Does the Muscle Building Supplement Nitric Oxide Really Work?

There has been a lot of publicity for Nitric Oxide in the supplement industry lately. Let's take a closer look at it, and see what the fuss is all about.

What Is Nitric Oxide?

Nitric Oxide is a naturally occuring gas found in your body and is composed of one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom. Nitric Oxide is produced, along with the amino acid citrulline, when L-Arginine and a group on enzymes called Nitric Oxide Synthase or NOS make contact with each other.

Nitric Oxide, in supplement form, is made of a synthetic NOS subtance and a great deal of L-Arginine.

Where and How Does It Occur Naturally?

It is produced in the flat cells that line the inside of blood vessels. When muscles contract, the cell is stimulated and combine the ingredients to produce and release Nitric Oxide. Next the Nitric Oxide moves across the cell membrane into the smooth muscle tissue of the blood vessels making them relax and widen. This is what we call vasodilation, which results in an increase in blood flow to the stimulated area, aka the muscle you are working. This is what causes "a pump."

Muscle Pump, Should I Care?

Why do muscles get "Pumped?" Well, basically, the pump is one of the body's fail-safe mechanisms for preventing a decline in muscle function and performance. The body realizes that it is performing work at a level that requires more nutrients than currently available. These nutrients are delivered by the blood. Blood, which is the body's primary transport medium, carries all the vital nutrients (e.g., amino acid, creatine, glucose, and oxygen) to the muscle, which are required for energy production, growth, and maintenance. Blood is also responsible for taking away the byproducts of metabolism (e.g., carbon dioxide and lactic acid) that fatigue the muscle and reduce performance ability. The increase in the size of the blood vessels allows more oxygen and blood to be carried to the working muscle, which provides a bigger "pump" and increased stamina. The benefit of Nitric Oxide, logic would say, is that with the increased stamina from extra blood and nutrients, you can lift heavier weights and more repetitions, which leads to building bigger, leaner muscles.

What's the downside?

It is presumed that NO expands your veins and arteries to move more blood and oxygen into your muscles. This is good since your muscles are getting more blood, and in turn, more needed nutrients. Of course that is a good thing, your muscles need blood, oxygen, water and amino acids.

My obvious question is, doesn't your body already do this? It already pumps blood with all the vital nutrients to your working muscles. You know this because you experience the pump. Well if the supplement does what it implies then it will allow more blood than normal to be pushed through the vessles.

Does that seem right? Is it a good idea?

I'm not an MD, but lets put this in simple terms. Your blood vessels have smooth muscles lining their walls called visceral muscle. This keeps the size and structure of the vessels intact and functioning. NO is supposed to widen these vessels and relax them.

Imagine a water hose with water running through it. It is like your veins having blood flow through them with your heart as the pump. As long as it maintains it's shape, the pump (heart) has no problem working. If you stretch the hose like NO supplements would do, the heart will have a hard time keeping up the flow. To me this doesn't seem like a very great idea.

As you can imagine, there are side effects such as diarrhea, weakness, vomiting and low blood pressure.

Success Stories:

This was a quote from an individual on a bodybuilding forum:

"It does work and will produce some results provided you have a well laid down eating plan and steady lifting habits. Just remember, you have to be on it for at least 8 weeks to see any sort of results."

Does that sound credible to you? You will see results with steady training and eating over an 8 week period. You would see results with or without NO or any supplement.

Any success story you see for a supplement is usually accompanied by a solid training and eating program. The credit should only be given to the individual, not the supplement they were taking.

When it's all said and done, who really knows if Nitric Oxide supplements actually help you gain muscle. The supplements are just the precursors to NO, not actual NO. The ingredients must be present at the right place at the right time, and then your body has to combine them to form NO. Will consuming these powders actually combine and form NO? They might. They might even work exactly as they should by increasing the size of your blood vessels and delivering more blood. That sounds good for working muscles, but would you like the vessels of your brain, eyes, or internal organs to also relax and expand in size? It could happen. Anything could happen.

My recommendation is to just go natural. If you want to use supplements, try a protein shake and creatine, but only when you know how, when, and why to take them.

Just as stated above, with a solid plan of eating and training, you will see results with or without supplements. Save your money and potentially your health and see what you can accomplish naturally.