Nitric Oxide Supplements: The Claim
No2 supplements are pushed EXTREMELY hard in the fitness industry by supplement companies and gym goers alike, with promises of skin tearing pumps, increased endurance, crazy vascularity and a quicker recovery process I’m sure you can see the appeal.
Some go as far as to stipulate that increasing nitric oxide levels in your bloodstream (via supplementation of course) will result in a rapid increase in strength and lean muscle mass.
But what does nitric oxide ACTUALLY do? Let’s take a look at the research and my experience with these ever popular nitric oxide supplements.
For the record….
For the record nitric oxide supplements do not actually contain nitric oxide, as this is a gas. What they do contain are arginine which assists in boosting nitric oxide and citruline (which gets converted to arginine). Nitric oxide is commonly associated with the crazy tight muscle pumps you receive after taking a pre-workout supplement and performing several sets of isolation exercises for a particular muscle group e.g. the feeling in your biceps after 3 -4~ sets of high repetition biceps curls.
The actual process at work when using nitric oxide supplements is as follows…
Enzymes in the body break down the amino acid, arginine to make nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and circulation. This improved blood flow and circulation increases the maximum amount of available nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. An increase in the nutrients and oxygen available enables your muscles to work harder and longer with reduced fatigue and recovery time.
The (claimed) nitric oxide benefits….
- Improved recovery
- Enhanced endurance based performance
- Increased Energy
- A large increase in intensity of muscle pumps
- Increased vascularity
Foods high in nitric oxide
Everyday foods that are easy to incorporate into your diet are as follows. It’s worth noting as I mentioned earlier this foods do not contain nitric oxide itself, they’re merely high in arginine which in turn boost nitric oxide in the bloodstream.
- Dark chocolate
- Pomegranate (also fantastic for Testosterone production)
- Nuts (almonds & walnuts)
- Cayenne pepper
Nitric oxide, the pump and progress…
I’m a big advocate of low rep training, if you’ve read any of my training articles, books, podcast interviews or other content you’ll know I preach the 4 – 6 rep range on the majority of exercises I perform.
The reason (I suspect) the majority of gym-goers never delve into this rep range and tend to stick in the 10+ is because they associate this skin ripping pumped feeling after a high repetition set with muscle growth. When training in the 4 – 6 rep range regardless of how heavy you’re going you will not get the same muscle pump as if you were lifting extremely light weight in the 15+ rep range, it just won’t happen…
The pump from a combination of high rep training and nitric oxide may feel god-like however it is by no means a sign that you’re actually making progress in terms of size or strength. Instead of focusing pump opt to focus on the constant progressive overload.
More reps or more weight when lifting heavy will ensure you progress, a tight feeling in your muscles will not.
What If I want to use nitric oxide supplements?
If you want to supplement with nitric oxide as you don’t eat many or enough of the foods listed above I recommend you buy a simple nitric oxide (read: arginine) supplement as opposed to an overpriced pre-workout blend which will only contain a small dose of arginine, creatine and an overdose of caffeine anhydrous.
The cost effective solution is to buy basic nitric oxide powder and make your own pre-workout supplement as per my guide. Money saved and actual results in the gym will increase as you’re not stuffing yourself full of unproven filler ingredients prior to training.
My month long experiment and overall thoughts on nitric oxide supplement benefits
I recently purchased a months’ supply of a nitric oxide supplement, following the recommended dosage on the side of the container – 2 scoops per day. I took one scoop in the early hours of the morning being 30 minutes prior to my workout.
The second scoop was either taken before cardio (If I were performing any that day) or immediately before bed.
For reference the ‘components’ of this particular nitric oxide supplement powder included:
- Citruline malate
- Alpha Liphoic Acid
My diet is relatively high in foods assisting to boost nitric oxide levels (as per my list above) however I did still notice a difference when by supplementing with nitric oxide too. An increase in endurance on sets towards the end of my workaround along with the overall recovery time of a muscle group prior to training it again certainly did improve. One of the main reasons I wanted to test out nitric oxide supplementation was for vascularity – during my workouts my vascularity was greatly increased, however vascularity when relaxed outside of the gym remained the same (minimal). In terms of muscle and strength growth I didn’t notice any drastic increases, however as I continue to apply progressive overload my strength is still on the rise.
Would I recommend you supplement with nitric oxide?
If your diet is completely in check and you’ve been training for a lengthy period of time supplementing with nitric oxide may give you that edge to overcome or avoid plateaus due to the endurance and recovery benefits. If, on the other hand you’re new to the gym or have a very limited budget I would not recommend you supplement with nitric oxide. Instead save your money and focus on the quality of food you’re eating first.
Do you supplement with nitric oxide? If so, have you noticed any tangible benefits form it? Let me know in the comments below!