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Eating Leafy Greens Could Enhance Your Sports Performance


Was Popeye onto something after all? Researchers from the Athletic Performance Centre at KU Leuven have found that taking a supplement of nitrate – a substance found in leafy greens such as spinach – may enhance athletic performance.

Researchers from the Athletic Performance Centre at KU Leuven subjected 27 moderately trained participants to a so-called Sprint Interval Training, which took the form of three short but intense cycling sessions per week. To assess the participants’ performance in different conditions, the researchers included both workouts in normal oxygen conditions and workouts in low oxygen conditions like the ones found at high altitudes (ca. 2,750m). Before each workout, they gave the participants a nitrate supplement or a placebo.

Only five weeks into the experiment, the researchers already observed changes in the muscle fibre composition in all participants. However, the increase in the so-called fast-oxidative muscle fibres was more pronounced in participants who had been taking nitrate supplements and training in low oxygen conditions.

“This is probably the first study to demonstrate that a simple nutritional supplementation strategy can impact on training-induced changes in muscle fibre composition,” says Professor Peter Hespel from the Athletic Performance Centre.

Story adapted by Katrien Bollen

Find the full study here.

Study: Nitrate Intake Promotes Shift in Muscle Fiber Type Composition during Sprint Interval Training in Hypoxia

Stefan De Smet1, Ruud Van Thienen1, Louise Deldicque1,2, Ruth James3, Craig Sale3, David J. Bishop4 and Peter Hespel1,5*

  • 1Exercise Physiology Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  • 2Institute of Neuroscience, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 3Musculoskeletal Physiology Research Group, Sport, Health and Performance Enhancement Research Centre, School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
  • 4Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  • 5Department of Kinesiology, Bakala Academy–Athletic Performance Center, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Source: KU Leuven

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