Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Pomegranate makes fit athletes even fitter

Fighting fit athletes can increase their endurance capacity by taking a gram of nitrate-rich pomegranate extract half an hour before starting their training. According to a sponsored study, athletes can keep up high-intensity exercise for longer by taking a pomegranate extract supplement.

Pomegranate makes fit athletes even fitter
Most scientists who study the biological effects of pomegranate focus on components such as ellagic acid and its analogues. In the human study, which was published in 2014 in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, sports scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill break with this tradition. They studied a pomegranate extract that contains a noticeable amount of nitrate.

The extract they studied was Nitro2Granit, manufactured by Stiebs Nature Elevated. [] Bodybuilders may know Nitro2Granit as a component of Xpand 2X, a preworkout supplement made by Dymatize. []

Pomegranate makes fit athletes even fitter

Inorganic nitrates are found in foods such as leafy green vegetables and beetroot. In the body these form the raw material for the signalling substance nitrogen monoxide, NO. NO widens blood vessels, increases the blood supply to the muscles, extends the amount of time that muscle fibres can endure intensive exertion and probably also plays a key role in muscle growth.

The researchers measured how quickly 19 fit and well-trained students could run on a treadmill when they were at 100 percent of their maximal oxygen uptake [peak velocity]. Then they got the students to run to exhaustion on three different occasions: once at 90 percent of their peak velocity, once at 100 percent of their peak velocity and once at 110 percent of their peak velocity.

The students ran once after having taken a placebo, and once 30 minutes after having taken 2 capsules each of which contained 500 mg pomegranate extract.

The figure below shows that the students were able to keep up their high-intensity exercise for longer as a result of taking the supplement.

Pomegranate makes fit athletes even fitter

"Supplementation with dietary nitrate has been shown to enhance exercise efficiency by decreasing oxygen consumption during exercise without limiting performance, increasing blood lactate or increasing energy contribution from glycolysis or the phosphagen system", the researchers wrote. "This enhanced efficiency may contribute to the increased time to exhaustion observed in the present study."

"It has been previously demonstrated that NO plays a role in modulating mitochondrial respiration, and that inhibition of endogenous NO production increases oxygen consumption at rest. Bailey et al. showed that nitrate supplementation prior to exercise decreased total ATP turnover, indicating that the reduced oxygen cost of exercise may be attributed to a reduction in the ATP cost of force production. Larsen et al. concluded that increased mitochondrial efficiency may reduce oxygen cost of exercise following nitrate supplementation."

"Results of the current study indicate that pomegranate extract is an efficacious ergogenic aid for sports involving intermittent running, eliciting beneficial effects on blood flow and exercise performance as few as 30 minutes after ingestion", the researchers summarised. "More research is needed to evaluate the effects of chronic pomegranate extract supplementation and potential clinical applications."

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Sep;39(9):1038-42.

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