Nitric Oxide and muscle growth

Nitric Oxide and muscle growth

Nitric oxide is a natural gas in the human body that increases the blood circulation to the skeletal muscle.

This blood flow increase improves the muscle growth processes. Several experts emphasize the importance of nitric oxide supplementation in bodybuilding since 1996.


Nitric oxide is a compound that consists of a nitrogen atom and an oxygen atom. One of the precursors of nitric oxide is l-arginine, an amino acid obtained from two enzymes, arginase and synthase, the last one is directly connected to nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide effects on vasodilation


Nitric oxide is a vasodilator. The vasodilation is when the blood vessels widen because the smooth muscle tissues are relaxed. Consequently, there is more blood circulation.

Vasodilation for more nutrients and oxygen

More blood means more oxygen and nutrients for the muscles


This effect increases the transport of essential nutrients to the stimulated area. Moreover, it improves the release of metabolic byproducts. All of this enhances the muscle growth processes.

Benefits for weightlifting

In fact, nitric oxide does not increase the muscle directly, rather, it helps to feed the muscles more properly.

Other properties of nitric oxide

Increasing the NO levels in our body has other beneficial properties:

  • Helping to fight against infections, specially bacteria.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Improving the vasodilation of the circulatory system. This is specially interesting for those who suffer hypertension and/or heart problems.
  • Avoiding the formation of thrombi that trigger heart attacks due to its anti-coagulant effects.
  • Increasing the blood flow to the brain and working as a neurotransmitter in the brain. That is why this substance can improve the memory and cognitive functions in the long term.
  • Supporting the angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels that will provide more nutrients and oxygen to the muscles. This will improve the elimination of lactate, enhancing the performance.
  • Stimulating the use of fatty acids by the skeletal muscle by increasing the amount of mitochondria (mitochondrial biogenesis). This increase also forms more mitochondrial enzymes, which are vital to produce ATP.
  • Shortening the post-workout recovery thanks to its ability to stimulate the cell division process.
  • Enhancing the muscle hypertrophy.
  • Protecting the muscle fibers during the workout.
  • Let’s not forget about its benefits to improve sexual relations. This is due to the fact that it works on the same metabolic route as viagra, producing a less powerful but similar effect. It is a great product for those who suffer erectile dysfunction.


The nitric oxide release keeps the area pumped around 40 minutes after training. Its production is limited by the availability of amino acids and enzymes.

Benefits of nitric oxide for athletes

Nitric oxide supplements are combined with amino acids and enzymes which help to produce and release nitric oxide throughout the day.

The most common way of taking this supplement consists of taking 5 grams before training and another 5 when we wake up or before going to sleep. Taking nitric oxide before and after training can significantly increase the vasodilation.

However, there is research that shows how a bad use of this supplement can be harmful for our health. However, we still need more studies to determine these effects of nitric oxide on our health.

Nitric Oxide Precursor Supplements

Some nitric oxide supplements include an ingredient called “beet extract”, usually Beta vulgaris. The reason why this plant is used is because beet juice improves the O2 transport. This mainly happens during the contraction of skeletal muscles made up by fast twitch fibers.

Beet root nitric oxide content

This happens due to the ion nitrate (NO3-) content in beet. Once it reaches the organism, it becomes nitrite (NO2-) and nitric oxide (NO)

Quite recently, there was a study that proved that NO3- supplementation increases the partial pressure of oxygen (PpO2) in the main muscle that is being used if it mainly has fast twitch muscle fibers

How do Nitric Oxide Supplements affect the Performance during Weightlifting?

  • The fast twitch muscle fibers have a lower oxidative capacity than slow twitch fibers (type I). That is why the PpO2 is lower in them during physical exercise.
  • A lower PpO2 creates a physical-chemical environment that improves the peripheral hypoxia (lower pH, higher lactate). Moreover, said drop in the PpO2 suppresses the endogenous NO production from neuronal enzymes (nNOS, present in type II fibers) and endothelial enzymes (eNOS).
  • NO3- supplementation increases and improves said PpO2 by enhancing the O2 transport. Moreover, it reduces the cost of O2 in this type of exercise.
  • Higher PpO2 = ↑ pH = ↓ lactate = ↓ peripheral fatigue = improving the performance during high intensity exercise, specially helping to keep the pace (see image below).

With or Without Beetroot supplementation

Therefore, beet juice can improve the physical performance.

Other Healthy Effects of Nitric Oxide Supplements

It also improves the reproductive system. It preserves the sexual function in men as they grow old; that is, the quality nor the quantity of erections gets worse.

Positive effects of nitric oxide

On the other hand, its benefits for women involve increasing the blood flow to the clitoris. According to research, this is directly connected to a more pleasant sex and an enhanced sex drive

Side effects of stimulators

Those who suffer hypotension (low blood pressure) should avoid taking these products. This is due to the fact that the vasodilation drops the blood pressure even further. Moreover, taking nitric oxide stimulators accelerates the aging process because it releases a lot of free radicals.

We suggest combining these products with antioxidants in order to reduce the effects of the free radicals.

Using these supplements can also cause digestive problems. When we eat, most of the blood goes straight to the stomach in order to improve the nutrient absorption.

However, if we take nitric oxide supplements, the blood will focus on the muscle tissue, triggering digestive problems. In order to avoid this, the best thing is to avoid eating two hours before taking nitric oxide and training.


  1. Cormio, L., De Siati, M., Lorusso, F., Selvaggio, O., Mirabella, L., Sanguedolce, F., & Carrieri, G. (2011). Oral L-citrulline supplementation improves erection hardness in men with mild erectile dysfunction. Urology,77(1), 119-122.
  2. Ferguson, S. K., Holdsworth, C. T., Wright, J. L., Fees, A. J., Allen, J. D., Jones, A. M., … & Poole, D. C. (2014). Microvascular oxygen pressures in muscles comprised of different fiber types: Impact of dietary nitrate supplementation. Nitric Oxide.
  3. Lansley, K. E., Winyard, P. G., Fulford, J., Vanhatalo, A., Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., … & Jones, A. M. (2011). Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study.Journal of Applied Physiology, 110(3), 591-600.
  4. Schantz, P., Randall-Fox, E., Hutchison, W., Tydén, A., & Åstrand, P. O. (1983). Muscle fibre type distribution, muscle cross-sectional area and maximal voluntary strength in humans. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 117(2), 219-226.

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About Mario Muñoz
Mario Muñoz
Mario Muñoz is an enthusiast in the field of research, as reflected in each of his articles published with excellent scientific rigour.
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