Move over beets, there’s a new nitrate-rich food that looks like it might be better for workout performance.
A new study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research is asserting that if you really want to improve blood flow and aerobic performance, red spinach might be the answer.(1)
(Red spinach, by the way, isn’t even spinach — it’s the red leaves of amaranth, an unusual plant with seeds that provide one of the very few sources of complete vegan protein. )
The randomized, double blind study looked at 17 recreationally fit men and women and had them take part in a time trial performance. Those who spent the previous week taking one daily gram of red spinach extract averaged a time trial six seconds less than those taking a placebo (6.44 vs 6.50). They also generated more power, had a higher average speed, and used about three percent less oxygen than those taking the placebo.
Why Might Red Spinach Extract Be Useful?
The focus here is on nitrates. We wrote an in-depth article on the topic when we published “Are Beets the Ultimate Pre-Workout Food?”
Beets, see, are quite high in nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide, which is why many pre-workouts put the letters N.O. on the label. More nitric oxide is linked to better athletic performance, largely because it appears to boost circulation and reduce the amount of oxygen you need for exertion.
A lot of studies have found beets to improve performance because they’re so high in nitrates.(2)(3)(4)(5)(6) Most of them used about half a liter of concentrated juice or half a pound of beets, but this new study used just one gram of red spinach extract to produce a significant effect, a dose that similar studies on this compound agree with.(7)
Exercise physiologist Andrew Coggan, PhD told Bicycling that red spinach extract,
was quite rich in nitrates—several fold higher per gram, in fact, than any beet powder that I have tested.
Maybe we’ll be seeing red spinach supplements in our local health food stores before long.
Featured image via RobinsonThomas/Shutterstock
1. Gonzalez AM, et al. Red Spinach Extract Supplementation Improves Cycle Time Trial Performance in Recreationally Active Men and Women. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 May 24.
2. Wylie LJ, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jul;113(7):1673-84.
3. Lansley KE, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Mar;110(3):591-600.
4. Kelly J, et al. Effects of short-term dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure, O2 uptake kinetics, and muscle and cognitive function in older adults. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Jan 15;304(2):R73-83.
5. Murphy M, et al. Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Apr;112(4):548-52.
6. Lansley KE, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Mar;110(3):591-600.
7. Moore AN, et al. Red Spinach Extract Increases Ventilatory Threshold during Graded Exercise Testing. Sports (Basel). 2017 Oct 16;5(4).