Nitric Oxide Supplements For Your Muscles

Until you have achieved “the pump” you haven’t fully lived.

If you have never walked out of the gym with your biceps feeling like they are going to explode, your whole life has been a lie.

I’m only half kidding here. Well, actually I am not kidding at all; the pump is the best.

In fact, there is a whole class of supplements that were originally designed to help you achieve the pump, known today as nitric oxide boosters.

More recently, nitric oxide boosters have been utilized in wider applications as they are meant to increase blood flow.

Increased blood flow can improve nutrient delivery to muscle tissue, allowing you to train longer, harder, recover better, and makes achieving the elusive pump easier.

While most nitric oxide boosting supplements contain a plethora of ingredients, there are really only a few things you need to know about to really understand NO boosters.

 

What IS NITRIC OXIDE?

So before we go any further we should probably fill you in on what the heck nitric oxide is and why the heck you would want to boost it.

Nitric oxide causes vasodilation. This effectively increases blood flow which can increase nutrient and oxygen delivery to the muscles. Essentially, vasodilation gives your muscles more go juice.

Related: Are BCAAs an Essential Part of Your Supplementation Plan?

 

L-ARGININE

The Quick and Dirty: Arginine is an amino acid that is turned into nitric oxide in the body. In theory arginine should improve blood flow and thus improve performance and enhance your training.

Currently, the results are mixed and we don’t have a slam dunk case for it. This supplement may be a case of “responders vs non-responders” and some self-experimentation may prove that it is an effective supplement for you.

The Deeper Dive: The real science from studies done on L-arginine studies indicate that it does get taken up into the body and that nitric oxide boosting supplements with L-arginine do effectively increase arginine levels.

However, the increase of arginine levels in the blood doesn’t always translate into efficacy for blood flow or improvement in work capacity. One study has shown that arginine supplementation increases levels of arginine in the blood but does not increase levels of nitric oxide or muscular blood flow, nor does it enhance muscle protein synthesis.1

Yet, another shows that it increases blood volume but not strength performance.2

Even longer term supplementation of arginine appears to be largely ineffective. 7 days of supplementing with 12d/day of an arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate supplement showed that it did indeed increase plasma levels of L-arginine but had zero effect on hemodynamics or blood flow.3  More studies have shown no meaningful or significant increase in training capacity.

Currently, the evidence suggests that L-arginine may increase circulatory blood flow, but does not consistently or meaningfully increase training performance. No it isn’t all doom and gloom as when you look deeper into the research it appears that there are definitely “responders” and “non-responders” (I looked at a lot of papers and made assumptions based on means and standard deviations).

Perhaps it is time to enter a brand new era of NO boosting and find something that is more effective.

 

ENTER NITRATE

The Quick and Dirty: L-arginine is only one way to increase nitric oxide in your blood and increase blood and oxygen deliver. There appears to be a different molecule that is more effective than L-arginine at boosting NO and at improving training.

Recent evidence has shown that inorganic nitrate (NO3-) from dietary sources can also increase NO production.4 Most supplemental nitrate comes from beet root juice or nitrate salts.