If you spend any time in the weight room, you’ve like heard your fellow gym-goers talking about nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is produced naturally when certain elements—nitrates and amino acids like L-Arginine and L-Citrulline—are synthesized in the body. This all might sound a bit Greek to you, but the bottom line is that nitric oxide can have an unbelievable impact on your ability to build muscle.
Nitric oxide promotes healthy blood vessels. By dilating your veins and arteries, it keeps blood flowing smoothly, increasing the oxygen in the bloodstream and minimizing your risk of blockages. In this way, it can lower your blood pressure and help prevent strokes. Nitric oxide has even been shown effective and beneficial for correcting erectile dysfunction.
But the heart health factor is far from the only reason why nitric oxide matters. For people looking to build muscle and enhance their recovery, nitric oxide is the ticket.
Many athletes take nitric oxide supplements as natural performance enhancers. Why? Because greater blood flow and more oxygen equal faster recovery and muscle-building. The increased blood flow that nitric oxide provides also pumps up your muscles, making you look even better after a tough workout.
Many sports nutrition supplements, like protein powders, already contain the amino acids that trigger nitric oxide to kick in. But for serious athletes looking to really get their game on, nitric oxide supplements—often called NO supplements—are a must-have. If you want to take your performance to a whole new level, here are three foods and three supplements you should consider to enhance your body’s production of this muscle-building substance.
3 natural food sources of nitric oxide
Recently, researchers have found that certain foods are especially good at enhancing the bioavailability of nitric oxide. These foods are typically high in nitrate or L-Arginine content, which undergo a process that produces nitric oxide.
Here are three food sources with large doses of nitric oxide-producing elements.
- Dark chocolate: This food enhances nitric oxide production, but it also brings other health benefits. Dark chocolate (think the natural stuff: raw cacao, sans the sugar and additives) can give your heart an impressive boost in overall health. Dark chocolate also contains a lot of antioxidants, which help slow skin aging and decrease inflammation.
- Watermelon: With more than 300 types grown throughout Mexico and the U.S., watermelon is easy to find at any market. It’s also a powerhouse of nutrients, including those that produce nitric oxide. Watermelon is replete with lycopene (even more than a tomato!), which can help stave off heart disease, and L-Citrulline, which some research has shown to improve blood pressure and heart health in people who are obese. One study showed that after just two weeks of supplementing with watermelon juice, the bioavailability of nitric oxide in the body was greatly improved.
- Beets: There’s a reason why beets are a favorite of health-conscious athletes. Not only do they provide a major endurance boost, but they also contain a lot of nitrates, which are converted directly to nitric oxide in the body. One study showed that beets had major vasodilation properties—a fancy way of saying they cause the vessels to dilate. The humble beet is also full of vitamins A, B and C, folic acid, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, fiber and antioxidants like beta-carotene and beta-cyanine.
Top-rated nitric oxide supplements
Supplements that trigger nitric oxide production in the body are common among athletes who are looking to enhance muscle-building and speed up recovery time. But not all NO supplements are created equal (and some can even be dangerous), so it’s important to read honest reviews that can tell you both the pros and cons of a given product.
Here are three quality NO supplements that should be on your radar whether you’re an athlete or just looking to enhance your workout performance naturally.
- Niacin Max: Niacin can improve oxygen circulation and blood flow, thus boosting energy levels and performance. Niacin Max, like any nitric oxide supplement, doesn’t actually contain any nitric oxide. But it does improve the synthesis of nitric oxide in the body. Niacin Max Niacin supplements stand out from others because they feature a dissolvable strip that melts on your tongue. That means 75 mg of pure niacin gets delivered straight into your body, fast. And while some supplements have higher doses of niacin, only about half of the doses are ever utilized by the time the pill-form supplements dissolve. Read the full unbiased review of Niacin Max here.
- NO2-MAX: NO2-MAX is comprised mainly of L-Arginine Alpha Keto (one of three forms of L-Arginine), which studies have shown enables greater production and bioavailability of nitric oxide in the body. This nonessential amino acid is actually very essential for improving your blood flow, heart health and athletic performance. But for optimal results, you should take these supplements with a quality protein shake or mass gainer so that you can start refueling and rebuilding your muscles at the right time. Read the full unbiased review of NO2-MAX here.
- Nitrocut: Nitrocut is a pre-workout NO blend that helps maximize the results of your workout. It not only increases blood flow, but also helps build muscle mass by increasing the absorption of nutrients into the muscles. It also decreases fatigue so you can work out longer, harder and more effectively. With plenty of L-Arginine (all three of its super effective forms), L-Citrulline and Tribulus Terrestris (which may help boost testosterone and libido), this blend is a great way to help you meet your gym and body goals. Read the full unbiased review of Nitrocut here.
Nitric oxide is readily available in the body on its own. But with the right foods and supplements, you can optimize your workouts and performance by increasing your production and bioavailability of this muscle-boosting substance.