1. What is Nitric Oxide (NO) and where does it come from?
Remember the day when you lifted like a horse? Your motto was "No Pain No Gain" or it might still be? Your veins popping off your skin, your shape and muscularity flawless, and your muscles so pumped and full you would say to yourself, "I Wish I looked like this all the time!" Well look no more. Nitric Oxide (NO) is the answer!
Nitric Oxide (NO) is used by athletes as a hemodilating and muscle volumizing agent derived from the amino acid L-Arginine. In theory, Nitric Oxide (NO) opens the blood vessels allowing more blood to surge into the muscles, which promotes the ultimate anabolic muscle building and fat loss environment.
Nitric Oxide is a free form gas that is produced in the body and is used by the body to communicate with other cells in the body. To produce this gas, enzymes in the body break down the amino acid Arginine. Nitric Oxide (NO) uses the amino acid arginine as it's main nitric oxide delivery mechanism. That is, arginine causes the Nitric Oxide reaction which will produce the muscle pump that you experience when you lift weights.
2. What does Nitric Oxide (NO) do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
An impressive double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted by Campbell and colleagues at the Exercise and Sport Nutrition Lab of Baylor University in Waco, Texas in 2004 designed to examine the effects of arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) supplementation during training on body composition and training adaptations.
The study was performed on experienced 35 resistance-trained men where they were randomly assigned to ingest in a double blind manner supplements containing either a placebo or AAKG. The subjects took 4 grams of the supplements three times daily (12 grams/day) for 8-weeks during standardized training. At 0, 4, and 8-weeks, subjects had DEXA body composition determined and performed bench press one repetition max (1RM), a 50 repetition MVC isokinetic leg extension endurance test, a Wingate 30-s anaerobic capacity test, and a VO2max test on a treadmill using the Bruce protocol.
Although the research showed no significant differences between the groups in changes to lean body mass, the study did show an increase in max repetitions total work or average work power during the muscular endurance test. the study suggested that AAKG supplementation may augment strength and power in response to training but does not appear to significantly effect body composition. The study was funded by the company Medical Research Institute (MRI) in San Francisco, CA.
Due to the challenges in measuring nitric oxide gas which has a very short live, clinical studies typically measure flow-mediated vasodilation to evaluate the effect of arginine supplementation on the vascular system. In addition to having value to bodybuilders, weightlifters and sprinters, there is evidence that supplemental arginine may be beneficial in the clinical setting, particularly for patients with cardiovascular disorders.
In 1998, it was discovered that arginine supplementation improved the clinical symptoms of intermittent claudication in patients with peripheral arterial occlusive disease. The 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signal molecule. It was demonstrated that 6.6 grams of supplemental arginine per day (along with antioxidant vitamins and minerals) improved vascular function, exercise capacity and aspects of quality of life in patients with chronic, stable angina.
In the year 2000, further studies found that supplemental arginine (8 grams/day) improved endothelium-dependent vasodilation to the same extent as regular physical exercise in patients with chronic heart failure. Not only that but researchers determined that supplemental arginine (8 grams/twice a day) restored nitric oxide formation and endothelium-dependent vasodilation as well!
The fact that nitric oxide increases blood flow to the muscles, should make it of interest to bodybuilders, as increased blood flow will serve to deliver more nutrients to muscles, thus helping muscles become larger during resistance training. The fact that Nitric Oxide acts to reduce inflammation should also make it of interest to bodybuilders as it has the potential to reduce the pain associated with subjecting muscles to extreme stress. Nitric Oxide also affects the endocrine system. It affects the release of gonadotroptin releasing hormone, as well as the release of adrenaline from the adrenal medulla.
3. Who needs Nitric Oxide (NO) and how much should be taken? Are there any side effects or symptoms of deficiency?
All athlete's should use Nitric Oxide (NO) to carry out key physiological processes within the body. From a bodybuilder's perspective, nitric oxide supplementation may prove useful in increasing growth due to increases in blood flow to certain areas of the body.
Signs of deficiency include the inability to achieve and sustain normal erections, physical weakness and extreme fatigue. One of the main physiological causes of impotence, is inability of the blood vessels in the penis to dilate enough to allow blood flow and engorgement. The most important chemical involved in this process is nitric oxide. Arginine, an amino acid available as a supplement, can help make more nitric oxide but the doses required are high and the effects may not last for long.
With any amino acid containing product, overdose is a possibility. Dosing with too much arginine can lead to diarrhea, weakness and nausea. Take a small dosage for one week, note the benefits and the side effects, and increase the dosage until the benefits are maximized and the side effects minimized. Many protein powders are fortified with amino acids, including arginine. With this in mind, pay particular attention to how much arginine you are ingesting from all supplements taken.