What’s so great about… Nitric Oxide?
Lower blood pressure
Speed up recovery time
Improved brain function
What’s so great about nitric oxide? Well for starters It was proclaimed the “Molecule of the Year” in 1992. The 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for discovering nitric oxide’s role as a cardiovascular signalling molecule. So it’s great for overall cardiovascular health for a start. The endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax, thus resulting in vasodilation and increasing blood flow.
Since nitric oxide increases blood flow via vasodilation, this prevents the development of high blood pressure and subsequent health issues. It also slows the development of cardiovascular disease by preventing the formation of plaque on the inner walls of blood vessels. Finally, nitric oxide is important in maintaining effective pumping action of the heart; if there is not enough nitric oxide present, the heart may not pump efficiently enough to deliver blood to all parts of the body.
Keeping your heart pumping effectively and your arteries open wide to move as much blood as possible around your body as efficiently as possible is essential for fuelling muscles with oxygen during exercise not to mention transporting all the other nutrients essential for repair and regrowth post workout.
Nitric oxide can even help make you smarter. In the brain it acts like a neurotransmitter and helps to improve the ability to learn and remember new information. The increased blood flow to brain tissue brings more nutrients to nerve cells and increased oxygen levels can lead to a sense of clarity.
Since I’ve been upping my nitric oxide production I have noticed an increase in my energy levels and aerobic capacity whilst working or exercising. That is to say I can get through a days work without being completely exhausted and can move more weight in the gym before I start to breathe heavily. I’ve also noticed that I don’t feel sore for as long after hard workouts and can get through the day with less reliance on caffeine to keep me alert.
So how does one go about increasing their nitric oxide levels?
The most common way to increase nitric oxide is through exercise. When you run or lift weights, your muscles need more oxygen which is supplied by the blood. As the heart pumps with more pressure to supply the muscles with blood, the lining in your arteries releases nitric oxide into the blood. As we age, our blood vessels and nitric oxide system become less efficient due to free radical damage, inactivity, and poor diet, causing our veins and arteries to deteriorate.
Another way to increase nitric oxide is through diet, most notably by consuming the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. Arginine, which can be found in nuts, fruits, meats and dairy, and directly creates nitric oxide and citrulline inside the cell. Citrulline is then recycled back into arginine, making even more nitric oxide. Enzymes that convert arginine to citrulline, and citrulline to arginine need to function optimally for efficient nitric oxide production. We can protect those enzymes and nitric oxide by consuming healthy foods and antioxidants, like fruit, garlic, vitamins C and E, Co-Q10, and alpha lipoic acid, allowing you to produce more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide only lasts a few seconds in the body, so the more antioxidant protection we provide, the more stable it will be and the longer it will last. Foods containing lots of nitrates such as leafy greens like spinach or kale as well as dark red vegetables like beetroot are also great ways to improve nitric oxide production. My personal favourite pre/post workout shake consists of L-arginine and L-citrulline in beetroot juice with some L-glutamine and Creatine.
Humming is one other way to increase nitric oxide production, at least in the sinuses. As mentioned in my review of the Oxygen Advantage, humming can increase the production of nitric oxide in the sinuses by up to 15 fold. This allows for easier nasal breathing and an increase in oxygen intake and processing efficiency.
Last but not least. Viagra
That’s right the erectile dysfunction medication is basically a nitric oxide supplement with great marketing. Since lack of bloodflow can cause issue for some men when it comes to getting an erection opening up the blood vessels via the action of nitric oxide is usually the key to relief from this embarrassing condition. But what if you haven’t got a problem in that department? Or if you’re a woman? Well increased blood flow to your crotch is never a bad thing and generally makes everything more enjoyable.
So that’s why I think nitric oxide is great. No not the viagra bit, but all of the health and well being benefits it offers.
So go get after those leafy greens and beets in your salads as well as supplementing with a bit of L-arginine and L-citrulline around workouts for better pumps and faster recovery.