You may have heard stories of bodybuilders using nitric oxide to pump up their muscles volume and to increase their blood flow, but have you considered what's the truth behind them?

First of all, what is nitric oxide (NO)? Nitric oxide is a simple and stable gas, found in free form, which contains one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom. It can be produced by bacteria and can be released by the combustion of nitrogen, for example, in the case of lighting or car combustion igniting. It is also produced naturally by our bodies in various types of cells.

The importance of NO for metabolism and body development was firstly discovered by pharmacists Furchgott, Murad and Ignarro, who have demonstrated the vital role of this substance in the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. The researchers found that the nitric oxide produced by a cell can rapidly penetrate membranes and adjacent tissues and may regulate cell function in the vicinity. They have proven that the gas acted like a cellular signaling mechanism which, at that time, was a totally new concept in biology. For their discovery, the three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1998.

Blood vessels are formed from smooth muscle tissue, lined with endothelial cells. These cells produce nitric oxide to signal the surrounding muscle tissue that it needs to relax. Relaxation of muscle tissue leads to increase in diameter of blood vessels (known as vasodilatation), which decreases pressure inside the vessels and facilitates blood circulation, causing them to pump more blood to the heart, liver, kidneys and other vital organs. In addition, it was shown that nitric oxide improves circulation so inhibiting platelet aggregation (blood clots) and deposits inside the blood vessel walls.

Researchers have also disclosed other functions of NO. It was found that nerve cells use it to activate other cells in the same area which in turn are used to adjust certain nervous system functions. White blood cells, such as macrophages, produce nitric oxide to suppress bacteria and other parasites that invade the body. This may be one of the reasons why it has a positive effect on blood flow, thus helping lower the risk of rejection in transplants and improving the efficiency of erectile dysfunction treatments. In addition, increasing blood flow to organs like the liver and kidneys facilitates detoxification.

And now that we know something about the impact of these substances on metabolism, the question is: How important is nitric oxide for athletes? Well, a higher blood flow to vital organs means an increased blood flow in muscle tissue. In turn, this causes the muscle cells to be better supplied with nutrients and absorb them more to rebuild themselves quicker and more easily. Improved circulation results in better oxygenation of the cells, which helps to increase energy and endurance in the gym.

For hardcore bodybuilders, nitric oxide also poses an additional advantage. Blood quickly enters muscle tissue under tension, so making their muscles with blood and become bigger and tougher. Anyone who has made several sets of curls with dumbbells or bar to exhaustion (ie to the point that burning sensation is so great that if all the muscle would be in flames) knows exactly what this means. Biceps is rock hard and swollen so much that seems to stand to burst. We, bodybuilders, live for this feeling of “pumping”. If vessels dilate due to a higher level of nitric oxide in muscle, blood flow increases voltage, which emphasizes the feeling of pumping and extremely makes muscles look bigger and tougher. Alongside the effect of muscle expansion, a stronger pumping is more visible in veins and arteries, giving the appearance of well-vascularized muscle that so many bodybuilders are striving to achieve. And, while we're in the “bigger and stronger” side, nitric oxide has also been proven to lead to a better sexual performance.

Thus, according to solid scientific evidence, increased production of nitric oxide boosts the metabolic advantages for bodybuilders and other athletes. For people who exercise only occasionally, nitric oxide consumption may not lead to spectacular results. In contrast, the serious sporty who trains hard, regularly and systematically, should really be concerned about the results of a nitric oxide stimulator. Why give others a competitive advantage? Why not look as big and solid as they are?