In a recent study conducted by researchers at the Leuven University (Belgium), twenty-seven reasonably disciplined participants were selected to help researchers answer that very question. Before taking on Sprint Interval Training (SIT) via short but vigorous cycling sessions, participants were given a series of nitrate supplements. Nitrate is found in leafy greens such as spinach which is vital for the human body to function, particularly when exercising. These sessions were carried out three times per week and involved;
● Working out in standard oxygen conditions
● Working out in hypoxia or low oxygen conditions (found at high altitude)
The results of these observations showed that after just five weeks, the participants’ muscle fiber composition altered when enhanced nitrate was taken in the lowered oxygen conditions.
These results were particularly interesting findings, especially regarding athletes who engage in competitive sports at high altitudes (or restricted amounts of oxygen). In truth, exercising in a low oxygen or high altitude environments is quickly becoming a preferred and effective training method for some athletes, regardless of the uncertainty that surrounds such methods.
What’s the science behind all this?
Performing high-impact workouts in a low oxygen or high altitude condition requires a high level of muscle fibers that are fast-oxidative to sustain power. Therefore, using nutritional intake to enhance these muscle fibers most certainly has the potential to boost performance in events involving low oxygen or high altitude conditions. However, according to experts, this does not necessarily mean that increases in fast-oxidative muscle fibers will lead to enhanced exercise performance.
These same experts have also cautioned that taking consistent amounts of nitrate paired with training cannot be advocated until this chronically high dosage nitrate intake has been visibly proven to be safe in humans. It does, however, lead researchers to question whether the addition of vegetables that are nitrate-rich in the everyday athletic diet could actually facilitate in muscle fiber type transitions that are training-induced, as well as for long-term exercise performance.
With today’s athletes constantly pushing the limits of their bodies to achieve their highest level of performance, this study could quite possibly lay the building blocks for even more ways to enhance the competitive edge that athletes are striving for through carefully planned out dietary supplements.