Spinach: Beef Up Your Workouts

Spinach: Beef Up Your Workouts

Apr 13, 2012

A single helping of spinach contains enough nitrates to boost athletic endurance and performance, according to a study conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. The study supports the findings of a previous report that showed nitrates in vegetables could improve running and walking times.

Researchers fed healthy people nitrates equivalent to about a salad plate of spinach for three days, after which they gave them a cycling task to perform. The researchers then analyzed tissue samples from cyclist’s thigh muscles and compared them with samples taken from the same subjects when given a placebo. In nitrate-fed cyclists, researchers found a significant improvement in the efficiency of muscle mitochondria, small kidney bean-shaped structures that produce the energy-rich molecule, ATP.

As a result, the nitrate-fed cyclists produced more ATP per consumed oxygen molecule. Translation: Popeye, the spinach-loving cartoon character, was right: cyclists could pedal longer and harder after they consumed nitrates.

Until recently, food scientists believed that nitrates in foods were of no nutritional value and potentially toxic. But the team of Swedish investigators showed that with the help of ‘friendly’ bacteria found in the mouth, nitrates can convert to nitric oxide, a molecule known to reduce the risk of diseases involving mitochondrial dysfunction, including diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. So ease up on that mouthwash before your next pre-game nitrate-rich meal!

Juice to juice up. In a juicer, combine apple, beetroot, carrot, celery, and spinach to make a nitrate-rich pre-exercise drink. This juice blend will also provide quercetin—an antioxidant that protects against exercise-induced oxidative stress and muscle damage.

Enjoy sushi. Tuna, salmon, and sesame seeds all contain a respectable amount of coenzyme Q10, a compound needed to create the high-energy molecule, ATP. CoQ10 could work with the nitrates in vegetables to further boost ATP levels in active muscle cells.

☆ Disclaimer: This is my informed opinion. I could be wrong. What do you think?

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