Are Nitric Oxide Supplements Good for Weight Lifting?
Do nitric oxide supplements help with weight lifting? What about muscle growth and recovery? Other benefits Nitric Oxide can help with?
There is nothing worse than hitting a plateau, especially when it comes to weightlifting. I have lifted weights for the majority of my life, and this happens quite regularly.
Normally, a change in routine and swapping up my exercises helps cure the problem. But, sometimes, you hit a wall that is nearly impossible to overcome.
For me, that happened around five years ago. At the time, I had been training 4-5 times a week, and for a couple of months, I had stalled on nearly every single lift. It was frustrating.
My training partner at the time was starting to pull ahead too. If you have a competitive gym partner and a competitive streak, you will know what this feels like.
Then I heard about Nitric Oxide (NO) supplements from another gym friend. He told me that he had hit the same wall some time ago and had started taking nitric oxide. Since then, he had smashed all of his records and was still progressing week in and week out. It had to be worth a try, right?
As a health writer, I am a cautious guy; I know more than anyone that supplements come and go that are completely fraudulent. So, I decided to do some research.
To make a long story short, I was won over. The next week I started taking NO myself. Within a month, I started to progress again, and it was a miracle.
So what is nitric oxide? And how does it work?
Let's talk about the science behind it and the effects it can have on your health and performance.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Let's start with what nitric oxide actually is. Nitric oxide is a chemical found that your body produces naturally -- it has lots of important roles in your day-to-day health.
The most important thing that it does is relax and widen the blood vessels. This allows blood to pump freely and take oxygen to the body parts where it is needed.
Obviously, this is perfect for the gym. Your muscles get more oxygen, get strong, and, best of all, get an amazing pump.
What are the benefits of using Nitric Oxide Supplements?
So now you know what Nitric oxide is. How does it help you with your fitness goals? As always, this is not medical advice below, merely anecdotes from experience with my clients and myself.
The first thing that will improve when you start taking nitric oxide supplements is your recovery rate. If you feel like you put lots of effort into the gym, the next day you can hardly move, taking nitric oxide is one way to fix this.
More blood can be pumped to the muscle tissue when it is being used by relaxing the vessels in your body.
One of the keys to recovery is making sure that the muscles that need to recover have an abundance of the minerals and vitamins they need.
Nitric oxide increases the amount of blood your muscles are getting. This means you get more of those vitamins and minerals.
Fatigue During High Rep Workouts
If you are training for hypertrophy, you obviously know how bad the burn can get during high-rep exercises. If this burn is starting to limit your ability to complete strenuous workouts, nitric oxide could be the key.
You feel that burn is the depletion of oxygen in your muscles. To compensate, your body produces lactic acid, which is the burn you can feel. As nitric oxide increases the blood flow to your muscles, it decreases lactic acid production and lowers the burn level.
Nitric oxide works for cardio lovers too. If you like to work out for extended periods of time or run long distances, nitric oxide is perfect. Again this all comes down to the increased levels of oxygen being sent to the muscles in need.
It also works for those who are training for high altitudes. Reduced oxygen is similar to muscle fatigue; by upping oxygen levels in the muscles, you won't feel the altitude challenges as much.
Temperature and Energy
When we work out hard, our bodies heat up in the expenditure of energy. We cool down from this by sweating, which draws heat away from the externals of our body.
What many people do not know, however, is that your body has a system for cooling down internally too. When you are hot, blood pumps faster. The faster it moves, the more it cools.
By taking nitric oxide, you are relaxing and widening those blood vessels, allowing for this process to be sped up, and keeping you cooler.
Because your body does not need as much energy to keep itself cool, you will feel less energy drained during workouts to normal.
Body Fat Burning
If you are trying to shed some unwanted body fat, you might be able to speed the process up by supplementing nitric oxide. Studies have shown that patients on nitric oxide at the time depleted glucose much quicker than those who weren’t.
Once your glucose levels have depleted, your body turns to its next favorite form of energy, fat. This means your body is going to start burning fat quicker than normal. Win!
Perhaps my favorite reason for taking nitric oxide is the muscle pump it gives you. With increased blood flow to the muscles, you will be leaving every workout with that satisfying muscle pump.
When you work out a lot, particularly in strength and bodybuilding training, getting the pump is something everybody lobes. When I'm on nitric oxide, my muscles feel huge after a workout. Although it isn’t science and is in no way associated with nitric oxide, I believe this is one small key to sticking to the gym. Getting a good pump becomes the goal!
According to numerous studies taking nitric oxide benefits your heart in massive ways. Arterial stiffness is decreased, blood pressure is reduced, and blood clots are prevented.
Lots of people around the world swear by nitric oxide as a cure for ED. In fact, most of the true medications for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, work on the same pathway as nitric oxide in your body. For a natural solution, nitric oxide can have the same effect for sufferers of ED.
Natural Foods to Boost Nitric Oxide
Remember, nitric oxide is produced naturally in the body. Through diet, there are even some great natural ways to boost your nitric levels.
Here are some of them:
Studies have shown that consuming beetroot juice boosted nitric oxide levels by 21% after 45 minutes! This is because of their healthy blend of dietary nitrates and vitamins.
Eating garlic is a great and tasty way to increase nitric oxide levels. Unlike beets that contain dietary nitrates, garlic works by increasing the level of oxide synthase in the body. This is an enzyme that helps convert amino acids into natural nitric oxide.
Most meats include a large amount of a coenzyme called Q10. This enzyme helps your body to preserve the levels of nitric oxide currently in your body. Q10 also helps increase athletic performance, prevents headaches, and drastically improves heart health.
The chemical flavanols in cocoa help establish high levels of nitric oxide in your body. In a study, 100% of patients reported massive increases in nitric oxide after eating 28g of dark chocolate a day. They also saw healthier blood pressure levels across the board.
What Should You Avoid?
Several things can cause low levels of nitric oxide naturally in the blood. The worst things for this are smoking, high blood pressure, and, obviously, being sedentary.
Because these things naturally increase inflammation, they also hurt blood flow around the body.
Does taking nitric oxide supplements have any negative side effects?
There are no reported dangers of taking nitric oxide supplements at the recommended dose. However, if you have hypotension, you might want to avoid them, as it may cause you to feel lightheaded.
There are, however, links to kidney problems for those with an extremely high nitric oxide level in the blood. Make sure you only take the recommended dosage, and always consult your doctor.
Both supplements contain L-Arginine and Citrulline Malate, which support physical endurance, enhance blood flow to allow for greater nutrient delivery and muscle building, and typically increase vascularity.
What are my thoughts?
Nitric Oxide supplements really helped me push through my plateau. Even to this day, I still take them. NO supplements are relatively cheap and give me great pumps at the gym. They also help me when I am on my morning runs.
Hopefully, If you came to this article unsure of what nitric oxide is, you now know. Just remember, no supplementation will help you out-train a bad workout or override a bad diet.
Eat well, lift every day, and be happy!
Tony Lee, MS, RD
Tony Lee, RD, MS, is a highly qualified and accomplished Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Arizona State University. Tony brings over two decades of experience in dietetics, specializing in sports nutrition. Interests include studying all aspects of wellness, fitness, genetics, and peak health performance.