Beet Your Muscles

beet

If you follow my supplement advice, you likely know that I’m a firm believer in the benefits of boosting nitric oxide (NO) levels. Boosting NO is very beneficial for cardiovascular health because it relaxes blood vessels, allowing them to widen. This keeps your blood vessels functioning properly and prevents them from getting “stiff” as we age.

Relaxing or dilating the blood vessels also helps to deliver more blood flow to tissues like muscle fibers. The two main benefits of greater blood flow to muscle fibers is better exercise energy/endurance and bigger muscles pumps during workouts. The greater endurance and energy is due to the fact that pushing more blood to working muscles delivers to them more oxygen and more nutrients.

Greater blood flow enhances muscle pump during workouts due to the fact that blood is more than 50% water. When you train, your muscle cells create waste products that pull water into them. With more blood flowing to the muscles, there’s more water that the muscle cells can draw into them, resulting in a bigger muscle pump. While some experts feel that the muscle pump has no true physiological significance, the truth is that it can lead to long-term muscle growth. This is due to the fact that the bigger muscle pump places a bigger stretch on the membranes of the muscle cells. This stretch signals chemical reactions that instigate long-term muscle growth by increasing muscle protein synthesis.

Relaxing the blood vessels also delivers more blood below the belt, if you know what I mean. This can be beneficial for both males and females. For males, it maintains normal sexual function as you age. That means less chance of erectile dysfunction and a better maintenance of erections. For females, it increases clitoral blood flow, and research shows that females getting better blood flow to the clitoris have more enjoyable sex and a higher sex drive.

The main NO-boosting supplements on the market today utilize the arginine-nitric oxide pathway. That’s the pathway where arginine is converted in the body to nitric oxide (NO) with help from the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS), which catalyzes the reaction. Supplements such as citrulline malate (which is converted in the body to arginine) utilize this pathway – that’s why I include it in Pre JYM at full dosage.

The arginine-nitric oxide pathway is an effective one to target. One study on arginine reported that subjects consuming arginine 30 minutes before a biceps workout increased biceps blood volume during the workout by over 100%. And citrulline appears to be an even better NO booster than arginine itself, as research suggests that taking citrulline results in higher blood levels of arginine and NO than taking the same dose of arginine does.

Yet there is another pathway that can lead to higher NO levels in the body: the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway.

Nitrates are found in many plants, one of the richest sources being beets. Nitrates have the chemical formula NO3. When you consume nitrates, such as from beets, bacteria in the mouth reduce the nitrate to nitrite, which has the chemical formula NO2. In other words, nitrate loses an oxygen to form nitrite. The nitrite then travels to the bloodstream where it’s further reduced (loses another oxygen) in the body to nitric oxide, with the chemical formula NO.

Supplementing with nitrates, usually by consuming beet juice or taking a beet (beta vulgaris) extract, has been shown in numerous studies to enhance exercise performance. The performance enhancements include greater exercise endurance, greater power output and less fatigue. This means that during a typical weight-lifting workout, it can improve your strength, allow you to complete more reps with a given weight and allow you to better maintain rep ranges and strength toward the end of the workout. All of this can help to increase muscle strength, muscle growth and muscle endurance.

Jim’s Take-Home Points:

Beet extract is present in Pre JYM at the optimal performance-enhancing dosage of 500mg. Taken 30-45 minutes before workouts (as directed on the bottle of Pre JYM) beet extract can help to boost NO levels and increase your training intensity, reduce workout fatigue, increase muscle endurance, help you recover faster between sets, and help you lift more weight. All this can lead to improved results, such as greater muscle growth and strength gains.

 

References:

Haussinger, D. Control of protein turnover by the cellular hydratation state. Ital J Gastroenterol 25, 42–48, 1993.

Alvares, T. S., et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012 Feb;37(1):115-26.

Schwedhelm, E., et al. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine: impact on nitric oxide metabolism. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Jan;65(1):51-9.

Cosby, K., et al. Nitrite reduction to nitric oxide by deoxyhemoglobin vasodilates the human circulation. Nature medicine. 2003;9(12):1498-1505.

Lundberg, J. O., et al. NO generation from nitrite and its role in vascular control. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology. 2005;25(5):915-922.

Lundberg J. O., et al. Roles of dietary inorganic nitrate in cardiovascular health and disease. Cardiovascular research. 2011;89(3):525-532.

Wylie, L. J., et al.  Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol, In press, 2013.

Lansley, K. E., et al. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jun;43(6):1125-31.

Cermak, N. M., et al. Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012 Feb;22(1):64-71.

Lansley, K. E., et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study. J Appl Physiol. 2011;110(3):591-600.

Larsen F. J., et al. Dietary inorganic nitrate improves mitochondrial efficiency in humans. Cell metabolism. 2011;13(2):149-159.

Vanhatalo A., et al. Dietary nitrate reduces muscle metabolic perturbation and improves exercise tolerance in hypoxia. The Journal of physiology. 2011;589(Pt 22):5517-5528.

Bailey, S. J., et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation enhances muscle contractile efficiency during knee-extensor exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2010;109(1):135-148.

Bailey, S. J., et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009;107(4):1144-1155.

Larsen, F. J., et al. Effects of dietary nitrate on oxygen cost during exercise. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2007;191(1):59-66.