Green are good, but they one of the best things that at athlete can put into their bodies. Sports performance has been scientifically proven to enhance if the body is fueled with green veggies. So, before your next ride or marathon, choose a healthy green meal to fuel your way through.

Nitrates Are The Key

The research is all to do with nitrate supplementation. Nitrate is commonly found in leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, and is important for the functioning of the human body, especially during exercise. Researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium conducted a study with 27 moderately trained participants. They were given nitrate supplements ahead of short but intense cycling sessions three times a week. It included workouts in normal oxygen conditions and hypoxia (low oxygen) conditions to assess differences in performance in different conditions.

The observations published in Frontiers in Physiology stated that after only five weeks, the muscle fiber composition changed with the enhanced nitrate intake when training in low-oxygen conditions. This study is interesting for athletes participating in sports competitions that require energy production in low-oxygen conditions. Exercising at high altitude has, in fact, become a training strategy for many. Intense exercise in such conditions requires high input of fast-oxidative muscle fibers to sustain the power. So, it’s possible that enhancing these muscle fibers through nutritional intake could boost performance in low-oxygen conditions.

While the results are not 100% clear, consistent nitrate intake in conjunction with training must not be recommended until the safety of chronic high-dose nitrate intake in humans has been clearly demonstrated. With athletes frequently pushing the limits of their bodies and thriving for ever-greater performances, this is only the start of research into how athletes can improve their competitive edge through dietary supplements.

So, what are your green choices? Kale is an easy one, and so is lettuce. Broccoli is good, and so are darker, leafier green such as turnip greens and collards. If you are not familiar with these veggies, there are many recipes available online to help these Southern favorites have a better taste – they are bitter without proper seasoning. “Green” juices are nice, but they are not as good as the fresh foods can be, but they are good in a pinch, or if you find that you just cannot tolerate any green veggie.