Nitric Oxide (No2) is one of the most important compounds for optimal cardiovascular health. It’s a molecule produced by the body to help millions of cells communicate, by transmitting signals through the whole body. Nitric oxide levels becomes less efficient as we age due to free radical damage, inactivity, and poor diet, which causes the veins and arteries to begin deteriorating.
The body naturally generates Nitric Oxide in the endothelial lining of blood vessel walls. Adequate production of No2 is the first step in a chain reaction, that promotes heart function through healthy dilation of the veins and arteries. This way, blood moves easier through the body. Insufficient No2 levels trigger destruction that can eventually result in heart disease, where the arterial lining becomes damaged, choking off the production of No2 and allowing red blood cells to stick together to create clots and blockages. Eventually, the damaged No2 system will lead to vessels that are vulnerable to inflammation and other negative consequences for the cardiovascular system.
Nitric Oxide is important for many cellular activities. It transmits information to brain cells to improve memory, fights against tumors, prevents bacterial harm to the immune system, regulates blood pressure through artery dilation, reduces inflammation, improves sleep quality, increases recognition of the five senses (i.e., sight, taste, etc.), increases strength and endurance, and supports mobility in the gastric system.
No2 has also become increasingly popular with athletes and bodybuilders. Many bodybuilders consider nitric oxide supplements their new secret weapon, because it is one of the most effective performance boosting supplements available. For bodybuilders who are already optimizing their time in the gym but looking for a supplement to up their progress, nitric oxide could be the perfect answer. Offering increased recovery rates, reduced fatigue, and enhanced endurance, the benefits can’t be ignored.
No2 for Athletes and Bodybuilders
Higher No2 levels can help increase energy, vitality, and overall wellness. Bodybuilders are catching onto the benefits and many have started taking nitric oxide supplements L-arginine and L-citrulline, which both support the flow of blood and oxygen to muscle. Athletes also use the supplements to facilitate the removal of exercise-induced lactic acid buildup after a workout to help reduce fatigue and recovery time. As a natural vasodilator, No2 results in blood vessel dilation for increased blood flow. This carries more oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue, which aids in building lean muscle mass. For serious bodybuilders who judge the effectiveness of their workout by their muscle pump, they see the increased pump from No2 supplements as proof of increased stamina and endurance.
Increasing No2 in the Body
Now that more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of No2, they want to know how to boost their No2 levels. Exercise is a very effective way because the muscles need more oxygen during exercise, and the blood supplies the oxygen. As your heart pumps faster to supply blood to the muscles during a workout, the lining of the arteries releases No2 into the blood to relax and widen the vessel walls, allowing for the passing of more blood through the body. Bodybuilders and younger children typically have more efficient No2 systems, which is reflected in their energy levels and easier recovery.
Another way to improve No2 is through your diet, especially by consuming amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. Nuts, fruit, meat, and dairy contain the highest levels of arginine, an amino acid that directly creates No2 and citrulline in the body’s cells. You can also protect your enzymes and No2 levels by eating healthy antioxidant-rich foods, especially garlic, soy, fruits, and vitamins C and E. No2 doesn’t last more than a few seconds but you can help it last longer and remain more stable by consuming more antioxidants.
Before we get to No2 supplements, here are a few more ways to naturally increase No2 levels in the body:
1. Eat Nitrate-Rich Foods
These include lettuce, carrots, parsley, cabbage, radishes, collard greens, spinach, celery, arugula, and beetroot. Bacteria on the tongue converts nitrates into nitrites, and once they enter the gut they are converted again to nitric oxide and distributed to the rest of the body.
2. Dark Chocolate
This antioxidant-rich and flavonol-filled food has been found to increase No2 levels and decrease blood pressure levels.
3. Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranate juice has been found to increase No2 levels, decrease blood pressure levels, and improve cholesterol levels. It has also been found to decrease the thickness of artery walls and improve artery blood flow during cardio workouts.
4. Skip High-Fat Meals
When you eat high-fat meals, the body’s No2 production is temporarily interrupted, meaning that there will be decreased blood flow during following a large meal high in fat. However, walnuts have been found decrease the inflammation that occurs after consuming a meal with a high fat content.
Most of us are aware of the benefits of sunlight for producing more Vitamin D in the body, but sunlight also triggers the skin to synthesize more nitric oxide.
Whey Protein and Creatine
There are many protein supplements widely available today including whey, casein, soy, and egg protein powders or bars. Whey protein powder offers the highest biological value of any other protein supplement so it is recommended for bodybuilders who use protein and nitric oxide supplements to promote muscle growth and strength. Whey protein is also highly effective at reducing blood pressure which helps support No2 production in the body.
One major reason for choosing whey protein over other protein powders if you are trying to boost your No2 levels is because whey protein and nitric oxide supplements complement each other nicely. Many athletes and bodybuilders choose whey protein because it is easily digestible (which means it goes from mouth to bloodstream to muscles faster than any other protein on the market) and because it is high in sugar which causes an insulin spike, and higher levels of insulin increase muscle intake of amino acids to help build bigger and stronger muscles. Muscles are able to take up greater amounts of amino acids than normal in the first two hours after exercise and bodybuilders take advantage of this by drinking a whey protein shake within that time period.
Creatine is naturally found in muscle tissue in the form of creatine phosphate which is a backup fuel for the muscles when they run out of their primary fuel, ATP, allowing the muscles to contract for longer than normal. This can improve athletic performance, especially for bodybuilders whose sport requires short bursts of intense activity followed by rest periods. Creatine also supports muscle growth due to its anabolic nature, caused by osmotic effects where greater than normal quantities of water are sucked out of the muscles, making them bigger.
Nitric Oxide Supplements
Most bodybuilders combine whey protein and creatine with nitric oxide supplements to promote the best muscle growth. All of these supplements complement each other and can be taken together, which is called “stacking” when you take more than one supplement at a time. Stacking protein and No2 supplements are safe and effective for building muscle, and so are arginine supplements, the main ingredient in most No2 supplements. L-arginine is an amino acid found in dairy, wheat, and animal protein sources. When arginine enters the body it is converted to No2 which is why No2 supplements are designed to increase blood flow for a better muscle pump and amino acid delivery to the muscle tissue. Increasing blood flow helps deliver amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to the muscle.
Many bodybuilders take No2 supplements because it makes them workout harder and for longer. No2’s main purpose is to deliver messages between the body’s cells, but it also helps regulate blood circulation to the major organs. From a muscle-building perspective, No2 affects the release of hormones and adrenaline. It speeds up muscle growth and recovery time while simultaneously increasing blood flow to deliver more nutrients to the muscles, helping them grow.
There are a lot of nitric oxide supplements available. Some contain a single amino acid while some contain a variety of amino acids, vitamins, and extracts. You can take a mixture supplement to get all of your nitric oxide supplement needs in one easy powder, but if you choose to take single supplements there are a few important ones that you should be utilizing. L-arginine and L-citrulline are the two most important. L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide that increases blood flow and muscle pump during workouts, while L-citrulline increases No2 production and supports blood flow to delay fatigue and provide muscle energy. Vitamins C and E are also highly beneficial. They are two basic antioxidants that protect the blood vessels from the damaging effects of free radicals and promote No2 production.
If you are looking for other natural supplements there are a few you can try. You can consider adding fish oil, a natural anti-inflammatory, and grape seed extract, which protects the endothelial lining by fostering No2 production. Some bodybuilders and nutrition professionals also recommend the power of beets. Beet juice and extract offer enhanced exercise performance including greater endurance, power output, and less fatigue. To get these benefits, look for supplements that provide beet extract along with other supplements like arginine and citrulline. Beet extract is especially recommended as a pre-workout supplement to be taken 30-60 minutes before your workout.