By Marc Sorenson, EdD Sunlight Institute…
A most interesting research paper demonstrates that nitrate supplements, combined with exposure to sunlight, increases performance of cyclists. The researchers state that “dietary nitrate supplementation has been shown to increase nitric oxide (NO) metabolites, reduce blood pressure (BP) and enhance exercise performance.” And, as we have discussed in this blog, sun exposure reduces BP by increasing the production of NO. It was theorized that sun exposure might enhance the athletic performance induced by the dietary nitrate supplementation.
The theory proved to be correct; although sun exposure did not improve cycling times by itself, when combined with the nitrate supplementation, cycling times improved significantly.
It may surprise some people to realize that ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sun beds or sun lamps has been used since before 1950 to enhance athletic performance. As early as 1938, Russian researchers reported that a course of UVR significantly improved speed in the 100-meter dash among four students when compared with controls that did not have the radiation, although both groups were undergoing identical daily training. The non-irradiated group improved by 1.7% but the irradiated group improved by 7.4%. Another study conducted over ten weeks showed that cardiovascular endurance improved remarkably among athletes in training who were irradiated vs. those who were not. The irradiated athletes improved by 19.2% compared to 1.5% among the non-irradiated group.
There are numerous studies from Germany showing the efficacy of UVR on athletic performance, most of them from the early days before the idea of sun-lamp produced UVR fell into disrepute because of the attack on tanning beds. What a shame. This method of athletic assistance could produce an impressive improvement in sports performance for so many people, athletic or not. Strength improves, stamina improves, quickness improves and speed improves with UVR radiation, which of course is also part of sunlight. The mechanism for this improvement is likely a combination of vitamin D and nitric oxide.
Safely enjoy the sun!
 Muggeridge DJ, Sculthorpe N, Grace FM, Willis G, Thornhill L, Weller RB, James PE, Easton C. Acute whole body UVA irradiation combined with nitrate ingestion enhances time trial performance in trained cyclists. Nitric Oxide. 2015 Aug 1;48:3-9.
 Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Sorenson MB, Taft TN, Anderson JJ. Athletic performance and vitamin D. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 May;41(5):1102-10.
 Gorkin Z. Gorkin MJ, Teslenko NE. The effect of ultraviolet radiation upon training for the 100-meter sprint.
 Allen R, Cureton T. Effects of ultraviolet radiation on physical fitness. Arch Phys Med 1945;10:641-4.