Nitric Oxide (NO) is one of the little-known power drivers of human health and performance. For the longest time, NO has only been a topic of conversation in bodybuilding circles when trainees are looking to maximize the pump, and cardiovascular health research journals in the study of blood pressure. This is unfortunate because NO is something that everyone should know about and be working to maximize in their life.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric Oxide is a short-lived signaling molecule that is responsible for kicking off the processes that cause our blood vessels to expand and open. When functioning normally, NO will cause your blood vessels to expand in response to an increase in the pumping of the heart, allowing for optimal cardiovascular function (and thus supporting healthy blood pressure). When you start exercising, NO is released in response to your increased heart rate, breathing, and muscular contractions so that your blood vessels will expand, and more oxygen and nutrients can flow to your muscles. The airways in your lungs also respond to NO, driving them to expand and allowing for greater airflow into and out of your lungs.
Unfortunately, as we age, our body’s ability to produce NO starts to wane. This is why supporting healthy NO production is so important. When we are young it helps us perform better (better flow, more nutrients to your muscles, better performance). When we get older, proactively supporting NO production helps us maintain a higher level of performance while warding off the health consequences of aging. It is estimated that by the time we are 40, our bodies produce HALF of the NO that it produced when we were 20!
How can You Boost Nitric Oxide?
Your body primarily makes NO one of two ways. First, if you consume dietary nitrates from foods (i.e. beets, cabbage, celery, etc.) a combination of the bacteria in your mouth and enzymes in your gut convert those nitrates to NO. By consuming more nitrate rich foods, you can boost NO levels … but a person can only eat so many beets, right?
This is also a short-term solution. Once your body makes NO from the beets, NO levels will go back down. This is akin to using up gas to fuel your car; in order to keep the engine running, you simply need more.
So, what are our other options?
Your body can also make NO with the amino acid arginine. Arginine undergoes a chemical reaction with oxygen (and NADPH but let’s not get too “sciencey”!) and the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS). The result of this reaction is the production of NO and citrulline.
Your body can recycle citrulline to make arginine and the process starts all over again.
There are a couple things that you can (and some you shouldn’t) do to manipulate this process and boost nitric oxide in both the short term and long term.
Taking an Arginine Supplement:Do NOT do this. High dose (+6g) arginine can cause serious stomach pains. You can’t take the amount of arginine needed to boost NO without ending up doubled over in pain. Arginine supplementation, even if you could stomach it, also only does a meh job at increasing NO levels.
Taking a Citrulline Supplement:Supplementing with Citrulline can boost both arginine levels and NO production. This is why Citrulline is found in many pre-workout supplements. You will need to consume at least 6g of Citrulline in order to start reaping some of the performance-enhancing benefits of Citrulline supplementation. Supplementing with Citrulline is like eating nitrates, it helps you in the short-term, but they aren’t sustained benefits.
Make More NOS:Stimulating your body to produce more NOS is a great long-term strategy (and can be combined with dietary nitrates and Citrulline supplementation) for boosting NO. If taking Citrulline and dietary nitrates was the equivalent of adding more gas to the tank, boosting NOS levels is the equivalent of getting a bigger engine.
How to Get Your Body to Produce More NOS
Research shows us that eating an antioxidant-rich diet can help boost NOS levels in the body. This can be as simple as using extra virgin olive oil as the primary oil in your diet and drinking a couple cups of green tea every day. Both these foods contain powerful antioxidants that support your body’s ability to produce more NOS and thus NO. In addition, the plant-based antioxidant blend S7™ can also boost NO production. S7™ has also shown to clinically boost NO levels almost immediately, while also sustaining them for several hours.
Small changes to your eating habits and supplementation plan can reap big benefits with respects to NO production, your health, and athletic performance. Use the tips discussed in this article to take your hustle to the next level.