Nitric oxide is a signalling molecule that is formed by combining nitrogen and oxygen, to help improve blood flow, cognition and workout capacity (1).
The main function of nitric oxide is vasodilation of the blood vessels which can help to prevent cardiovascular disease, improve cognition, and improve recovery. Exercise, laughter, sunlight and eating certain foods are all excellent natural ways to increase nitric oxide (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
Best Nitric Oxide
1. CrazyMass Nitric Booster Max Elite Series
With a total of four ingredients that include all-natural L-Arginine and L-Citrulline, it is easy to see why they would be at the top of almost any supplement list. Produced in an FDA-certified facility, their all-natural approach and claims are further bolstered.
Though they are not certified vegan or vegetarian, those looking for a proven nitric oxide option should look no further than NitricBooster to get them down the road to explosive growth. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.
2. Sheer Strength Sheer N.O
Providing a substantial dose of L-Arginine and L-Citrulline, this supplement brings some of the most organic processes and elements to the table. One of the most interesting facts about Sheer Strength is its commitment to third-party testing and lab results.
Their lab testing results are available via a quick message to their support staff, which makes this one of the most trustworthy supplements on our list. While many options provide a small dosage amount for a greater price, Sheer Strength is effective and affordable.
3. Zhou Nutrition NO Pro
For a supplement that provides so much, it is impressive that they can use top-tier ingredients while keeping a realistic price point. Zhou’s veggie capsules prove to be not only vegetarian-friendly but also healthy with the inclusion of their beetroot extract. They also use an FDA-certified facility for manufacturing purposes, making them a brand that you can trust and rely on.
Overall, this is one supplement that surpasses almost every other nitric oxide supplement available on the market to date.
4. Havasu Nutrition Nitric Oxide
Though they do provide L-arginine and L-citrulline in amounts that have been proven to be effective, Havasu also provides some additional amino acids for increased performance.
Their nitric oxide product has no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or GMO ingredients.
5. N.O. XT Nitric Oxide Supplement
Though there are many supplements with a substantially lengthy ingredient list, N.O. XT touts a list of 5. These ingredients have been clinically proven to enhance the absorption rate of the supplement and still make for both a pure and safe choice.
The veggie capsules also make sure that vegetarians are included in the health benefits made possible here.
6. PumpSurge Caffeine Free N.O.
Though designed initially for those looking to enhance their workout routines, PumpSurge still has a lot to offer someone looking for a more general supplement.
Inclusive of L-Arginine and L-Citrulline, it provides a caffeine-free and rich supplement to give an energy boost at almost any time of day. This is also a great option for both men and women who want to get further into the supplement market.
7. NutraChamps Extra Strength Nitric Oxide
This particular supplement includes not only the traditional nitric oxide components but also grape seed oil and pine bark. Initially, these would seem to be additional fillers, however, the efficiency of this supplement is extremely high based on previous testimonials.
Those looking for something with a proven amount of benefit should certainly take a look at NutraChamps.
8. Goliath by Dr. Emil Nitric Oxide
Similar to the image conjured by the name, Dr. Emil’s Goliath nitric oxide comes with a combination of L-arginine and L-citrulline to bring you a reliable nitric oxide supplement product. Though the dosage amount is higher than other brands, Dr. Emil provides sound science and clinical results to bolster their claims.
It is especially good for those looking to enhance workouts, but also good enough for those who would prefer to get the benefits of nitric oxide.
9. Pure Label Nutrition N.O. Booster
Touted as one of the purest nitric oxide supplements, Pure Label provides an all-natural supplement that contains a good mix of ingredients for optimum performance.
One key thing to note is the dosage level for this supplement option. Coming highly rated for both men and women with 2110mg of nitric oxide per bottle, there are very few options that can beat the value of this supplement.
10. Snap Nitric Oxide Booster
With a combination of both L-Citrulline and L-Arginine, this nitric oxide booster gives you 1500mg of supplements per bottle.
More interestingly, this supplement contains both the well-known amino acids found in nitric oxide, as well as Tribulus extract and ginseng making it unique in its approach to boosting nitric oxide levels.
How We Rank
The first thing we looked at was the ingredient list. We wanted companies that provided multiple ingredients proven to boost nitric oxide production in the body. Any product that didn’t have more than one, was axed from our list.
Here, we also analyzed and looked for supplements using clinically effective dosages. Some companies like to give lower than effective doses just to boost profit margins. We prioritized companies like Sheer N.O. who did the opposite and made sure each ingredient was dosed properly for maximum effectiveness, per serving.
The next factor to consider was the purity of a supplement. At Health Trends, we only want the best of the best. As such, we rewarded products like CrazyMass Nitric Booster which used minimal, clean, ingredients, without coloring agents, fillers, or binders.
Lastly, we looked for supplements that went the extra mile to deliver results. For example, one of our top ranked products, Zhou Nutrition NO Pro, uses beetroot powder on top to two separate forms of L-arginine to boost nitric oxide significantly.
1. Nitric oxide can improve exercise recovery, endurance, and intensity. The number one reason why people take nitric oxide enhancing supplements is to improve their workout quality.
A number of studies have found that increasing nitric oxide can improve oxygen and nutrient delivery to the muscles, recovery from exercise, and tolerance to exercise intensity (8).
A 2008 study on postmenopausal women found that supplementing with l-arginine (a common nitric oxide boosting supplement) “increased maximal force in mechanographic analyses and may prevent a decline of muscle force in postmenopausal women” (9).
A study in the Chinese Journal of Physiology (2009) found that l-arginine supplementation led to an increase in glucose and insulin concentrations post workout (10).
Having elevated insulin levels can help improve muscle protein synthesis and therefore recovery from exercise.
The Journal of Applied Physiology looked into the effect of l-arginine on moderate and high-intensity exercise (11).
The study found that increasing nitric oxide production led to a reduction in the oxygen cost of moderate exercise, and enhanced high-intensity exercise tolerance. Meaning athletes could train at higher intensities.
Another study, from 1985 (but updated in 2010) found that nitrate supplementation (nitrate can be broken down into nitric oxide in the gut) reduced the cost of oxygen during a knee extensor exercise, and therefore “allowed high-intensity exercise to be tolerated for a greater period of time” (12).
A study in the American Journal of Physiology (2010) looked at the effect of dietary nitrate supplementation on moderate intensity exercise (13).
Again, this study found evidence that increased nitric oxide could reduce the energy cost of submaximal exercise, making low to medium intensity exercise easier to perform.
Another study (2011) in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that dietary nitrate supplementation reduced the oxygen cost of walking and running on a treadmill (14).
The study used beetroot juice which is a good source of nitrate, but it only tested 9 healthy, physically active males – which is quite a small number.
A study in 2011 looked at the effect of dietary nitrate supplementation on cycling time trial performance (15).
They found that beetroot juice improved cycling economy and boosting power output – which led to faster time trials.
A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning looked at the effects of arginine based supplements on physical working capacity in people who were fatigued (16).
The study found that there were significant increases in performance capacity in subjects who took arginine while there was no significant difference in the placebo group.
But not all studies have seen a difference, a 2009 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism found that dietary l-arginine intake did “not improve physiological parameters during exercise” (17).
A 2010 study found that l-arginine failed to improve physical performance (but it also failed to increase Nitric Oxide levels) (18).
They failed to find an increase in blood flow or any improvement in “acute upper body exercise performance”. Again, this may be down to a failure of the ingredients to increase nitric oxide rather than a failure of nitric oxide.
Richard Bloomer in 2010, looked at nitric oxide supplements in sport. He concluded that:
“Nitric oxide-stimulating dietary supplements are widely available and aggressively marketed to the sports/bodybuilding community. Unfortunately, these products have little direct scientific evidence for effect and depend largely on borrowed science related to research done on isolated and intensified dosing of certain ingredients, in particular l-arginine. This, coupled with paid endorsements from top athletes, and a bit of the placebo effect thrown in for good measure, have catapulted this class of supplement to the top of the bodybuilding world.” (20)
So not a fan then. But that doesn’t mean that nitric oxide boosting supplements are incapable of working, just that in 2010 there wasn’t enough evidence of nitric oxide boosters working.
What Bloomer says about most studies focussing on one ingredient that happens to increase nitric oxide rings true. Most of the studies include either l-arginine or l-carnitine.
Overall it’s difficult to say whether nitric oxide boosting supplements are effective at improving workouts. Often, they are paired with caffeine – which is an excellent pre-workout ingredient or creatine which is also very effective.
Being paired with two very powerful performance enhancers may hide the fact that the nitric oxide booster is ineffective.
Alternatively, nitric oxide boosters may indeed increase blood flow – provided the supplement is of good quality. There definitely is evidence that increased blood flow can help improve a workout and the recovery process.
Perhaps supplementing directly with l-arginine or l-citrulline would be more effective.
2. Nitric oxide can improve cognition. There appears to be quite a lot of evidence that nitric oxide has a role in memory and cognition. A study on rats in the British Journal of Pharmacology (1995) found that inhibiting nitric oxide led to a reduction in performance of the radial arm maze task (a test of special learning in rats) (21).
If this is the case, then nitric oxide must help to improve memory and cognitive performance.
A 2011 study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that “nitric oxide activates the computational ability of the brain. These findings provide sufficient support to the report that l-arginine, the precursor and donor of nitric oxide may play a prominent role in the treatment of age-related degenerative diseases such as AD” (22).
In other words, nitric oxide boosting supplements may help to prevent alzheimer’s disease and similar degenerative diseases of the mind. According to David S. Geldmacher, writing in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine (23):
“Diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and obesity might lead to dementia in a process abetted by oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, insulin resistance, inflammation, adiposity, and subcortical vascular disease. All of these could be targets of intervention to prevent and treat dementia”
A study undertaken by Professor Ian Forsyth at the University of Leicester (2008) found that nitric oxide “can change the computational ability of the brain” (24).
3. Nitric oxide can improve erections and help fight off erectile dysfunction.To get an erection, blood needs to flow into chambers of your penis called the corpus cavernosa. Once the chambers are filled with blood they can expand causing an erection.
The chambers are supplied via blood vessels, when these become damaged it can lead to erectile dysfunction. Nitric oxide can help prevent this by widening blood vessels, which in turn improves blood flow to the penis.
A study in 1992 by Burnett found that nitric oxide provides a crucial role in erectile function and it seems clear that nitric oxide supplementation could absolutely help somesufferers of erectile dysfunction (particularly any who suffer from obesity, diabetes etc) (25, 26).
4. Nitric oxide supplements can help prevent cardiovascular disease. As mentioned above, nitric oxide has a powerful effect on blood flow which is what makes it so popular with gym goers. But this can also help to protect the cardiovascular system from disease.
A study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology (2004) looked at the effect of nitric oxide on atherosclerosis, claiming that “New agents that specifically target the nitric oxide synthase pathway have been developed, and represent a new front on the war against heart disease”(27).
In 2011 a study was published in the Journal of Circulation Research found that increased nitric oxide (from exercise) can protect the heart from myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury (28).
This demonstrates that increasing nitric oxide (albeit from exercise rather than supplementation) can have a protective effect on the heart.
A study in 2005 by Guix looked at “the physiology and pathophysiology of nitric oxide in the brain” and claimed that nitric oxide could play a protective role in the vascular system, and help regulate blood flow (29).
5. Nitric Oxide can help prevent Eisenmenger Syndrome. During pregnancy, there are many conditions and ailments that could affect both mother and baby. While conditions such as eclampsia, or pre-eclampsia are the more dominant conditions discussed, there are others that could cause life-threatening issues if gone unnoticed.
Eisenmenger Syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that could develop during pregnancy. During the development of Eisenmenger Syndrome, a reversal of blood flow occurs. This is seen in the left-to-right shunt and can pose a significant health risk to both mother and baby during pregnancy.
According to a case study originally published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a 27-year old woman was treated for symptoms identifiable with Eisenmenger Syndrome. The woman received nitric oxide treatment in an effort to reverse the effects of the disease. Unfortunately, the mother died, however, the increase of nitric oxide did help to reduce and alter hypoxemia associated with the condition (30).
6. Nitric Oxide can enhance glucose uptake. There have been several studies showing that nitric oxide is effective in mediating glucose update in skeletal muscle. This can happen during exercise independent of blood flow or insulin. This happens primarily through a process called up-regulation of glucose transporters (31).
These case studies indicate that nitric oxide helps increase energy usage and production during the workout process. This promotes a greater amount of performance. Overall, this makes for a fantastic resource for those focused on optimum performance during workout and training periods.
7. Nitric Oxide may decrease the spread of cancer. As cancer becomes increasingly prevalent as a health concern, locating possible treatments that are more natural and less damaging is becoming all the more important as well. As drug-resistant tumor cells begin to emerge, healthcare professionals are expanding their treatment options and perspectives.
In several studies, nitric oxide has been shown to modulate different cancer-related events and change the outcome of cancer treatments. During the process of angiogenesis, apoptosis, cell cycle, invasion, and metastasis, nitric oxide has been proven to demonstrate a successful way to prevent the spread of various forms of cancer (32).
8. Nitric Oxide supplements can reduce high blood pressure during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is one of the most dangerous conditions associated with pregnancy. This form of high blood pressure can be dangerous for women and can often result in life-threatening situations. Though there are several treatments available, the bulk of prevention relies heavily on early detection. Nitric oxide, however, is proving to be a possible catalyst for change in this area.
According to a published study in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, pregnant women who took L-arginine supplements experienced a variety of health benefits. This included a decrease in blood pressure if the mother had consumed these supplements for a prolonged period of time. Those who did not take the same supplements found blood pressure readings to be significantly higher than other test subjects (33).
Because you can’t take nitric oxide directly as a supplement, it is pretty much impossible to get any side effects from it.
In the next section (recommended dosages) we look at the different supplement ingredients that can increase nitric oxide production (l-arginine, l-citrulline, cocoa extract, curcumin, DHEA, fish oil, garlic, l-carnitine).
Some of these ingredients may have side effects of their own when taken in high doses. But provided that you stick to the recommended dosage for each you should see no ill effects.
Nitric oxide is not taken directly as a supplement, instead, you need to take supplement ingredients that can increase nitric oxide production in the body. In this section, we will identify some of the evidence-based supplement ingredients that can increase nitric oxide, and provide the recommended dosage for each.
L-arginine – There appears to be evidence that l-arginine supplementation can increase nitric oxide levels (34).
But this is not always the case, some studies failed to find any evidence of l-arginine increasing nitric oxide levels, despite plasma arginine being required for nitric oxide to be formed in the body. The recommended dosage for l-arginine is 3-6g (35).
L-citrulline – A good supplement for increasing nitric oxide levels. A 2010 study found that L-Citrulline-Malate led to an increase in nitrate. The recommended dosage for L-citrulline is 3 x 1,000mg per day (36).
Cocoa extract – Potentially a good supplement for boosting nitric oxide levels in smokers, but not enough evidence at this moment in time. The recommended dosage for cocoa extract is 500-1,000mg (37).
Curcumin – The active ingredient in turmeric that a lot of people have got excited about recently. A 2012 study noticed a significant increase in nitric oxide when subjects took 80mg of curcumin, but there is little evidence outside of this study. The recommended dosage for curcumin is 80-500mg (38).
DHEA – A hormone that can be converted to either testosterone or estrogen, DHEA is often seen as an anti-aging supplement. A 2006 study found that 50mg of DHEA led to increased levels of a biomarker for nitric oxide (it is almost impossible to measure nitric oxide levels specifically). The recommended dosage is 25-50mg (39).
Fish oil – A study in 2010 found that fish oil supplementation increased nitric oxide levels, but also found that it increased oxidative stress from exercise. The recommended dosage for fish oil is 250mg (40).
Garlic – A 2007 study found that raw garlic could increase nitric oxide levels by 224% for 2-4 hours after ingestion (41). There is no recommended dosage.
L-carnitine – A study published in the International Journal of Vitamin & Nutrition Research (2009) found that 3g of L-Carnitine was able to significantly increase nitric oxide levels (42).
The recommended dosage is 500-2,000mg (however for an increase in nitric oxide you would need 3,000mg).
Is nitric oxide good for the body? Yes it its. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and decreasing plaque growth and blood clotting.
Can nitric oxide supplements help with erectile dysfunction? Yes they can. Since they promote blood-flow, erections will be stronger, harder and easier to maintain.
Are nitric oxide supplements safe for your heart? There is no evidence to support any long term damage of using nitric oxide supplements. As such, they are categorized as completely safe and even healthy supplements.
Are nitric oxide supplements safe to take with high blood pressure? Yes and since they help expand the blood vessels, they can even help lower blood pressure.
Which foods help produce more nitric oxide? These foods include: Dark chocolate, citrus, pomegranate, walnuts, spinach, watermelon and beets.
Are there any side effects of nitric oxide supplements? As long as you are taking recommended dosages, there will be no side effects. If you exceed the dosages dramatically, you could create low blood pressure temporarily. It’ll subside.
How do nitric oxide products work? Nitric oxide supplements don’t actually provide nitric oxide, which is a gas, but generally contain nitric oxide. precursors which can, increase nitric oxide and deliver all the aforementioned benefits.
Can women use nitric oxide supplements? Yes, women can also benefit from taking nitric oxide supplements and ingredients. Though it is commonly associated with bodybuilding or exercise, women may also find health benefits from these products. Cardiovascular health and sexual dysfunction are some of the primary benefits for women taking nitric oxide supplements.
Can nitric oxide supplements cause stomach issues? Yes, nitric oxide supplement use can cause mild to moderate complications in the digestive system. This can often result in mild symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, heartburn, or nausea. These are very rare symptoms, however, and should be mentioned to a physician in the event they become a regular occurrence.
Can you increase nitric oxide naturally? There are many ways to increase nitric oxide without the use of supplements. Multiple foods contain a naturally high level of nitric oxide. increasing antioxidant intake and increasing the amount of exercise you partake in daily can also enhance the levels of nitric oxide levels found naturally in the body
Can nitric oxide be useful when treating depression? Though there is still research to be conducted, early signs do show that there is a slight correlation between nitric oxide levels and depression regulation. Nitric oxide modulates ion channels, intrinsic excitabibility, and has the ability to diffuse cellular membranes. Neuronal nitric oxide synthase is able to combine with other molecules, which becomes a positive regulator of depression.
Can pregnant women take nitric oxide supplements? Nitric oxide supplements are considered generally safe for women during pregnancy. While this is the case, however, the maximum safe dosage for some ingredients is not known for pregnant or nursing women. This is especially true of supplements containing L-Arginine. Pregnant women should always consult a physician prior to beginning a course of nitric oxide supplements.
Can nitric oxide supplements cause issues with sleep? Yes, nitric oxide levels in the blood can have a profound effect on sleep cycles. This can vary from person to person, however, those with higher accumulations of nitric oxide in their blood may have a tendency to stay awake more often than those with lesser amounts.
Which ingredients are popular to combine with nitric oxide supplements? Combining nitric oxide boosting ingredients with other common pre-workout ingredients (caffeine, creatine etc) has become very popular, and you will see some excellent results from this.
Increasing nitric oxide levels through exercise and supplementation can have a number of benefits. The increased blood flow allows for more work to be done, less fatigue to accumulate, and better recovery afterwards. Its role in helping prevent neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease could become vital in the future when more research is undertaken.
As with most popular supplements, it is always better to boost your levels of nitric oxide through exercise and diet. If you are doing this then there is no need, nor any real benefit to supplementation, if your nitric oxide levels are low then supplementation could be an effective short-term solution. Combining supplementation with gentle exercise and an increase in nitrate rich foods would be even better.
For Healthtrends #1 Nitric Oxide recommendation, click here.