When it comes to gaining lean muscle and increasing our endurance, nitric oxide boosters (or NO boosters) can play a big role in helping us achieve these goals. Most of us use them often and don’t even know it. Two that are popular in modern bodybuilding include L-Arginine and its various forms (Arginine ethyl ester and AAKG), and Citrulline Malate. Made up of one nitrogen and oxygen atom, this molecule is quite simple in its design.
Popular among most pre-workouts these NO boosters have a unique effect on the human body that is very sought after, which is the elusive pump. If you’ve ever lifted weights then this feeling after a few high-rep bicep supersets is probably very familiar to you.
What does Nitric Oxide do?
Known as a vasodilator, NO allows your veins to relax and pump more blood full of oxygen and nutrients through your body. Which is quite noticeable during exercise because as you become fatigued your body requires more oxygen during say, a HIIT workout and with a NO booster you can go longer and harder. During weightlifting you are pumping blood into your muscles and with an NO booster in your system your body can get that much more blood into the muscle causing that feeling of rigid veins and making your muscles feel full, because they are, full of blood.
NO boosters also have the added benefit of helping recovery due to their ability to more readily deliver nutrients to the muscles when they need it most.
What should I take and what dosage?
With NO boosters such as Arginine and Citrulline you can either supplement with a single gram dosing three times a day or three grams once a day, gaining the most benefit if it’s taken 30 minutes to an hour before a workout session. Pills do exist, but usually NO boosters come in powder form. They can be bought individually or in a pre-workout, which needs to be taken into consideration. If your workouts are in the morning or midafternoon, then a pre-workout is fine to use, but if your workouts are towards the evening it might be smarter to make your own non-stimulant pre-workout to avoid staying up all night from the caffeine found in most off the shelf pre-workouts. Price can be a factor for most people as well, considering most pre-workouts can run upwards of $50 for a month’s supply. The best way to save money would be to buy your NO boosters individually as well as other various pre-workouts ingredients and just mix them together yourself! Doing the leg work of mixing the ingredients will save you money in the end and usually be less contaminated with chemical additives you don’t need.
To make the most of your NO booster make sure to include some high volume workouts into your routine, a 1RM on your deadlift won’t do too much to pump a ton of blood into your muscles, but 10, 15 or even 20 rep sets of lower weight towards the end of your routine will give you maximum effects. If you do it right it should be hard to make a fist at the end of an arm routine. This can also be applied to endurance athletes, if you can run 10 miles no problem, then you probably won’t feel too much of a difference when using an NO booster, but if you include some all-out sprints at the end of your workout you will quickly find out your legs can still cramp and fill with a whole lot of blood in a short period of time.
What do I recommend? With all the iffy pre-workouts out there who don’t list dosing of ingredients or are way too overpriced for the average fitness lover I recommend buying your own Arginine and or Citrulline powder and making a homemade pre-workout. Add whatever you’d like! Creatine, BCAA’s, caffeine, beta alanine, etc. The advantage of this is a cheaper pre-workout and customization down to the flavor which you can simply add a 0 calorie water enhancer or powdered Gatorade, that’s the great thing about it, it’s all up to you!
And for anybody who doesn’t believe in supplements and take an all-natural approach to exercise and nutrition there is an option for you too. Watermelon and beets have been shown to have a natural NO boosting effect on the body, so don’t be afraid to down some beet juice or eat a few watermelon slices as your pre-workout and you can also achieve similar effects.
Whatever you choose to do and whatever your goals are, don’t be afraid to try a NO booster to help you get there!