Nitric oxide is a gas molecule in the body responsible for blood pressure regulation, reproduction, and protecting the cardiovascular and immune systems.
Therapeutically, nitric oxide is used as a supplement to combat sexual disorders like erectile dysfunction and infertility. It’s also popular with athletes for its ability to enhance training performance, reduce fatigue, increase muscle size and promote recovery.
Whether in food or supplement form, adding nitric oxide to your diet can increase your energy levels, giving you an extra boost to conquer your busy schedule and survive the toughest workouts.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide circulates oxygen, nutrients, and blood through the body. It improves metabolic health and cognitive functions and increases sexual stamina and muscle hypertrophy.
External nitric oxide is found in foods like meats, fruits, dark chocolate, and green leafy vegetables. Eating nitric oxide-rich foods can lower blood pressure and relax constricted veins and arteries. Our bodies produce nitric oxide with the help of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase.
In recent years, nitric oxide supplements have grown in popularity in the fitness community.
Athletes use it to increase energy, improve training performance, and increase muscle repair. This allows athletes to train longer and harder, with less downtime recovering. Supplementing with nitric oxide can provide many benefits, but reviews are mixed about the effects of long-term use.
Next, you’ll learn how nitric oxide is created and functions in the body.
Nitric Oxide Production in the Body
Nitric oxide is a gas made from the amino acid L-arginine combined with oxygen. It's an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory molecule that lines every organ and tissue in the body.
As a biological regulator, nitric oxide works as a messenger, moving blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. It controls the functioning process of the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, and immune systems. Nitric oxide is used to treat metabolic conditions like coronary heart disease and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).
In 2018, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders cited nitric oxide as providing therapeutic benefits to the cardiovascular and renal systems and metabolic conditions like hypertension.
In reproduction, nitric oxide is used to treat sexual disorders and prevent fertility issues. For men, it is used to treat erectile dysfunction by relaxing the smooth muscles and allowing blood to circulate to the genitals. This has been found to prolong erections and improve sexual performance.
For women, studies show that nitric oxide is beneficial in encouraging ovulation, regulating menstruation, and preventing reproductive diseases.
In the fitness world, nutrition companies sell nitric oxide supplements as a strength and endurance enhancer. These supplements don't contain the molecule. Instead, they contain substrates that encourage nitric oxide production in the body. All natural athletes can consume nitric oxide-rich foods to improve levels and performance.
Health Benefits of Nitric Oxide Foods
Nitrates and nitrites are compounds naturally found in soil and water. They are also used in the food industry as additives in cured meats like ham, bacon, deli meats, and hot dogs to preserve smell, meat color, and flavor. Some people avoid foods that contain nitrates due to negative effects like high sodium and the promotion of gastric, prostate, and breast cancer.
A 2021 study found that cured meats with high nitric oxide levels can cause colon cancer. But plant-based extracts can serve as an equivalent alternative for meat preservation.
Healthy nitrates are in vegetables like beats, dark leafy greens (i.e., kale, spinach, etc.), nuts, and fruits. Consuming these nitro oxide-rich foods promotes blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Increased Blood Flow & Improved Cardiovascular Health
Nitric oxide plays an important role in cell communication for the central nervous system. It moderates seizures, cerebral diseases like strokes, and neurological disorders like Alzheimer's.
Increased Energy Levels
Nitric oxide improves blood flow and vessel health by promoting metabolic efficiency and the production of oxygen diffusion.
Improved Athletic Performance
Nitric oxide supplements are known to have a positive effect on athletic performance by widening blood vessels during exercise. Blood, oxygen, and nutrients can easily travel to the muscles improving protein synthesis and repair.
Reduce Blood Pressure
Nitric oxide improves blood flow and vessel health by promoting blood circulation to muscles throughout the body.
Improved Brain Function
Nitric oxide works as a neurotransmitter to improve brain function by increasing cerebral blood flow which allows for messages to be sent from cells in the body to the brain.
Next, we'll look at 12 foods that can help promote positive nitric oxide levels and improve performance in the gym, in between the sheets, and in everyday life.
12 Foods to Boost Your Body's Levels of Nitric Oxide
Nitrites and nitrates are chemicals found in water, air, and soil. Eating foods that contain natural nitrates is beneficial due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and skin-healing properties.
Many medical professionals discourage regularly eating foods like
processed meats like hotdogs, sausages, and deli meats. Overconsumption of these foods can exasperate nitrate levels, affecting the gut microbiome and leading to colon cancer.
Eating vegetable-based foods that are high in nitrates like carrots, celery, and broccoli can improve your body's nitric oxide levels to improve your health.
Let's take a look at 12 foods to pick up on your next trip to the grocery store.
Beets contain nitrates that convert into nitric oxide. Eating raw beets or drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure, and improve blood circulation, and glucose levels.
Carrots are rich in antioxidants that can prevent cell damage and reduce the risks of diseases like colon cancer.
Celery has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling in the body.
4. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, plums, guava, and peppers have the skin-healing antioxidant Vitamin C.
5. Dark Chocolate
Research studies have found that dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure and the risks of hypertension.
Garlic is not only great in pasta, on pizzas, and in soups but also good for high cholesterol by increasing blood circulation in the arteries and the heart.
7. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, bok choy, and cabbage are high in vitamins, nitrates, and immune-boosting antioxidants.
- Bok Choy
- Mustard Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Red Spinach
8. Meat, Poultry, & Seafood
Nitrites and nitrates are added to meat products to maintain color, freshness, and flavor in cured meats.
Although it can boost nitric oxide, it is best to limit the consumption of processed meats due to other risks. Instead, you can focus on a diet rich in the other foods on this list to increase NO levels in your body.
In 2021, the Institute for Medical Research and the National Institute of the Republic of Serbia conducted a study on children ages 1-9. The research reported that frequently consuming processed meats increased the potential for kidney and cardiovascular diseases.
9. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain L-arginine, which converts into nitric oxide. Consuming legumes can improve metabolic markers by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
Pomegranates can reduce oxidative stress and increase cognitive brain function by providing therapeutic and protective effects against Alzheimer's disease.
If you don't have easy access to pomegranates, you can add a super reds powder to your diet to benefit from the nitric oxide boosting properties of the fruit, plus others like apple, acai, maqui, elerberry, and more.
11. Red Wine
Red wine contains antioxidants that provide health benefits like maintaining good health and preventing diseases.
Watermelon contains L-citrulline and L-arginine. When combined the amino acids convert into nitric oxide that can improve blood sugar and cardio-metabolic health.
Signs of Low Nitric Oxide Levels
Low nitric oxide levels in the body can inhibit all areas of health, daily activities, and quality of life. Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases like strokes and Parkinson's disease indicate low nitric oxide levels in the body.
Other Potential symptoms and indicators include:
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a risk factor in cardiac disorders that can cause hypertension. Consuming foods high in salts and fats can also lead to artery restrictions.
Low Energy and Stamina
Living a sedentary lifestyle can cause fatigue, poor oxygen circulation, and blood flow. Studies have linked inactivity with the development of diabetes. Daily exercise can raise nitric oxide and energy levels and prevent the onset of the disease.
Men suffering from erectile dysfunction are often treated with L-arginine supplements, to enhance blood flow to the genitals to increase erections.
Nitric oxide deficiencies have been found to induce cognitive impairments and brain disorders like Alzheimer's Disease in older adults.
Consuming nitric oxide-rich foods enhances vasodilation, enabling blood, oxygen, and nutrients to move unrestricted throughout the body. Using NO supplements is another way to increase nitric oxide levels and give muscles an extra pump.
Supplements to Maintain Healthy Nitric Oxides Levels
Nitric oxide supplements are another way to increase your body's levels. Nutrition companies sell the supplements in capsule or powder form, allowing for a convenient way to maintain and boost nitric oxide levels while on the go.
L-arginine is an essential amino acid found in fish, beef, chicken, and dairy products that converts into nitric oxide in the body.
In 2021, a study was conducted on a group of footballers (soccer players) supplementing with L-arginine before training sessions. The researchers found that the athletes experienced improvements during workouts and post-training recovery.
L-citrulline is a non-essential amino acid found in the body. The kidneys convert L-citrulline and L-arginine and function as a vasodilator that can decrease oxidative stress.
Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can reduce cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular heart disease.
Before using supplements, always check with your physician first. Research and read the ingredients on the nutrition label to ensure that you're using quality products. It may also enhance nitric oxide bioavailability.
Stim-Free Naked Energy
When looking for pre-workout supplements, you want a product that will give you an edge to "do work" when it's time to train. Some pre-work supplements on the market contain lots of caffeine, B-vitamins, and sugars.
They may give you an initial rush and muscle pump, but they can also cause jitters, anxiety, and disrupt sleep. Stim-free pre-workouts don't contain stimulants like caffeine, sugars, and other additives.
Our stim free pre workout helps boost nitric oxide levels to improve blood flow, energy, and focus. Third-party tested and vegan-friendly, Naked Energy doesn't contain any stimulants, fillers, or artificial flavors. It'll give you a boost without the crash.
Naked Nutrition's formula uses high-quality blends of natural and functional ingredients like L-Citrulline Malate, Nitrosigine, Carnosyn Beta-Alanine, Niacin, and more.
Whether it's Squat Day, an intense HIIT session, or the spin class from Hell, try Naked Energy. It can help you blast through fatigue and maximize training.
Nitric oxide is an essential molecule that plays a critical role in the body. As a vasodilator, it relaxes arteries to move blood, oxygen, and nutrients to muscles and vitality.
Low nitric oxide levels can prevent you from successfully functioning at the gym, in the bedroom, and everyday life. The next time you're at the grocery store, consider picking up some nitric oxide-rich foods to give your health and performance (of any kind) a boost.