Spinach and other nitrate-rich
vegetables may enhance sports performance, particularly in low oxygen
conditions such as high altitudes, a new study has claimed.
Researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium carried out the study with 27 moderately trained participants. They were given nitrate supplements ahead of Sprint Interval Training (SIT), which took the form of short but intense cycling sessions three times a week.
To assess differences in performance in different conditions, the study included workouts in normal oxygen conditions and in hypoxia conditions, which are low oxygen levels such as those found in high altitudes.
In fact, exercising at high altitudes has become a training strategy for many athletes, albeit the uncertainties about such methods. In these conditions, performing intense workouts requires high input of fast-oxidative muscle fibres to sustain the power. Enhancing these muscle fibre types through nutritional intake could very well boost the performance in this type of events.
"Whether this increase in fast-oxidative muscle fibres eventually can also enhance exercise performance remains to be established," said Hespel.
"Consistent nitrate intake in conjunction with training must not be recommended until the safety of chronic high-dose nitrate intake in humans has been clearly demonstrated," said Hespel.