Influence of dietary nitrate supplementation on human skeletal muscle metabolism and force production during maximum voluntary contractions

Pflugers Arch. 2013 Apr;465(4):517-28. doi: 10.1007/s00424-013-1220-5. Epub 2013 Jan 26.


Dietary nitrate supplementation, which enhances nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability, has previously been shown to contribute to improved exercise performance by reducing both oxygen cost and energy expenditure. In contrast, previous studies have indicated that NO can lower force production in vitro. To examine the role of dietary nitrates in regulating force generation under normal physiological conditions, we undertook an extended nitrate supplementation regime and determined force output and energy cost with a repeated isometric maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) protocol. In a double-blind, randomized, crossover design, eight participants received 0.5 l/day of nitrate-rich (BR) or nitrate-depleted (PL) beetroot juice for 15 days and completed an exercise protocol consisting of 50 MVCs at 2.5 h, 5 days and 15 days after the beginning of the supplementation period. No significant reduction in force output was determined for BR relative to PL for the peak contraction, the mean or the end force, and no significant time effect was found over the course of the supplementation period. There was a reduction in the mean PCr cost of exercise averaged over the BR supplementation trials, but this did not reach statistical significance for end exercise (BR 15.10 ± 4.14 mM, PL 17.10 ± 5.34 mM, P = 0.06) or the mean throughout the protocol (BR 15.96 ± 4.14 mM, PL 17.79 ± 4.51 mM, P = 0.06). However, a significant reduction in PCr cost per unit force output was found for BR at end exercise (P = 0.04). These results indicate that, under normal physiological conditions, increased NO bioavailability is not associated with a reduction of force-generating capability in human skeletal muscle and confirm that nitrate supplementation reduces the PCr cost of force production.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Nitrates / blood
  • Nitrates / pharmacology*


  • Nitrates