Nitric oxide has become extremely popular in bodybuilding circles. Nitric oxide is a free-form gas produced by the body to help cells communicate with each other. At the molecular level, it’s composed of the amino acid arginine, chemically connected to the compound alphaketoglutarate (itself synthesized from the amino acids ornithine and glutamine).
Nitric oxide is produced within the flat endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels. When endothelial cells are stimulated – for example, during muscle contraction – nitric oxide is synthesized and released. Once released, nitric oxide diffuses across the endothelial cell membrane into the adjacent smooth muscle tissue of the blood vessels, causing them to relax and widen (a process called vasodilation).
Bodybuilders have added nitric oxide to their kitbags for two reasons: To boost recovery and to reduce joint and muscle pain. Nitric oxide increases blood flow, and many bodybuilders believe increased blood flow delivers more nutrients to the muscle cells, thus helping them grow during the adaptation and recovery phase. The anti-inflammation properties of nitric acid are also valued, since intense training is hard on the joints and muscles.
Nitric Oxide Supplements and Side Effects
It may surprise you to learn that most nitric oxide supplements don’t contain nitric oxide. Instead, they contain the precursor, arginine. Now, the body evolved to use amino acids in proportion and balance, as earlier discussed, and the long-term risks associated with high dosages of individual amino acids are unknown. Many users have reported experiencing nausea and diarrhea when supplementing with more than 5 to 10 grams of arginine per day.