The pump is addictive. Anyone who has performed bicep curls until their arms felt like they were going to fall off can tell you that. What’s the best way to maximize that feeling and get better results at the gym? A compound called nitric oxide.
Let’s start with a quick reminder of what this molecule is along with the benefits of it. I’ll also discuss how to increase nitric oxide with food and supplements.
Benefits of Nitric Oxide (N.O.) for Athletes
Naturally produced in the body, nitric oxide is a compound that is essential for vasodilatation or the relaxation of the blood vessels.
Nitric oxide is what helps to promote the following benefits as they pertain to athletes or anyone looking to take their workout game to the next level:
Better Blood Flow
Nitric oxide promotes healthy blood flow, also known as circulation. Health conditions that are the result of poor blood flow such as erectile dysfunction and heart disease are typically treated with N.O. boosters.
Proper circulation is necessary to get nutrients and oxygen all over the body. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts rely on an optimal level of blood flow to keep performance levels high.
Continuing with the point above, better oxygen and nutrient delivery results in better athletic performance.
Muscle tissue requires oxygen and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in order to function during high-intensity tasks such as sprinting or CrossFit workouts. This is just one reason creatine is so popular among athletes.
Nitric oxide boosters have become a popular part of the pre-workout supplement scene because higher levels of N.O. correlate with improved nutrient and oxygen delivery, which support performance.
Nutrients and Oxygen to the Muscles
Nitric oxide is also important for post-workout recovery. After a tough workout, your muscle tissue needs to balance out its oxygen deficit. It also needs proper nutrients to begin the repair process.
Better blood flow via N.O. can help with this by moving oxygen and nutrients where they are most needed.
Don’t forget: It’s important to make sure you’re eating the right things after a workout. I recommend a whey protein isolate shake with simple carbohydrates.
How to Increase Nitric Oxide with Food
The easiest way to increase nitric oxide levels is with food. The following foods have been scientifically proven to give you that N.O. boost:
The same vegetable that makes bread a thousand times better is also a natural way to kickstart N.O production.
Studies show that garlic promotes nitric oxide synthase, which is needed to change L-arginine into nitric oxide. (1)
Those dark leafy greens that your mother always told you to eat also help to increase nitric oxide levels. Studies show that vegetable-rich diets contain high levels of nitrates, which are precursors to N.O. production.
Found in smoothie shops, supplements, and vegetarian meals, it’s safe to say that beets are one of the top superfoods of 2020.
Beets contains betacyanin, which has high levels of nitrates that convert to nitric oxide. But this is only one of the many health benefits of beetroot. (3)
Nuts and Seeds
Packed with plenty of healthy fats and protein, nuts and seeds also contain high levels of L-arginine. This amino acid is another precursor for nitric oxide. (4)
This summer barbeque favorite is loaded with an amino acid called L-citrulline. The body converts L-citrulline into L-arginine, which is used to create nitric oxide.
Just be sure to watch how much you eat. I know it’s delicious but it’s also high in simple sugars. Watermelon ranks high on the glycemic index, which means it can easily spike blood sugar levels.
I suggest eating watermelon before or immediately after a workout. (5)
Best Supplements for Nitric Oxide
Another proven way to increase nitric oxide levels is with natural supplements. The following are the best supplements for N.O. production.
As I mentioned above, L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide production, making it essential for “proper endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) activity.”
In other words, if you want to boost N.O. levels, you need arginine. With that said, there’s a problem with L-arginine: it has terrible bioavailability.
The way to ensure your body is able to digest and assimilate L-arginine is with a different form called nitrosigine arginine. (6)
L-arginine is paired with inositol, a carbocyclic sugar, to create nitrosigine. Studies show that it’s far superior to pure or traditional L-arginine as far as absorption and assimilation. (7)
Another surefire way to boost nitric oxide levels is with the amino acid, L-citrulline.
Instead of gorging on watermelon, spiking sugar levels, and defeating the purpose of increasing nitric oxide levels in a healthy way, I recommend taking a L-citrulline supplement.
As I mentioned above, L-citrulline is converted into a bioavailable form of L-arginine, which is a precursor to N.O. production. (8)
Fill in those Nutritional Gaps
On a normal day, life is chaos. You’re constantly running between home, office, gym, and school. Understandably, you’re not always going to have time to grab the foods I listed above.
An easy way to fill in those nutritional gaps is with a whole food-based multi-vitamin.
Next Level is a multi-vitamin that has all your bases covered including your veggies! Many of the foods I listed above are in this multi.
Learn more about Next Level and how it can help you boost nitric oxide level, support overall health, and keep you at the top of your game throughout the day.
- Das I, Khan NS, Sooranna SR. Potent activation of nitric oxide synthase by garlic: a basis for its therapeutic applications. Curr Med Res Opin. 1995;13(5):257-63. – Link
- Brkić D, Bošnir J, Bevardi M, et al. NITRATE IN LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES AND ESTIMATED INTAKE. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2017;14(3):31–41. Published 2017 Mar 1. doi:10.21010/ajtcam.v14i3.4. – Link
- Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ. The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015;7(4):2801–2822. Published 2015 Apr 14. doi:10.3390/nu7042801. – Link
- Parvin Mirmiran, Zahra Bahadoran, Asghar Ghasemi, and Fereidoun Azizi. The Association of Dietary l-Arginine Intake and Serum Nitric Oxide Metabolites in Adults: A Population-Based Study. Nutrients. 2016 May; 8(5): 311. Published online 2016 May 20. doi: 10.3390/nu8050311. – Link
- Figueroa A, Wong A, Jaime SJ, Gonzales JU. Influence of L-citrulline and watermelon supplementation on vascular function and exercise performance. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2017 Jan;20(1):92-98. – Link
- Gad, Mohamed Zakaria. “Anti-aging effects of l-arginine.” (2010). Journal of Advanced Research. Volume 1, Issue 3, July 2010, Pages 169-177. – Link
- Rood-Ojalvo S, Sandler D, Veledar E, Komorowski J. The benefits of inositol-stabilized arginine silicate as a workout ingredient. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(Suppl 1):P14. Published 2015 Sep 21. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-12-S1-P14. – Link
- Gonzales JU, Raymond A, Ashley J, Kim Y. Does l-citrulline supplementation improve exercise blood flow in older adults?. Exp Physiol. 2017;102(12):1661–1671. doi:10.1113/EP086587. – Link