Inorganic nitrate supplementation improves muscle oxygenation, O₂ uptake kinetics, and exercise tolerance at high but not low pedal rates

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Jun 1;118(11):1396-405. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01141.2014. Epub 2015 Apr 9.


We tested the hypothesis that inorganic nitrate (NO3 (-)) supplementation would improve muscle oxygenation, pulmonary oxygen uptake (V̇o2) kinetics, and exercise tolerance (Tlim) to a greater extent when cycling at high compared with low pedal rates. In a randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over study, seven subjects (mean ± SD, age 21 ± 2 yr, body mass 86 ± 10 kg) completed severe-intensity step cycle tests at pedal cadences of 35 rpm and 115 rpm during separate nine-day supplementation periods with NO3 (-)-rich beetroot juice (BR) (providing 8.4 mmol NO3 (-)/day) and placebo (PLA). Compared with PLA, plasma nitrite concentration increased 178% with BR (P < 0.01). There were no significant differences in muscle oxyhemoglobin concentration ([O2Hb]), phase II V̇o2 kinetics, or Tlim between BR and PLA when cycling at 35 rpm (P > 0.05). However, when cycling at 115 rpm, muscle [O2Hb] was higher at baseline and throughout exercise, phase II V̇o2 kinetics was faster (47 ± 16 s vs. 61 ± 25 s; P < 0.05), and Tlim was greater (362 ± 137 s vs. 297 ± 79 s; P < 0.05) with BR compared with PLA. These results suggest that short-term BR supplementation can increase muscle oxygenation, expedite the adjustment of oxidative metabolism, and enhance exercise tolerance when cycling at a high, but not a low, pedal cadence in healthy recreationally active subjects. These findings support recent observations that NO3 (-) supplementation may be particularly effective at improving physiological and functional responses in type II muscle fibers.

Keywords: exercise performance; fatigue; nitric oxide; oxidative metabolism; vascular function.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Beta vulgaris*
  • Bicycling*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise Tolerance / drug effects
  • Exercise*
  • Fruit and Vegetable Juices*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects*
  • Muscle Fatigue / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Nitrates / administration & dosage*
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects*
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Roots
  • Young Adult


  • Nitrates
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances