Nitrate, Polyphenols and L-Citrulline in Sport

Tempo de Leitura: 3 minutos

During physical exercise, nitric oxide (NO) production is increased, being able to act in signaling for skeletal muscle contraction, cellular respiration and mitochondrial biogenesis process. In addition, it can interfere with antioxidant defenses and various other metabolic processes. In this sense, data from a systematic review and meta-analysis indicate that NO can facilitate the resynthesis of ATP, through the reduction in the cost of using oxygen. This fact arouses great interest in the sports scene, with nitrate, polyphenols and L-citrulline, nutrients potentially capable of increasing their production. Find out now the application of these compounds in the sport.


Nitrate is a nutrient capable of improve blood perfusion and oxygen supply (O2) to muscles and other tissues, conversion into nitric oxide. But not only does the greater oxygen supply have benefits in sport, but also its greater availability and delivery of nutrients, favoring aerobic exercise and proven to increase performance. Thus, the action of nitrate may be associated with greater muscle power, better execution of Sprints in sports such as race, for example.

In this sense, in addition to food sources such as dark green hardwood, carrot and embedded foods, in which nitrate is added. The most traditional way to provide nitrate to the athlete is to ingest the beet concentrated juice (300 g beet) in which nitrate will be converted to nitric oxide by the oral microbiota. An important point is the orientation on the don’t use of antiseptic mouth hoes that remove the microbiota from the mouth and therefore do not promote the conversion and desired effect of supplementation.


In addition to nitrate, another ergogenic aid widely used in the sport recently is polyphenols. The action of polyphenols in sport is directly related to performance. These compounds have the function of improving tissue vascularity, as well as reducing oxidative damage generated during exercise. In addition, the flow-mediated dilation (FMD) capacity is interfered with from the body’s total antioxidant potential. Thus, polyphenols corroborate the increase in antioxidant defenses, improving vasodilation, regulating systemic blood pressure, positively interfering in the athlete’s ability to resist training.

Therefore, natural whole foods such as vegetables and fruits are rich sources of polyphenols, which can be administered in the form of juice, extracts or powder. In the sports environment, pomegranate, cherry, grape and beet root are the foods with the highest amount of polyphenols in their composition, well studied in this population so far. In addition to these, the Rhodiola rosea, spirulina plantensis and yerba mate are also sources of polyphenols with promising effects on sport and require further research into their mechanisms of action.


This review provides data on another nutrient active in the metabolic pathway of nitric oxide production, L-citrulline. It arouses scientific interest by being converted into arginine, which is the precursor nutrient of nitric oxide. From watermelon juice concentrate, the main source of L-citrulline, research points to improvement in submaximal tissue oxygenation. However, this improvement is not directly reflected in higher plasma NO concentrations, a fact that, despite the promising activity of L-citrulline, more studies are needed.

Clinical practice

In a practical way, athletes may suffer from the unbalanced in the redox state to wake up from the increase in the production of ROS Reactive Oxygen Species, which although it is necessary for intramuscular signaling and promote physiological adaptations, too much can compromise the athlete’s health. In this sense, providing bioactive compounds that aid in the production of nitric oxide and increase the total antioxidant capacity is a point that the nutritionist needs to be aware of.


Thus, nutritional support can be done by indicating the consumption of foods such as beetroot, lettuce, and spinach, dark green hardwood, cocoa, teas and coffee, which should be incorporated into the athlete’s eating habits. In addition, the consumption of 300mg of polyphenols in the form of extract proved to be an aid in the antioxidant defenses of the athlete, maximizing the muscle recovery process. In addition, food supplements from the Beet concentrate provides the required amount of nitrate to improve performance. Thus, the dose of 300 to 600 mg about 2 to 2.5 before training is an ergogenic aid that can be used in clinical practice.

Read more about the topic on the Science Play portal:
Effects of polyphenols on microbiota and gastrointestinal disorders

Watch the SINE class with Professor Daniela Seixas-
The Role of Phytochemicals in Adaptive Response, Performance and Muscle Recovery

Article Effect of nitrate food sources

d’Unienville NMA, Blake HT, Coates AM, Hill AM, Nelson MJ, Buckley JD. Effect of food sources of nitrate, polyphenols, L-arginine and L-citrulline on endurance exercise performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2021;18(1):76. Published 2021 Dec 29. Doi:10.1186/s12970-021-00472-y

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