In this article, we’re going to explore the science behind nitric oxide, and what you can expect from adding it to your supplement intake.
The world of supplements for performance and muscle gain can be murky to navigate, with a lot of pseudoscience behind claims.
Thus it’s important to know exactly what you’re ingesting, and if a supplement is scientifically proven to work, or merely hype.
Nitric oxide is one of the top-selling supplements, and you’re likely wondering if it actually helps with muscle gain.
But What Is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is an important molecule for blood vessel health, and it is produced by almost every type of cell in our body.
Its role is as a vasodilator, which means it will relax the inner muscles of our blood vessels and cause them to widen.
Thus, nitric oxide plays a crucial role in increasing our blood flow and lowering our blood pressure.
Nitric oxide is technically a gas that lines the inner walls of the blood vessels, communicating with smooth muscle cells and triggering them to relax.
This blood flow regulation can play a role in several different body functions, from maintaining erections for men to helping regulate blood pressure for high blood pressure sufferers.
What Are Some Natural Sources?
There are several foods that are known to positively stimulate nitric oxide production. These include:
- Dark chocolates;
- Leafy greens;
- Citrus fruits;
- And others.
Red beets in particular are known to be high in nitric oxide. And it’s been claimed that nitrates in beetroots are so effective, patients will see results within 24 hours.
Beets are usually high in nitric oxide, which aids the blood vessels to open up some more. This helps to ease blood pressure in the process.
A study of 68 people with high blood pressure monitored the effects of drinking beetroot juice every day. The researchers found that their blood pressure was significantly lowered.
What About Supplements?
Nitric oxide pre-workout supplements are very popular in the health supplement market. They don’t technically contain any nitric oxide themselves, but they deliver compounds that your body will turn into nitric oxide molecules.
Typically, the ingredients (substrates) in nitric oxide supplements are things like L-arginine and L-citrulline.
The basic idea is that these substrates stimulate the synthesis of nitric oxide in the endothelial cell. So the more substrates are in a supplement, the more nitric oxide can be produced.
How Is Nitric Oxide Believed To Assist With Muscle Gain?
As blood carries oxygen to our muscles, it is reasoned that nitric oxide aids this process by increasing the level of blood flow through our vessels.
Since nitric oxide causes vasodilation, it is believed that a massive increase in blood flow can lead to increased exercise performance.
Another interesting side effect is the appearance of larger muscles. This is because the increased blood flow can engorge your vessels with blood, causing your muscles to appear more “pumped up”.
However, researchers are unable to definitely state whether nitric oxide supplements definitely lead to increased muscle gain, or only give muscles a larger appearance.
While evidence suggests there are tangible benefits to nitric oxide supplements, researchers remain unclear on how beneficial they are for everyone.
In a review of 42 studies related to nitric oxide and exercise performance, researchers found mixed results.
It was concluded that nitric oxide supplements can be beneficial to aerobic and anaerobic exercises for people who are otherwise out of shape. But for people who are already in shape, results are greatly diminished.
This is actually a win-win situation. If you’re just starting to get into exercise and leaving behind a sedentary lifestyle, nitric oxide could be beneficial for you.
However, once you start to see diminishing returns, you can cut it out of your supplement regime and focus on other supplements for athletic performance.