviews. 2001;81(1):209-37.
  6. Raczuk J, Wadas W, Glozak K. Nitrates and nitrites in selected vegetables purchased at supermarkets in Siedlce, Poland. Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny. 2014;65(1):15-20.
  7. Beet-It. Beet It Sport Nitrate 400 2018 [Available from: https://www.beet-it.com/nitrate-400.
  8. Cermak NM, Res P, Stinkens R, Lundberg JO, Gibala MJ, van Loon LJ. No improvement in endurance performance after a single dose of beetroot juice. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2012;22(6):470-8.
  9. Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vanhatalo A, Blackwell JR, Dimenna FJ, Wilkerson DP, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md : 1985). 2009;107(4):1144-55.
  10. Muggeridge DJ, Sculthorpe N, James PE, Easton C. The effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on the adaptations to sprint interval training in previously untrained males. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2017;20(1):92-7.
  11. Poveda JJ, Riestra A, Salas E, Cagigas ML, Lopez-Somoza C, Amado JA, et al. Contribution of nitric oxide to exercise-induced changes in healthy volunteers: effects of acute exercise and long-term physical training. European journal of clinical investigation. 1997;27(11):967-71.
  12. Jean-Claude Moubarac MB. La consommation d’aliments transformés et la qualité de l’alimentation au Québec 2016 [Available from: http://www.rccq.org/wp-content/uploads/Qu%C3%A9bec-MSSS-consommation-daliments-ultra-transform%C3%A9s-et-qualit%C3%A9-de-lalimentation_Moubarac-et-Batal-2016.pdf.

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