Nitric Oxide Supplements Review
Nitric Oxide (NO) is a gas that that is important to a broad range of bodily functions including controlling blood circulation and helping to regulate activities of the brain, lungs, kidneys, stomach and plenty more. For the most part it facilitates communications among cells. For bodybuilders, the most interesting process in which NO is involved is the dilation of blood vessels. This is known as vasodilation and that is exactly why you should be interested in NO and what it can do to improve your performance.
Vasodilation refers to an increase in the flow of blood through the body, which means faster and more efficient delivery of nutrients like amino acids, creatine, glucose, and oxygen to the muscle fibers. This helps your muscles to grow bigger and recover faster while facilitating the removal of waste products like lactic acid and CO2 that can decrease performance. Greater blood flow also enhances the delivery of anabolic hormones like testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-I, all of which are important for muscle growth. Other benefits of increased blood flow include reduced inflammation and a bigger and longer-lasting "pump," too.
In our bodies NO is synthesized by L-arginine by an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). This catalyzes the conversion of L-arginine to nitric oxide and citrulline. Under normal conditions our bodies produce it only in very small amounts-enough to do what needs to be done and that's it. Production of NO is increased during exercise but not necessarily to the degree that we'd like to see. Some of the numerous benefits of boosting our bodies' output of nitric oxide include:
Increased vasodilation, which increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles, which improves the transportation of oxygen and the delivery of nutrients to the cells;
Increased strength and improved stamina;
Gains in lean mass;
Enhanced, more rapid muscle recovery;
Improved endurance; and Extended muscle pump.
Numerous studies such as one conducted at the University of Texas, have shown that supplements can boost the body's production of nitric oxide more than just exercise alone. Another study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that a pre-workout stack of L-arginine combined with citrulline can boost measurably boost nitric oxide levels. Their research showed that the combination of the two supplements increased nitric oxide levels more than either supplement taken alone.
There are a lot of different NO-boosting supplements on the market. Knowing what was discovered in the British study though, in looking for supplements to boost your NO output, you might want to look for one that contains not only L-arginine but citrulline as well. There are other ways to up your body's NO production as well including:
- Don't eat fatty foods within four hours of working out: A study conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore showed that high-feat meals hamper the ability of NO to dilate the blood vessels for up to four hours;
- Eat watermelon: Several studies such as one conducted at Texas A&M University indicate that watermelon contains NO-boosting molecules;
- Eat cocoa: A study conducted at the University of California, Davis showed that cocoa boosts nitric oxide levels. Chocolate contains flavanols that are similar to those found in fruit, red wine and teas. One flavanol in particular though-epicatechin-is directly linked to increases in NO output. A teaspoon or two of cocoa extract is enough to stimulate NO production.
You should also know about a possible side effect. Specific dosing guidelines have not been established so don't go too overboard supplementing with L-arginine because you might just wind up with a case of diarrhea. It's not very common but it does happen. If you're supplementing with L-arginine you should start with a low dosage to understand your body's tolerances and see if you have any side effects. Increase your dosage until you achieve the optimal balance of maximum benefits/no side effects. Also, remember to consider other supplements that your might be taking because many of them are fortified with amino acids including arginine.
Most of the heavy duty research into the science of muscle growth is relatively new with the majority of the really interesting stuff just happening in the last 10-15 years. The point being that research into the benefits of NO is just really starting to gain ground. I have no doubt that in the next few years we'll be hearing a lot more about what this amazing molecule can do-not just for the muscles but for the entire body.