Nitric Oxide has become one of the buzz terms of bodybuilding, sports supplementation and fitness circles. Also known as N.O. or wide variations on the NOS or Nitric naming schedule, these supplements have exploded from a minor interest, mainly in medical circles, into one of the most popular sports supplement ranges ever produced. Touting benefits including enhancing The Pump or the swelling of muscles due to blood rushing in, to enhancing nutrient delivery, growth, recovery, minimizing soreness and a host of other health and performance benefits.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric Oxide itself can be the name for a simple free form chemical gas produced in the human body as a messenger between cells. The term Nitric Oxide or NO can also be used to describe the biological process of Nitric Oxide as well as the actual chemical gas itself.
Nitric Oxide or NO is produced when the free form Amino Acid L-Arginine is converted into L-Citrulline by the enzyme NOS (Nitric Oxide Synthase). There are many variations of this process as Nitric Oxide is utilised in a whole variety of essential processes in the body, including nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems, including smooth muscle relaxation.
Athletes and Nitric Oxide
The first supplement primarily aimed at increasing Nitric Oxide is the specialized amino acid Arginine-alpha-Ketoglutarate (commonly known as A-AKG) When used in supplemental doses, primarily prior to training, this has shown to increase the production of Nitric Oxide in increasing both vasodilatation (increase in blood flow and vascularity) as well as increased growth hormone output.
The increase in blood flow to stressed muscle tissues has a number of effects.
*Increased Pump – The Pump is a term often used in bodybuilding circles to describe the feeling of fullness when blood and other fluids rush to a muscle group being worked hard in training. This causes a swelling in the muscles and a feeling of fullness and increased hardness, with a display of full veins on occasion which is much prized as an aesthetic sign of athleticism and aids visual definition.
Many trainees accept that part of the appeal of ‘The Pump’ is the engorged feeling and the way it improves the look of the body during training rather than any lasting benefit. Therefore some of the improvement in Nitric Oxide pump enhancement is simply to improve the overall training experience. This can be beneficial in that ‘feeling’ the training effect from increased pump will often lead users to train harder and put more effort into a session, so this may be more beneficial than simply giving a certain ‘look’. This improvement can be especially helpful during lower calorie ‘diet’ or ‘cutting’ training when fat loss is the primary aim. During this time lower glycogen levels in muscles can lead to a feeling of ‘flatness’ or difficulty feeling the effects of hard training. Use of NO products during these phases can be especially helpful in maintaining a good training pump.
*Increased blood flow and nutrient delivery – Despite the benefits of The Pump often being thought of as simply being all about looks, there is a significant training benefit to be had. Nitric Oxide vastly increases the rate of blood flow to working muscles. This has numerous benefits. First – metabolic wastes are removed from the muscle faster, this means more endurance and stamina, with less likelihood of exhausting the muscle. This means users can train longer and harder and push more weight inducing a greater training effect and therefore faster growth. The increased blood flow from Nitric Oxide supplements also means ingested nutrients, such as creatine, BCAA (branched chain amino acids), anti-oxidants and other beneficial compounds will be delivered directly to the muscles being worked faster and more efficiently than normal. This often means users of Nitric Oxide supplements experience reduced soreness of the muscle group in the following days, a faster activation of the repair and growth process and less likelihood of minor stress injuries, as improved blood flow is needed to repair damage.
*Improved growth hormone output – Growth Hormone is a greatly misunderstood hormone in athletic circles but it does have numerous benefits to adult trainees. Despite its terminology, Growth Hormone is primarily used to enhance strength, improve energy output and decrease stored adipose tissue (burn body fat). When using Nitric Oxide products this stimulates a huge release of Growth Hormone into the system around training times which has shown in numerous studies to vastly improve performance and body composition.
Other benefits of Nitric Oxide supplements –
*Sexual function – Nitric Oxide supplements show a major effect on the blood flow to sexual organs, improving sexual function and satisfaction, with a notable effect in creating and maintaining male erections. Many sexual stimulants and non-pharmaceutical treatments for erectile dysfunction will consist of Nitric Oxide release supplements, often coupled with yohimbine, which have both shown to be highly effective in improving the frequency, duration and quality of erections. Unlike Viagra and other vasodilatory erection drugs, Nitric Oxide supplements actually improve cardiovascular protection and help lower overall blood pressure, making them far safer and more suitable for those with cardiovascular conditions. It is thought that the improved release of Growth Hormone and other hormones may also increase sex drive in both men and women using Nitric Oxide products and these are highly advised by many as a natural alternative to drug treatments in the first instance. There is also some evidence that Nitric Oxide products may improve sperm motility and overall fertility.
*Improvement in immune function and insulin sensitivity – Overall immune function is very dependent on the Nitric Oxide cycles within the body and supplemental Nitric oxide boosters have been used for many years to improve immune response in people. Insulin sensitivity has a great central role in avoidance of diabetes, obesity and a wide variety of other ailments and as such any improvement in insulin control is rated as highly important in overall health, as well as body composition for athletic individuals. Use of Nitric Oxide products shows great improvement in overall glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in many of the bodys tissues, making it ideal for both health and sport reasons.
Use of Nitric Oxide boosting supplements
Nitric Oxide supplements come in a variety of forms and formats. Some are tablet based, some come in drink formulations. The drink formulations are often joined with creatine and other workout improving nutrients and may come stacked with stimulants to give an all-in-one pre workout supplement, designed to improve the workout in a whole variety of ways. These are an excellent way to use Nitric Oxide supplements but it should be with care as the high stimulant doses sometimes used make them unsuitable for those with low tolerance for caffeine like stimulants and they may also keep users awake if used at the wrong times. Tablet format Nitric Oxide supplements are generally safe for use at any time of day and can be used to both improve the pump, training effect, growth hormone release and overall muscle mass development. Sexual stimulants containing Nitric Oxide boosters are generally designed to be used less than an hour before sexual activity to improve function and performance.
Safety of Nitric Oxide supplements
These supplements have a long history of use and have proven to be extremely safe and even beneficial to overall health. Despite rumors which have arisen from fundamental misunderstanding of human biology, Nitric Oxide supplements actually reduce blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, raise immune function and reduce body fat, making them not only effective for athletes but healthy and safe alternatives to harsh bodybuilding drugs for athletes. Nitric Oxide supplements are not banned by any sporting organizations and are considered health food supplements for users of both sexes and all ages.