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Home / News / Sports nutrition news: omega-3, beetroot, caffeine & nitrates

Sports nutrition news: omega-3, beetroot, caffeine & nitrates

Small innovative tweaks to your nutrition can result in significant payback. James Witts explores the latest research to find what could help triathletes

Credit: Melanie Major / Getty Images

Improving strength and stamina

Some of the world’s most acclaimed nutritionists, including Louise Burke of the Australian Institute of Sport and Team Sky’s James Morton, have joined forces to formulate sports-nutrition strategies for training in Olympic year.

The authors also say there’s credible evidence that the following ergogenic aids improve strength and stamina: caffeine, creatine, sodium bicarbonate, beta-alanine and nitrates. The team highlights the emergence of vitamin D, too, showing that the science suggesting that vitamin D encourages muscle regeneration does add up.

Finally, the team looks at compounds such as epicatechin, nicotinamide riboside, resveratrol, beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate, phosphatidic acid and ursolic acid that may also promote skeletal muscle adaptations to endurance and strength training, though studies of these compounds have largely been limited to rats.

Benefits of organic meat

It’s official: organic meat is better for you than non-organic. A team of 25 researchers undertook a meta-analysis examining how nutritional content varied between organic and non-organic red meats.

Though the evidence wasn’t strong enough to verify differences in antioxidant and mineral content, it did show that organic meat contains 47% more omega-3 than the non-organic alternative. This is good news for triathletes, because this polyunsaturated fatty acid has been proven to improve recovery, reduce muscle soreness after exercise and even increase fat metabolism.


First it was claimed that beetroot (rich in nitrates) sent endurance through the roof, then it was labelled a memory enhancer. Now nitrates have been shown to improve neuromuscular function.

A study from Ohio, USA, assessed isometric and dynamic contractions in 14 resistance-trained athletes before and after three days of nitrate supplementation. The nitrate hit resulted in higher mean peak electromyography amplitudes: electrical signals travelled that bit faster. So nitrate supplementation could enhance muscle activation, leading to greater power and speed.

Profile image of James Witts James Witts Freelance sports writer and author


Former 220 Triathlon magazine editor James is a cycling and sports writer and editor who's been riding bikes impressively slowly since his first iridescent-blue Peugeot road bike back in the 80s. He's a regular contributor to a number of cycling and endurance-sports publications, plus he's authored four books: The Science of the Tour de France: Training secrets of the world’s best cyclists, Bike Book: Complete Bicycle Maintenance, Training Secrets of the World's Greatest Footballers: How Science is Transforming the Modern Game, and Riding With The Rocketmen: One Man's Journey on the Shoulders of Cycling Giants