You may have heard of nitric oxide supplements, which claim to increase workout performance and boost your productivity in general and even enhance endurance in za oza room. You might even find some inside your pre-workout formulas too.
SO WHAT IS, OR WHAT DOES NITRIC OXIDE DO?
“Nitric oxide (NO) is a gas that the body produces, and it helps with blood flow (vasodilator) and could also act as a neurotransmitter. Nitric oxide supplements are formulated in order to try to increase the amount of nitric oxide in your blood, which might in turn help increase blood flow to working muscles and help reduce time to fatigue during a workout..
(To be clear, nitric oxide is very different from nitrous oxide, a.k.a. the stuff that gets you high.)
Theoretically, NO supplements could do wonders for your fitness routine. But in terms of scientific evidence, well, let’s just keep our fingers crossed…
So many questions might be running through your mind now like: Are nitrous oxide supplements safe? Do they work? First off, some of those supplements might not actually be nitric oxide—so be careful with which ones you’re buying. “While companies may label them as ‘nitric oxide’ supplements and boosters, they really don’t contain any nitric oxide. For example, Some ‘boosters’ could contain compounds such as L-arginine
While the L-arginine in your body is involved in nitric oxide production, research is mixed as to whether taking it in supplement form will increase nitric oxide production, and if it could, whether that would actually enhance exercise performance and improve health.
“It’s also important to note that many booster supplements may contain additional ingredients that are not well researched or well regulated, so it’s wise to read labels carefully and seek professional advice before popping them pills.
If you’re looking to still give nitric oxide a try, here’s what you should know.
In the body, nitric oxide is secreted by the endothelial cells, which line the inner walls of the blood vessels, and it communicates with the smooth muscle cells, triggering them to relax. This blood flow regulation plays a role in multiple body functions, including maintaining erections and controlling blood pressure.
NO supplements, however, don’t actually contain nitric oxide. Instead, they contain ingredients (or substrates) that are thought to give your body a nudge to produce more nitric oxide, such as L-arginine and L-citrulline.
“If you’re ingesting nitrate or L-arginine, the idea is that it’s supposed to stimulate the synthesis of nitric oxide in the endothelial cell. So the more substrates there are, the more NO can be produced,”
Because blood is responsible for the transportation of oxygen to working muscles, the reasoning is that the increased blood flow caused by taking NO supplements might help you work out for a longer period of time and speed up recovery time. Proponents also claim that increased blood flow might make your muscles bigger and more pronounced.
EFFICACY OF NO SUPPLEMENTS
Honestly, me self nor know. There’s simply not enough evidence to suggest that they do.
Seemingly, the idea is that these supplements will increase NO, and then because of that, it’ll support the process of vasodilation, and obviously, the downstream effect of vasodilation would be this massive increase in blood flow, which leads to increased exercise performance and enhanced recovery. “But most, if not all, of [these purported benefits] have not been supported by available evidence.”
In studies that have shown a link between improvements in performance and nitrate levels in the blood, such positive results could simply be a result of extensive training, as exercise itself enhances NO activity. Plus, dietary nitrate comes from other sources, like vegetables, and most studies don’t control for this.
Even if there are benefits to NO supplementation, it’s unclear whether they would apply to everyone. A review of 42 studies related to the effects of dietary ingredients linked with NO and exercise performance found mixed results: the review concluded that while NO supplements may “improve tolerance” to aerobic and anaerobic exercise in people who either aren’t in shape or are moderately trained, there seems to be no benefit in highly trained people.
BEETS AND IMPROVED WORKOUT?
A few studies have shown that nitrate supplementation through beetroot juice can be effective at increasing endurance and overall power. One study found a link between 15 days of beetroot juice supplementation and an increase in power max during moderate–intensity cycling tests. While more research is required, it might interest you to note that of the ingredients that may have an impact on NO levels and exercise performance, beetroot juice is the most promising.
“Beets are the highest dietary source of nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in the body. Because of their natural nitrate content and it’s ability to convert to nitric oxide so well, beets have been shown through many studies to support the heart, especially by improving blood pressure,”.
Beets are also linked to other nitric oxide benefits, including improvements in both increasing strength and endurance performance as well as improvements in cognition during exercise, lower inflammation levels, greater antioxidant function, improved cognition.
Plus, beets are also good for your heart and muscle recovery, and are a good source of fiber.
It’s important to note that blood nitrate levels peak within 2–3 hours. Therefore, to maximize their potential, it’s best to consume beets 2–3 hours before training or competing
SIDE EFFECTS OF NITRIC OXIDE SUPPLEMENTS
Even though the jury’s out on whether NO supplements really do improve performance, Bloomer says if you want to try them at a low dosage, go ahead. That said, if you’re prone to hypotension (or low blood pressure), you might want to skip them, as they could leave you feeling lightheaded or dizzy.
You should note that high dosages of NO supplements could put your kidney function at risk, particularly if you already have a nitrate-heavy diet. In such cases, “it might actually cause a reduction in performance, because your kidneys are too stressed out trying to process all this extra nitrate. To be on the safe side, just stick to the dosage stated on the package.
DOES NITRIC OXIDE HELP SEXUALLY OR BOOST LIBIDO
Since Nitric oxide itself plays a substantial role in initiating and sustaining erections in males, and since it also increases blood flow to the penis, which can help a man maintain his erection, it could increase performance in bed and help you go longer. But there are other intrinsic factors to this.
A recent study did show that L-arginine supplements might enhance the effects of a common erectile dysfunction drug, but studies on people without dysfunction is limited, so general benefits aren’t totally known.
IS NITRIC OXIDE DANGEROUS FOR YOUR LIVER?
“While research isn’t conclusive, the answer to this may depend on whether you’re ingesting high amounts of synthetic nitrates and nitrites from processed meats or eating nitrates naturally from vegetables,”.
The World Health Organization and American institute for cancer research advise against any intake of processed and cured meats, and most contain sodium nitrates and nitrites. “Some research has linked sodium nitrates to free radical damage to cells including those in the liver, however much of this research has been conducted on animals with human studies being based on correlation rather than causation,” she says.
FOODS THAT ARE HIGH IN NITRIC OXIDE
Beetroot juice contains a notable amount of nitric oxide, and there is research to show that drinking it before competition can help with performance. One study found cyclists who drank beetroot juice two to three hours before exercise increased peak power and pedaling velocity. Another review also shows that beetroot juice can increase overall endurance and power for athletes.
It could also be found in leafy greens and other vegetables, but in smaller amounts. Vegetables are rich in nitrates, and high nitrate intake is associated with higher nitric oxide levels in the body, reason why incorporating veggies to your diet is important; so long as you have a healthy oral microbiome. Regular use of antibacterial mouthwash actually kills the bacteria that aid in production of nitric oxide from nitrates (and may impact the bacterial balance in your lower digestive tract),”.
There are a few vegetables with nitric oxide, but the ones with the highest nitrite content are beets which tops the list, as well as celery, chard, watercress, lettuce, spinach, and arugula. The next group with the greatest amount includes cucumber, celeriac, Chinese cabbage, endive, fennel, kohlrabi, leeks, and parsley.
IS DAILY INTAKE OF NITRIC OXIDE ADVISED?
Consuming nitrates through food is totally encouraged. The research on beet juice and beet powder shows the best success in improving exercise performance and heart health with daily consumption of at least 2 weeks. “Nitrate content may be an additional reason high vegetable intake is associated with better heart health, too,”
When it comes to supplements containing ingredients other than pure beet or vegetable powder, you want to be careful. Supplements are not well regulated for safety, purity, potency or effectiveness of claims, so if you do choose another “nitric oxide booster” pick one that is third party tested, preferably by NSF for Sport or Informed Choice for Sport.
To be candid, from a professional view, I don’t think you should supplement daily. No dietitian would recommend it. There isn’t much research on these supplements, so it’s difficult to assess what the long term side effects might be. Instead, just eat your darn veggies or beets to get your nitric oxides you must.