What Is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is important for different cellular processes in the bodies of different organisms, including humans. This leads to it sometimes being called a messenger molecule . It is synthesized using arginine, oxygen, and other enzymes in what is called the nitric oxide pathway, or NO synthase.
Because nitric oxide is important for many tasks in the body, it has been created as a supplement. Nitric oxide supplements have general purpose benefits that can improve overall health, as well as benefits that would interest people who play sports. This can also include fitness enthusiasts, such as weightlifters who like to perform well, and bodybuilders who love a muscle pump.
This article will discuss five benefits of using a nitric oxide supplement. By using one, you have the potential to make positive changes to your own health along with having a better workout experience at the gym.
What Are Nitric Oxide Supplements?
First and foremost, good nitric oxide supplements will have a sufficient amount of l-arginine in them. This is because of arginine’s role in the nitric oxide pathway. They may also contain l-citrulline or the compound, citrulline malate. Citrulline also converts to arginine in the kidneys .
Because of this, it can be common to see both in the ingredients list. L-citrulline and l-arginine are seen together often because they have a close relationship when it comes to producing nitric oxide. Sometimes a nitric oxide supplement may have creatine or have no creatine at all. Importantly, a form of arginine should be one of the main ingredients listed in a proprietary blend in a nitric oxide booster. In nitric oxide supplements, it can often be listed as arginine alpha-ketoglutarate or AAKG for short.
Nitric Oxide Benefits
Nitric oxide can benefit many areas of the body because it is a chemical messenger and has physiological importance. This article aims to inform you about the benefits of nitric oxide and how they can improve your overall health along with improvements as they relate to fitness. Information regarding dosages will also be provided, so you can learn about what is effective but also safe at the same time.
Increased Blood Flow
An improvement in blood flow is the bread-and-butter of all of the nitric oxide benefits. This is because nitric oxide and blood flow go hand in hand with each other. It also provides the basis of how nitric oxide supplements work. It’s not only good for healthy living, but it’s the main reasons why the other benefits in this list exist, especially the ones that are more catered to those who are into fitness.
Studies show that nitric oxide has a significant effect on blood flow and has an effect on the endothelium. Endothelium refers to the cells that make up the lining of blood vessels.
These studies show that a lack of nitric oxide, or the use of nitric oxide inhibitors, can result in :
- arterial stiffness
- increased pulse pressure
- endothelial dysfunction
These are all huge problems, and endothelial dysfunction can lead to high blood pressure, and life-threatening events such as cardiovascular disease .
By consuming nitric oxide supplements, you can possibly prevent these problems; nitric oxide is a vasodilator, after all. With increased blood flow from nitric oxide vasodilators, you will receive more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Your arteries and blood vessels will be less constricted, and will definitely reduce stress on the heart .
Reduced Blood Pressure
This section has some relation to the previous one, except higher blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is considered bad, but increased blood flow is good.
To explain this, blood flow can be described as the movement of your blood that is circulating through the vessels, whereas blood pressure refers to the speed and force circulating in the walls of your blood vessels .
In layman’s terms, you want more blood flow in order to get necessary nutrients and oxygen through the body, but you don’t want the blood to be forceful against the artery walls. Most of them are relatively small after all, so overly exerting them is harmful.
It is well known within the scientific community that the inhibition, or restriction, of nitric oxide, whether it’s from drugs or other causes, can result in hypertension . This has been examined in animals and humans.
Increased blood pressure is associated with, and can result in a number of health problems such as :
- Cardiovascular disease
It is no surprise that some of these conditions that are affiliated with high blood pressure are similar to the ones listed in the previous section about blood flow. The common factor is the endothelial function. There are drugs out there that are anti-hypertensive, but improving endothelial function should be better for disease prevention and long-term health.
Can nitric oxide supplements lower blood pressure? The research suggests that it can. This is because having reduced nitric oxide shows adverse effects. By raising nitric oxide, blood pressure should be lower.
We’ve learned earlier that the lack of nitric oxide can cause in endothelial dysfunction and, as a consequence, result in serious illnesses. By improving the supply of nitric oxide throughout the body, you can possibly restore endothelial function and normalize blood pressure levels. You can improve this supply by taking a nitric oxide supplement. Naturally, using one should provide some relief to nitric oxide blood pressure issue.
Increased Exercise Capacity
Another consequence of endothelial dysfunction is reduced exercise capacity. This has been shown in individuals who have undergone a heart transplant.
In a trial consisting of 22 heart transplant recipients, these individuals were given an l-arginine supplement or a placebo over the course of 6 weeks. They were tested by performing a 6-minute walk as well as a bicycle exercise. The results showed that the individuals with heart transplants who took the arginine supplement :
- Improved their submaximal exercise capacity
- Were able to increase their distance during the walk
- Had an increase in nitric oxide to endothelin ratio
- Reported an improved quality of life
While a specific nitric oxide supplement wasn’t used, arginine is still the precursor of nitric oxide in the body and it stimulates its production. Because of this l-arginine and nitric oxide are closely related. If heart transplant recipients were able to see these improvements, healthy individuals should be able to as well. Athletes may be able to see things such as increased time until exhaustion and perform more reps, depending on the type of exercise. These improvements are speculated to be caused by increased oxygen supply due to repaired endothelial function by consistently taking l-arginine over the 6 weeks.
A Bigger Muscle Pump
People love going to the gym and chasing a good pump in their muscles. This is a nitric oxide muscle benefit.
It can be a great feeling, and it can also make you feel like you have had an effective workout. A pump is basically the swelling of the muscle due to being filled up with blood and oxygen. This is often caused by increased time-under-tension on a given exercise.
Because one of the benefits of nitric oxide is having increased blood flow, it should be no surprise that your muscles will be affected by this as well. Nitric oxide and bodybuilding work well together. You give your muscles more opportunity to get filled with blood if it flows efficiently.
A pump is often correlated with muscular hypertrophy or the increase in muscle size. A trial involving older mice showed promise by displaying muscle size gains and it can indicate that nitric oxide may play a role in this process.
These 18-year-old female mice were provided a nitric oxide donor and participated in voluntary exercise over a course of 3 weeks. At the end of the trial, the study showed that the mice had :
- Improved sarcolemmal integrity
- More vascular density
- Displayed a 25% increase in quadriceps muscle size!
This suggests that nitric oxide and the improvement in vascular response can activate the muscle cells. It also indicates that nitric oxide may even prevent muscular atrophy (the destruction of cells) in older individuals. The regeneration, growth, and maintenance of muscle tend to deteriorate as organisms get older . The prevention of atrophy can also be seen as a nitric oxide muscle benefit.
Some people have successfully used nitric oxide supplements for ED, and there is some supporting evidence that there is a correlation between a lack of nitric oxide and men who are affected by erectile dysfunction .
This makes sense because erections happen because of blood flow. Since nitric oxide has a major role in blood flow, it’s plausible that restriction of it caused by inhibition of nitric oxide can contribute to this common male problem.
Aerobic training, also known as cardio, has shown to benefit men who have erectile dysfunction because it gets blood pumping from the heart and can increase nitric oxide availability . Based on this information, using cardiovascular training, along with a nitric oxide booster, may be a potential solution to erectile dysfunction.
Nitric Oxide Dosage Information
A typical nitric oxide supplement will contain a number of ingredients in it. However, arginine is the ingredient that you need to focus on the most when taking look at a nitric oxide booster. Nitric oxide supplements will usually have it listed as arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG). They may also contain citrulline malate and other amino acids that can contribute to its efficacy.
The l-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate dosages usually range from 1,500 mg to 3,000 mg. Research indicates that a dose of 2,000 mg of l-arginine has shown effectiveness in treating cardiovascular issues . This same dose has also shown to improve sports performance. This means that there is consistency between the dosage on the labels and with scientific studies regarding l-arginine.
These dosages are usually for one serving, such as a scoop of powder, but it’s not out of the ordinary for them to split into smaller servings at lower dosages, but taken more than once. This is true if you take nitric oxide pills. An inhaled nitric oxide version is also an option.
Therefore, the dosage that is provided on the label is supposed to be what’s effective and also recommended for safety reasons. Taking an excessive dosage may result in side effects. One example of nitric oxide side effects is having low blood pressure.
Nitric oxide supplements may be taken before or after a workout, but it may be beneficial beforehand because of its capabilities on increasing blood flow. If you choose to take it post-workout, make sure it doesn’t have caffeine because it is a stimulant and it may disrupt sleep.
Summary & Conclusion
Nitric oxide is a significant molecule that has an especially great role in the heart and its functions. Blood flow is possibly the most important of perk in this list and it provides the framework for many of the subsequent nitric oxide benefits.
Restricted circulation of blood can lead to severe health problems, but when it’s flowing nicely it can increase exercise performance as well as help you achieve a great pump at the gym. An improved pump makes nitric oxide supplements for bodybuilding a great choice. This is all possible due to the increase of nutrients and oxygen that flow through the blood. Men may also see some improvements in erectile dysfunction from a nitric oxide booster.
Nitric oxide can even reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure can have some similar consequences as restricted blood flow, and this is because the endothelial cells are being affected in both blood pressure and flow.
Are nitric oxide supplements safe? Yes, but you should stick with the dosage that is recommended on the label of nitric oxide booster. Are nitric oxide supplements legal? This is also a yes – to a certain extent.
Nitric oxide isn’t a steroid, and it doesn’t amplify your hormones. However, some supplements may have ingredients that are banned by certain organizations. Currently, arginine is not one of those banned substances. This should only be a concern if you are competing in a sport. You won’t be arrested for possession of nitric oxide supplements; they are widely available for purchase.
By taking a nitric oxide booster, you can get some great use out of it. When you are able to increase blood flow, you open the door to better health and higher quality workouts. You can potentially improve your exercise performance by increasing your work capacity as well as put yourself in a position for greater hypertrophy. However, anyone can benefit from a nitric oxide supplement, or arginine, not just fitness fanatics!
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