A beetroot juice is nourishment for the body and above all for our muscles that, thanks to the substances contained in it, become stronger and more resistant and are able to face physical efforts more easily. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared in the journal Acta Physiologica thanks to the work of a team from the University of Exeter Medical School, United Kingdom (Kadach et al, Acta Physiologica, 2023).
Nitrates and nitrites, benefits and harms of these highly debated substances
We recently discussed a scientific research (Srour et al, PLOS Medicine, 2023), which warns against excessive consumption of nitrites and nitrates, substances that occur naturally in some foods, such as beetroot and green leafy vegetables, but also as additives in processed meats, marinated fish and some cheeses. In fact, as emerges from research, excessive levels of these substances would favor diabetes. Concluding the study, however, the same authors indicate to limit only foods containing nitrites and nitrates as food additives and not to limit the intake of green leafy vegetables and beetroot. This is because on the one hand these foods are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances, on the other because a certain amount of nitrites and nitrates is used by our body to produce nitric oxide, a vasodilator that helps regulate blood pressure. Therefore, a limited intake of nitrites and nitrates is also advisable. Then, it is believed that nitrites and nitrates also have a protective role on muscles, as some studies seem to indicate. To date, however, the mechanisms by which this occurs and what exactly the effects are on physical performance are not known. The research we are talking about today sheds light on these aspects.
Nitrites and nitrates for stronger muscles, the study
The scientists recruited 10 volunteers, all adults and healthy. The volunteers took nitrites and nitrates orally combined with tracer substances to follow their path inside the body. One hour after intake, study participants were asked to perform a high-intensity muscle contraction exercise. Before and after exercise, the volunteers underwent diagnostic medical tests. What emerged is that the intake of nitrites and nitrates increased muscle strength by 7%, as well as the capacity for resistance to effort. Scientists have been able to observe that, following the oral intake of nitrites and nitrates, the part of the body that needs it most during exercise, namely the muscles, is able to quickly recall these substances, which respond to the call. And in fact, the muscles of the volunteers all showed an increase in the levels of nitrites and nitrates. Precisely this increase in nitrites and nitrates in the muscles has made it possible to explain the increase in physical performance and muscle strength, it is believed through the modulation of nitric oxide, produced from these substances, and an increase in blood flow.
Here is the proof therefore that nitrites and nitrates are not substances to be demonized, on the contrary, within a varied diet without excesses they offer a fundamental contribution to regulating blood pressure and, as we have seen in today's article, they protect and strengthen the muscles, making them more resistant to physical effort and improving their performance. Vegetables that contain nitrites and nitrates are beetroot, spinach and green leafy vegetables in general. It would be better to prefer vegetables of biological origin and not grown in greenhouses in order to make sure they do not contain excessive amounts of nitrites and nitrates.