Nearly 30 years ago, scientists identified a natural gas produced in the body that relaxes smooth muscles in the blood vessels, increasing oxygen and blood flow. Since then, more than 30,000 scientific papers have been published acknowledging nitric oxide's crucial role in vasodilation and cell communication (*1).
What is nitric oxide?
Nitric oxide (NO) is a natural gas produced in the body through the work of specific enzymes that break down the amino acid arginine. NO acts as an important signalling molecule in the vascular system, and it helps to dilate blood vessels which increases blood flow and nutrient delivery to muscle cells.
Nitric oxide benefits
Nitric oxide's vasodilating effect is extremely important for athletes - especially for bodybuilders - as an increase in nutrient and oxygen delivery means you'll be able to exercise for longer, no matter what your sport is.
During physical activity, there's an increase in cardiac output and blood flow redistribution to muscle fibres. As you exercise, muscles become oxygen-depleted. In the absence of oxygen, the body begins to produce lactic acid which will eventually lead to muscle fatigue - to the extent that you can exercise no more.
Nitric oxide reduces the amount of lactic acid produced during exercise and extends the amount of time until exhaustion. By speeding up the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles under stress, nitric oxide improves their response to exercise and so increases sports performance.
It is also known to speed up the removal of the exercise-generated ammonia and increase glucose uptake by cells (*3).
Nitric oxide supplements
The main ingredients of nitric oxide supplements are arginine and citrulline. These two amino acids are known to be nitric oxide precursors of nitric oxide and therefore supplementing with arginine and citrulline can improve nitric oxide serum levels.
Research highlights arginine's role in reducing exercise-induced increase in plasma lactate and ammonia (*4), therefore extending time until muscle failure. Taken together with BCAAs and glutamine, arginine can improve training efficiency by increasing blood oxygen-carrying capacity (*5).
But perhaps one of the most important effects of arginine supplementation for bodybuilders is its ability to stimulate growth hormone production. Scientific research shows that resting growth hormone levels increase with oral ingestion of L-arginine combined with exercise (*6), (*7).
This is mainly due to arginine's ability to suppress somatostatin secretion, a hormone that inhibits growth hormone (*8). As we know, growth hormones are responsible for cell and tissue growth, making them absolutely essential for muscle growth.
As you can see, arginine's usefulness goes way beyond its ability to stimulate NO synthesis. As demonstrated by scientific studies, arginine can have a direct impact on muscle growth.
Citrulline is another amino acid that can efficiently restore nitric oxide production, due to having a higher absorption rate compared to arginine. It can be of particular interest when the body's arginine availability is limited (*9).
We now understand why nitric oxide supplements are very popular among athletes and bodybuilders – they promote vasodilation and help the body to deliver precious nutrients to the muscles cells and so improve sports performance. Many gym goers also love to feel the pumping effect given by NO supplements.
Arginine and citrulline are two effective ingredients in increasing nitric oxide productions and can, at times, deliver other benefits that directly impact muscle growth. We offer both in the form of high-quality supplements with high bioavailability, check them out below.
What is nitric oxide?
Nitric Oxide is a natural gas produced in the body which acts in the vascular system to delute blood vessels and increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles.
What are the benefits of nitric oxide?
The vasodilating benefitsof nitric acid make it a good supplement for bodybuilders, as it increases oxygen and nutrients to the muscle, enabling you to train for longer. It also reduces the production of lactic acid produced during exercise.
What supplements increase nitric oxide?
The main supplements which increase nitric oxide levels are Arginine and Citrulline. These are amino acids which are precursers for nitric oxide production.
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
(*1) – Br J Pharmacol. 2006 Jan;147 Suppl 1:S193-201
(*2) – J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 1999 Dec;34(6):879-86
(*3) – Mol Cell Biochem. 2004 Aug;263(1-2):29-34
(*4) – Int J Sports Med. 2002 Aug;23(6):403-7
(*5) – J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):538S-543S
(*6) – Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jan;11(1):50-4
(*7) – J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1082-90
(*8) – J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1988 Dec;67(6):1186-9
(*9) – JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2008 Jul-Aug;32(4):377-83
Casey Walker is an experienced sports nutrition new product development technologist. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Exercise Science and a Master of Science in Sports Sciences and Physiology.
Casey’s scientific research area of expertise lies in the effects of dietary nitrates on sprint performance and exercise-induced muscle damage. He has also worked as a sports scientist for a medal-winning Paralympic track cyclist, with a goal of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Find out more about Casey’s experience here.
In his spare time, Casey is a keen middle-distance runner with an interest in triathlon. He’s always looking out for the latest blends and supplements to improve his half-marathon time and recovery.