What is a nitrate?
Firstly, a nitrate (NO3-) is a polyatomic ion, which is a molecular ion that is made up of two or more bonded sets of atoms. It is made up of one nitrogen and three oxygen atoms.
Where are nitrates found?
Nitrates are most commonly found in groundwater or surface waters; this is because nitrites (1 nitrogen to 2 oxygen) easily oxidise with the oxygen found in the atmosphere.
Nitrates are also found in food such as beetroot, spinach and celery.
What are nitrates good for?
Nitrates have many beneficial properties with both biological and agricultural applications.
Importantly nitrates can help manage blood pressure. This is because this compound converts to nitric oxide which causes vasodilation, in which the blood vessel dilates, allowing blood to flow more easily.
In agriculture nitrates act as a fertilizer, returning nitrogen back to the ground which have been lost during the farming process. By using nitrates during crop rotation, this can help ensure a good yield the next time the field is used.
Why do athletes take nitrates?
Taking nitrates is pretty common in the sport industry especially in endurance sports. The reason for this is because nitrates have a positive impact on the mitochondria within our body’s cells.
Since the mitochondria has the job of generating cell energy (ATP) and is often referred to the as the cell’s powerhouse, anything that can increase its performance is a positive. If ATP can be produced at a greater rate, the more energy we have access to, which is key during any race.
A few studies have shown that beetroot can reduce the oxygen cost of exercise by 5.4%, increase time to exhaustion when running by 15%, and improve sprinting performance by 4% - Healthline
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