Prof. Andy Jones talks about research into the power of beetroot in improving sports performance and helping cardiovascular conditions. View full size.

Integrative Physiology

Dietary nitrate supplementation

Our team at Exeter is internationally recognised for our original research exploring the physiological and functional effects of dietary nitrate supplementation, and we regularly disseminate our findings in leading international peer-reviewed journals and conferences.

Our research has indicated that supplementation with nitrate-rich beetroot juice, a precursor for the multifaceted physiological signalling molecule, nitric oxide, can lower pulmonary oxygen uptake at a sub-maximal exercise intensity, indicative of improved exercise economy. This observation is important since it challenges conventional thinking that the oxygen cost of sub-maximal exercise is essentially immutable.

As well as improved exercise economy, our research has suggested that short-term (3-15 days) nitrate supplementation can improve performance during continuous endurance exercise and high-intensity intermittent exercise with recent research suggesting that the ergogenic effects of nitrate supplementation are particularly pronounced in conditions of reduced oxygen availability and when the recruitment of fast-twitch (type II) muscle is greater.

We have used techniques as such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy and near-infrared spectroscopy to explore the mechanistic bases of these effects and have demonstrated that nitrate supplementation can improve muscle oxygenation and blunt the perturbation to muscle metabolic homeostasis (lower ATP turnover rate, PCr degradation, and ADP and Pi accumulation) when exercising at a given sub-maximal exercise intensity.  In addition, we and others have observed improvements in blood pressure and cognitive function after nitrate supplementation in healthy young adults. 

More recently, our research has indicated that nitrate supplementation has the potential to improve blood pressure and oxidative metabolism in healthy older adults. Therefore, our research with dietary nitrate supplementation, using doses which can readily be consumed through a diet rich in leafy-green vegetables, has the potential to improve aspects of human health and performance across the lifespan. In turn, this might have implications for enhancing quality of life.  Our ongoing research continues to probe the underlying mechanisms for the beneficial effects of dietary nitrate supplementation and its potential efficacy in different populations.

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