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Nitric Oxide Supplements – A Comprehensive Guide

Bodybuilding, Resources

Nitric Oxide Supplements – A Comprehensive Guide



There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a fitness routine. Hitting the fitness plateau, for example, which I think this article, Plateau Busting Workout Tips from Celebrities takes care of very well. But, if even after countering the fitness plateau you are not getting the desired results from your muscle building workout routine, then you need to give it Nitrogen boost.

Yes, Nitric Oxide (NO) is the answer to your worries. One spoonful of NO to skyrocket your fitness regime. Read on to find out how you can achieve those vein popping results in no time.

What is Nitric Oxide?

Nitric Oxide (NO) is a gas naturally produced in the body. Produced, yes, because you can not inhale it in form of gas or eat it. The gas is released when our body breaks down amino acids like Arginine and Citrulline.[1] So, when they say Nitric oxide supplements, what they are talking about is basically one of these amino acids.

You already know how essential these amino acids are for muscle building. Now, their by-product gas is one that even further enhances their performance. You can take it as supplement (L-Arginine, L-Citrulline) or in any of its naturally occurring forms.

Other Sources of NO

  • Vegetarian: Spinach, green leafy vegetables, beetroot, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, filberts (hazelnuts), pecans, brown rice, raisins, coconut, cashews, cereals, buckwheat, almonds, barley, corn, oats and peanuts
  • Non-Vegetarian: Crab, shrimp, white meat turkey, red meat, poultry, fish
  • All kinds of dairy products

Biological Functions

With the number of sources mentioned above, its very unlikely that your body has never had any of NO. The gas is actually a facilitator of communication between cells. It also plays a key role in blood circulation and regulating activities of organs like brain, lungs, stomach, liver, kidneys, etc.

As a result, it has many medical uses like in cases of heart failure, chest pain, blockage in arteries, decreased mental capacity, erectile dysfunction, common cold, etc. But, you must never take it without prior consultation from a medical professional.

NO’s Role in Muscle Building

Nitric oxide influences the release of hormones like adrenaline, insulin and various growth hormones. Studies have confirmed that it can speed growth and decrease time required for muscle recovery. The trick lies in its ability to dilate (widen) blood vessels and thus, improving blood flow.

Lets see how it does that:

1. Increases recovery rate:

An improved blood flow ensures a good amount of nutrients being delivered to muscles. So, not only is the recovery faster, but fuller too.[2]

2. Increases rep threshold:

One needs energy to do any kind of physical activity. Usually, it is derived from the aerobic process, but a vigorous muscle workout depletes all oxygen available to the target muscle. This calls for anaerobic production (absence of oxygen) of energy to finish all reps. As a by-product of this process, lactic acid is produced which causes burning sensation and fatigue.

A better blood flow means more oxygen reaching to the muscle, and faster dissipation of lactic acid. Hence, you can aim for more reps in one set without additional muscle soreness.[3][4]

3. Enhances endurance:

Since, it improves oxygen flow in body, many endurance athletes take NO supplements when training or going for higher altitudes.[5] It is a great remedy for warding off altitude sickness.

4. More energy:

If you have been working hard for a while, you must have realized the importance of maintaining body’s core temperature while training. It increases while doing so. This makes body direct a part of its available energy toward cooling down to avoid overheating. With Nitric Oxide supplementation, the blood flow and body temperature are better regulated and hence, more energy is available for working out. Plus, it enhances glucose cycle for accessing more energy.

Here, we must consider another aspect of effect of this supplement too.

While some reported that NO supplementation induced benefits in exercise performance, others did not find any positive effect. Training status of the subjects seems to be an important factor here. Studies involving untrained or moderately trained healthy subjects showed all kinds of improvement in aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance. But, when highly trained subjects were supplemented, no positive effect on performance was indicated.[6]

How much do you need?

Clear dosing guidelines or tolerable upper intake are not established yet. I consumed 5 grams at once mixed with a liquid, pre-workout on an empty stomach. The liquids are absorbed faster and more efficiently than capsules, or pills. The maximum limit for bodybuilders is 30 grams, however, too much arginine can lead to diarrhea, weakness and nausea.

Most endurance athletes take 4 grams in 200 ml of fruit punch for treating altitude sickness. The most used dose is three times a day while ascending, and while at altitude.

Associated Side Effects

With any supplement, overdose is a possibility which can pose side effects.[7]

  • Since, Arginine dilates blood vessels, it can slightly lower down blood pressure too. It is very unlikely that a healthy bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast might be facing low blood pressure issues. Still as a precaution, you must check and discuss this with your physician.
  • Similarly, for surgery and heart attack. If you have any kind of surgery planned in the next 2 weeks or suffered recent heart attack, immediately discontinue supplement use.
  • As mentioned above, Arginine affects glucose cycle by using blood glucose to deliver more energy. Hence, if you suffer from diabetes or hypoglycemia, or taking drugs that affect blood sugar, consult your physician before going for NO.
  • Some people have reported being allergic or sensitive to arginine with symptoms including rash, itching, or shortness of breath. Also, use it with caution if you have a history of asthma as it may induce swelling in airways.

That’s all you need to know about Nitric Oxide. You can take it as a pre-workout supplement in form of L-Arginine or L-Citrulline or in dietary form. Just make sure you consult your physician before going for them. Get a full body check up done and discuss if your medical history or present condition would pose any side effects.

Once your physician gives you a heads up, there’s no stopping you. This is a very debatable and confusing issue many bodybuilders face. So, if you have used it, share your experiences below. Or if you have any doubts, post them in the comments, I’d be glad to help.

Good luck! 🙂

More on Supplementation:


[1] Vallance P, Chan N. Endothelial function and nitric oxide: clinical relevance. Heart. 2001 Mar;85(3):342-50. Review. PubMed PMID: 11179281; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1729645. British Medical Journal doi:10.1136/heart.85.3.342. ^Back to Top^

[2] Westerblad H, Allen DG. Cellular mechanisms of skeletal muscle fatigue. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2003;538:563-70; discussion 571. Review. PubMed PMID: 15098699. doi:10.1152/physrev.00015.2007. ^Back to Top^

[3] Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vanhatalo A, Blackwell JR, DiMenna F, Wilkerson DP, Tarr J, Benjamin N, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of sub-maximal exercise and enhances exercise tolerance in humans. J Appl Physiol 107: 1144–1155, 2009. ^Back to Top^

[4] Chen S, Kim W, Henning SM, Carpenter CL, Li Z. Arginine and antioxidant supplement on performance in elderly male cyclists: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Mar 23;7:13. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-13. PubMed PMID: 20331847; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2860344. ^Back to Top^

[5] Larsen FJ, Weitzberg E, Lundberg JO, Ekblom B. Dietary nitrate reduces maximal oxygen consumption while maintaining work performance in maximal exercise. Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Jan 15;48(2):342-7. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.11.006. Epub 2009 Nov 12. PubMed PMID: 19913611. ^Back to Top^

[6] Bescós R, Sureda A, Tur JA, Pons A. The effect of nitric-oxide-related supplements on human performance. Sports Med. 2012 Feb 1;42(2):99-117. doi: 10.2165/11596860-000000000-00000. Review. PubMed PMID: 22260513. ^Back to Top^

[7] Eudy AE, Gordon LL, Hockaday BC, Lee DA, Lee V, Luu D, Martinez CA, Ambrose PJ. Efficacy and safety of ingredients found in preworkout supplements. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2013 Apr 1;70(7):577-88. doi: 10.2146/ajhp120118. Review. PubMed PMID: 23515510. ^Back to Top^

Last Updated: April 30, 2014
Next Scheduled Update: June 30, 2014

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