How Nitrates Can Benefit OCR Performance

How Nitrates Can Benefit OCR Performance

How Nitrates Can Benefit OCR Performance

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  • May 16, 2017

We've always been told to eat more veggies. Among the many dietary challenges we face today, this proves to be one of the more difficult habits to improve. Unless a vegetable is on top of a pizza, mixed into a stir fry, or as part of a submarine sandwich its rare to see people automatically reach for vegetables when planning meals.

We do know they are good for us, however with the variety of artificial flavors we have been exposed to over the years, it can be hard to enjoy the taste of your common everyday vegetables. And most of us lack the knowledge of how to properly combine flavors through cooking to make them more enjoyable.

In order to encourage people to eat more vegetables I always like to educate them first on how they will specifically benefit them. Once you know this, you are more likely to add it to your diet, not worrying about taste and textures that you may not like yet, but eating it for health or as a method to achieve your goals. No matter how many times I try to educate people on learning how to cook or where to buy the highest quality vegetables in their area, I know human nature. And as a result most people will not do that. So I'm just going to be your mother and tell to force yourself to eat them, knowing they will benefit your health. With time, maybe you will actually enjoy them.

Vegetables contain many valuable properties. Many of which we know the benefits such as calcium, and vitamin C. Other factors that benefit our health are not completely understood but do exist such as the phytochemicals. (Beta-carotene for example can help with vision, the immune system, as well as bone and skin health.) One more factor that we are learning more and more about each year is the compound sodium nitrate which found in its natural form can benefit not only health but performance.

Unlike sodium nitrate or nitrite found in processed meats. When in its natural form, it is harmless due to the antioxidant properties it comes with in the vegetable.

Numerous studies have pointed to the fact that nitrates reduce the cost of oxygen during exercise, improving time to exhaustion. It also increases blood flow, governs blood pressure, regulates muscle contraction, enhances muscle recovery and can boost work output. Most importantly it improves the bodies ability to make more ATP. More ATP means more energy later on in your obstacle course racing event in which you can use to overcome obstacles, or surge to the finish line.

One important caveat to keep in mind is to avoid mouth wash or brushing your teeth after consuming a nitrate rich product. The conversion of dietary nitrate (NO3) starts in the saliva. It reacts with the bacteria in your mouth to create the active form N02, then as you swallow it, it creates nitric oxide in the stomach when exposed to stomach acid. This is where the advantage begins.

The best sources of nitrates come from leafy green vegetables. In particular: Arugula, collard greens, dill, and turnip greens. However it also high in other vegetables like beetroot, celery, spinach and kale.

The most popular form we ingest is through beet root powders. These are often the easiest and most palatable. However raw, cooked or even juiced veggies will do the trick and possibly even better.

Freezing will cause a juice to lose some of the nutrient content however the majority of the nitrates will be preserved. Knowing this, if you make juice and freeze it ahead of time before races this will make it easier especially if you are waking up early for a race.

To get adequate nitrate from the highest sourced vegetable, arugula, you would need to consume the following:

200 grams for a 150lb person
300 grams for a 200lb person
400 grams for a 250lb person

Arugula as it has the one of the lowest oxalate content. It is also a low fodmap food unlike beets which will cause digestive upset in some individuals.

For beetroot you need approximately the following in the solid form:

400 grams for a 150lb person
600 grams for a 200lb person
800 grams for a 250lb person

This is quite a bit more. If you consume 400 grams of beets you are also looking at about 300 grams of oxalates. Oxalates bind to minerals in the body and increase the risk of kidney stones. If this is a concern for you, proceed with caution.

Powders are a concentrated form so it is hard to tell if they contain enough nitrate to induce a performance benefit. Marketing says yes, but I don't believe we know for sure yet as most research was done with juice.

Nitrates are best consumed 1-2 hours before a race for performance. However nitric oxide from vegetables will benefit blood pressure and heart health at any point during the day.

Benefits for-mentioned are best seen in novice or intermediate athletes, but without a doubt everyone benefits from eating more vegetables. If consuming more nitrate food doesn't yield great endurance results it will yield other health benefits and as a result likely better performance overall.

One other item that could prove as a potential benefit in an obstacle course race is nitrates ability to improve reaction over repeated sprints. This could have an advantage later on in a race when you have to throw a spear, maintain your balance, or maneuver through an obstacle quickly. Although we only have preliminary evidence on this topic, it looks promising.

Check out for 235 unique references.

For the study on reaction time:

For more information on Nutrition for the OCR Athlete check out my book at:

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Josh Stryde B.Kin (Hons), CSNN Holistic Nutrition Consultant™, Precision Nutrition Level 1, PTS

Josh has been working and educating in the fitness Industry for over 10 years. He has seen his greatest success by arming his clients with knowledge and allowing them to active role when working towards their goals. Without knowing why you are eating the way you are eating, or why you are following a particular workout routine it becomes difficult to stay consistent.

Spartan Team Canada 2017
Team PVL 2017/2018
20+ OCR podium finishes


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