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In this systematic review, supplementation with nitrate improved the recovery of muscular performance, reduced muscle soreness and pain perception, increased antioxidant activity, and enhanced cardiovascular recovery after fatiguing exercise. However, the study protocols varied widely, and larger well-controlled studies are needed.
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Strenuous exercise causes muscle damage and fatigue, and proper recovery from exercise is essential for optimizing physical performance. Several dietary supplements have been shown to improve athletic performance, but less is known about the effect of ergogenic (performance-enhancing) supplements on recovery from exercise.
Nitrates — bioactive compounds found in beetroot juice — are metabolized by the body into nitric oxide (NO). NO has important cardiovascular functions that include promoting vasodilation and enhancing blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles. NO may also have anti-inflammatory properties. These effects make nitrates an attractive supplement for athletes. Although nitrates are known to improve performance during endurance, strength, and explosive exercise, a comprehensive study was needed on the effects of nitrates on exercise recovery.
This study aimed to comprehensively summarize the available literature on the effect of NO3- consumption on exercise-related fatigue and muscle damage.
Nine of the studies (60%) noted an improvement in some measure of recovery after supplementation with nitrate.
Overall, supplementation with nitrate improved the recovery of countermovement jump and maximal voluntary isometric contraction performance, reduced DOMS, enhanced the pain pressure threshold and reduced pain/effort perception, increased antioxidant capacity, and improved the recovery of heart rate, blood pressure, and VO2 after exercise. Nitrates provided the greatest recovery benefit after anaerobic activities including drop jumps and repeated sprints, whereas it didn’t significantly affect recovery after running a marathon. Markers of inflammation were not affected.
An acute dose of 12–20 mmol (552–920 mg) and a chronic daily dose of 3.5–12 mmol (161– 552 mg) were recommended to enhance recovery from exercise based on the available evidence.
Since I wrote this post a month prior to publishing, I began supplementing with oral nitrate and wow. I was just getting back in working out after a few months of not lifting weights and I have had absolutely no soreness. Plus, I’ve been sleeping super well since I am taking it right before bed. This is all anecdotal of course. But I have definitely noticed a huge difference in my life. I am taking about 600mg daily before bed and I never want to stop.
There were large differences in the study designs, the types of exercise, the participants, the nitrate dosage, and the timing of supplementation across the studies included in this review. Additionally, the authors were unable to conduct a statistical analysis (i.e., a meta-analysis). For these reasons, it’s difficult to draw a definitive conclusion about the effects of supplementation with nitrate on exercise recovery. But, the direction of all the evidence was positive and that is enough for me to try experimenting with it in my own life.