If you like the gym and are doing your best, you’ve probably heard of the supplements related to the two words ” nitric oxide “. These supplements are generally only beneficial for fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders, but is this really true?
Nitric oxide is produced by nearly every cell in the body and plays an important role in vasodilation. Vasodilation increases blood flow and pressure within veins and arteries. This process helps support athletic performance.
In theory, if we could increase our blood flow, the availability of oxygen and nutrients would increase, which could enhance the ability to exercise. In this article, we’ll discuss what nitric oxide is, how this increase in performance can help, and which nitric oxide supplement is the best.
What is nitric oxide?
Before discussing the benefits of nitric oxide for athletic performance and general health, it is a good idea to first understand what nitric oxide is.
Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule that can be found within nearly every cell in the body. The best way to describe a signaling molecule is that it plays an important role in how cells send a “signal” or talk to one another to create simple and complex interactions.
In the case of nitric oxide, the signals occurring inside the body are with the endothelium of blood vessels. The endothelium is a thin layer of cells that line organs such as the heart and other areas of the body. Then the blood vessels that react with nitric oxide send a signal to the surrounding smooth muscle cells to relax and dilate, causing vasodilation. In addition to expanding blood vessels, vasodilation lowers blood pressure levels.
As we age, nitric oxide levels naturally decline. In addition to aging, things like smoking, poor diet, and inactivity can also lower your natural nitric oxide levels. This triggering of the natural and abnormal decrease in nitric oxide equations has sparked interest in it and its use to improve performance not only in the gym, but in everyday life as well.
How can an increase in nitric oxide improve performance
When we exercise, especially at high intensity, our muscles and our body require adequate blood flow to perform at the desired level. Adequate blood flow helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles and organs when they need them most.
Because nitric oxide is a vasodilator, it is in the best interest of an active individual to be sensitive to normal nitric oxide levels. If fitness enthusiasts can improve blood flow during exercise, their bodies have a better chance to perform at higher levels due to the availability of oxygen and nutrients.
Supplements that are “nitric oxide” or “no boosters” do not contain nitric oxide. In fact, they contain ingredients that may increase the availability of nitric oxide within the body, which could lead to better performance.
Supplements that can improve nitric oxide
Below, we’ll talk about three common nitric oxide supplements that can affect your performance.
It is important to remember that not every supplement carries the same performance benefits for everyone, across the board. Additionally, some nutritional supplements warrant more research before dosing is definitively established.
One of the most popular options for individuals looking to improve nitric oxide production is L-arginine. This semi-essential amino acid is used by nearly every cell in the body and plays a major role in the formation of nitric oxide.
L-arginine is so apparent that it is said to make up about 5-7% of all amino acids in the body. The many foods we eat daily, such as nuts, seeds, meat and poultry, contain L-arginine.
When it comes to performance and health, L-arginine likely plays a role in autoimmune disorders, endothelial function, oxidative stress, cardiovascular disease, athletic performance, and body composition. In this article, we’ll focus heavily on its potential benefits for performance and body composition.
In a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers sought to explore L-arginine use and its effects on maximum VO₂ (the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during exercise) and body composition. The authors divided 56 soccer players into a group taking L-arginine and a group taking a placebo and scored the maximum tolerated VO2, body mass index, lean body mass and body fat mass.
The L-arginine group took two grams of the supplement every day, while the second group took maltodextrin. After their 45-day analysis, the researchers noted that the maximum VO2 in the L-arginine group improved, however, there were no significant differences in BMI, lean body mass and body fat mass between the two groups.
The authors of this study concluded that L-arginine could be beneficial for increasing athletic performance, but not necessarily for improving results related to body composition.
Beet root juice
Another supplement linked to improving nitric oxide levels is beetroot juice. This supplement is incredibly rich in nitrites, which are natural compounds found in nutrient-rich foods like beets and other vegetables.
Beet root juice is a popular choice for athletes who want to improve stamina and increase their daily nitrate intake. In a 2018 study published in PLoS One, researchers divided 12 elite long- and medium-distance runners into two groups: a group that consumed beetroot juice and a group that took a placebo. Subjects in the study took either 70 ml of beetroot juice or a placebo prescribed for 15 days.
The authors tracked the runs for each individual, assessing exertion, time required for fatigue, and oxygen saturation in the vastus lateralis muscle of the thighs. After the 15-day study, the researchers retested subjects and observed that the group that consumed beet root juice had a significant improvement in their assessment of effort and time required for fatigue, however, there were no differences in biomechanics between the two groups in sprinting and oxygen saturation in the dilated muscle. Lateral thighs.
Another 2019 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research comes. This study compared beet root juice (400 mg), citrulline malt (8 g) and a placebo with each other to determine differences in subjects’ blood flow, metabolic efficiency, and performance during the maximum isocaine stretch of the knee.
The study authors had 27 active, recreational individuals who split into three groups and entered the laboratory for three separate test days. Each person drank their prescribed drink, then rested for two hours before undergoing a warm-up and five sets of 30 focused knee extension exercises.
Before and after knee extensions, the researchers used ultrasound to assess diameter and blood flow through the superficial femoral artery, then analyzes of plasma, urea nitrogen and calorimetry to assess energy expenditure.
The authors concluded that the beet root juice group had higher levels of nitrates and nitrites within the body before and after the intervention. However, they noted that these three groups did not show significant benefits in improving leg pressure performance through supplementation.
L-Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid whose supplement is often taken to improve performance and possibly increase blood flow. It is assumed that L-citrulline might increase arginine when taken orally, and it might also increase nitric oxide in the body.
Both L-Citrulline and Citrulline are commonly used supplements on their own and are often found in pre-workout blends. The main difference between L-Citrulline and Citrulline malt is that citrulline malt contains the addition of malic acid, which gives it a sour taste.
Multiple studies have investigated the use of citrulline to improve athletic performance. In a recent comprehensive analysis of 2019, the authors assessed the severity of the effect of citrulline on high-intensity strength.
This comprehensive analysis included twelve studies, and the authors used only those that focused on compound motility and citrulline use alone and compared it to placebo. For an additional context, studies that focused on isolation exercises, supplemental citrulline blends, citrulline doses of less than 3 grams, and doses of citrulline given less than 30 minutes before or after exercise were excluded.
Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that citrulline had a significant effect on performance compared to placebo, however the effect size was small.
In general, nitric oxide- boosters are considered safe to use. If you have low blood pressure, you should discuss any possible side effects with a healthcare professional. Before starting any new supplement, it is always best to consult your GP to inquire about dosages, contraindications and best uses.