Nitric Oxide for Workout – 7 Promising Benefits & Side Effects for Bodybuilding

nitric oxide

If you are an active athlete or a gym-goer, you must have observed nitric oxide supplements are gaining increasing attention. These supplements are a part of the supplement stack of many professional bodybuilders and athletes.

But what’s the hype all about?

In this article, we’ll explore the wonders of nitric oxide supplements and their potential to unlock a healthier and more active life.

Before we talk about the performance benefits of nitric oxide, it is essential to understand what it is.

Let’s get started!

What is Nitric Oxide (NO)?

Nitric oxide is a gas our body naturally produces using nitrogen and oxygen. This essential body component plays a key role in blood vessel dilation, signalling and regulation of neurotransmission. It is also involved in stimulating the release of insulin and growth hormones.

Nitric oxide acts as an intermediary and regulates significant neurotransmission functions involving memory, learning and neuroprotection.

Nitric oxide has significantly gained popularity in supplemental form due to its potential to widen or expand blood vessels, improve blood flow and increase the muscle’s oxygen and nutrient supply.

One can also obtain nitric oxide through dietary sources. Beetroot, watermelon, spinach, kale, cabbage, chicken, and citrus fruits are a few nitric oxide foods. They contain nitrates and flavonoids that stimulate and increase the NO levels in the body.

What Are The Health Benefits of Nitric Oxide?

Here are the top 7 science-backed health benefits and uses of nitric oxide supplements.

Boost Exercise Performance

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Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, i.e., it relaxes and widens blood vessels. This dilation allows for enhanced blood flow to working muscles, delivering oxygen and nutrients and removing waste products more efficiently.

By dilating blood vessels, NO helps transport more oxygen to the muscles. Oxygen is essential for energy production in muscles, and greater oxygen delivery can lead to enhanced stamina and performance.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Nitric oxide may help lower blood pressure by relaxing the walls of the arteries 1. Lower blood pressure means the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood, leading to improved cardiovascular efficiency during exercise.

The dilation of blood vessels allows for increased blood flow. This reduces resistance to blood flow within the vessels, and less pressure is required to push blood through them. As a result, blood pressure decreases.

This property of nitric oxide makes it beneficial for treating hypertension. However, it should only be considered or taken under medical supervision.

May Treat Erectile Dysfunction

Nitric oxide also plays a role in retaining an erection by preventing the premature breakdown of cGMP. It does this by inhibiting an enzyme responsible for breaking down cGMP, which allows cGMP levels to remain high, prolonging the vasodilation and blood flow to the penis.

The vasodilation ability of nitric oxide results in an increase in blood flow to the penis. This enhanced blood flow is necessary for achieving and maintaining an erection.

Relieve Muscle Soreness

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Muscle soreness, often called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a natural response to strenuous exercise.

Nitric oxide affects the smooth muscles in blood vessel walls and other tissues. By promoting the relaxation of these muscles, NO can ease tension and tightness in the affected area, potentially alleviating some of the discomfort associated with muscle soreness.

It can also help regulate the body’s inflammatory response. While some inflammation is a natural part of the muscle repair process, excessive or chronic inflammation can contribute to soreness.

Boost Heart Health

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Oxidative stress can damage the blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues. NO acts as an antioxidant and helps protect the lining of blood vessels from oxidative stress.

Nitric oxide inhibits platelet activation and aggregation. This prevents the formation of blood clots within arteries, minimizing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The ability of NO to relax and protect blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and inhibit platelet aggregation all contribute to a decreased risk of conditions like Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and heart failure.

Accelerate Muscle Recovery

The vasodilation also benefits post-workout recovery. Increased blood flow ensures that oxygen, amino acids, and other nutrients are transported more efficiently to the muscles. This aids in muscle repair, protein synthesis, and the rebuilding of damaged tissues.

NO has also been shown to support recovery by encouraging lactic acid excretion from the body 2.

Support Immune Health

NO is involved in the body’s defence against pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites 3. It can directly damage the DNA, proteins, and other vital components of pathogens, contributing to their elimination.

Nitric oxide can help modulate the inflammatory response by controlling the inflammatory cytokines production and limiting the immune system’s overactive response. It also speeds up wound healing and tissue repair.

What do nitric oxide supplements contain?

Most supplements do not contain nitric oxide. Instead, they are formulated using amino acids or compounds that act as a precursor to nitric oxide synthesis. Taking these supplements helps raise the level of nitric oxide in the body.

L-citrulline and L-arginine are the two most common amino acids present in nitric oxide supplements.

L-Arginine

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Arginine plays a significant role in the NO production in the body. It serves as a precursor for the synthesis of nitric oxide 4.

When arginine is present in the body, it can be converted into nitric oxide by enzymes called nitric oxide synthases (NOS). This conversion involves the oxidation of arginine to produce NO and citrulline. The released NO is then utilized in various physiological processes.

Athletes and bodybuilders use arginine-containing supplements with the hope of increasing blood flow to working muscles during exercise. The improved blood flow can potentially enhance nutrient and oxygen delivery, thereby improving exercise performance and muscle recovery.

L-Citrulline

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L-Citrulline is another amino acid that plays a crucial role in the production of nitric oxide (NO) and is often used in nitric oxide supplements. Citrulline is converted into arginine in the body, which is then further metabolized to produce nitric oxide 5.

When we consume citrulline, our body converts it into arginine. This conversion occurs primarily in the kidneys. Arginine, as discussed earlier, is a direct precursor to nitric oxide. By supplying the body with citrulline, one can potentially increase the availability of arginine for nitric oxide production.

Citrulline is considered more effective at increasing arginine levels than arginine supplementation. Some studies suggest that arginine is rapidly metabolized by the body’s enzymes, while citrulline is converted into arginine more efficiently, resulting in sustained arginine availability for nitric oxide production.

Are there any side effects of taking nitric oxide supplements?

Nitric oxide supplements are typically considered safe when taken within the recommended dosage. However, some people may experience potential side effects like headaches, abdominal issues, nausea, or itching.

People taking prescription medications like blood thinners, blood pressure medications, or medications for erectile dysfunction should take NO supplements only after a doctor’s consultation. Some studies suggest that nitric oxide supplements may interfere with some medications; hence proper guidance on safe usage is a must.

Also, it is advisable to avoid overdosing or taking excessive amounts of NO to prevent any health implications and enjoy the health benefits.

Conclusion

In conclusion, nitric oxide supplements hold great promise in the health and fitness world. It plays a remarkable role in promoting vasodilation, enhancing exercise performance, and potentially improving cardiovascular health.

It is always wiser to consult a healthcare professional who can help make informed decisions about incorporating nitric oxide supplements into the regimen, ensuring safety and effectiveness.

What are some nitric oxide rich foods?

Foods like watermelon, beetroot, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, pomegranate, fatty fish, garlic, nuts, and seeds may help boost nitric oxide activity in the body.

What is the best time to take nitric oxide tablets or supplements?

Nitric oxide supplements are preferably taken 30 minutes before exercise to optimize their effectiveness.

Which is the best nitric oxide supplement?

There are various nitric oxide supplements available in the market. However, a good quality NO will always combine multiple ingredients for a synergistic effect like arginine, citrulline and dietary nitrates. One should prefer a third-party lab-tested product to ensure quality.

How to increase nitric oxide naturally?

One can consider including foods like beetroot, citrulline, green leafy vegetables and citrus foods which are rich in nitrates and flavonoids to boost nitric oxide levels naturally.

Nitric oxide vs Pre-workout – which is better?

The choice between nitric oxide and pre-workout supplements depends on your fitness goals and preferences. If you are primarily looking to optimize blood flow, muscle pumps, and endurance, NO supplements may be a better choice. On the other hand, if you are seeking an energy boost, increased workout intensity, and enhanced focus, pre-workout supplements could be more suitable.

What is the recommended dose of nitric oxide pre-workout supplements?

The recommended dosage varies from brand to brand as it depends on the formulation. However, it is always better to stay within the prescribed dosage.

References
  1. Biswas, O. S., Gonzalez, V. R., & Schwarz, E. R. (2014). Effects of an oral nitric oxide supplement on functional capacity and blood pressure in adults with prehypertension. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 20(1), 52–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/1074248414539563[]
  2. Mor, A. (2020). Does Nitric Oxide intake affect Post-Exercise recovery in athletes? A Study on Cocoa, Caffeine and Nitric Oxide Supplement: Effect of Nitric Oxide Intake in Athletes. Progress in Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.23751/pn.v22i3.8529[]
  3. Coleman, J. W. (2001). Nitric oxide in immunity and inflammation. International Immunopharmacology, 1(8), 1397–1406. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1567-5769(01)00086-8[]
  4. Wu, G., Meininger, C. J., McNeal, C. J., Bazer, F. W., & Rhoads, J. M. (2021). Role of L-Arginine in nitric oxide synthesis and health in humans. In Springer eBooks (pp. 167–187). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74180-8_10[]
  5. Valaei, K., Mehrabani, J., & Wong, A. (2021). Effects of l-citrulline supplementation on nitric oxide and antioxidant markers after high-intensity interval exercise in young men: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 127(9), 1303–1312. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007114521002178[]
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