Nitric oxide is a gas produced by virtually all cells. Although you won’t find NO in pre-workout supplements, you will find NO boosters that dilate arteries to improve blood flow, enhance oxygen and nutrient delivery to active muscle tissues, and boost overall athletic performance.
Want a NO surge? Check out Pre Lab Pro—the ultimate nitric oxide supplement for maximum performance and results.
Nothing beats the feeling of a good pump at the gym. It’s that feeling where you can feel the blood engorging your muscles as you lift. The pump is something many athletes and lifters chase, but it has benefits beyond vanity.
Nitric oxide supplements are some of the best things you can use to achieve that pump, and while it’s easy to find one on its own, why not combine it with a pre-workout to maximize your results?
By relaxing blood vessels, nitric oxide can help to facilitate the infamous pump and its associated benefits.
Ready to get started? Here’s everything you need to know about nitric oxide boosters to optimize exercise performance and overall health.
We’ll cover what nitric oxide is (and what a nitric oxide booster is), nitric oxide benefits, and how to naturally boost nitric oxide levels.
And if you stick around until the end, we’ll also give you the best nitric oxide supplement!
Nitric Oxide Supplementation: Pre-Workout And Nitric Oxide Boosters
If you’re like most people, you’re constantly looking for that extra edge in the gym—or at least a bit more motivation to get into the workout groove. That’s where a pre-workout comes in handy.
Regardless of the formula, pre-workouts are a class of dietary supplements designed to be consumed before exercise containing ingredients that enhance exercise performance 1.
Whether they contain stimulants or not, they claim to offer ergogenic benefits for strength and endurance athletes.
But what’s the deal with pre-workouts?
The hype around pre-workout supplements has been ongoing for quite some time, and there’s actual merit behind it.
However, that largely depends on what’s in your formula. If you’re getting a pre-workout packed with stimulants or a proprietary blend, it might not be that effective.
But investing in a quality pre-workout can do wonders for strength, force production, power, speed, endurance, and more.
As we said, it all depends on what’s in your pre-workout.
Of the possible ingredients, there’s one we want to spotlight: nitric oxide (NO).
Although pre-workouts won’t inherently contain nitric oxide, they will contain compounds that boost NO production. But before we go anything further, what is nitric oxide?
Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring compound, one of the most important signaling molecules in the body that’s composed of a single oxygen and nitrogen molecule.
Nearly every cell in the body produces nitric oxide, and it serves a multitude of functions, including:
- Vasodilation (widening of blood vessels)
- Immune responses
- Nutrient transport
- Hormone release
But although NO has roles in several body systems, it has essential roles in cardiovascular health because of its role as a vasodilator—it promotes healthy blood flow and proper endothelial function.
In healthy arteries, the endothelium regulates vascular tone via autacoids prostacyclin and nitric oxide (NO) 2.
Well-functioning endothelium is essential for producing endothelium-derived messengers that regulate vascular tone, blood flow, immune cell activity and adhesion, which are all involved in regulating blood pressure and perfusion 3.
Nitric oxide may also protect against endothelial cell dysfunction and combat inflammation and oxidative stress, an underlying component of several chronic diseases 4, 5.
While knowing about all the benefits of nitric oxide for the body is important, few properties can boost your performance in the gym—but vasodilation can.
By widening blood vessels, you’re not only reducing blood pressure but also increases blood flow for better oxygen and nutrient delivery to active muscle tissue, as well as enhanced waste removal to prevent fatigue.
Simply put, if you want to kick your workouts up a notch, you may consider a pre-workout with nitric oxide boosters.
Nitric Oxide Production
The human body has two independent pathways for producing nitric oxide 6:
- Arginine-Nitric Oxide Pathway
- Nitrate-Nitrite-Nitric Oxide Pathway
When our bodies encounter certain stimuli, like intense physical activity, one of three NO synthases (NOS) is activated; these enzymes catalyze NO production.
The three nitric oxide synthases are 7.
- eNOS: Endothelial nitric oxide synthase; produces most of the NO in blood vessels
- iNOS: Inducible NO synthase; involved with immune defense and regulating inflammation
- nNOS: Neuronal NO synthase; expressed in specific neurons of the central nervous system (CNS)
When we’re looking at performance boosters and supplements that increase the pump (I.e., a nitric oxide pre-workout), it’s endothelial nitric oxide we’re concerned about—the one that regulates blood flow.
Health Benefits Of Nitric Oxide Supplements: NO and Athletic Performance
1. Increased Blood Flow
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we say the most well-known benefit of boosting nitric oxide production and levels is better blood flow.
For anyone not looking for performance benefits, this is a critical factor for cardiovascular health and blood pressure, but for those hitting the gym, it’s key for the pump.
Because nitric oxide dilates (widens) blood vessels, it allows more blood to circulate through arteries, leading to greater oxygen and nutrient delivery to active skeletal muscles during exercise. Greater oxygen delivery may help you train harder for longer before fatigue sets in.
But there’s more. On top of enhancing work capacity, increased blood flow can also increase the efficiency of metabolic waste clearance.
When muscles contract, they inevitably produce various waste production (hydrogen ions, ADP, etc.), which slowly accumulate the longer muscles remain under tension are created and slowly build up the longer muscles are under tension 8.
As more hydrogen ions accumulate, the pH of muscle drops (becomes acidic), which causes the burning sensation we’re familiar with during high-rep work.
Eventually, fatigue sets in, and your muscles can’t contract under highly acidic conditions. As such, when these waste products are cleared efficiently, it enables you to train harder before reaching failure.
2. Increases mitochondrial density and efficiency
If you haven’t heard about mitochondria, it’s time to get familiar with them. They are the “nuclear power plants” of our cells and are responsible for producing the bulk of cellular energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short.
But beyond energy production, mitochondria are also involved in cell signaling processes, such as cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis 9.
Research has shown that on top of boosting nitric oxide, high-intensity exercise can also increase mitochondrial density (the number of mitochondria) and mitochondrial efficiency 10.
When efficiency is heightened, cells can generate more energy, which may enhance athletic performance.
3. Promotes angiogenesis
Angiogenesis is the process of blood vessel formation from the existing vasculature. As we mentioned before, one of the roles of nitric oxide is as a key intracellular signaling molecule.
During exercise, endothelial cells lining blood vessels release nitric oxide, which causes vessels to dilate or open and allow for increased blood flow and decreased blood pressure. Combined, these are both beneficial for overall cardiovascular health.
But nitric oxide also stimulates the production of new capillaries within the existing vascular network, further increasing blood flow and oxygen and nutrient delivery to active muscle tissue 11, 12.
4. Enhances glucose uptake
During intense exercise, glucose serves as the primary fuel for muscles. The body will first use glucose circulating in the bloodstream and tap into muscle glycogen stores.
But the volume, speed, and efficiency of which muscles can access, utilize, and store glucose is an essential factor in athletic performance.
In many cases, fatigue sets in due to glycogen—this is often why you see endurance athletes loading up on carbs mid-race.
But you may not know that nitric oxide can mediate glucose uptake in skeletal muscle during physical activity independent of blood flow or insulin.
Research shows that NO facilitates an increase in glucose uptake into skeletal muscle via intracellular signaling, which results in the upregulation of glucose transporter-4 (GLUT4) translocation 13-15.
In simple terms, nitric oxide can facilitate enhanced energy use and production during exercise, leading to better performance. But enhanced glucose uptake can also accelerate recovery, as skeletal muscle relies on glucose for repair.
How to Boost Nitric Oxide
So, now that you know what nitric oxide does and why we use it in pre-workout supplements, you’re probably wondering how you can boost it.
Exercise alone will increase nitric oxide levels, so you can boost endogenous nitric oxide production by getting into the gym and killing an intense workout.
Alternatively, dietary nitrate and nitric oxide supplementation are your other routes.
Although you won’t find “nitric oxide” as an ingredient in any fitness supplements, you will find nitric oxide supplements that boost nitric oxide activity and production—this includes red beetroot and the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline.
And the best dietary source? Vegetables! They’re naturally rich in nitrates, converted to nitrites and nitric oxide via the pathway we mentioned earlier.
In terms of pre-workout supplements that boost nitric oxide production, there are three routes we can take:
Arginine is an amino acid you’ll commonly find as a standalone supplement, but it’s also found in pre-workout supplements thanks to its proposed benefit for increasing the muscle pump. And as a NO precursor, that shouldn’t be surprising.
But despite some research showing that arginine can boost endogenous NO production and enhance performance, results are mixed 16.
Why? Arginine has a low absorption level, and serum levels don’t reach a high enough level to increase NO production significantly.
However, bioavailability is better if you opt for other forms like arginine alpha-ketoglutarate and di-arginine malate, which may increase NO.
Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid converted to nitric oxide and can effectively boost nitric oxide production.
Looking at most pre-workout supplements, you’ll find L-citrulline as an ingredient—and there’s a good reason for it. Unlike arginine, citrulline has high bioavailability and research to back up its role in boosting NO 17.
However, studies have also shown mixed results in terms of citrulline and performance, but when combined with malate (citrulline malate), it appears to be more effective. Malate is a key intermediate in energy production and may benefit endurance athletes.
For strength athletes, studies are limited, but one found that citrulline malate supplementation increased bench press performance at 80% of 1RM 18.
3. Red beetroot
The third (and often most effective) option is red beetroot. Beetroot, you say?
Yep, the red beets that grow in the ground contain some of the highest concentrations of nitrate of all vegetables, which is converted to nitric oxide via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway.
But like most supplements, the research is also mixed on whether it’s effective for all athletes.
The majority of research on red beetroot is done on endurance activities, showing that beetroot juice can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes via increasing efficiency, which can improve performance at various distances, increase time to exhaustion at submaximal intensities, and may improve cardiorespiratory performance at anaerobic threshold intensities and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) 19.
That said, some research does show that beetroot supplementation can enhance muscular endurance performance in resistance-trained athletes, which can help you achieve bigger and better gains 20.
On top of that, nitric oxide boosters show benefits for enhancing blood flow, which increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscle tissue and encourages “cellular swelling.” And this swelling has been suggested to be involved in the signaling process that stimulates muscle growth 21.
If you’re going to use a nitric oxide pre-workout, be choosey about what you take. Most pre-workout supplements and nitric oxide products are loaded with crappy ingredients in ineffective doses, so you’re not getting what you bargained for.
But if there’s one that’s a surefire thumbs up, it’s Pre Lab Pro—an ultramodern nutritional supplement containing red beetroot powder to unleash a nitric oxide rush that supercharges your workout.
Combined with other ingredients like citrulline, glutathione, natural caffeine, L-theanine, and L-tyrosine, Pre Lab Pro boosts and sustains blood flow to muscles better than any pre-workout on the market.
It provides a clean rush that enhances strength, stamina, focus, and endurance and extends into post-workout to kick-start muscle recovery.
- Jagim AR, Harty PS, Camic CL. Common Ingredient Profiles of Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplements. 2019;11(2):254.
- Chia PY, Teo A, Yeo TW. Overview of the Assessment of Endothelial Function in Humans. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020;7:542567.
- Sandoo A, van Zanten JJ, Metsios GS, Carroll D, Kitas GD. The endothelium and its role in regulating vascular tone. Open Cardiovasc Med J. 2010;4:302-312.
- Furchgott RF, Zawadzki JV. The obligatory role of endothelial cells in the relaxation of arterial smooth muscle by acetylcholine.Nature. 1980;288(5789):373-376.
- Zhao Y, Vanhoutte PM, Leung SW. Vascular nitric oxide: Beyond eNOS. J Pharmacol Sci. 2015;129(2):83-94.
- Luiking YC, Engelen MP, Deutz NE. Regulation of nitric oxide production in health and disease. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010;13(1):97-104.
- Förstermann U, Sessa WC. Nitric oxide synthases: regulation and function. Eur Heart J. 2012;33(7):829-837d.
- Layzer RB. Muscle metabolism during fatigue and work. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1990;4(3):441-459.
- Tait SW, Green DR. Mitochondria and cell signalling. J Cell Sci. 2012;125(Pt 4):807-815.
- Brown GC. Nitric oxide and mitochondria. Front Biosci. 2007;12:1024-1033.
- Morbidelli L, Donnini S, Ziche M. Role of nitric oxide in the modulation of angiogenesis. Curr Pharm Des. 2003;9(7):521-530.
- Cooke JP, Losordo DW. Nitric oxide and angiogenesis. Circulation. 2002;105(18):2133-2135.
- Higaki Y, Hirshman MF, Fujii N, Goodyear LJ. Nitric oxide increases glucose uptake through a mechanism that is distinct from the insulin and contraction pathways in rat skeletal muscle. Diabetes. 2001;50(2):241-247.
- McConell GK, Huynh NN, Lee-Young RS, Canny BJ, Wadley GD. L-Arginine infusion increases glucose clearance during prolonged exercise in humans. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006;290(1):E60-E66.
- Hong YH, Betik AC, McConell GK. Role of nitric oxide in skeletal muscle glucose uptake during exercise. Exp Physiol. 2014;99(12):1569-1573.
- Alvares TS, Conte-Junior CA, Silva JT, Paschoalin VM. Acute L-Arginine supplementation does not increase nitric oxide production in healthy subjects. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012;9(1):54.
- Allerton TD, Proctor DN, Stephens JM, Dugas TR, Spielmann G, Irving BA. l-Citrulline Supplementation: Impact on Cardiometabolic Health. 2018;10(7):921.
- Bescós R, Sureda A, Tur JA, Pons A. The effect of nitric-oxide-related supplements on human performance. Sports Med. 2012;42(2):99-117.
- Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-Muñoz JL, et al. Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(1):43.
- Ranchal-Sanchez A, Diaz-Bernier VM, De La Florida-Villagran CA, Llorente-Cantarero FJ, Campos-Perez J, Jurado-Castro JM. Acute Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplements on Resistance Training: A Randomized Double-Blind Crossover. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):1912.
- Contreras B, Schoenfeld BJ. The Muscle Pump: Potential Mechanisms and Applications for Enhancing Hypertrophic Adaptations.