Nitric oxide supplements have become increasingly popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to improve exercise performance in recent years.
The body can make nitric oxide from dietary or supplemental nitrates in the diet.
While, nitrates are naturally found in beets and dark, leafy vegetables, Americans are not getting enough.
Average intakes of nitrates are significantly lower than recommendations, or levels needed to see the optimal function of nitric oxide throughout the body. While Americans consume 71mg of nitrates per day, minimum needs range from 360mg and above (1).
Nitrates are an important precursor to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide has many benefits for the body, yet internal levels decline significantly with age.
Nitric Oxide Levels Decline with Age
By age of 40, our natural production of NO may be decreased as much as 50%. By 60 years old, only 15% of capacity remains (2; 3; 4; 5; image from Berkeley Life Professional).
It is believed to provide a range of benefits for exercise performance, including improved measures of endurance and nutrient metabolism (6; 7).
Nitrates are converted naturally to nitric oxide which helps relax blood vessels and improve oxygen delivery (and waste removal) from key areas of the brain and body. This is separate from the L-arginine pathway which declines significantly with age.
Nitric Oxide Supplements and Muscle Performance
Nitrate supplements (nitric oxide precursors) can support exercise performance in different ways than supplemental L-arginine – and arguably more effectively given the substantial declines in the body’s ability to use arginine with age.
This efficiency of oxygen transfer can help strength and endurance. Nitrate supplementation has been shown to help reduce the amount of oxygen required during exercise, resulting in less fatigue and quicker recovery times (8).
As we age, our ability to produce nitrates declines significantly. By age 40, most adults have 50% of their nitric oxide production, and by age 60 and older, levels show 15% of capacity.
Dietary or supplemental nitrates bypass the mechanisms of internal production (L-arginine pathway) and have been shown to counterbalance age-related or inflammation-related drops in nitric oxide production.
New Nitrate Supplement Exercise Study
A recent randomized crossover study showed for the first time that upon supplementation, nitrates are readily taken up by the skeletal muscles and improved muscle function. This increased performance was associated with the uptake and decline of nitrates in the muscle before and during exercise (9).
While most people over the age of 40 should be optimizing their intake of nitrates, these findings further demonstrate the benefit of exercise performance along with the vascular, sexual, inflammation, cognitive, sleep, and immune benefits.
I use Nitric Oxide Foundation by Berkeley Life Professional to support nitrate levels daily. It contains 500mg of supplemental organic/inorganic nitrates, equivalent to that found in 7oz of beets or 5oz of spinach. It has been clinically shown to improve nitrate and nitric oxide levels in the body – and those increases have been demonstrated to correspond with physiological benefits.
Berkely Life‘s nitric oxide supplements are a leading global source of research, supplements, and at-home testing.
A diet that optimizes nitrate-rich foods commonly recommended for those with high blood pressure would see intake levels of 1200mg+ per day. 500mg once a day plus dietary sources will optimize nitric oxide function safely in the body.
Check with your doctor if you have unique medication concerns.
You can test levels at home via saliva to evaluate the need as well as the benefit of supplementation. I use Nitric Oxide Test Strips before and after intake to evaluate how much support is enough for me.
Nitric oxide benefits peak at 90 minutes and last over 5-8 hours. This shows that daily intake or supplementation is essential to optimize nitric oxide functions throughout the body, especially if we’re 40 years or older.
The research shows that the benefits of nitrate supplements can be experienced or optimized at all ages, particularly if exercise performance is a goal.
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