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Nitric Oxide Supplements: The Good, the Bad…and the Gassy?

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Bodybuilding dietary supplements

Nitric Oxide supplements for bodybuilders have taken several different forms over the more than 10 years they have been on the market in the US.

Nitric Oxide sellers online tout the benefits of steroid-like effects of the supplements without the side effects. What you want to know is what does the research say and what do professionals and researchers have to say about the supplements?

If you want more, stronger erections, a rock solid body, stamina and better overall health, use nitric oxide supplements, right?

Here is what you need to know about the wonder pill known as nitric oxide.

What is Nitric Oxide

Nitric Oxide supplements first emerged on the scene as NO2. I want you to take a moment to think back to your high school chemistry class. Yes, keep searching. Yup! There is it – nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is a gas. In fact, it is a naturally occurring gas in the body that is responsible for several vital processes.

Nitric oxide is a molecular compound made up of one nitrogen and one oxygen molecule. In the body, nitric oxide has the important role of signaling molecule in several different processes in the body, both physiological and pathological.

Nitric oxide is a molecular superstar in several medical fields including neuroscience, immunology, and physiology.

Role of Nitric Oxide in the Body

Nitric oxide produced in the body is responsible for delivering important messages between the cells in the body. NO also controls body processes that keep us going, keep us healthy, and keep us alive.

Lung, brain, kidney, GI, and liver functions rely on the messages sent via NO to control the blood circulation and activities in these organs. Nitric oxide also influences the amount of adrenaline released in the body.

Keep those functions in mind because they are what supplement produces and researchers hope to achieve when working with nitric oxide supplements.

So, even though nitric oxide supplements are not the same thing as the gas your body produces, the benefits and processes are the ultimate goal.

What are Nitric Oxide Supplements?

Here’s the catch: nitric oxide supplements are not gas pills. They are supplements that actually contain an important amino acid called arginine.

Read on and I will explain.

Nitric oxide supplements are mainly L-arginine.

Arginine is an amino acid. Amino acids are critical for human growth development and sustainability. The amino acid arginine reportedly increases nitric oxide levels in your blood. As a result, ta da – it improves the processes.

In the muscle building and fitness world, that means improved circulation for recovery, muscle growth, improved strength, and performance.

Still lost? Here is a quick recap about amino acids, and more specifically, arginine.

Amino Acids and Their Functions

amino acids

20 amino acids. A life basis.

This is a definition of amino acids you will hear and see repeatedly. Amino acids are the basis of all life process. Amino acids are essential for transporting nutrients throughout the body.

The body uses amino acids for the following functions:

  • Energy in the body
  • To break down food
  • Improve tissue and cell recovery and repair
  • Perform daily functions are work and at rest

There are two different types of amino acids: essential and nonessential. You get essential amino acids from food because the body cannot make them on its own; yet, it needs the essential amino acids to work.

Arginine is not an essential amino acid.

The second type of amino acids is nonessential amino acids. These amino acids can and are produced in the body. We don’t need food to get them into our system. Arginine is not a nonessential amino acid.

So, wait. You are asking yourself right now “what type of amino acid is arginine.” Listen up. There is a third classification of amino acids. It is called “conditional amino acids.”

Conditional amino acids are ones needed only in times of great stress, exertion, and illness. Think of them as the triage amino acids. They are necessary to help your body recover and rebuild. Sound familiar?

Arginine is a conditional amino acid.

When your body needs conditional amino acids, more often than not the need will surpass the production. The best way to get conditional amino acids during times of great stress is to take them orally as a supplement.

Why do People Take Nitric Oxide Supplements

A quick search online will tell you exactly why people take nitric oxide supplements. When you research the benefits of nitric oxide supplements, much of what you will see is information for bodybuilders by bodybuilders, but they aren’t the only consumers with reported benefits.

Here are a few claims about the benefits of nitric oxide. Now remember, you are actually looking at the benefits of arginine because an arginine supplement is supposed to increase nitric oxide production.

People who take nitric oxide supplements report several benefits. Some say that adding more arginine to your diet can directly improve nitric oxide levels and production. This leads to larger blood vessels (vasodilation) for improved blood flow.

As we know, improved blood flow is absolutely necessary for improving exercise performance in those who experience health issues or suffer from cardiovascular diseases. If you improve blood flow in the body, you benefit from a stronger heart that has the ability to pump faster and stronger. You also lower your heart rate, relax your heart muscles and improve your blood pressure.

Let’s not forget that every supplement site online has a few thoughts on taking nitric oxide supplements. Their benefits are a little more exciting. These sites say taking nitric oxide supplements give men “rock hard boners,” “massive muscles, “ speedy recovery,” and “longer love sessions.”

Whoa! Down boy. Yes nitric oxide supplements have a lot of uses, but you must always do your research.

The researched benefits of nitric oxide supplements (arginine) are:

  • Improved performance and stamina
  • Extended endurance
  • Improvement in levels of available energy
  • Higher glucose levels
  • Improved circulation for mental clarity and the rewarding “muscle pump” after a workout

Do Nitric Oxide Supplements Work?

Research has shown that raising levels of nitric oxide in the body with supplements can improve the production of growth hormone in active users. Just remember that unlike anabolic steroids, growth hormone doesn’t increase strength or stimulate skeletal muscle.

The goal here is blood flow, blood flow, blood flow, and not muscle gains brought on by hormonal fluctuations. There is evidence to show that yes, the presence of nitric oxide in the body will allow you to get bigger and better pumps when working out at the gym. Evidence also suggests that nitric oxide may improve overall performance at the gym.

Gym time = muscle time.

Nitric oxide will give you the power to dip deeper and push yourself harder during your workouts so you can see real results.

What if you don’t see results right away when taking nitric oxide supplements? Can you do anything to make them work better? Of course, it is always best to create the ideal environment for your body to naturally support the body’s processes and any supplements you may be taking to give yourself a boost.

Can I improve Nitric Oxide Production on My Own?

Now you are thinking, “If I need amino acids and nitric oxide is produced in my body on its own, why do I need to take a nitric oxide supplement? Can’t I just eat the right things so my body produces nitric oxide on its own?

The answer is not so simple. How about a “yes and no” answer.

To improve nitric oxide production in the body, you can do anyone of the following:

1. Eat food that are natural vasodilators to get the blood pumping. Improved circulation boosts mental clarity, encourages muscle and tissue repair, and honestly, helps you get “harder” quicker and easier, and I am not talking about your biceps. Remember that guy down there? He is a muscle too, and you need to think about his health and conditioning too. Foods that may be natural vasodilators, which means they increase blood vessel dilation. As a result, circulation improves and blood pressure decreases.

Here are some of my favorite vaso-foods:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

2. Kickstart your day with vitamin C and garlic. No, I am not saying have a little garlic with your morning OJ, but you can definitely increase the amount of each you consume. Vitamin C is an excellent vitamin for boosting nitric oxide in the body.

I want you to think beyond the orange. That one is a give. Here are a few more foods with impressive levels of Vitamin C.

  • Brussels sprouts (It’s okay. They aren’t as bad as you thought when you were a kid. If you like cabbage, surprise, you like Brussels sprouts.)
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Guava
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Parsley
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries

There are many more, but you get the point.

3. Hit the gym to boost nitric oxide in your body. Working out is like the miracle activity that just makes everything better. Of course, going to the gym would increase nitric oxide levels as well so you can build muscle easier because they are benefiting from nutrient production, more oxygen, and more blood.

4. Take the aminos at home. As I said before, arginine increases in the body is the ultimate goal. Adding Citrulline and arginine to your diet improve not only your nitric levels and muscle production, but they may help you out in the bedroom too. If you want to increase nitric oxide levels naturally in the body, don’t choose either arginine or L-citrulline. Choose both of them. The two aminos work best together. L-citrulline increases the arginine serum content than is possible when you take arginine supplements alone. You can take a supplement to increase citrulline, or you can add foods such as watermelon, pomegranates, cranberries, and walnuts to your diet. In fact, you can even do both if your body’s physical needs require it.

The Vaxxen Labs Fulcrum powder has 4 grams of L-citrulline malate.

5. Go outside. When your skin is exposed to NATURAL sunlight, the skin produces more nitric oxide. When you are outside, you move more, you breathe better, and you just feel better overall. In short: sun touches skin; nitric oxide released into the bloodstream.

6. Hit up a comedy show or turn on Comedy Central. You know the saying “laughter is the best medicine.” Turns out that there is something to that. Laughter has an interesting way of increasing dopamine production and nitric oxide.  Studies show that merry or amusing laughter improves the cardiovascular system. So, laugh often to feel better.

7. Spice up your food to spice up your levels. Thanks to the alkaloid capsaicin in chilis, adding a little heat to your diet may increase nitric oxide levels AND protect testosterone molecules when you are cutting or reducing calories. Capsaicin has been linked to increasing arterial blood flow.

8. Maybe don’t do coffee in the morning. There is a great debate out there about your morning cup of coffee. Is coffee good for you, is it bad for you, or is it just a tasty treat? I think the best way to answer that is to think about your physical and dietary goals as well as your body’s relationship with caffeine.

Let’s be honest, some of us can handle a cup or two of coffee in the morning, and others cannot.

Why do I ask you to rethink the morning cup of coffee? For one reason: coffee does the opposite of what nitric oxide does. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator. Coffee, not so much. Coffee is a natural vasoconstrictor. That means that the velvety, or muddy, cup of coffee you enjoy in the morning is working again nitric oxide.

It isn’t actually the coffee itself. The issue is with the caffeine. Coffee itself may actually increase nitric oxide synthase. This convert arginine into nitric oxide. So, if you still need the coffee, consider switching to decaf instead, or suck it up and add nitric oxide another way.

To boost nitric oxide production in the body to meet the body’s physical and psychological demands of bodybuilding and physical activity, research nitric oxide supplements and give them a try. Honestly, taking nitric oxide supplements is not the same for everyone, but everyone can do a few extra things each day to improve their chances of seeing results.  

Side Effects of Nitric Oxide Supplements

One thing people who are trying to oversell you supplements won’t tell you is the possible side effects of taking them. Such is the case with nitric oxide supplements. There are no dangerous side effects associated with taking the supplement, but if you suffer from any condition, especially a cardiovascular condition, you must speak with your doctor about taking arginine or citrulline.

Reported side effects of nitric oxide supplements are usually the result of an effect it has on a body’s system. For example, those who suffer from low blood pressure may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure because of the increased circulation and dilated vessels. Side effects of low blood pressure include dizziness, lightheadedness, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, and headaches.

More side effects of taking nitric oxide may be stomach discomfort and frequent loose bowel movements. Nitric oxide use may cause cramping and nausea if the supplement isn’t taken with food.

Nitric oxide may also increase the risk for bleeding because it opens up the blood vessels. Anyone who is anemic or suffers from a bleeding problem must contact their doctor before taking nitric oxide supplements and if they experience any reaction to the supplement.  

Tips for Buying Nitric Oxide Supplements

Not all supplements are treated equally. I always warn against buying supplements that are not shipped from the US. You never know what you are dealing with. Alternatively, always read reviews on any new supplements and ask yourself why it is you need it before you swallow it down.

I will say it again: nitric oxide does not work for everyone. It can be a hit and miss, especially if you don’t have a holistic plan for taking any supplements and incorporating them into your workout routine. The unreliable nature of nitric oxide isn’t because of the nitric oxide at all but arginine instead. Let’s be honest, unreliability when taking supplements is often not the fault of the supplement but the user.

When people are impatient and believe they should have immediate results, they will stop their nitric oxide supplement – and any other supplement – regimen altogether. So, of course they won’t work. You have to do your part too to build muscle.

Vaxxen Labs has muscle building supplements that help you stay on track and meet your goals. Androxx, Axxis, and Norexx

Here is the short of it: nitric oxide supplements improve blood flow and circulation. As a result, you can train harder and push yourself harder to see real results. You will progress over time.

Let me know how nitric oxide works for your training. What supplements do you take, and how does nitric oxide fit into it all.

SR Content Strategist.

Matt Weik, the owner of Weik Fitness, LLC, is a well-respected fitness expert/author/podcaster with a global following. His work has been featured in nearly 100 fitness magazines (Flex Magazine, Men’s Muscle & Health Magazine, Oxygen Magazine), 2,000+ websites, as well as having numerous books and audiobooks that are published.  Matt Weik graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Kinesiology. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. Matt is a member of the supplement expert panel at the Bodybuilding.com Awards 2018.

You can contact Matt via www.weikfitness.com or on social media links below.

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