One of the highest grossing categories of dietary supplements is Nitric Oxide boosters, or vasodilation enhancers to name one of the other names they might go by.
The primary ingredients in these products – whether you swallow it in capsule or liquid form – have been included to induce a vasodilation effect in the user. This effect has been studied for many years for several different reasons, though the predominant areas of marketable interest are:
- Ergogenic supplements – provide the user with some level of physical performance enhancement in terms of muscular growth, strength, endurance or power development
- Sexual performance aids – allow more blood to flow for those that suffer from conditions such as erectile dysfunction
- Nootropic products – give the user a cognitive edge by increasing blood flow to brain
For the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on the first of those areas; ergogenic supplements. These are the products which can be found in stores such as GNC, bodybuilding.com and any of the brand websites themselves.
Vasodilation has been clinically proven to enhance exercise performance, specifically for people engaging in resistance training using weights and machines at the gym.
What is Vasodilation?
This is the physiological mechanism of the widening of blood vessels due to the relaxation of smooth muscle tissue that they are connected to. These muscles actually control both vasoconstriction (narrowing of the same blood vessels) and vasodilation according to changes in physical exertion, body temperature and any number of other variables.
Nitric Oxide – Vasodilation – Improved Workout
Vasodilation allows a higher volume of blood to flow through the vessels that have widened, providing the muscles with more oxygen and nutrients. A more common term for this effect is ‘the pump’ and even more recently, the word ‘swole’ is being used as slang for being pumped during and after a workout.
More oxygen and nutrients directly increases the working muscle’s capability of being stressed for longer and more intensively, thereby eliciting a deeper overcompensation response from the tissue in the post-workout recovery period.
Further to this, many of the Nitric Oxide (NO) boosters that are used in modern ergogenic supplements have secondary effects such as the reduction of lactic acid and ammonia, which both have an impact on the recovery speed of the subjected muscles and the intra-workout anaerobic stamina.
Nitric Oxide boosters should be taken as part of the pre-workout supplementation.
Other Uses of Nitric Oxide Boosters
Sometimes vasodilators are added to medication for erectile dysfunction, and indeed, a supplement which has both testoserone boosters and/or libido boosters in the blend will benefit from the inclusion of a nitric oxide booster as well. The user will then (when required) be able to maintain an erection for longer due to the increased blood flow and concomitant heightened sex drive.
Nootropics were also mentioned earlier as being very relevant in the current market. Nootropics are otherwise known as smart drugs and contain compounds which can increase cognitive function, working memory, mental drive and focus etc.
By adding a vasodilator to the mix, the supplement essentially works for the brain in a similar way to the products targeted toward the muscle-building market; more oxygen and nutrients are shuttled to the brain, allowing it to function at higher output and utilize the other components in the formula at a faster turnover.
Of course, increasing the output of any system will require more input: fuel. Vasodilation, while improving many aspects of performance, also increases the expenditure of the raw materials i.e. nutrition and oxygen.
Oxygen demands can be covered by our natural instinct to breathe deeper when we are engaged in intensive physical exertion. Nutrient intake, however, is a conscious action – and a requirement, if the true benefits of getting pumped is to be realized.
Pre-workout, intra-workout and post-workout supplementation is advised, especially if the session is to be longer than 60 to 90 minutes. The intra-workout drink should be a mix of carbohydrates (medium to high glycemic index depending on exercise intensity) and some protein (BCAA on a 2:1:1 ratio or whey isolate that you can stomach while exercising). Start with about 30-40 grams of maltodextrin (or similar carb) and 10 grams of protein (5g if BCAAs – too much can upset the stomach). Also add some electrolytes, whether from a branded product or coconut water / lemon juice or similar. Mix with water and sip. Drink plain water to make up the general hydration requirements.
Products – Nitric Oxide Boosters
There are a lot of these products at the moment, so we narrowed it down to what we considered the Top 3 at the moment.
Examples of NO boosters currently available: