Common Misconceptions – Nitric Oxide vs Nitric Acid

Nitric Oxide, or NO, is a gas which the body produces naturally. Nitric Oxide is used by the human body to facilitate several important functions. It plays a valuable role in the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, your immune system, and even digestion. Athletes believe that Nitric Oxide supplementation can help to improve their sporting performances because Nitric Oxide helps to control your vascular tone, smooth your muscles and reduce your blood pressure.

What are Nitric Oxide Supplements?

Many supplements are marketed as “Nitric Oxide” supplements, but they do not actually contain nitric oxide in its pure form. Nitric Oxide is made by in the body when enzymes break down arginine, an important amino acid. Arginine is found in spinace, crab, turkey, sesame seeds and a range of other foods. Supplementation of this amino acid can help your body to produce more Nitric Oxide when it is needed, improving your endurance and allowing you to train for longer.

What is Nitric Acid?

It is important to note that the amino acid, arginine, is not “Nitric Acid” as many people like to call it. Nitric acid (HNO3) is an acid that is found in abundance in fertilizers, and it is quite a harsh chemical. If it is swallowed, it can be highly toxic. The side effects of ingesting nitric acid include shortness of breath, choking, dizziness, fever, and vomiting or coughing up blood.

When people talk about supplementing nitric acid, they are really referring to the arginine, the amino acid which converts to Nitric Oxide. You should never ingest real nitric acid.

Does Arginine Supplementation Really Work?

In 2010, a study conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles found that supplementing arginine was quite effective. The study compared the performances of 16 cyclists aged between 50 and 73. The cyclists were divided into two groups, one given a placebo and the other given an arginine supplement. The two groups followed a similar training program for three weeks, and then had their anaerobic threshold tested. The control group showed no improvement in their anaerobic threshold, while the group that was taking the supplement showed a 16.7% improvement. This is a substantial improvement, and supports the idea that arginine can help athletes to train longer and work out with more intensity.

Taking nitric oxide supplements can help to improve your performance in endurance sports. By improving your anaerobic threshold, you can train harder and keep going for longer before lactic acid starts to build up in your body. Supplementing arginine to improve your nitric oxide production is generally safe, however it is possible to overdose on this supplement. Before you start taking any form of supplement, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor. This is especially important if you are taking several different supplements, or if you are taking prescription medications. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a supplement is safe simply because it is “natural”. Many prescription drugs can interact with natural substances to cause undesirable effects.

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