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The supplement market is constantly evolving and bringing about new products to please a wide variety of avid health and fitness goers. One thing that has become more and more prominent in recent times is the release of Nitric Oxide boosting supplements, also known as ‘pump’ products or ‘stim free’ pre-workouts. With more people moving away from caffeine, these types of products are quickly becoming increasingly popular. That being said, are these products actually as effective as we’d like to think, and are they worth your hard earned money? That’s what we’re here to break down: what exactly is nitric oxide, what role does it play in the body and which ingredients should you look out for in order to truly maximize your results.
Nitric Oxide or N.O. as it is better known as, is a gas that acts as a signaling molecule in the body. It is a byproduct of nitrogen and oxygen that plays a major role in an array of bodily processes such as immune response, inflammation, and cognitive functions through its role as a neurotransmitter. The main role it is known for from a bodybuilding and training perspective however, is as a vascular regulator; meaning it can expand and contract the smooth muscle that lines blood vessels, causing vascular dilation or the ‘pump’. The drawback to N.O. is that it is not a physical substance that can be ingested, so in order to gain its benefits we need to look into pre-coursers that turn into or substances that promote the production of N.O. in the body. These compounds are best known and Nitrates and Nitrites and are the byproducts of N.O. The best source of natural nitrates and nitrites are vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, rocket, celery and most potently beetroot, so eat up those veggies. That being said, I can’t imagine many of you would enjoy chewing on a beetroot on your way to the gym, so we turn to other compounds such as free-form amino acids that can provide us with similar benefit when utilised correctly.
The most well known precursor to N.O. is the amino acid L-Arginine, but before you run out looking for L-Arginine supplements, lets just straighten out a few little points. Despite being a precursor to N.O. production, there are a multitude of barriers that prevent L-Arginine from being an effective vasodilator in the desired muscles being worked. Just to note, the amino acid L-Arginine alone reacts differently in the body than its salt form AAKG (Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate), which elicits an array of other benefits in the body. The first of point to note about pure L-Arginine is the fact that doses of L-Arginine over 4g can cause gastro intestinal distress and can be very nauseating; the main issue here is that around 18g of Arginine is speculated to be the efficacious dose to educe the desired N.O. production. The second barrier faced is that, provided the L-Arginine does make it to the gut, it will immediately act upon the vasculature in the gut, never making it out to the working muscle sites at which you desire blood flow and pump. The final issue we face is an enzyme stored in the gut and liver known as Arginase, which is responsible for the degradation of Arginine that enters the body. So what’s the solution here, we know we need Arginine to promote N.O. production, but cannot ingest it as a supplement for pump? This is all sounding fairly grim, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The answer is rather simple, instead of using endogenous L-Arginine we simply take precursors to L-Arginine that will help aid in its production and the prevention of Arginine breakdown in the body.
Enter, L-Citrulline or the more commonly taken, Citrulline Malate. L-Citrulline is an amino acid that through a series of processes will act as a N.O. booster in the body. The addition of the malic acid to L-Citrulline has been shown to increase its bioavailability, allowing our body to use the amino acid more efficiently. On a positive side note, malate is also used in the Krebs cycle, increasing ATP production and accelerating recovery. Citrulline will enter the body and deliver itself to the production of Arginine at the working muscle, allowing a direct delivery of Arginine where it is desired for N.O. production. This in turn provides better circulation and vasodilatation for better muscle pumps. It also enhances blood flow to working muscles, increasing nutrient absorption and delivery, meaning increased muscular performance, recovery and endurance over time.
The final piece of the puzzle is trying to block the effects of the Arginase enzyme breaking down the Arginine that is being produced in the muscles. This is where Agmatine comes in and plays its role in getting you better muscle pumps in the gym. Agmatine works by inhibiting the function of Arginase, allowing Arginine to run free and do its thing. This will not only educe better muscle pumps but will further prolong the time in which Arginine is active in the body, resulting in sustained blood flow and pump for extended periods of time.
While nitric oxide plays and important role in the body, it can be a tricky thing to promote and create, which makes finding a reliable N.O. boosting supplement a difficult task. That being said, if you’re in the market for a quality N.O. boosting supplement, be sure to look out for Citrulline at around 4-6g and Agmatine at around 750mg-1g in order to gain their full effects. A few other ingredients that you should look out for include, glycerol (HydroMax), Sodium Nitrate and some form of beetroot extract. These ingredients, while they may not be as accessible or cost effective as Citrulline or Agmatine, are proven to increase muscle volume and vasodilatation when dosed correctly, making your pump product complete and effective. With these compounds in your pre-workout arsenal, you can be sure nitric oxide production will be maximized; ensuring your muscle pumps are skin splitting and long lived, making for a great workout.
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Author Glen George from our Blackburn store! Come in for a chat with Glen anytime for more great information like this!