Dietary Nitrate Supplementation Benefits Bench Press and Squat Performance Summary
- The study is a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on the effects of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance.
- The study found that dietary nitrate supplementation (i.e, one beetroot shot or 6.4 mmol of NO3−) had a small beneficial effect on muscular endurance, power output, and velocity during back squats and bench press exercises.
- The results suggest that nitrate supplementation may have a positive impact, but more research is needed to understand its potential benefits fully.
Nutrition and Dietary Nitrates
The quest for the perfect pre-workout supplement is never-ending in fitness and bodybuilding to increase athletic performance. While many swear by the tried-and-true ingredients like caffeine, creatine, citrulline, and beta-alanine, there’s a burgeoning interest in the dietary nitrate supplementation benefits. Beetroot, a natural source of inorganic nitrate, is emerging as a potential performance-enhancing supplement in this arena.
Optimizing exercise performance is of utmost importance for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. One promising dietary approach that has gained attention is the supplementation of dietary nitrate supplementation benefits. I have written about nitrates beneficial effects in may article on Evidence Based Muscle here, here, and here. Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds in various foods, including green leafy vegetables like spinach and beetroot juice. When consumed, these nitrates are converted into nitrite in the body through a process involving the salivary glands. The human body processes these nitrates, leading to plasma nitrite concentration changes, which can influence exercise capacity and metabolic control.
Dietary nitrate supplementation benefits extend beyond exercise performance alone. Studies have also shown that nitrate supplementation can lead to favorable effects on blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and cardiovascular health. These findings make it a compelling option for individuals looking to improve their overall fitness and reduce the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
Dietary nitrate supplementation benefits have emerged as a valuable strategy for enhancing exercise performance and overall health. By incorporating nitrate-rich foods or food-based supplements into their diet, individuals can reap the benefits of increased endurance, improved circulation, and optimized metabolic function. This article delves deep into the science behind beetroot and its dietary nitrate supplementation benefits for resistance exercise, considering the evidence base from previous studies.
The Science Behind Dietary Nitrates
Understanding the science behind dietary nitrates is essential for comprehending their role in the body. When consumed, nutritional nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, a vital molecule for cardiovascular health. This conversion occurs through various pathways, including the reduction of nitrate to nitrite by bacteria in the oral cavity and the subsequent transformation of nitrite to nitric oxide through acidic conditions in the stomach. Once in the bloodstream, nitric oxide regulates blood vessel function, promotes vasodilation, and improves blood flow.
The fundamental question is at the heart of this discussion: What are dietary nitrates and dietary nitrate supplementation benefits? Simply put, dietary nitrates are compounds predominantly found in certain vegetables, with beetroot being a prime example. (Allman et al., 2015; Jones, 2014) Apart from beetroot, other supplements like spinach and arugula are also nitrate-rich.(Lundberg et al., 2008) These nitrates, when ingested, are converted into nitric oxide, a molecule known to enhance blood flow and muscle power. (Rojas-Valverde et al., 2021)
What are Dietary Nitrates?
Dietary nitrates are naturally occurring compounds in certain foods like leafy vegetables and beetroot. They play a crucial role in promoting cardiovascular health and improving exercise performance. Including dietary nitrates in your diet, either through whole foods or supplements, can benefit overall health and fitness. Dietary nitrate supplementation benefits include health benefits such as combating hypertension, a major risk factor for heart diseases, are also noteworthy.
Dietary nitrates, primarily found in beetroot and other root vegetables, undergo a conversion in the body to produce nitric oxide.(Rojas-Valverde et al., 2021) This molecule, known for its powerful signaling capabilities, has been linked to enhanced blood flow, reduced fatigue, and improved muscle power. One study found that dietary nitrate supplementation, particularly beetroot juice, can improve exercise tolerance at low and high intensities. (Husmann et al., 2019)
Chronic Dietary Nitrate Supplementation: A Long-Term Perspective
A recent consensus statement from the International Olympic Committee highlighted that only five dietary supplements have demonstrated a firm evidence basis for enhancing exercise performance. (Ronald et al., 2018) Among these, dietary nitrate supplementation benefits stand out for its potential benefits because it can be administered through natural food sources. (Ronald et al., 2018)
Dietary nitrate supplementation is commonly provided as a concentrated NO3-rich beetroot juice. (Ronald et al., 2018) While numerous systematic reviews and meta-analyses support the ergogenic effects of dietary nitrate, most have focused on continuous submaximal cycling and high-intensity exercise.(Rojas-Valverde et al., 2021; Ronald et al., 2018)
The Science Behind Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Exercise Performance
Many studies have delved into dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise performance in aerobic exercise. Over 100 studies have explored the effects of dietary nitrates on cycling and running performance. This dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise connection are further solidified by findings that suggest improved endurance and reduced oxygen consumption during submaximal workouts.(Senefeld et al., 2020)
This ergogenic effect of nitrate supplementation has yet to be fully understood but may be due to nitric oxide’s influence on type 2 muscle fibers, crucial for high-velocity and high-power contractions. (Jones et al., 2018) Moreover, nitrate supplementation might enhance repetitions to failure and intermittent exercise by improving recovery between repetitions and sets due to faster phosphocreatine resynthesis rates (Vanhatalo et al., 2011), reduced accumulation of fatigue-associated metabolites(Bailey et al., 2010), and a more homogeneous skeletal muscle blood flow distribution(Ferguson et al., 2013).
Dietary Nitrates and Resistance Exercise
However, the literature on its impact on resistance exercise is still in its infancy. Dietary nitrate has been reported to improve muscle power output in various settings, including increased knee extension strength and power output. (Coggan et al., 2015; Lundberg et al., 2008) The potential improvements in muscle strength, contractile velocity, and power output after nitrate supplementation may contribute to increased reps-to-failure (RTF) during resistance exercise.
New Meta-Analysis on Dietary Nitrates and Resistance Exercise Performance
A pivotal review titled “Effects of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Back Squat and Bench Press Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” in the Journal of Nutrients by Rachel Tan provided some positive preliminary evidence to take dietary nitrate supplementation before resistance exercise. (Tan et al., 2023)
The study aimed to investigate the effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on performance variables, such as muscular endurance, power output, and velocity during resistance exercises like back squats and bench press. This study looked at the effects of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance.
They included six different studies with 92 participants aged 21 to 29 years. Four studies measured performance during back squats, while four studies measured performance during bench press exercises. These exercises used different modalities, including free weights, Smith machine, and a flywheel device. The main supplement used was beetroot juice, rich in nitrate. They compared the effects of this supplement with a placebo and other types of juices.
The results showed that the effects of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance varied between studies. Some studies reported large effects, while others reported negligible to trivial effects of nitrates on resistance exercise performance.
It was found that repetitions to failure were significantly improved following dietary NO3- supplementation during back squats and bench press. Peak power output was significantly improved when provided as 13 mmol of NO3 but not when provided as 6.4 mmol of NO3-. Mean power output (P mean) was significantly enhanced as both 13 mmol and 6.4 mmol of NO3 were provided.
Based on the limited studies, nitrate supplementation through beetroot juice may positively impact some aspects of resistance exercise performance. However, more research is needed to understand further the efficacy of dietary nitrate supplementation on resistance exercise performance, including the effects on upper and lower body exercises and optimal dosage.
The study mentions that no dose-response studies have been conducted specifically for resistance exercise performance. However, it suggests that ingestion of at least 6 mmol of nitrate supplementation (i.e., 6.4 mmol is equivalent to consuming 1 beetroot shot.) has the potential to enhance resistance exercise performance. The efficacy of different doses, such as ~6.4 mmol and ~13 mmol (i.e., 2 beetroot shots), was compared in the included studies. The analysis showed a significant trivial effect of NO3− supplementation on resistance exercise performance when administered as ~6.4 mmol, but not as ~13 mmol.
The Verdict: Are Dietary Supplements Containing Nitrates Worth It?
The preliminary findings are promising. Incorporating dietary nitrate supplementation into pre-workout routines might boost bench press performance. However, as with all supplements, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional before changing one’s regimen.
Conclusion: Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Performance
The world of fitness supplements is vast and ever-evolving. While traditional ingredients will always have their place, it’s exciting to see emerging research on lesser-known substances like beetroot. As the science continues to unfold, the benefits of dietary nitrate supplementation in resistance training become increasingly evident. For those looking to push their limits in the gym, beetroot might be the secret weapon they’ve been searching for.
Allman, B. R., Kreipke, V. C., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2015). What else is in your supplement? A review of the effectiveness of the supportive ingredients in multi-ingredient performance supplements to improve strength, power, and recovery. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 37(3), 54-69.
Bailey, S. J., Fulford, J., Vanhatalo, A., Winyard, P. G., Blackwell, J. R., DiMenna, F. J., Wilkerson, D. P., Benjamin, N., & Jones, A. M. (2010). Dietary nitrate supplementation enhances muscle contractile efficiency during knee-extensor exercise in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 109(1), 135-148. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00046.2010
Coggan, A. R., Leibowitz, J. L., Kadkhodayan, A., Thomas, D. P., Ramamurthy, S., Spearie, C. A., Waller, S., Farmer, M., & Peterson, L. R. (2015). Effect of acute dietary nitrate intake on maximal knee extensor speed and power in healthy men and women. Nitric Oxide, 48, 16-21. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.niox.2014.08.014
Ferguson, S. K., Hirai, D. M., Copp, S. W., Holdsworth, C. T., Allen, J. D., Jones, A. M., Musch, T. I., & Poole, D. C. (2013). Impact of dietary nitrate supplementation via beetroot juice on exercising muscle vascular control in rats. The Journal of Physiology, 591(2), 547-557. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2012.243121
Husmann, F., Bruhn, S., Mittlmeier, T., Zschorlich, V., & Behrens, M. (2019). Dietary Nitrate Supplementation Improves Exercise Tolerance by Reducing Muscle Fatigue and Perceptual Responses. Frontiers in Physiology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.00404
Jones, A. M. (2014). Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Exercise Performance. Sports Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0149-y
Jones, A. M., Thompson, C., Wylie, L. J., & Vanhatalo, A. (2018). Dietary Nitrate and Physical Performance. Annual Review of Nutrition, 38(1), 303-328. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-082117-051622
Lundberg, J. O., Weitzberg, E., & Gladwin, M. T. (2008). The nitrate–nitrite–nitric oxide pathway in physiology and therapeutics. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 7(2), 156-167. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrd2466
Rojas-Valverde, D., Montoya-Rodríguez, J., Azofeifa-Mora, C., & Sanchez-Urena, B. (2021). Effectiveness of beetroot juice derived nitrates supplementation on fatigue resistance during repeated-sprints: a systematic review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 61(20), 3395-3406. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2020.1798351
Ronald, J. M., Louise, M. B., Jiri, D., Larson-Meyer, D. E., Peter, P., Stuart, M. P., Eric, S. R., Neil, P. W., Ina, G., Hans, G., Romain, M., Lucas, J. C. v. L., Susan, M. S., Lawrence, L. S., Mark, S., Alan, V., Kevin, C., Vidya, M. A., Richard, G. M. B., . . . Lars, E. (2018). IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(7), 439. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099027
Senefeld, J. W., Wiggins, C. C., Regimbal, R. J., Dominelli, P. B., Baker, S. E., & Joyner, M. J. (2020). Ergogenic Effect of Nitrate Supplementation: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 52(10). https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2020/10000/ergogenic_effect_of_nitrate_supplementation__a.22.aspx
Tan, R., Pennell, A., Karl, S. T., Cass, J. K., Go, K., Clifford, T., Bailey, S. J., & Perkins Storm, C. (2023). Effects of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Back Squat and Bench Press Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 15(11). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15112493
Vanhatalo, A., Fulford, J., Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., Winyard, P. G., & Jones, A. M. (2011). Dietary nitrate reduces muscle metabolic perturbation and improves exercise tolerance in hypoxia. The Journal of Physiology, 589(22), 5517-5528. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.216341
Nitrates, derived from nitrogen, play a pivotal role in enhancing endurance exercise performance. When consumed, the body’s pH level interacts with nitrates, influencing systemic circulation and potentially delaying exhaustion during workouts. Elite athletes often incorporate nitrate supplements in their regimen, noticing significant improvements in their performance. However, the number of days of supplementation can vary.
Using mouthwash can impact how our body processes nitrates, as the conversion often begins in our saliva. This process can influence our heart rate and even systolic blood pressure. However, those with heart failure should approach nitrate supplementation with caution. Factors like lifestyle factors and calcium intake can also play a role in how nitrates affect exercise performance.
What are the benefits of dietary nitrate supplementation?
Dietary nitrate supplementation has been found to improve exercise performance, increase muscle strength and power, enhance endurance, and reduce oxygen demand during physical activity. Nitrate supplements can also help lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, and enhance athletic performance.