When You Should Take Supplements
You work hard in the gym, focus on your nutrition, and monitor your stress levels. Even with this attention to detail, you remain unable to achieve results, break plateaus, or maintain the intensity of your workouts. For many of you, help can come in the form of supplements.
Taking supplements does not replace executing the basics. You can't take a supplement to replace poor nutrition or to make up for missed or lazy days at the gym. After laying down a solid foundation, supplements can:
- Provide a necessary boost to take you to the next level
- Assist in improving performance
- Aid in recovery
- Fill the gap of nutrients or energy
Typically, supplements fall into one of three categories: pre workout, during workout, and post workout. This article will review the benefits and uses of a pre-workout supplement- Nitric Oxide.
What Exactly is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric Oxide gas is released by cells in order to enhance communication between other cells, and to enhance the chemical message they are trying to deliver. It is also released by the walls of blood vessels in response to an increased demand for oxygen and blood delivery.
Nitric Oxide supplements usually contain amino acids and other ingredients which will vary by product and manufacturer. When reading an ingredient label on many supplement products, you might see the words “proprietary blend”. This means the company has a secret formula whose purpose they may report (i.e. increase muscle pump), but not the details of their contents. When a supplement says it contains NO, it means your body will increase NO production after you take the supplement.
What are the Effects of NO?
NO products are often labeled as “volumizers”, or “pump agents”. Nitric Oxide allows more blood to fill muscle fibers, and as a result there's an increase in the how full the muscle becomes. Many people notice a definitive increase in the pump they feel in their muscles after consuming an NO product.
Nitric Oxide relaxes smooth muscles and dilates blood vessels. Smooth muscle is responsible for involuntary muscle contractions such as digestion and the flow of blood to/away from the skin. In the presence of NO, cells seem to have improved ability to communicate with one another and perform their necessary actions more efficiently.
Remember that nitric oxide is a gas that's made in cells by breaking down amino acids, specifically L-Arginine and L-Citrulline. In response to a request for Nitric Oxide, the body forces a chemical reaction which breaks down L-Arginine. NO is released as a result of this breakdown. A leftover by-product of these reactions is L-Citrulline. Your body converts L-Citrulline into an available source of L-Arginine so that the process of NO release can continue. Like all amino acids, L-Arginine and L-Citrulline can be manufactured, put in a bottle and made available for consumption.
Fitness Benefits of Nitric Oxide Supplements
In response to higher NO levels, your body increases blood flow to working tissue. More blood means more nutrients and oxygen to tissue. Nutrients and oxygen are essential for muscle growth and for the ability of the body to continue to exercise.
Increased blood has also been shown to help the body rid itself of lactic acid and “waste” products. Since these waste products can delay muscle recovery, it's important to be able to clear them quickly. It's possible that NO helps keep inflammation at bay. During an exercise session, clearing waste helps decrease muscle fatigue and allows the body to push for one more rep.
The effects of nitric oxide release include increased energy for workouts and increased intensity as well. In other words, you feel better and more energized to do a high intensity workout. The end result of working out harder is usually gains in muscle mass, strength, and decreases in body fat.
There seems to be a psychological boost attained during and after a workout as a response to the muscles feeling pumped.
Studies have reported benefits of NO supplementation for people training for endurance events, as well as those looking to gain strength, size, or decrease their body fat. Whether you are trying to go long or get big, an NO supplement could help you with your goal.
Non Fitness Related Benefits
As mentioned earlier, NO causes vasodilation, or a widening of blood vessels. Cardiologists take advantage of the benefits derived from NO to treat patients with heart problems. Many people have decreased blood supply to the heart. This decrease of blood can be attributed to damage to blood vessels. This damage can be in the form of plaque build up which decreases the amount of available space for blood to flow. NO relaxes these blood vessels and widens them to increase blood flow to heart tissue.
Since NO improves the communication amongst cells, many people report increased acuity and mental sharpness. Some people report improved memory, and even being able to sleep better.
Erectile dysfunction medications often stimulate the release of Nitric Oxide which then causes the body to increase blood flow to sexual organs.
Care must always be taken when adding a supplement, especially for those with prior medical history. NO supplements, alone or when combined with medications, could have drastic impact on blood pressure. While the majority of these supplements have been widely consumed without negative side effects, follow or seek the advice of your healthcare provider to ensure no medical reasons exist for you to not consume them.
Parting Thoughts on NO
Not all humans are created equal, and an individual's response to NO supplements can vary. The first important components to address are the basics. Sleep often, eat right, train hard. After these have been fine tuned, consider adding an NO supplement. It may just be the missing link on your journey to better fitness results.