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Last modified on October 27th, 2022
Nitric oxide as a supplement can be helpful for some people in terms of workout effectiveness and sexual function. Nitric oxide is a compound that leads blood vessels to widen. The compound also stimulates the release of hormones, including human growth hormone and insulin.
When talking about nitric oxide as a supplement, we’re actually talking about specific but different supplements like L-arginine and L-citrulline that can increase the body’s nitric oxide production.
The Best Ways to Boost Nitric Oxide from a Supplement
We go into everything you should know about nitric oxide dietary supplements below, but our picks for the best products include the following:
- Redwood can help increase your body’s natural nitric oxide production
- Also contains vitamin C and garlic powder
- Formulation features horse chestnut extract, pine park extract, and l-leucine
- Ideal for improving an active lifestyle
- Can be used as a pre-workout
- Helps boost blood flow for smooth circulation
- Boosts stamina and energy
- May regulate blood pressure readings within three hours
- Improves blood flow
- Can help athletic performance
- Contains L-arginine and beetroot powder
- One dose may boost nitric oxide production for eight hours
- Based on customer reviews, the product does quickly lower blood pressure
- Daily heart and blood circulation supplement
- Thousands of positive reviews
- Uses a formula built from exclusive patents from the University of Texas Health Science Center
- Contains beetroot powder, hawthorn berry extract, and L-citrulline
- Quick-dissolve tablets
- Clinically studied ingredients for heart health and circulation
- Pure Encapsulations is one of the consistently best supplement companies
- Supports nitric oxide production and vascular health
- Uses citrulline along with additional ingredients, grape seed, and cranberry
- CranLoad is the proprietary blend of cranberry and grape seed blend that’s been the subject of clinical trials
- Manufactured and tested for potency and purity
What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is a molecule the human body naturally produces. The primary function of nitric oxide is vasodilation. Vasodilation means it relaxes your blood vessels’ inner muscles, causing them to widen. When the blood vessels dilate, it increases circulation.
With the production of nitric oxide, it allows oxygen, blood, and nutrients to travel efficiently throughout your body. If your body has problems naturally producing enough nitric oxide, it’s associated with diabetes, heart disease and erectile dysfunction.
As far as working out, nitric oxide as a supplement may help increase how much of the compound is in your blood. The effects can include increased blood flow to your working muscles and reduced time to fatigue.
When talking about nitric oxide as a supplement, we want to emphasize that these supplements aren’t directly nitric oxide. They don’t contain nitric oxide. The supplements instead have compounds that your body uses to make its own nitric oxide.
The Benefits of Nitric Oxide as a Supplement
We’ll talk below about specific supplements that can help raise your nitric oxide levels. The general benefits of taking nitric oxide as a supplement can include:
Treating Erectile Dysfunction
Does nitric oxide help sexually? The evidence seems to suggest it does.
Erectile dysfunction or ED refers to a condition where you can’t achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for intercourse. The penis needs nitric oxide so the muscles can relax. The relaxation allows the chambers in the penis to fill with blood, leading to an erection.
Specific supplements for nitric oxide production that appear to help ED include L-arginine, which is an amino acid, and L-citrulline. French maritime pine bark extract might help too.
For example, in several studies, a combination of French maritime pine bark extract and L-arginine significantly improved sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction. Taken together, the two also appear to be safe.
There are other ways nitric oxide release can help you sexually.
- In your body, it’s your endothelial cells that secrete nitric oxide.
- They line your inner blood vessel walls and communicate with your smooth muscle cells.
- The blood flow can not only help you achieve an erection but potentially maintain one for longer.
- Nitric oxide can increase blood flow to the penis, increasing sexual performance and helping you last longer, in addition to promoting overall blood vessel health.
Improved Workout Recovery
Citrulline malate is one specific L-citrulline that may increase nitric oxide production and reduce muscle soreness after a strenuous workout.
Muscle soreness after a workout that’s particularly strenuous or new to you is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS. You’ll typically experience it 24 to 72 hours after you exercise.
- In a study of 41 people, they received either eight grams of citrulline malate or a placebo an hour before doing bench press repetitions.
- The citrulline malate group reported 40% less muscle soreness at intervals of 24 and 48 hours compared to the placebo group.
- When you take a supplement for nitric oxide like citrulline malate, it increases the blood flow to your muscles.
- Then, it’s possible that increases nutrient delivery and clears wasted products like ammonia and lactate. Both are associated with muscle fatigue.
Exercise Performance Boost
Nitric oxide is involved in many key physiological functions at the cellular level, including the widening of your blood vessels. When your blood vessels are wider, similar to what happens during workout recovery, you get more nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. Those effects can improve workout performance.
These workout performance benefits are why nitric oxide supplements are popular among fitness buffs and athletes.
Research has shown nitrate is helpful for exercise performance across multiple activities, including swimming, cycling, and running. Nitrate is one type of nitric oxide supplement.
L-arginine supplementation isn’t as helpful at improving exercise performance, according to research. L-citrulline may have some benefits in this area.
Reducing Blood Pressure
There’s evidence when you have high blood pressure, it may be due to problems with how you use nitric oxide.
High blood pressure is when the force of blood pushes against the walls of your arteries at a rate that’s too high. Over time uncontrolled high blood pressure can raise the risk of kidney and heart disease.
- Nitrate is a compound found in beetroot. Nitrate is also in dark leafy greens such as spinach.
- You can take nitrate as a supplement in different ways. For example, you can use a beetroot supplement.
- Studies show nitric oxide production is boosted by nitrates which can then help lower blood pressure.
Flavonoid extracts are another way you can lower blood pressure. Flavonoids are antioxidants in most fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids can increase nitric oxide production and decrease the breakdown, so you have higher available levels overall.
Management of Type 2 Diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes, it can impair your nitric oxide production. Impaired production of nitric oxide can then lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease over time. Taking a supplement for nitric oxide can help with the treatment of diabetes and the prevention of the disorder.
For example, in a study of people with type 2 diabetes, taking L-arginine improved nitric oxide production.
The increase in nitric oxide also improved insulin sensitivity for better control of blood sugar.
A separate study found L-arginine had positive effects for preventing or delaying the progression of type 2 diabetes.
Other Possible Benefits
Other health benefits of nitric oxide as a supplement include:
- Improved weight loss
- Better lung function in people with cystic fibrosis
- Treatment of altitude sickness
- Improvements in recovery after injury or trauma
- Preventing the common cold
- Helping heal diabetic foot ulcers
- Reducing memory loss side effects
How Do You Take Nitric Oxide As a Supplement?
As we’ve talked about, there isn’t a nitric oxide supplement you can take. Instead, you can take certain supplements that help your body raise its own production of nitric oxide. We cover some of these options below to get nitric oxide as a supplement, at least as far as helping your body make more of it.
L-citrulline is an amino acid our body makes.
- We covert L-citrulline to L-arginine.
- L-arginine is another type of amino acid.
- L-arginine improves blood flow through a boost in nitric oxide creation.
As we talked about, nitric oxide helps dilate your blood vessels. Due to the ability of L-arginine to help widen blood vessels, it can be helpful for people with clogged arteries or heart disease.
These same blood vessel effects help improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction. The L-citrulline creates a path to create more blood flow to your genitals if you’re a man. In one particular study, the increased blood flow seems to decrease mild symptoms of ED and improve maintaining an erection.
There are some food sources of L-citrulline like legumes, meat, and nuts, but most people use supplements to increase their levels.
There isn’t a lot of research on doses of L-citrulline in terms of nitric oxide as a supplement, but anywhere from two to 15 grams seems to be well-tolerated.
L-citrulline is likely the best nitric oxide supplement for ED, and it’s also thought to be safe, at least for short periods of time. Some men prefer not to use prescription ED medications because of side effects, so they use L-citrulline instead.
L-arginine is another amino acid that can be useful when we talk about nitric oxide as a supplement. L-arginine is naturally found in poultry, red meat, fish, and dairy. L-arginine is needed for circulation and to make proteins.
In the body, L-arginine is converted to make nitric oxide. L-arginine also stimulates the release of insulin and growth hormone.
Benefits of L-arginine and reasons it’s used as a supplement include:
- L-arginine helps with chest pain and blood flow issues
- It’s beneficial for erectile dysfunction
- As a supplement, it may help with high blood pressure during pregnancy
For erectile dysfunction, taking 2-2.5 grams of L-arginine per day seems to help improve sexual function.
For high blood pressure, you might take a similar dose. As a supplement, L-arginine is considered safe. You could experience mild side effects like abdominal pain or bloating, but they seem to be rare.
You should be careful about using L-arginine if you’ve had a recent heart attack or you have allergies or asthma. There’s also some evidence you should avoid it if you have genital herpes or cold sores because it can trigger the virus causing them.
Beetroot supplements like Super Beets are growing in popularity. Beetroot supplements are made from beets dehydrated into crystals and then potentially turned into powder. Beets are a natural source of nitrates. Your body converts nitrates into nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide then helps reduce your blood pressure and can have the benefits cited above.
The idea of a beetroot supplement is to get the benefits of beets but in a more convenient and perhaps palatable way. If you can manage it, drinking fresh beet juice seems to be the better option.
- For example, in one small study, adults who drank five ounces of beetroot juice had significantly lower blood pressure three hours later than participants who didn’t have any nitrates.
- A 2017 review that looked at 43 randomized studies found supplementing with beetroot juice was associated with significantly lower blood pressure, including diastolic and systolic.
- Other benefits of beetroot include protecting against or reducing the growth of cancer. For example, in an animal study, rats consuming water with beetroot had a 45% reduction in the development of esophageal cancer.
- Beetroot juice may improve athletic performance because it improves blood flow and reduces the amount of oxygen you need when exercising.
- Beets may also improve heart health and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Pine Bark Extract
Pine bark extract is also a way to use nitric oxide as a supplement. Pine bark extract comes from the French Marine pine tree. One ingredient, pycnogenol, may help improve skin disorders and inflammatory conditions.
There’s also some research showing it can help with cardiovascular health and erectile dysfunction.
Do Nitric Oxide Supplements Have Side Effects?
Since there isn’t one particular nitric oxide, we can’t say whether they broadly have side effects or not.
The supplements we named above, including the amino acids and the beetroot supplements, tend to have a good safety profile. There aren’t any significant side effects associated with these nitric oxide supplements. Still, you should always talk to your doctor before taking any new supplement.
Other Ways to Boost Nitric Oxide Production
Along with indirectly taking nitric oxide as a supplement, you can eat certain things that will positively affect your nitric oxide production.
- Eat vegetables high in nitrates. These can include celery, lettuce, beetroot, spinach, and arugula. When your body consumes nitrates, they’re turned into nitric oxide. Research shows eating nitrate-rich vegetables can decrease your blood pressure as much as prescription medications.
- Antioxidants help limit your breakdown of nitric oxide. Specific antioxidants that can help naturally raise nitric oxide levels include vitamin E, vitamin C, polyphenols, and glutathione.
- Nitric oxide as a supplement can help your exercise performance, and exercise can also improve your nitric oxide levels. When you exercise, it enhances something called your endothelial function. Your endothelium is a thin cellular layer lining your blood vessels. These cells produce nitric oxide. When you don’t produce enough nitric oxide, it can cause endothelium dysfunction. Endothelium dysfunction can put you at risk of heart disease. Exercise helps your body’s natural ability to produce nitric oxide and keeps your blood vessels healthy.
Nitric Oxide As a Supplement—Final Thoughts
While you can’t directly take nitric oxide as a supplement, there are things you can take and also add to your diet to increase your levels. Increasing your nitric oxide levels can help with erectile dysfunction and can also lower blood pressure and improve exercise performance.
Nitric oxide as a supplement can include taking individual amino acids like L-citrulline or L-arginine. You can also take beetroot or opt for a supplement with a combination of ingredients geared toward boosting nitric oxide.