Nitrates May Benefit Muscle Fiber Composition in Sprinters
Most people don’t think salad when they think fueling for exercise, but there may be good reason to go green before a workout, finds a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.
Twenty-seven male Belgian university students completed a 5-week sprint interval cycling program. One-third of participants exercised in normal oxygen conditions and received a placebo supplement. All other participants trained in low oxygen conditions (similar to high-altitude), a practice thought to boost endurance. Eight of those riders received a placebo while nine received a nitrate supplement.
Researchers measured cyclists’ muscle fibers composition before and after the program. There are two general types of muscle fibers: slow-twitch (type I, good for endurance) and fast-twitch (type II, good for sprinting). Further, there are type IIa and type IIx; type IIa are more efficient for exercise. After just five weeks of training, riders in the low-oxygen group receiving nitrates saw favorable changes in muscle fiber composition—a jump from 45% to 56% for type IIa fibers, a result that could very well boost performance in sprint events.
Don’t get too excited, as this is just preliminary research using supplemental nitrates. Study author Professor Peter Hespel suggests in a press release to next investigate if eating nitrate-rich vegetables can also enable changes in muscle fibers. In the meantime, there are plenty of good reasons to add extra salad greens to your plate—even if you’re not a serious athlete. The nitrates found in leafy greens might help reduce risk of glaucoma and green vegetables are among the best sources of vitamin K you can eat.
Try our Apple Cider Farro Chopped Salad for a dose of leafy greens plus whole grains for lasting energy.
BONUS: Drinking two cups of beet juice helped male cyclists improve endurance, enabling them to ride a minute and a half longer at high intensity.
Published March 2017