Bodybuilding Heart Health

Nitric oxide -how does it help muscles, hearts and more?

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: May 8, 2019

What is nitric oxide and how does it work?

getting teeth cleaned will give youu perfect Gi function for lifeSome people think of nitric oxide as the gas that dentists use.

Some people think of their college days when they used it to laugh and laugh.makes us laugh at the dentist office.

Some think it’s the racecar fuel.


But it’s neither. Nitric oxide is a molecule that our body produces.

It is used  to help  all of our cells to communicate.

Nitric oxide deficiencies are generally due to aging, inactivity, smoking, high cholesterol, fatty diets, high blood pressure and vascular disease along with a lack of healthy foods.

Increasing your nitric oxide levels can help increase your energy, decrease your chances of blood clots and lower your blood pressure.

But that’s not all-whether you are a bodybuilder or not, it can definitely help you increase your lean body mass to speed up metabolism.

Nitric oxide has been demonstrated to help the following:

Reduces inflammation in the body….one of the key problems which causes disease and aging-rampant in bodybuilders and overweight persons.

Improves sleep quality including help falling asleep and staying asleep

Increases strength as well as endurance

Helps to control blood pressure by dilating arteries/Decreases fibrinogen levels-the marker best for determining risk of blood clots/Assists in gastric motility and in fact some people swear this is what give them perfect GI function/Helps our immune system fighting off infections and cancer/Helps short term memory loss and therefore brain health by transmitting information between nerve cells in the brain/Increases your sense of smell!

Specifics of Nitric oxide regarding circulation:

There have been well over 50,000 studies done on nitric oxide in the last 20 years. In 1998, The Nobel Prize for Medicine was given to three scientists that discovered the cell-signaling role of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is an essential signaling molecule throughout the body. It is made by the endothelial cells lining arteries. It’s a potent vasodilator- a substance that relaxes arteries. Therefore, nitric oxide plays a crucial role in blood pressure and overall circulation.

It also keeps the endothelium in shape by helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in blood vessels.

It also decreases the ability of red cells and platelets to clump and form clots. Your body naturally generates NO in the endothelium that line the blood vessel walls. However when someone has vascular disease meaning any type of hardening of the arteries or elevation of BP ,there is what is called “endothelial dysfunction.”

This means the blood vessels have a much reduced capacity to produce nitric oxide. So special and/or supplements are a must. We’ll get into this.




Nitric oxide  and heart disease:

Nitric oxide has cardiovascular benefits. Here is a fun fact you probably don’t know. Alfred Nobel (the founder of the Nobel Prize) was prescribed nitroglycerin 100+ years ago for his heart condition. He was skeptical as he knew  nitroglycerin was used to make dynamite! However it  helped with his heart condition and relieved his chest pains. Nitroglycerin acts by releasing nitric oxide which relaxes narrowed blood vessels, increasing blood flow and therefore oxygen.

Nitric oxide and erectile dysfunction:

Viagra, Cialis  and other impotence medications work because of their action on the nitric oxide pathway.

One cause of impotence is unhealthy and aged arteries due to things like obesity and diabetes.

These drugs work by enhancing nitric oxide, causing more blood flow and hence better erections.

Nitric oxide for athletes:

Increasing nitric oxide is an important tool in the arsenal of bodybuilders. Athletes take supplements with L-arginine and L-citrulline to increase the bloodflow to skeletal muscles.

They also use them to facilitate the removal of exercise-induced lactic acid build-up to reduce fatigue and recovery time. Levels of the amino acid l-arginine  become depleted during exercise.

So  the entire arginine-nitric oxide – citrulline loop can lose efficiency, causing decreased nitric oxide  levels and higher lactic acid levels. Supplements can help restore this loop allowing for better workouts and faster recovery from workouts. Here are the details.

Increased Recovery Rates:

If you’re putting in a great amount of effort in the gym, but then you needs a few days to recover, nitric oxide supplementation can help.

What a nitric oxide increase will do is support the amount of blood flow to the tissues by encouraging the smooth muscles in the body to relax, therefore allowing more oxygen delivery to get to the working muscles.

Since one of the primary factors in a speedy post-workout recovery is to deliver nutrients to muscles, blood flow obviously makes a big difference. And of course always remember to have the right post-workout shake and meal for optimal results. Whey protein concentrate (NOT isolate!) made from raw milk with no added yukky ingredients is the best whey protein you can use.

Reduced Fatigue Levels Especially During Higher Rep Protocols:

Nitric oxide is going to assist you with is fatigue during your work-out too. As you lift weights, your muscles rapidly begins to run out of oxygen.

When they do, you’ll start to get lactic acid build-up which then makes you fatigued. If you’re going for a higher rep protocol this build up of lactic acid will be extremely limiting.

By delivering more oxygen to the tissues, you’ll reduce the amount of lactic acid build-up. And then voila-you can work out longer and get rid of the fatigue!

 Increased Utilization of Glucose:

A study conducted by the American Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism looked at the impact (during exercise) of the NO precursor L-arginine.

They had nine endurance trained males cycle for 120 minutes  which was then followed by a 15 minute maximum effort cycling period.

During this time glucose levels were measured in the body.

The cyclists who had taken the L-arginine had a significantly higher rate of glucose clearance.

This demonstrates that these athletes were taking up the glucose faster into their muscle cells during exercise.

So it might be that you will get into the fat burning phase of exercise more quickly with NO supplementation.

Increased  Energy

Nitric oxide’s effects on increasing  blood flow allows you to maintain your core temperature better. When you work out,your body temperature rises, and your central thermal control works hard to cool you down. With good blood flow this process is made easier, so less energy is used for “cooling.” This means more is left to continue your work out.

 Increased Muscle Pump

The last benefit of using nitric oxide supplements is an amazing muscle pump after a workout. I love this part.

Wow, you feel really pumped, look vascular and feel “tight.”

The post workout pump is not just more intense it lasts a lot longer too. How fun!

Foods that increase nitric oxide:

Foods which contain l-arginine and l-citrulline will get the job partly done so here you go:

Beets are best and then we have dark chocolate, walnuts, pomegranate, watermelon, spinach, oranges, cranberries, garlic, pistachios, cayenne pepper, wild caught salmon, kale and shrimp.

Now these are all amazingly healthy foods that give you energy and lots of vitamins too.

And yes indeed they help the cause but if you are wanting to have a good, steady and pre-workout NO increase you might need supplements.

Supplements which increase NO:

Garlic and resveratrol supplements will increase NO. The most efficient supplements contain the right ratio of l-arginine and l-citrulline along with other co-factors to amp up NO even more.


Although this article was written to address performance needs, know that nitric oxide helps those with hypertension, metabolic disease and peripheral vascular disease through augmentation of physiologically lowered levels.



  1. I just recently started going to the gym after having a baby about two years ago. I know, I should have never stopped. I find that now when I work out, my muscles are sore for days. Would you recommend taking this to help with the soreness I have been feeling?

    • I would recommend more the BCAA and l-glutamine powder Romana…

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