Nitric Oxide Supplement Buying Guide
By Tyler Woodward
Blood flow booster, circulation enhancer, Stim-Free Pre-workout, “pump” supplements, nitric oxide boosters oh my! Overwhelmed with choices for picking out your nitric oxide booster supplement? Don’t worry, as always UMZU's here to make your life easier…
- What Is Nitric Oxide & Why You Want More Of It
- The Nitric Oxide Recipe ~ How Your Body Makes Nitric Oxide
What Is Nitric Oxide?:
Nitric oxide is a gas that is released in your arteries in order to increase blood flow by widening your arteries. Your arteries are surrounded by a layer of smooth muscle that is capable of constricting or dilating, known as vasoconstriction and vasodilation respectively. Nitric oxide specifically is a vasodilator, vaso meaning vessel (the artery) and dilate to open or expand, it’s an “artery expander”
- Vasoconstriction - Tightening of the blood vessels to limit the amount of blood flow to an area
- This is beneficial if you are bleeding and need to prevent the loss of blood or if your body needs to prioritize its blood flow to the other parts of the body. When you exercise more blood goes to your muscles relative to the amount that goes to your internal organs at rest.
- Vasodilation - Relaxing or widening of the artery to increase the amount of blood flow
- This is beneficial if you a specific area or organ requires more oxygen, energy, nutrient delivery or increased waste removal
Nitric oxide is an autocrine and paracrine signaling molecule, meaning that when a cell releases it, the cell signals to both itself and neighboring cells to vasodilate, allowing more blood flow to this area. Nitric oxide is released as a gas in the body and is also a free radical. For these reasons nitric oxide is extremely unstable and only lasts for a few seconds in the body before being broken down.
Nitric Oxide Synthesis:
In order to create nitric oxide your cells must go through the nitric oxide synthesis pathway. To create nitric oxide your cells require:
- Inputs = O2 (Oxygen) + L-Arginine + NADH (Energy) →
- Processor (The Enzyme) = Nitric Oxide Synthase →
- Products = Nitric Oxide (NO) + L-Citrulline + NAD+
Logically, if you’re looking to increase your nitric oxide production you would want to consume more of the “inputs” or the ingredients required for nitric oxide production. It’s much more complicated more to increase oxygen uptake or energy supply in your body, so for the purpose of this article we’ll focus on increasing the products and their respective ingredients...
L-Arginine & L-Citrulline:
Ironically, for reasons that are not yet clear it’s been shown in research that consuming L-citrulline has been reliably associated with increasing your blood (plasma) L-arginine levels better than L-citrulline. For this reason L-Citrulline is a much more effective supplement for boosting your L-arginine levels and thereby Nitric Oxide levels compared to L-arginine. There are also a number of synthesized L-arginine compounds like nitrosigine that have been shown to increase L-arginine levels in a similar amount to L-Citrulline.
It’s important to exercise caution when using these synthetic amino acids, as many of these compounds have not been studied for their long-term health effects.
- L-Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate (AAKG)
- Citrulline Malate
- Watermelon (High in L-citrulline)
Nitrates & Nitrites:
When nitric oxide is quickly broken down after its release it’s oxidized (oxygen is added to it) into either nitrite (NO2-) or Nitrate (NO3-). Because nitric oxide is so unstable in the body there are no reliable ways to measure its concentration in the blood, so typically it is measured by the amount of nitrites/nitrates released in the urine. There is some evidence that increasing the amount of nitrates/nitrites in your blood can increase your nitric oxide production. It's been suggested more recently that your body may have a natural recycling system capable of resynthesizing nitric oxide (NO) from its breakdown products nitrite (NO2-) or Nitrate (NO3-). Also, anecdotally many people report improved blood flow and circulation after eating nitrate-rich foods like beets, garlic, leafy greens. Consuming or supplementing with nitrate-rich foods like beet juice or beet juice has also been shown to increase nitric oxide production.
- Leafy Greens (While high in nitrates, may not be the healthiest of choices for other reasons)
Nitric Oxide Synthase & Cofactors:
Last, but not least there are a number of compounds that have been shown to increase the activity of or enhance the stability of the nitric oxide enzyme. This occurs through either increasing the amount of nitric oxide synthase enzymes in the cell or by increasing the amount of or the stability of the cofactors involved in nitric oxide synthesis. Cofactors are like the helping hands in a chemical reaction, they’re like the people in an assembly that physically put all the parts together. They don’t show up in the end-product, but you can’t get the end-product without them. There are four cofactors involved in the synthesis of nitric oxide:
- BH4 (Tetra-Borohydride)
- NADPH (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate)
- FMN (Flavin Mononucleotide)
- FAD (Flavin Adenine Dinucleotide)
If any of these cofactors are in short supply then the amount of nitric oxide you can produce will inherently be limited.
- Vitamin C has been shown to increase nitric oxide production, while also increasing the availability of BH4. Vitamin C may also increase the bioavailability of dietary nitrates among other foods.
- Garlic has been shown to increase the activity of the nitric oxide synthase enzyme and is also a rich source the amino acid l-arginine.
- Antioxidants like glutathione and bioflavonoids like those present in pine bark have also been found to increase nitric oxide production by increasing the expression of nitric oxide synthase.
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