In this article we take a look at the value of Red Spinach Extract as a sports performance supplement.
By Dr. Adam Gonzalez
SHIFTED’s Chief Scientific Officer
Nitrates have become one of the most well-researched and recommended supplements for improving performance with nitrate-rich beet root getting all the glory. However, there is a new player in the pre workout game called Red Spinach Extract.
- Nitrates are among the most popular supplements marketed as “nitric oxide boosters”.
- Most research has focused on beets – however red spinach extract has recently emerged as a more powerful option.
- Red spinach extract is a nitrate-rich ingredient (more than beet root extract) that promotes overall health and performance benefits.
Benefits of nitrate supplementation
Dietary nitrates serve as a nitric oxide precursor to increase blood flow and muscular performance. They are found in high amounts primarily in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and arugula, and root vegetables, such as beets.
When consumed, nitrates are well-absorbed and used to increase nitric oxide via the NO3--NO2--NO pathway. Nitric oxide can also be created with precursors including citrulline and arginine, however nitrates are superior for enhancing high-intensity exercise because the nitrate pathway is ramped up by exercise protocols that stimulate low oxygen availability and low pH (such as weightlifting) .
Recently, it has also been reported that dietary nitrates can be stored in the muscle – particularly in the powerful, fast-twitch Type II fibers – which would indicate that nitrates are particularly useful during high-intensity activity.
The research on dietary nitrates has boomed over the past decade. The current evidence suggests that supplementation can delay fatigue during endurance events by enhancing muscle oxygenation and metabolic efficiency.
Growing evidence also continues to show great promise for enhancing strength and power performance by improving muscle contractile mechanisms through alterations in calcium mechanics inside the muscle . Several recent reviews of the research have indicated that nitrate supplementation benefits muscle endurance , muscle contractile properties , maximal muscle power output , recovery from muscle-damaging exercise , explosive exercise performance , and weightlifting performance [1, 13].
In summary, nitrates are an excellent pre workout supplement for a variety of sports, and its efficacy ranks up with other top ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine . However, a large majority of the researched benefits of dietary nitrates come from studies that provide the full beet root vegetable (baked or blended). Therefore, we cannot have as much confidence that powdered beet root extract will elicit the same effect. Red spinach extract has recently emerged as a more powerful option.
What is red spinach extract?
Red spinach extract (Amaranthus tricolor) is a patent ingredient from PLT Health Solutions called OXYSTORM. This ingredient provides a standardized, highly concentrated form of nitrates from a plant-based source. OXYSTORM contains more than five times the amount of nitrate as beetroot powder and also contains other health-promoting bioactive compounds, such as carotenoids, iron, calcium, anti-oxidants, and polyphenols .
One of the most notable perks of red spinach extract is that it reaches peak plasma nitrate concentrations 30-60 minutes after ingestion . After beet root ingestion, it can take 2 to 3 hours for nitrate concentrations to peak. Therefore, red spinach extract is extraordinarily superior as part of a pre workout supplement that contains other stimulants and amino acids that also peak within 45 minutes.
Performance benefits of red spinach extract
Contrary to beet root extract, red spinach extract has been evaluated in performance-based research studies. Supplementing with red spinach extract has been shown to enhance blood flow to the lower limbs during resistance exercise . It has also shown to increase oxygen consumption during endurance-based exercise .
In a study performed in my research laboratory, we showed that 7-days of red spinach extract supplementation (1 gram per day) significantly reduced the time it took to complete a 4-km cycling test. It also increased measures of power and speed, and lowered post-exercise diastolic blood pressure .
Get your nitrates
Red spinach extract is currently one of the most high-quality and effective ingredients to look for in a pre workout supplement for both general health and performance enhancement. Regular consumption of nitrate-rich, leafy vegetables as part of a daily diet can be tough. Be honest with yourself - How many spinach and beet salads do you eat per week?
Including red spinach extract helps provide a convenient, high-quality source of dietary nitrates. Since it peaks in the bloodstream within 30-60 minutes as opposed to the 2-3 hour lag time with beet root, it is ideal for a pre workout formula. Look for products that use the patented OXYSTORM ingredient. Shifted Maximum Pre Workout includes 1 gram of Red Spinach Extract in the form of OXYSTORM.
About the Author
Adam M. Gonzalez is an associate professor in the Department of Allied Health and Kinesiology at Hofstra University. He earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Central Florida in 2015 and holds certifications as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), along with a Certified Sports Nutritionist Certification (CISSN).
Adam's primary research interests include exercise and nutritional strategies to optimize body composition, maximize health, and enhance adaptations to exercise. He was also awarded the 2022 Nutritional Research Achievement Award by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
- Alvares T. S.; Oliveira G. V. d.; Volino-Souza M.; Conte-Junior C. A.; Murias J. M. Effect of dietary nitrate ingestion on muscular performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2022, 62, 5284-5306. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33554654/
- Baranauskas M. N.; Coggan A. R.; Gruber A. H.; Altherr C. A.; Raglin J. S.; Carter S. J. Dietary Nitrate Supplementation and Exercise-Related Performance. Nutrition Today 2020, 55, 211. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34658444/
- Coggan A. R.; Baranauskas M. N.; Hinrichs R. J.; Liu Z.; Carter S. J. Effect of dietary nitrate on human muscle power: A systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2021, 18, 66. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34625064/
- Esen O.; Dobbin N.; Callaghan M. J. The effect of dietary nitrate on the contractile properties of human skeletal muscle: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Nutrition Association 2022, 1-12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35604074/
- Gao C.; Gupta S.; Adli T.; Hou W.; Coolsaet R.; Hayes A.; Kim K.; Pandey A.; Gordon J.; Chahil G. The effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on endurance exercise performance and cardiorespiratory measures in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2021, 18, 55. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34243756/
- Gonzalez A. M.; Accetta M. R.; Spitz R. W.; Mangine G. T.; Ghigiarelli J. J.; Sell K. M. Red spinach extract supplementation improves cycle time trial performance in recreationally active men and women. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2021, 35, 2541-2545. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31136549/
- Gonzalez A. M.; Townsend J. R.; Pinzone A. G.; Hoffman J. R. Supplementation with Nitric Oxide Precursors for Strength Performance: A Review of the Current Literature. Nutrients 2023, 15, 660. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36771366/
- Haun C. T.; Kephart W. C.; Holland A. M.; Mobley C. B.; McCloskey A. E.; Shake J. J.; Pascoe D. D.; Roberts M. D.; Martin J. S. Differential vascular reactivity responses acutely following ingestion of a nitrate rich red spinach extract. European journal of applied physiology 2016, 116, 2267-2279. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27695978/
- Jones L.; Bailey S. J.; Rowland S. N.; Alsharif N.; Shannon O. M.; Clifford T. The effect of nitrate-rich beetroot juice on markers of exercise-induced muscle damage: A systematic review and meta-analysis of human intervention trials. Journal of Dietary Supplements 2022, 19, 749-771. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34151694/
- Martinková J.; Hnilička F.; Hniličková H.; Orsák M. Determination of the content of rutin and total polyphenols in leaves of spinach and amaranth. Scientia Agriculturae Bohemica 2009, 40, 6-11. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Determination-of-the-content-of-rutin-and-total-in-Martinkova-Hnilička/01c4608ef82a58073eda1f4a2c62580ba833fcb7
- Maughan R. J.; Burke L. M.; Dvorak J.; Larson-Meyer D. E.; Peeling P.; Phillips S. M.; Rawson E. S.; Walsh N. P.; Garthe I.; Geyer H. IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 2018, 28, 104-125. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29540367/
- Moore A. N.; Haun C. T.; Kephart W. C.; Holland A. M.; Mobley C. B.; Pascoe D. D.; Roberts M. D.; Martin J. S. Red spinach extract increases ventilatory threshold during graded exercise testing. Sports 2017, 5, 80. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29910440/
- San Juan A. F.; Dominguez R.; Lago-Rodríguez Á.; Montoya J. J.; Tan R.; Bailey S. J. Effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on weightlifting exercise performance in healthy adults: A systematic review. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2227. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32722588/
- Subramanian D.; Gupta S. Pharmacokinetic study of amaranth extract in healthy humans: a randomized trial. Nutrition 2016, 32, 748-753. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27131407/
- Tan R.; Cano L.; Lago-Rodríguez Á.; Domínguez R. The Effects of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Explosive Exercise Performance: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2022, 19, 762. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35055584/