Nitric oxide boosters are often used by athletes and bodybuilders to improve performance, endurance, vascularity, muscle pumps, and blood flow.
Nitric oxide isn’t one supplement, but a group of supplements which include L-arginine and L-citrulline. L-arginine and L-citrulline are the most well-known ingredients in nitric oxide supplements.
5 Potential Benefits of Nitric Oxide
- Boosts Libido
- Improves Endurance
- Increases Vascularity
- Enables Muscle Recovery
- Generates Muscle Pumps
Some people in the scientific community believe that nitric oxide affects the blood vessels, causing them to widen and relax. This dilation of blood vessels increases blood flow throughout the body, resulting in higher energy levels and endurance.
You can find L-citrulline in foods such as meats, nuts, legumes, and watermelons; and you can find L-arginine in red meat, poultry, dairy, and fish. Just from diet alone, most people consume about 5 grams of L-arginine every day.
Nitric Oxide and Exercise Performance
Since nitric oxide widens blood vessels, nitric oxide supplements are said to improve nutrient and oxygen delivery during exercise. As a result, there is a belief that nitric oxide supplements can improve overall athletic performance.
According to research published in the journal Sports Medicine, nitric oxide can increase exercise stamina and performance in athletes, and nitric oxide supplements can also increase exercise recovery times.
However, there haven’t been many studies performed on large population groups, so results remain tentative. Although nitrates (a common nitric oxide ingredient) are effective at improving running, cycling, and swimming performance, there hasn’t been any research that shows similar benefits when taking arginine.
Safety and Side Effects
L-arginine can cause stomach discomfort, indigestion, and diarrhea. The same side effects can occur when taking agmatine and citrulline. However, citrulline’s side effects are less common because citrulline is easier to absorb than arginine.
It’s best to take nitric oxide supplements at least half an hour before exercise. Start with 0.5-1.5 grams of agmatine, 6 grams of citrulline, and 3 grams of arginine.
Once your body gets used to arginine, you can increase the dose to 6 grams. However, arginine puts stress on the intestines and can cause diarrhea, so it’s important to start with small doses.
Effectiveness of Nitric Oxide Boosters
Many athletes take nitric oxide boosters because they believe that increased blood flow helps muscle recovery, stamina, heart health, and exercise performance.
Agmatine is a newer nitric oxide supplement than arginine and citrulline. So far, agmatine has not posed any issues in terms of side effects, although there isn’t much evidence to support the claim that agmatine is effective.
Arginine, on the other hand, is difficult for the body to absorb, as most arginine is flushed out through the digestive system before it can reach the muscles and bloodstream. Compared to arginine, citrulline enters the body more easily with more potential for increased blood flow and improved performance.
Overall, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to suggest that nitric oxide supplements are useful for athletes. If you want a reliable and effective way to boost your nitric oxide levels, it’s better to consume nitrates as opposed to nitric oxide supplements.