A few months ago on the Medical Muscle Facebook Diet Tip of the Day, we spoke of beets and it was brought up that they are fabulous in many ways inclusive of their nitrate composition. We still couldn't shake the notion that nitrates are inherently bad by some, hence the rationale for this thread.
If you're a health-conscious eater who searches out nitrate-free processed meats because you've read that you'd be healthier, you may now be thoroughly confused. Don't be. Nitrates in processed meats have been linked to cancer because they form nitrosamines in the gut. But nitrates in vegetables come with vitamins C and D, which prevent the formation of these compounds; plants have myriad other defenses against cancer. Plus, the nitrates found in vegetables reduce blood pressure (as we discussed in the beet post), reaching their peak effect about 2 and a half hours after consumption (not suprising seeing how this is peak gastrointestinal (GI) transit time.
In a British University study (University of Exeter), nitrates were shown to significantly improve endurance. Researchers found that men who drank 17 oz of beet juice (compared with placebo) were able to cycle 16% longer. The exact mechanism isn't known, but it is probably in relation to polyamine breakdown products. See, nitrates in the body are converted into nitric oxide, reducing how much oxygen is burned up by exercise. And when the body's oxygen demands are reduced, workouts are less tiring. Usually it would require YEARS of training to do this but the men in this study were relatively untrained.
This thread will be dedicated to the advanced discussion of nitrates in both supplementation as well as foodstuffs.