But leafy greens, along with vegetables like beets, are filled with chemicals known as nitrates, which might help enhance muscle strength and functioning.
A March study released this year in The Journal of Nutrition analyzed the eating routines of over 3,700 people over a 12-year time period. The researchers found the amount of nitrates these people got and researched the muscle functioning tests they took.
To find muscle function, the authors of the study looked at two tests: knee strength and a time based “up-and-go” test, which had participants sit and then quickly get up and speed walk.
On average, people within the study got 65 milligrams each day of nitrates, most of this came from vegetables. Those with the most intake — 91 milligrams each day, the equivalent of 1 cup of leafy vegetables — had around six pounds stronger (or 11 percent stronger) knee extension and were 0.24 seconds better on the time based “up-and-go” test compared to the people who consumed the least amount of nitrates, which was 47 milligrams each day.
Why Nitrates Are Important For Muscle Building
When you consume dietary sources of nitrates, like leafy veggies, the body transforms nitrates into nitrites, which then get changed into nitric oxide (NO).
Nitric oxide is good for your exercise performance and health. The compound helps your blood vessels relax and enlarge, allowing blood to flow more easily.
When blood flows to your muscles, you get a greater surge of oxygen and nutrients that increase your muscle performance.
It was already known that nitric oxide enhances performance — many athletes use this. But they take it in supplement form. With some beet supplements having as much as 12 times the number of nitrates as a normal person consumes each day
So, this study was very important because it revealed that people can help their muscle functioning by eating certain amounts of nitrates through everyday green vegetables — and with a serving of only 1 cup of these veggies, they are easy to add into a morning smoothie or eat with a small lean meat for dinner.
Author: Blake Ambrose