What is Nitric Oxide (NO)?
Many people wrongly think of Nitric Oxide as laughing gas or a fuel for racing cars. But Nitric Oxide or NO is a substance that is produced by the body itself. When you exercise , NO rapidly increases (study, study). It causes the blood vessels to widen, allowing blood and nutrients to quickly reach their destination. NO is important for your energy and stamina as well as your recovery.
Why is NO so important?
Studies have shown that NO is important in a variety of cellular activities:
- Helping memory and behavior in the exchange of information between nerve cells in the brain. (study study, study).
- Supporting the immune system in fighting off bacteria and defense against tumors.
- Regulating blood pressure by dilating arteries (study, study, study, study)
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving sleep quality
- Strengthening your senses (eg smell)
- Increasing strength and endurance (study, study)
- Supporting digestive system (gastrointestinal motility)
Over 60,000 studies have been done on Nitric Oxide in the past 20 years. In 1998, the Nobel Prize was awarded to three scientists who discovered NO’s vasodilating and cardio-protective effects.
Nitric oxide (NO) and cardiovascular disease.
Nitric Oxide has cardiovascular benefits as it relaxes the arteries, and thus regulates blood pressure and blood flow. Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize, was prescribed nitroglycerin to help with his heart problems. He was skeptical, because he knew that this was used in dynamite, but this chemical helped him. It released extra NO, relaxing the blood vessels and resulting in more oxygen and nutrients in the body. NO is released by the endothelium, the cells lining the inside of your arteries. If these cells are damaged or covered with plaque, your ability to produce NO is reduced and your overall health deteriorates.
How does NO help my endurance and recovery?
NO relaxes and widens the vessel wall, allowing for more blood to pass through. The more NO is released, the larger the diameter of the arteries, increasing blood flow and allowing oxygen and nutrients to reach their destination more quickly. NO thus increases strength and endurance of the muscles. And after the training NO encourages muscle recovery and fiber. Thus Nitric Oxide not only ensures that you can train for longer, but also that you recover faster.
Can I increase Nitric Oxide (NO) levels in my body?
Yes, that’s possible. The most common way to increase the amount of NO in the body, is through physical exercise. When you run or lift weights your muscles need more oxygen, which is supplied by the blood. While your heart pumps faster to ensure that your muscles have enough oxygen, the endothelium releases NO, relaxing and widening the vessel walls allowing for more blood to pass through.
Another ways is through diet, especially by consuming amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. Arginine, found in nuts, fruits, meat, and dairy, immediately creates NO and citrulline in the cell (study, study, study). Citrulline is then recycled back into arginine, releasing more NO.
The enzymes that convert arginine into citrulline need to function optimal for efficient Nitric Oxide production. Consuming healthy foods and antioxidants, like grapes, garlic, soy, vitamin C, Co-Q10, protects these enzymes and increase nitric oxide.
Here are some natural ways to increase your Nitric Oxide.
1. Food as Nitric Oxide Booster
Food with natural nitrates is converted by the bacteria in your tongue into nitritines. Then your gut bacteria convert these nitritines into Nitric Oxide (study, study, study).
The amount of NO is dependent on the intake, the more nitrates you eat, the more nitric oxide your gut will you will produce. Fortunately nitrate-rich foods are easy to obtain and not expensive. The following vegetables are natural NO boosters (vasodilators): Spinach, beets, celery, arugula lettuce, iceberg lettuce, carrots, parsley, cabbage, radish, kale, etc ..
Just like Popeye and his spinach!
2. Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract contains several polyphenols, including OPCs from the grape seeds. The extract is also good for your testosterone, since it is one of the few natural substances that can block the conversion of testosterone into estrogen by blocking aromatase enzyme.
The OPCs from grape seeds are very effective at increasing Nitric Oxide. Human studies show that it lowers the blood pressure and heart rate. And animal studies that it stimulates the natural Nitric Oxide synthesis in the body increasing NO levels by 138% at a dose of 100 mg / kg (study, study, study, study, study, study).
Unfortunately, you have to eat a lot of grapes to get enough OPCs (oligomeric Procyanidins). So consider a supplement with OPCs. and other polyphenols.
3. Vitamin C + Garlic
It is a well-known medical fact that vitamin C increases the Nitric Oxide in the body, and also protects the NO molecules from degradation.
Garlic with natural nitrates is a natural vasodilator. It also contains quercetin (see point 7), that the increases NO levels. Several studies showed that garlic is more effective for reducing high blood pressure than many drugs.
That’s why researcher Adam Moussa gave his subjects 2g vitamin C and 4 garlic tablets (6 mg allicin and alliin 13.2 mg) for 10 days, to assess the impact on their blood pressure and Nitric Oxide.
The results were impressive:
1. Nitric oxide (NO) production by endothelium increased by 200%.
2. Systolic blood pressure dropped on average from 142 mm to 115 mm, which is more than can be achieved with most drugs.
3. Diastolic blood pressure decreased from 92 mm to 77 mm on average.
Polyphine is a grape extract enriched with vitamin C and B. This pure grape extract contains OPCs, resveratrol and other polyphenols. Studies have shown that Polyphine reduced inflammation of the arterial wall and that it stimulates the NO production.
The combination of Polyphine grape extract with apple polyphenols (a.o. quercetin), increased the production of NO with 24%, leading to a 10% increase in strength and 13% increase in endurance. (Polyphine HEART study 2012)
It is well known that natural sunlight activates your skin to make vitamin D. But what most people do not know is that natural sunlight also encourages the skin to synthesize more Nitric Oxide (unless you are blocking all the goodness of the sun with sunblock creams).
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that sun on the skin, immediately releases nitric oxide into the bloodstream. In addition, they concluded that exposure to the sun can increase your life expectancy by a reduction in the risk of stroke. So stop worrying about skin cancer, sunlight is essential for life!
Just avoid the sun between 12:00 and 14:00 and limit your daily exposure. Besides, you’re 80 times more likely to die of a stroke than skin cancer.
Panax ginseng, or Korean ginseng, contains active compounds called ‘ginesonides’ which are structurally very similar to androgens such as testosterone.
Several human studies showed that this herb increases testosterone, increases Nitric Oxide, improves circulation, promotes sleep quality, relaxes the arteries, and increases libido (study, study, study, study, study, study)
Quercetin is one of the most investigated flavonoids. Quercetin belongs to the polyphenols and vooraal appears in combination with other polyphenols, such as resveratrol, procyanidin, tannins, tea catechins, genistein and to raise the nitric oxide levels (study, study, study). Foods rich in quercetin include onions, garlic, chives, apples, grapes and red wine..
8. Coenzyme Q10
Co-enzyme Q10 is found in the mitochondria, your cells “power” units. CoQ10 is required for the power generation in the form of ATP. Ninety-five percent of the energy of the human body is generated in this way. That’s why organs with the highest energy needs such as heart, liver and kidney have the highest concentrations of CoQ10.
CoQ10 levels decrease with age and may be low in people with cancer, certain genetic disorders, diabetes, heart disease, HIV / AIDS, muscular dystrophies, and Parkinson’s disease. Some medications such as statins may also affect CoQ10 negatively.
Your body makes CoQ10 itself, so taking supplements is usually not necessary, but it can be very useful. CoQ10 is naturally present in small quantities in many different foods. High concentrations are found in organ meats such as heart, liver and kidneys, as well as salmon, egg-yolks, soy oil, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts.
CoQ10 was found to increase human subjects NO nitric oxide. It protects the degradation of the NO molecule relaxes blood vessels, increasing blood flow and lowers blood pressure (study, study, study, study, study).
9. Laughing keeps you healthy!
Laughter is healthy! Research showed that when men watch 60 minutes of a comedy film, their growth hormone, dopamine, and nitric oxide levels increase significantly when compared to control group. (study)
Laughing improves your blood circulation and you will be having fun. So laugh a lot and you will live longer.
10. Raw Cacao
Raw cacao, cold-pressed from the bean, is a superfood full with polyphenols and antioxidants. Heat destroys the antioxidants. Raw cocoa contains similar substances that boost NO like Polyphine grape extract. Studies show that it increases the production of NO (nitric oxide) and relaxes the veins (study, study, study).
11. Omega-3 EPA DHA
Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) are important and healthy. They are anti-inflammatory, increase the blood flow and Nitric Oxide levels, lowering the risk of stroke and blood clots (study, study, study, study).
Unfortunately, our current diet contains too little of these essential fatty acids. We consume mainly vegetable oils, margarine, and trans fats with omega-6 instead of healthy natural alternatives with Omega-3 such as butter, olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, chia seeds, krill oil, fish oil, etc.
As a supplement take Krill Oil as it is a very pure source of Omega-3 EPA and DHA.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol flavonoid present in grapes and red wine. Resveratrol is a powerful NO booster, because it stimulates the nitric oxide synthase enzyme (study, study, study, study) The efficacy of resveratrol is higher in combination with other polyphenols. This taking pure resveratrol is less effective. Vital20 Good for Heart contains extracts of the grapeseed and skin and high in resveratrol.