Nitric oxide (NO) is pretty important within human physiology. It modulates many of the processes that are essential to exercise performance, acting as a signalling molecule that can modulate skeletal muscle function through its role in the regulation of blood flow, muscle contractility, glucose and calcium homeostasis, and mitochondrial respiration and biogenesis. This natural vasodilator increases blood flow and oxygen supply to muscles with a beneficial impact on strength and endurance.

Dietary nitrate supplementation increases plasma nitrite concentration and reduces resting blood pressure. Intriguingly, nitrate supplementation also reduces the oxygen cost of submaximal exercise.

Nitrate is used within many heart conditions medicines, but many green leafy vegetables and beetroot are naturally high in dietary nitrate, which the body converts into Nitric Oxide. There’s actually small colony of bacteria that lives under your tongue which metabolise the Nitrate into NO, allowing your body to process it within your stomach – giving you the performance enhancing qualities that are sought after by athletes.

In a nutshell, increasing NO levels will result in better athletic performance.

There are hundreds of scientific studies form leading universities that look into the effects of dietary nitrates. One study by Professor Andrew Jones at Exeter University looked at the effect of nitrate on time trial performance. Over a 10 mile time trial, it was found that nitrate improved power output by 2.7% compared to the placebo conditions.

Over a 10 mile time trial, it was found that nitrate improved power output by 2.7% compared to the placebo conditions.

There’s still some debate about if you need to have a ‘loading phase’ of dietary nitrate to see the performance gains. James White, creator of the popular Beet It range say that most people can see results after just one of their concentrated sports shots, whereas other studies indicate that you need to have one shot per day for 3 days leading up to a training session/race.

This area of study is relatively new, but so far the evidence suggests that increasing your dietary fibre can give you proven increases in cycling ability; which could mean the difference between a podium finish in a crit race or a PR on Strava.

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