To boost nitric oxide levels naturally you must first understand what its role and function is in your body.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule produced by the endothelial lining of the blood vessels. When the endothelial lining, or endothelium, detects an increase in blood flow, it dilates the blood vessels. This dilation makes it easier for the heart to pump blood through the blood vessels without having to increase the pressure in your arteries or veins.
For example, when you exercise, your endothelium releases nitric oxide in order to dilate your blood vessels to allow more blood to bring oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. As you can imagine, nitric oxide is a VERY important signaling molecule.
Unfortunately, the endothelium’s ability to produce nitric oxide is suppressed by the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries. Cholesterol clings to the arterial walls, oxidizes, and hardens into a stiff plaque. The plaque prevents the endothelial lining from detecting the need for nitric oxide production.
Not only that, but plaque can stop the blood vessels from dilating properly. This means that your heart will have to work harder to push blood through your body, leading to an increase in blood pressure. The more plaque that builds up, the less dilation of the blood vessels, potentially increasing your risk of hypertension and other heart problems.
Cholesterol isn’t the only thing that can prevent nitric oxide from being produced. Other nitric oxide inhibitors include:
- Emotional distress
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
All of these things can lead to heart disease, thanks primarily to the fact that your endothelium can’t produce enough nitric oxide to relax and dilate the blood vessels.
Of course, an increase in blood flow also ensures your brain, digestive system, immune system, and internal functions all receive the nutrients and oxygen required in order to function. Basically, nitric oxide is needed for a healthy, properly-functioning body!
The Two Most Important Functions of Nitric Oxide
Nitric oxide dilates your blood vessels: a simple, straightforward task, right? You’d be surprised by how many different body functions are affected by nitric oxide!
Contrary to popular belief, the “love muscle” (penis) isn’t a muscle at all. It’s really more like a giant sponge that gets hard, stiff, and big when it is filled with blood. The corpus cavernosum of the penis absorbs the blood, leading to a proper erection.
But what happens when your body can’t send enough blood to the groin region? Because your endothelium isn’t able to produce sufficient nitric oxide (due to cholesterol and other detrimental factors), your blood vessels can’t dilate properly. Without this dilation, your heart is unable to send enough blood to your penis. Even if you’re aroused, you end up with half-erections, or even the inability to achieve a full erection. And it’s all because of the reduced blood flow resulting from insufficient nitric oxide!
Worse, nitric oxide is needed for the blood vessels in your penis to dilate. Without enough nitric oxide, there’s no dilation, meaning there’s no way for the penis to absorb blood.
Nitric oxide plays a direct role in your erections, but it does a lot more for your sex life. It’s also needed to dilate the blood vessels that deliver nutrients and oxygen to your testicles. Your testes are responsible for producing a lot of the male sex hormones (testosterone, for example). If they don’t get enough blood, your body doesn’t have what it needs to produce those hormones.
Hormonal imbalances (a lack of testosterone, leading to too much estrogen) is one of the primary contributors to male infertility and a reduced sex drive.
You’d be amazed by all that nitric oxide can do to help you build muscle and get fit!
Reduce fatigue. Your muscles only store so much energy, and there is only so much available in your bloodstream. When you lift weights, you reach fatigue when you run out of that available energy. Your body has to access the energy stored in the liver and your fat cells, but it needs healthy blood flow to deliver that energy to your muscles. Nitric oxide ensures that the blood vessels dilate so enough blood can be sent where the energy is needed most.
The muscles also need oxygen, which is why your breathing speeds up when you work out. You absorb oxygen via the alveoli in your lungs, and they’re transported via your bloodstream to your muscles. If there’s not enough nitric oxide to dilate the blood vessels, your heart has to work extra hard to send the oxygen where it’s needed most. With healthy nitric oxide production, your exercise will take a far lower cardiovascular toll on your body.
Eliminate lactic acid build-up. Lactic acid is produced when your muscles burn ATP energy during your low-oxygen (anaerobic) exercise. Lactic acid actually prevents injuries, as it signals to your body when your muscles have worked too hard. When the lactic acid levels get too high, they basically shut down the muscles. It’s why you can only push so hard in each set before you hit muscle failure.
When you rest, your body sends a flood of oxygen to your muscles and carries away the lactic acid to be eliminated. It’s why you can hit another set once you take a rest. But if you don’t have enough nitric acid, your blood won’t be able to carry away enough lactic acid before your next set. You’ll hit “failure” more quickly, leading to a less effective workout.
Increasing nitric oxide production ensures that your blood vessels can dilate properly. The dilation of the blood vessels allows the blood to carry away all the lactic acid. The result: it takes longer to reach failure on your next set.
Faster Recovery. You know how you often feel sore the day after an intense workout? That has a lot to do with the inflammation caused by microscopic tears to your muscles. Don’t worry: this damage is a good thing! Your body senses the damage and tries to prevent it by increasing the size of your muscle fibers to increase stored energy. This increase in size is the growth you see in your muscles!
But the low-grade inflammation (soreness) caused by the workout can hinder your workout the next time you hit those muscles. That’s where nitric oxide comes in. Nitric oxide is produced during your workout to ensure your body has enough blood to not only keep up with the workout, but make repairs to the damaged muscles once you finish working out. Proper blood flow to your muscles will help to prevent the inflammation (soreness) and deliver the nutrients and oxygen your body needs to repair the muscle. You’ll recover faster between each workout thanks to nitric oxide.
Increased Endurance. Nitric oxide is so much more than just a strength-boosting supplement. It can also enhance your stamina and endurance!
Endurance exercise doesn’t put as visible/severe a strain on your cardiovascular system as anaerobic or strength training. The lower-intensity exercise will, however, burn through available energy slowly, and will need oxygen in order to do so. Your body needs plenty of blood flow to deliver the oxygen absorbed via the lungs, and nitric oxide is vital for the dilation of the blood vessels that enable the delivery.
Better Pump. The “pump” is that feeling you get after an intense workout. You’ve just pushed your muscles to their limits, burned up all your ATP energy, and caused the microscopic damage that will eventually lead to muscle growth. Your muscles are filled with blood, which is replacing the oxygen and nutrients and making repair. You feel sort of “swollen” thanks to all that blood.
Well, how do you think the blood got there in the first place? The endothelial lining of your blood vessels produced nitric oxide, which in turn dilated the blood vessels and allowed the blood to reach your muscles. The nitric acid also helped to expand the blood vessels in your muscles, leading to an increase in blood flow. Nitric oxide is a vital element of that “pump”.
More Energy Available. ATP energy is stored in the muscles, but the body also needs glucose in order to keep up with your workout. Around 400-500 calories’ worth of glucose is stored in your bloodstream and liver (in the form of glycogen) for just this occasion. But the energy has to be transported from the liver and around your body to the muscles that are burning the glycogen. Not only that, but the activated fat has to be delivered to the muscles as well.
Nitric oxide promotes healthy blood flow, ensuring the energy transported by your red blood cells can be delivered where it’s needed most. Not only will it help to reduce fatigue, but an increase in nitric oxide will make your body more efficient at sending the energy to the parts that need it!
As you can see, nitric oxide is a vital molecule for being a healthy, manly man. Not only is it necessary for healthy cardiovascular function, but it plays a role in muscle-building and sexual function. Those are pretty much the two most important parts of being a man, so it’s clear why nitric oxide is so important!
How to Increase Nitric Oxide
If you want to be healthier—and manlier—it’s important to keep your nitric oxide levels at “normal” at the very least. It’s all but impossible to “over-produce” nitric oxide, so you won’t have to worry about overdoing it. The best thing to do is to find the effective, natural ways to boost nitric oxide production. This means:
Exercising – Exercise is the most efficient way to increase nitric oxide levels. First off, exercise eliminates a lot of the cholesterol and fat floating around in your bloodstream. It will help to get rid of the plaque that lining your arterial walls, restoring healthy function to the endothelium. Lowering your cholesterol levels is one of the best ways to ensure normal nitric oxide production.
But exercise also increases the demand for nitric oxide above “normal” levels. The increase in cardiovascular activity sends a signal to your endothelium that more nitric oxide is required to dilate your blood vessels and allow more blood to flow. Regular exercise will help to expand your blood vessels naturally, as well as increasing nitric oxide production!
Eating specific foods – Did you know that certain foods can actually help to increase the production of nitric oxide?
Take beets, for example. Beets naturally increase the production of nitric oxide thanks to the high nitrate content of the root vegetable. Nitrates are required in order to produce nitric oxide, so giving your body more of these nitrates is the key to raising nitric oxide production.
There are a lot of nuts, seeds, and fruits that contain the amino acids citrulline and arginine. These amino acids are required for the production of nitric oxide, so eating more amino acid-rich foods is the smart way to go. As a bonus, the antioxidants in the fruit will prevent cholesterol build-up in the arteries and prevent the nitric oxide produced in your blood vessels.
Taking nitric oxide-boosting supplements. Both L-arginine and L-citrulline come in supplement form. While these supplements are sold as “muscle builders”, the truth is that they’re better for increasing nitric oxide production. (Of course, muscle growth is a secondary effect resulting from increased nitric oxide production.)
L-arginine is the amino acid your body uses to produce nitric oxide. L-citrulline can be converted into arginine, which can then be used to produce more nitric oxide.
As you’ve seen above, nitric oxide is one of the most important molecules in the body. It’s in your best interest to increase nitric oxide production. All you have to do is exercise more, eat the right foods, and try a nitric oxide supplement. The cardiovascular effects of increased nitric oxide production will be amazing!