While it turns out that Gaston (from Beauty and The Beast) and his five dozen eggs for breakfast are not the best recommendation in the world, it seems we can put our faith in Popeye and his spinach consumption! It was previously thought that the iron content was the secret but it turns out that it is the nitrate in spinach which may be the secret to improving muscle performance. Dietary nitrate is a possible source for systemic generation of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is known to be a powerful vasodilator which helps to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. A serving of 300g of spinach per day can increase muscle efficiency and oxygen delivery during bouts of exercise. It has also been linked with preventing energy wastage from the mitochondria (power house of the cell) through heat loss and with having a profound effect on intracellular calcium which increases contractile force in fast-twitch muscles fibres.
The potential benefits of consuming spinach span from sub-maximal exercise to high-intensity work rates.
Furber JD, Nutrition, Diet and Supplementation for Peak Physical and Mental Performance, 2011.
Cermak NM, Gibala MJ, van Loon LJC, Nitrate Supplementation’s Improvement of 10km Time-Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2012, 22, 64-71.