Nitric oxide (NO) supplements have been all the rage for several years now, and there seems to be a neverending amount of anecdotal data claiming their efficacy. However, because I have wasted so much money over the years trying different products with claims of building muscle, I am skeptical to say the least.
NO is a very powerful chemical that, among many functions, regulates blood flow. NO dilates blood vessels, lowers blood pressure and allows blood to flow more freely. It’s the same substance that allows Viagra to do its work. It’s this increase in blood flow that has lead many in the supplement industry to infer a better delivery of nutrients to muscle cells, which they equate to more muscle. That is one hell of a stretch and just doesn’t hold water.
It may be surprising to many that the NO supplements of today are the same as the arginine products of the ’80s; they’re just marketing them differently. Unfortunately for NO proponents, the level of arginine in the blood has little to do with NO production, and therefore has nothing to do with increasing blood flow. If we could increase NO production through diet or supplements, because of the decrease in blood pressure that occurs with higher NO levels, we would have had reports of lower blood pressure and syncope. These types of reports have not occurred, nor have they been found in research.
For the last 20 years, I’ve made it my mission to find real evidence of what works and what doesn’t. NO products are no exception. I’ve searched and searched, but have not been able to find one study that shows supplementing with an oral form of L-arginine like alpha-ketoglutarate, alpha-ketoisocaproate or L-arginine monohydrate boosts (NO) levels which causes vasodilatation. The studies that do show an increased production of NO while supplementing with L-arginine administered the amino acid through the parenteral route or Intravenously (IV). Unfortunately for NO marketers, the amounts used through IV cannot be duplicated orally, because even a fraction of these levels causes extreme gastrointestinal distress.