Carbohydrate drinks, creatine and caffeine are proven to have a performance enhancing effect. But what does science think about preparations that allow athletes to increase their nitric oxide production?
Nitric Oxide is a natural gas that is produced by the body as reaction to physical activity, stimulation, stress, and fear. It expands the blood vessels, oxygenates the blood, supports the cure of injured tissues, and improves blood circulation throughout the body. In addition, it has a toxic effect on bacteria and other human pathogens.
The functions of nitric oxide within the body
In the human body, nitric oxide is responsible for various biological functions: It is used by the endothelium of the blood vessels to signalize the surrounding muscle cells to relax. As a result, blood vessels dilate and blood flow increases.
Taking nitric oxide supplements increases the blood circulation in the body. That means, more oxygen is provided to tissues and organs to keep the body energized and healthy.
All nutrients that promote muscle tissue growth and repair are transported through the circulatory system in the body via small capillaries. In this way, waste products, such as blood lactate are eliminated. The stimulation of vasodilation improves the blood flow to the working muscles. As a result, not only does the muscle pump work more effectively during exercise, but it also results in better nutrition.
Nitric oxide in bodybuilding
Basically, any dietary supplement that enhances tissue building and vasodilation is a good thing for athletes. Among bodybuilders, however, nitric oxide is used as a powerful means to increase muscle growth and accelerate regeneration. It ensures faster absorption of oxygen and nutrients by the working muscles and enhances glucose uptake by cells, hence, it improves athletes’ performance. Moreover, it helps in getting rid of movement-induced ammonia and lactic acid produced during exercise.
Nitric oxide can be produced in the human body from the amino acid L-arginine found in protein-rich foods.
Nitric oxide boosters based on L-arginine are attributed the following effects:
- The enhanced vasodilation causes an increased blood flow, which as a result, leads to a higher performance.
- L-arginine supplementation stimulates the natural production of growth hormones and improves the regeneration process as well as muscle growth, and strength gains.
While studies conducted on animals and inactive subjects proof these findings, others done on athletes refute them. Most studies in which arginine had been administered orally to sports persons had concluded that 5-9 g arginine alone can increase the growth hormone level at rest by at least 100%, while the physical activity can increase it by 300-500%. However, it is worrying that the combination of oral arginine and sport attenuates the growth hormone production response after exercise: growth hormone levels were only about 200% higher than at rest. The effect was thus less than after pure training.
In a new study, Swedish scientists have shown that nitric oxide activity and performance can be increased by eating more fruits and vegetables instead of using nitric oxide boosters. Fruit and vegetables are naturally rich in nitrate and nitrite, and both can be converted by the body into nitric oxide.