What is Nitric Oxide?

Whether you know it or not, nitric oxide (NO) is one of the most important molecules the human body produces. It is because of how essential it is to various functions in the body it has been deemed the “miracle molecule” by medical professionals. Nitric oxide is comprised of one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom. The most important work NO does is act as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. NO accomplishes most of its work via vasodilation. Vasodilation is the act of widening the blood vessels so blood can flow more efficiently. This occurs due to the smooth muscles within the lining of blood vessels relaxing when nitric oxide is produced there. NO gets produced and the blood vessels expand. Since NO allows for efficient blood circulation, this makes it vital for almost every function that keeps us alive and healthy.

NO is so vital because the expansion of blood vessels allows for blood, oxygen, and nutrients to be delivered throughout the body effectively. This increased blood flow also allows for a decreased risk of plaque buildup and blood clotting. However, a lack of nitric oxide creates a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, blood clotting, hypertension, and other cardiovascular problems. Fortunately, there are ways we can combat these risks and keep our NO levels optimized. In this article, we will look at the importance of nitric oxide and how to get more of it to stay healthy.


What makes Nitric Oxide so important?

Since NO is so important to have ample amounts of at all times, it makes the following facts hard to swallow:


  1. NO has an incredibly short half-life.
  2. NO production declines rapidly as we age.

Because NO dissipates so quickly, we have to have a constant supply produced. This is easy for most of us, but as we age production declines. Beginning as early as your 30’s you can experience a roughly 20% drop in NO production, and this trend will continue every decade for most. It is estimated that approximately 80%-85% of your natural nitric oxide production capacity is gone by age 65. While some of this production decline is specific to aging, other factors such as oxidative stress, lifestyle choices, and daily habits can make this better or worse. Sleep quality, smoking, poor nutrition, being sedentary, and hormones can all impact NO production capability.

Most research agrees that the decline of NO allows for the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is important to do all you can to keep your nitric oxide levels high. Since NO is a vasodilator, it is too important to allow to drop in production. As a vasodilator, it greatly impacts functions that rely on blood flow efficiency. NO can decrease muscle soreness, improve energy and stamina, decrease the risk of plaque build-up and blot clotting, and more.


How do you know if you need more NO?

Since nitric oxide is so essential for most body functions, it is easy to say everyone needs more of it. However, some people need more NO than others. How do you know if you need NO? If you fit into some of these categories below, you need more nitric oxide.


These people need Nitric Oxide.


  • Anyone experiencing hypertension
  • Anyone 30 years or older
  • Men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction
  • People suffering from low energy
  • People who are diabetic
  • Anyone experiencing circulation issues
  • Anyone experiencing immune system issues

There are other symptoms to look for, but these are the biggest indicators you need NO.


How do we increase our Nitric Oxide levels?

If the last paragraph told you that you need more nitric oxide, the next question should be: “how do I get more of it?” Below you will find a list of things you can do to increase your NO production.


  • Exercise – exercise improves your ability to produce NO naturally, which in turn improves your exercise performance. Engaging in at least 3 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week is best for improving nitric oxide production. You can also perform approximately 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week to yield similar results.
  • Eat nitrate-rich vegetables – vegetables such as celery, arugula, spinach, beetroot, and lettuce are high in dietary nitrates. Therefore, they are rich in a compound the body needs to promote nitric oxide production.
  • Increase antioxidant consumption – free radicals are a contributing factor in the short half-life of nitric oxide. Consuming antioxidants such as vitamin C and polyphenols helps neutralize free radicals, which helps promote more NO production.
  • Eliminate mouthwash – mouthwash is great for defending your oral health from bad bacteria and cavities. however, mouthwash also kills off the good bacteria that promote nitric oxide production.
  • Quit smoking – this habit causes blood vessel constriction. Constricted blood vessels reduce blood flow and inhibits NO production.

There of plenty of other things you can implement, but this is a solid starting point to focus on.


What about supplements?

As with anything in the health and wellness industry, sometimes a supplement is the necessary answer. Maybe you are already optimizing your lifestyle and still not seeing enough results. Maybe you are just incredibly busy and a supplement is simply more convenient than meal prep and a strict exercise regimen. whatever the reason, there are many supplement options available on the market. Nitric oxide supplements are easily available in stores and online, but they are not all created equal. Many NO supplements are marketed as an “exercise pre-workout” meant to promote blood flow to your muscles. While this is great for fitness enthusiasts, the main purpose of NO is not to get a great “pump” at the gym.

Most supplements on the market have some of the right ingredients such as L-arginine and L-citrulline, but not at the doses or ratios needed to yield results. The ideal ratio of these amino acids is 2:1 to optimize nitric oxide bioavailability, as well as several antioxidants and minerals to allow for maximal production and uptake of NO. Most supplements just do not have that. Most supplements contain some half-baked “proprietary blend” of ingredients that should work but don’t. Other products will contain nitrates from beet extract or a leafy green extract such as arugula or spinach, but may not have enough nitrates to make it worth the price tag.


How to choose the right NO supplement.

Simply put, do your homework. Do your research and make sure the product is going to yield results. Make sure the supplement you are looking at is clinically tested. Make sure the supplement is able to prove what it claims it can do. Do they have client testimonials? Do they have the right precursors to promote nitric oxide production in the body? Does the label clearly state all the ingredients and the REASON for those ingredients? Do they come with some test or method to prove the supplement works?



Are there side effects to these supplements?

Generally, nitric oxide supplements are considered safe. As previously stated, not all of them are effective at promoting NO production, but they are still generally safe to use. Most of the side effects come from excess amounts of NO precursors. For example, dosing more than 10g of L-arginine can cause stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and outbreaks for those with herpes. Furthermore, beetroot juice can affect stool and urine color. However, this side effect is alarming but harmless. If you are worried about potential side effects, be sure to do your research and consult your doctor or dietician before supplementing.



The Takeaway

Nitric oxide is absolutely essential for your overall health. Ideally, you are keeping your nitric oxide levels optimized through quality sleep, quality nutrition, exercise, and better daily habits. Furthermore, you are using a quality NO supplement if supplements are easier for your lifestyle. Regardless of how you are optimizing NO production in your body, make sure it is a priority. NO is vital for offsetting the risk of cardiovascular disease and circulation issues. You need to make sure you are doing everything you can to promote nitric oxide production. Make sure you save this article for future reference and share it with family and friends who need to know this for their own health.