Nitric oxide is a popular supplement, particularly among the fitness community. Nitric oxide can likely improve athletic performance and reduce recovery time.
But what does science really say about nitric oxide? This article will explain what nitric oxide is, its potential benefits for exercise, as well as potential side effects.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is a gas that’s produced in the body. In fact, it’s produced in essentially every cell.
Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it helps relax and widen the blood vessels, allowing for improved blood flow and lower blood pressure.
Compounds that are readily converted to nitric oxide are commonly found in pre-workout supplements as it helps to increase blood flow, therefore improving performance.
In addition to boosting athletic performance, nitric oxide has several other health benefits and roles in the body.
Is Nitric Oxide a Good Pre Workout?
There is significant research that points to the benefits of nitric oxide for exercise performance. Some promising research suggests that consuming nitric oxide – or nitrates – in a pre-workout supplement can help reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
Many pre-workout supplements contain nitrates, which are then made into nitric oxide gas within the body. L-arginine and L-citrulline are common amino acids that are frequently found in pre-workout supplements, as they readily convert to nitric oxide within the body.
There is also significant research that does not suggest a huge benefit of nitric oxide. It’s been debated whether or not taking it in supplement form will actually increase nitric oxide production.
More research with larger sample sizes is needed to get a better understanding of how supplements that increase nitric oxide production might be helpful.
However, if you’re still interested in incorporating nitric oxide into your routine, the following sections will explain how nitric oxide just might help with your exercise performance.
How Does Nitric Oxide Help With Exercise Performance?
Perhaps the most exercise-benefiting effect of nitric oxide is its role in vasodilation or the widening of blood vessels. Vasodilation allows for improved oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles during exercise, meaning athletes can work harder for longer (1).
Plus, nitric oxide increases blood flow, which speeds up recovery time after a workout.
Research suggests the beneficial effects of supplements that increase nitric-oxide production for a variety of athletes, particularly endurance athletes such as runners (2).
Of note, studies suggest that the amino acid, L-citrulline, might be more effective at increasing nitric oxide compared to L-arginine. One recent study found that L-citrulline can help increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide, but not exactly increase the production of nitric oxide. This means that nitric oxide is more readily absorbed and utilized by the body, therefore improving performance (3).
While much research points to the vasodilation benefits of nitric oxide, it’s important to note that much of the research around nitric oxide and exercise performance has been done in a healthy, trained, and predominantly male population.
Research suggests that baseline athletic ability and aerobic capacity are large determinants of the potential benefit of nitric oxide supplementation. Moderately trained athletes may benefit the most from supplementation, while highly trained athletes may see minimal performance gains from the additional nitric oxide production (4).
Other Benefits of Nitric Oxide
There are several other proclaimed benefits of nitric oxide, both through supplementation of nitric-oxide-boosting compounds, as well as through dietary sources.
May Reduce Soreness
Consuming compounds that increase nitric oxide production – such as L-citrulline – may help reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
In fact, soreness can be reduced by up to 40% with the help of L-citrulline supplementation. Part of this is related to L-citrulline’s ability to remove waste products like lactate and ammonia.
Muscle soreness typically occurs within one to three days after exercise, however, consuming supplements that promote nitric oxide production has been shown to significantly reduce muscle fatigue and can even reduce the perception of effort and pain during exercise (5).
May Benefit Those with Diabetes
Nitric oxide-enhancing supplements can also benefit other populations as well, such as those with diabetes.
Diabetics have impaired nitric oxide production, which leads to high blood pressure and potential cardiovascular complications.
However, taking supplements that increase nitric oxide can improve blood flow and can even help moderate blood sugar control, leading to overall healthier management of the disease.
How is Nitric Oxide Produced in the Body?
The human body can produce nitric oxide in several ways. For one, it can be produced from amino acids such as L-citrulline or L-arginine. With the help of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase, the body can turn these amino acids into nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide can also be produced from sweat nitrates, as well as made from the nitrates we get from food.
Nitric oxide is produced in the endothelial cells, which make up the inner lining of the blood vessels.
Can I Supplement with Nitric Oxide?
Supplements do not actually contain nitric oxide itself, but rather contain compounds that the body can readily use to make nitric oxide.
While there is no set recommendation for supplement dosage, it’s most common to take less 10 grams of L-citrulline or L-arginine at one time.
While the research is somewhat mixed and still relatively new when it comes to nitric oxide supplementation, you still might be interested in trying it to potentially boost your aerobic exercise capacity.
You might start by adding nitrate-rich foods to your diets such as dark, leafy greens, beets, and carrots, for example.
If you choose to take your supplementation to the next level to boost workout performance, definitely make sure to choose a high-quality supplement such as our stim free pre workout.
Are There Possible Nitric Oxide Side Effects?
Nitric oxide supplements like L-citrulline or other compounds are generally safe when taken in appropriate amounts.
However, there can be some side effects that it’s important to be aware of. For example, taking L-arginine in doses greater than 10 grams can lead to uncomfortable digestive side effects like cramping and diarrhea (6).
Plus, there are many pre-workout nitric oxide supplements that cause uncomfortable jitters or a tingling sensation.
Stim-Free Naked Energy is specially formulated to enhance exercise performance and delay muscle fatigue while preventing that jittery pre-workout sensation, and the energy crash that often results from mainstream supplements.
If you’re unsure if nitric oxide supplements are right for you, it’s always a good idea to consult your physician or Registered Dietitian.
Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring gas made within the human body that boosts blood flow and improves exercise performance. Certain supplements can help boost natural nitric oxide production, improving endurance and reducing muscle fatigue.
Although the research is mixed on the efficacy of these supplements, it’s likely that consuming nitric-oxide-boosting supplements before a workout can help you better reach your fitness goals.
In addition to using supplements, consuming nitrate-rich foods such as leafy greens and beets can help naturally improve nitric oxide production, improve exercise performance, and boost overall health.