Acute ingestion of dietary nitrate increases muscle blood flow via local vasodilation during handgrip exercise in young adults

Physiol Rep. 2018 Jan;6(2):e13572. doi: 10.14814/phy2.13572.


Dietary nitrate (NO3-) is converted to nitrite (NO2-) and can be further reduced to the vasodilator nitric oxide (NO) amid a low O2 environment. Accordingly, dietary NO3- increases hind limb blood flow in rats during treadmill exercise; however, the evidence of such an effect in humans is unclear. We tested the hypothesis that acute dietary NO3- (via beetroot [BR] juice) increases forearm blood flow (FBF) via local vasodilation during handgrip exercise in young adults (n = 11; 25 ± 2 years). FBF (Doppler ultrasound) and blood pressure (Finapres) were measured at rest and during graded handgrip exercise at 5%, 15%, and 25% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) lasting 4 min each. At the highest workload (25% MVC), systemic hypoxia (80% SaO2 ) was induced and exercise continued for three additional minutes. Subjects ingested concentrated BR (12.6 mmol nitrate (n = 5) or 16.8 mmol nitrate (n = 6) and repeated the exercise bout either 2 (12.6 mmol) or 3 h (16.8 mmol) postconsumption. Compared to control, BR significantly increased FBF at 15% MVC (184 ± 15 vs. 164 ± 15 mL/min), 25% MVC (323 ± 27 vs. 286 ± 28 mL/min), and 25% + hypoxia (373 ± 39 vs. 343 ± 32 mL/min) and this was due to increases in vascular conductance (i.e., vasodilation). The effect of BR on hemodynamics was not different between the two doses of BR ingested. Forearm VO2 was also elevated during exercise at 15% and 25% MVC. We conclude that acute increases in circulating NO3- and NO2- via BR increases muscle blood flow during moderate- to high-intensity handgrip exercise via local vasodilation. These findings may have important implications for aging and diseased populations that demonstrate impaired muscle perfusion and exercise intolerance.

Keywords: Dietary nitrate; exercise hyperemia; oxygen consumption.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beta vulgaris*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fruit and Vegetable Juices
  • Hand Strength
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply*
  • Nitrates / administration & dosage*
  • Nitrites / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Plant Roots
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Vasodilation / physiology


  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites