Dietary nitrate improves sprint performance and cognitive function during prolonged intermittent exercise

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Sep;115(9):1825-34. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3166-0. Epub 2015 Apr 7.


It is possible that dietary nitrate (NO3 (-)) supplementation may improve both physical and cognitive performance via its influence on blood flow and cellular energetics.

Purpose: To investigate the effects of dietary NO3 (-) supplementation on exercise performance and cognitive function during a prolonged intermittent sprint test (IST) protocol, which was designed to reflect typical work patterns during team sports.

Methods: In a double-blind randomised crossover study, 16 male team-sport players received NO3 (-)-rich (BR; 140 mL day(-1); 12.8 mmol of NO3 (-)), and NO3 (-)-depleted (PL; 140 mL day(-1); 0.08 mmol NO3 (-)) beetroot juice for 7 days. On day 7 of supplementation, subjects completed the IST (two 40-min "halves" of repeated 2-min blocks consisting of a 6-s "all-out" sprint, 100-s active recovery and 20 s of rest), on a cycle ergometer during which cognitive tasks were simultaneously performed.

Results: Total work done during the sprints of the IST was greater in BR (123 ± 19 kJ) compared to PL (119 ± 17 kJ; P < 0.05). Reaction time of response to the cognitive tasks in the second half of the IST was improved in BR compared to PL (BR first half: 820 ± 96 vs. second half: 817 ± 86 ms; PL first half: 824 ± 114 vs. second half: 847 ± 118 ms; P < 0.05). There was no difference in response accuracy.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that dietary NO3 (-) enhances repeated sprint performance and may attenuate the decline in cognitive function (and specifically reaction time) that may occur during prolonged intermittent exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nitrates / administration & dosage*
  • Nitrates / pharmacokinetics
  • Physical Exertion / drug effects
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Running / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Nitrates