“Dietary nitrates and their role in vascular function have led to them becoming progressively more popular among athletes attempting to enhance performance,” Mr McMahon said.
“Findings from our analysis have also highlighted the positive effect dietary nitrate supplementation has on endurance exercise capacity.
“We found a 0.8 per cent improvement in time trial performance following dietary nitrate supplementation which may be meaningful for athletes.
“To put it into perspective, the difference between first and 12th place in the 10,000m running final at the London Olympics was only 0.66 per cent.”
Mr McMahon’s research was conducted in collaboration with Dr Michael Leveritt of UQ, and Dr Toby Pavey of the Queensland University of Technology.
They compiled results from 76 trials recorded between 2007 and 2015 to reach their findings.
Cycling was the most common form of exercise used in the study, representing 44 of the 76 trials.
However, results were also gathered from a variety of activities including treadmill running, field running, kayaking, rowing, lower-body resistance training, diving, walking and using an arm/leg crank.
The study formed part of a larger project to ensure the safest and most effective use of supplements in sport.
“The amount of dietary nitrates ingested in the trials were similar to that found in a typical green leafy bowl or bowl of vegetables,” Mr McMahon said.
“This means you could potentially improve your endurance exercise capacity through everyday foods.
“Like several supplements which can be replicated by naturally occurring foods, people may favour one or the other depending on how rapidly it digests or how it sits in the stomach.”
Mr McMahon said that aside from benefitting athletes, the study could lead to outcomes of interest in regard to diabetes and the vascular health of the ageing population.
The study has been published in the journal Sports Medicine.
The University of Queensland