February 19, 2005
Q: I have heard nitric oxide helps build firmmer more powerful muscles in athletes. What is it and how does it do this? - Layperson
A: Nitric Oxide (NO) is known in scientific circles as the muscle's "cell signaling" molecule. It plays a role in oxygen delivery, blood flow (hemodilation), glucose uptake, power output, nutrient delivery, and muscle growth. Boosting levels of this compound in the blood can aid the muscle-building process tremendously. A specific form of the natural amino acid arginine, known as AKG (arginine alpha-ketoglutarate), can help mediate the chemical reaction necessary in increasing the output of NO and the myriad of benefits that come along wHi ith it.
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 is a molecule consisting of one atom of nitrogen and one atom of oxygen. The production of Nitric Oxide occurs when the amino acid L-arginine is converted into L-citruline through an enzyme group known as Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS). The chemical process of conversion is shown in figure 1.
The molecule governs blood pressure through a recently recognized process that contradicts textbook wisdom. It causes penile erection by dilating blood vessels and controls the action of almost every orifice from swallowing to defecation. The immune system uses nitric oxide in fighting viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, and tumors. Nitric oxide transmits messages between nerve cells and is associated with the process of learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain, and, probably depression. It is a mediator in inflammation and rheumatism. The popular erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil citrate (Viagra) contains nitric oxide and is responsible for increasing blood flow to the penis.
The fact that nitric oxide increases blood flow should make it of interest to bodybuilders, as increased blood flow will serve to deliver more nutrients to muscles, thus helping muscles become larger when subject to stress. 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.
Signs of deficiency include the inability to achieve and sustain erections, physical weakness and extreme fatigue. Most "nitric oxide" supplements contain the amino acid Arginine-alpha-keto-glutarate.
With any amino acid containing product, overdose is a possibility. Dosing with too much arginine can lead to diarrhea, weakness and nausea. Clear dosing guidelines have not been established, so it is best to do what is known as "tolerance mapping". 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. Over time the two will converge and you will hit the optimal dose. This process is similar to "receptor mapping" for bodybuilders who use insulin.
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.
By creating and then sustaining levels of nitric oxide in skeletal muscles you can deliver continuous muscle-enhancing benefits around the clock. These include: amplifying muscle-growth signals for faster gains in lean mass, accelerating both fast and slow twitch muscle fiber for greater strength, providing complete "full-body muscle recovery", and increasing the endurance index (EI).
Now athletes and bodybuilders can finally get all the powerful benefits of hemodilation - all day long! Including faster gains in muscle mass, increased strength and endurance, and the creation of the "perpetual pump".
Hemodilation means a widening of the blood channels leading to skeletal muscles through the mechanism of amplified blood flow.
Hemodilation is initiated by nitric oxide synthesis. Nitric oxide is the cell-signaling molecule responsible for blood flow, oxygen delivery, glucose uptake, muscle velocity, power output, and gene-expression, or muscle growth. By sustaining nitric oxide levels in the skeletal muscles, (NO) generates its sustained hemodilation. The channels that deliver muscle building agents to the muscle cells become forced open and remain that way throughout the day. The results are faster gains in lean mass, greater strength, increased endurance, complete full-body muscle recovery, and a "perpetual pump.
A "perpetual pump" is a muscle pump that remains in its post-exercise, blood-engorged, rock-hard condition virtually all the time! The increased muscle size and muscle density achieved through exercise does not fade with time.
The "perpetual pump" is a brand new phenomenon. It's one of the stunning effects of the sustained hemodilation you get from (NO).
Increased blood flow is responsible for your pump. Your body responds to exercise by releasing nitric oxide, the muscle's "signaling molecule" responsible for increased blood flow.
When you exercise hard, Nitric oxide opens the blood floodgates, allowing blood to surge in. That's hemodilation, and that's how you get a "pump". But the exercise-induced pump is only temporary. It disappears soon after the body realizes exercise has ended.
Now, with (NO), pumps do not go away. Even massive, vein-popping pumps show no sign of diminishing. That's because (NO) generates a continuous surge of blood that courses through the skeletal muscle throughout the day. So muscles remain engorged and steel-like all day long.
Muscle Fiber Twitch Accelerators
In addition, (NO) acts as a muscle fiber twitch accelerator. These accelerators are any agent or substance capable of increasing the contractile velocity of both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers.
By increasing nitric oxide production, you can increase your maximum contractile velocity - in all muscle types. Fast-twitch fibers get faster. Slow-twitch fibers start acting more like fast-twitch.
The results are immediate and consequential, and include increasing your load capacity, boosting your power output, and quickening your muscle contraction.
Endurance Index (EI)
The Endurance Index (EI) is the new measure of the rate of increased endurance during work output.
Current research indicates that the keto-acids, like the ones you find in (NO), can help significantly delay fatigue and dramatically improve your Endurance Index (EI).
In fact, many athletes are now reporting that taking (NO) gives them the kind of endurance they get when they train at high altitude and then race at sea level.
To summarize, using Nitrous Oxide (NO) provides the following benefits to weight training and sports specific athletics:
DISCLAIMER: The information in this column, is NOT intended to diagnose and/or treat any health related issues and is provided solely for informational purposes only. Consult the appropriate healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare regime. Even what may seem like simple changes in the diet for example, can interact with, and alter, the efficiency of medications and/or the body's response to the medications. Many herbs and supplements exert powerful medicinal effects. Neither the author, nor the website designers, assume any responsibility for the reader's use or misuse of this information.