Nitric oxide is a powerful compound produced in the body. It acts as a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes and widens your blood vessels, increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
Low levels of nitric oxide may increase blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
But, what is nitric oxide? What are the benefits of nitric oxide for health and exercise performance? Are there ways to boost nitric oxide production naturally?
In this article, we will discuss why you might want to boost nitric oxide levels, the benefits of nitric oxide, and how to increase nitric oxide levels naturally.
We will cover:
- What Is Nitric Oxide?
- Nitric Oxide Benefits
- 6 Ways To Increase Nitric Oxide Levels Naturally
Let’s get started!
What Is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide is a chemical compound with the formula NO. This means that it is made up of one molecule of nitrogen and one molecule of oxygen bonded together. It is a colorless gas that may also be referred to as nitrogen oxide or nitrogen monoxide.
Nitric oxide is produced naturally by almost every cell in the human body. The amino acid L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide. L-citrulline is another amino acid that can be converted to L-arginine in the kidneys for further processing into nitric oxide.
Although nitric oxide is most known for its ability to dilate blood vessels, it has numerous roles in the body. It also plays an important role in controlling information and acts as a neurotransmitter to convey messages from cell to cell.
Nitric Oxide Benefits
According to research, obesity and endothelial dysfunction can decrease nitric oxide availability. This, in turn, can increase the risk of lifestyle diseases such as insulin resistance, ischemic heart disease, and hypertension.
Here are some of the health benefits of nitric oxide for the body:
#1: Reducing Blood Pressure
Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means that it widens blood vessels and thus decreases blood pressure.
#2: Decreasing Unhealthy Blood Clotting
Nitric oxide can help prevent the formation of blood clots.
#3: Improving Endothelial Function
Nitric oxide can improve the health and function of the endothelium, which is the thin cell membrane that lines the walls of your blood vessels.
#4: Supporting the Immune System
Nitric oxide helps combat and fend off pathogens in the body.
#5: Improving Brain Health
Studies have found that nitric oxide may be useful for improving brain function and supporting cell-to-cell communication in the central nervous system.
#6: Increasing Sexual Function and Arousal
Because nitric oxide is a vasodilator, it can reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction and enhance penile blood flow and male sexual arousal.
#7: Improving Exercise Performance
Studies have found that ingesting beetroot (which helps increase nitric oxide production) before endurance exercise helps improve aerobic exercise capacity and time to exhaustion.
6 Ways To Increase Nitric Oxide Levels Naturally
Here are some tips for how to boost nitric oxide levels in the body:
#1: Eat Foods High In Nitrates
There are no “nitric oxide foods,” which means there are no foods that directly contain nitric oxide, as this is a gas. However, there are foods that can boost nitric oxide levels, namely foods that are high in nitrates.
Nitrates are nitrogenous compounds (NO3) that can be broken down in the body into nitrites. Nitrites are then converted into nitric oxide.
Studies show that dietary nitrates, obtained primarily from vegetables, can indeed improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Vegetables typically constitute about 80% of the dietary nitrates that we consume. Dark, leafy greens, in particular, are very high in dietary nitrates.
Beets or beetroot is also extremely high in dietary nitrates, which is why beetroot supplements are popular nitric oxide boosters for aerobic performance and for reducing blood pressure.
#2: Eat More Oats
Whole oats contain beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols, as well as antioxidants such as avenanthramides. In fact, this type of antioxidant is found almost exclusively in oats,
Studies suggest that avenanthramides help increase the production of nitric oxide and thus reduce blood pressure.
#3: Get Consistent Exercise
Exercise helps increase nitric oxide production naturally and helps improve endothelial function, decrease blood pressure, and combat the deleterious effects of free radicals.
Free radicals, in turn, can reduce nitric oxide production.
#4: Cut Back On Mouthwash
Your dentist may not be a huge proponent of this strategy for how to increase nitric oxide levels, but nonetheless, if you are looking to boost nitric oxide levels naturally, one thing you can do is stop using conventional mouthwash.
Antibacterial mouthwash kills the healthy bacteria in your oral cavity as well as the harmful bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease.
However, healthy bacteria are one of the primary producers of nitric oxide in the body.
Studies have even found that using antiseptic mouthwash can increase blood pressure because of the decrease in nitric oxide production.
Consider coconut oil pulling instead.
#5: Try Nitric Oxide Boosters
There are some dietary supplements that are thought to increase nitric oxide, so they are marketed as being “nitric oxide boosters.”
Although these nitric oxide boosters do not contain nitric oxide itself, the compounds that they do provide are thought to stimulate the natural production of nitric oxide in your body.
One thing to be mindful of when purchasing and consuming nitric oxide boosters and other nitric oxide supplements is that these types of supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Accordingly, the labeling and dosage are not always particularly transparent, and the concentration and sourcing of ingredients may or may not be tested to be safe.
If you are interested in taking nitric oxide boosting supplements, you should speak with your doctor before doing so, particularly if you have any underlying diseases or take other medications or supplements. There may be drug interactions that can be extremely dangerous.
Although the specific formulation and active ingredients in supplements to boost nitric oxide may vary, two of the most common ingredients you will find in these types of nitric oxide boosters are L-arginine and L-citrulline.
L-arginine is a conditional amino acid, which means that under most conditions, your body is able to produce the amino acid endogenously in sufficient quantities.
However, there are certain circumstances where your body may not be able to synthesize enough L-arginine naturally, so you will need to consume it in your diet in order to satisfy your body‘s needs.
Even though your body can manufacture L-arginine from other amino acids that you consume, consuming foods high in L-arginine or taking L-arginine supplements may provide additional benefits.
This amino acid has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide through a pathway termed the L-arginine-NO pathway.
For this reason, L-arginine supplementation has been found to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure in certain populations, particularly for those who have hypertension or are pregnant.
Some studies suggest that L-arginine may enhance exercise performance, likely due to its ability to increase nitric oxide production.
However, results have been mixed, and if you are consuming a well-balanced diet and getting an adequate amount of proteins, you may not experience much of a boost in nitric oxide production from this type of supplement.
Additionally, in excess of 10 grams per day, L-arginine may cause digestive distress and gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and cramping.
With that said, most evidence suggests that dosages up to 30 grams per day are safe.
L-citrulline is a non-essential amino acid, which means that your body can produce as much of this amino acid as it needs, and you do not need to consume it in your diet.
Interestingly, L-citrulline and L-arginine are part of the same cycle.
When L-arginine is converted to nitric oxide via the L-arginine-NO pathway, L-citrulline is actually one of the byproducts that are produced.
Then, the L-citrulline can be reprocessed by the body and recycled back to L-arginine, and fed back into the pathway to produce more nitric oxide.
Therefore, if you have enough L-citrulline, your body can produce L-arginine, and then from there, your body can increase nitric oxide production.
In fact, because L-arginine tends to break down so quickly that much of it is broken down before the amino acid even reaches your bloodstream to enter the L-arginine-NO pathway, studies have found that supplementing with L-citrulline is actually more effective than supplementing with L-arginine for increasing nitric oxide naturally.
Resultantly, studies have found that L-citrulline supplements can boost nitric oxide levels, increase circulation, reduce blood pressure, and improve exercise performance.
#6: Try Beet Supplements
Beetroot juice or beet supplements such as HumanN SuperBeets Heart Chews may also increase nitric oxide levels due to the nitrates in beets.
Consider implementing these strategies into your life to naturally increase nitric oxide levels.
What about the Nitric Oxide Dump exercise routine? If you want to give this exercise routine a try, you can check out our full guide: The Nitric Oxide Dump Exercise Guide: How To + 7 Benefits.