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What Are Nitrates And Why Should I Use Them?

Introduction to performance

The key factors that determine successful performance within endurance sports can be classified as:

1) maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max),
2) lactate threshold
3) exercise economy/efficiency 

[1)Exercise economy/ efficiency (also known at economy of motion) relates to the volume of oxygen required to move at a given speed or power output in endurance sports. In effect, those who can use less oxygen and expend less energy at higher workloads, are likely to perform better. This makes it a strong predictor of performance[2]. 


Given the importance of exercise economy/efficiency for performance, nutritional strategies that can reduce the oxygen cost of exercise, have gained increased popularity in recent years. In particular, nitrates. 

Several studies testing the effects of nitrate supplementation have concluded that nitrate oxide lowers oxygen demand during exercise and improves performance across a range of endurance events[3] 

How do Nitrates work? 

When nitrates are ingested, they are reduced to nitrite in the body and circulated in the blood. In conditions of low oxygen availability, nitrites can be converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is especially important in several processes that enhance exercise performance. 

It has been found to:  

  • Increase efficiency of muscle contractions 
  • Increase energy production within the mitochondria  
  • Enhance blood flow to the exercising muscle due to its vasodilatory properties  (dilation of blood vessels which decreases blood pressure) 
  • Improve heart health 

The combination of these factors have been shown to contribute to a 5% reduction in the oxygen demand during submaximal exercise ^(4). 



Once nitrates are consumed, blood concentrations peak after 1-2 hours. However, the concentration of the nitrite form only peaks after 2-3hours.

Therefore, to reap maximum rewards, it is suggested you supplement 500mg of nitrates, 2-2.5 hours prior to exercise.  

There is also evidence to suggest that nitrate loading, prior to a competition, can further enhance your performance. This can be achieved by consuming upwards of 1000mg per day for 3-7 days prior to race day. 

Emerging evidence also suggests that consuming nitrates during events which last over 40 minutes may be associated with further benefits. This is because it helps maintain plasma nitrite concentrations, maintaining the associated benefits. It is recommended you consume 500mg during the event. 


Whilst nitrate containing products have previously been sourced from beetroot juice, the SiS Performance Nitrate range has been formulated using rhubarb juice concentrate and Amaranthus leaf extract. This delivers a higher dose of nitrates compared to market competitors, whilst also offering a superior taste profile. Often competitors products contain ineffective concentrations of nitrate[11]. 

Our nitrate shot contains the recommended dose of 500mg for pre-race supplementation. The bar is a great option to keep your nitrate levels topped up during the race.  

Both our shot and bars can be used as loading products for the days leading up to the competition.  



From a performance perspective, nitrate supplementation appears to provide benefits across a range of performance tests lasting less than 40 minutes. 

Here is evidence: 

  1. It was shown to allow cyclists to produce a higher power output, using the same amount of oxygen.  
  2. It was also shown that supplementing cyclists with 400 mg nitrate, 2.5 hours prior to a simulated endurance race, improved performance by 2.7% in the 4 km time trial and 2.8% in the 16.1 km time trial races. 
  3. Nitrate supplementation also appears to provide performance benefits during time to exhaustion tests. Improvements of up to 20% were reported in previous studies[6]. 
  4. In addition to its physiological benefits, it appears that nitrates may also help to maintain cognitive function during exercise. A 2015 study reported improvements in reaction time during the latter stages of exercise following nitrate ingestion[7] 
  5. supplementation prior to each training session appears to enhance training adaptations. A study showed an additional 4% increase in maximal work rate, after a 3-week training block supplementing nitrates[8]. 


What are natural sources of nitrates? 

Around 80% of dietary nitrates are found in green leafy vegetables. Smaller amounts are also found in processed meats such as hot dogs and cured meats.  



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2. Saunders, P.U.; Pyne, D.B.; Telford, R.D.; Hawley, J.A. Factors Affecting Running Economy in Trained Distance Runners. Sport. Med. 2004, 34, 465–485.
3. Hoon, M.W.; Johnson, N.A.; Chapman, P.G.; Burke, L.M. The effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance in healthy individuals: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 2013, 23, 522–532, doi:10.1123/ijsnem.23.5.522.
4. Jones, A.M. Dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise performance. Sport. Med. 2014, 44, S35-A45.
5. Lansley, K.E.; Winyard, P.G.; Bailey, S.J.; Vanhatalo, A.; Wilkerson, D.P.; Blackwell, J.R.; Gilchrist, M.; Benjamin, N.; Jones, A.M. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2011, 43, 1125–1131, doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821597b4.
6. McMahon, N.F.; Leveritt, M.D.; Pavey, T.G. The Effect of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Endurance Exercise Performance in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sport. Med. 2017, 47, 735–756, doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0617-7.
7. Thompson, C.; Wylie, L.J.; Fulford, J.; Kelly, J.; Black, M.I.; McDonagh, S.T.J.; Jeukendrup, A.E.; Vanhatalo, A.; Jones, A.M. Dietary nitrate improves sprint performance and cognitive function during prolonged intermittent exercise. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2015, 115, 1825–1834, doi:10.1007/s00421-015-3166-0.
8. Muggeridge, D.J.; Sculthorpe, N.; James, P.E.; Easton, C. The effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on the adaptations to sprint interval training in previously untrained males. J. Sci. Med. Sport 2017, 20, 92–97, doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2016.04.014.
9. Wylie, L.J.; Kelly, J.; Bailey, S.J.; Blackwell, J.R.; Skiba, P.F.; Winyard, P.G.; Jeukendrup, A.E.; Vanhatalo, A.; Jones, A.M. Beetroot juice and exercise: Pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationships. J. Appl. Physiol. 2013, 115, 325–336, doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00372.2013.
10. Tan, R.; Wylie, L.J.; Thompson, C.; Blackwell, J.R.; Bailey, S.J.; Vanhatalo, A.; Jones, A.M. Beetroot juice ingestion during prolonged moderate-intensity exercise attenuates progressive rise in O2 uptake. J. Appl. Physiol. 2018, 124, 1254–1263, doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01006.2017.
11. Gallardo, E.J.; Coggan, A.R. What is in your beet juice? Nitrate and nitrite content of beet juice products marketed to athletes. Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 2019, 29, 345–349, doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0223.

Written By

Mark Hearris