Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nitric Oxide and Caffeine, the Powerhouse Energy Duo

Imagine for a second a feeling of endless endurance.  A pure state where you feel like you are completely alert, excited, and ready to perform strenuous physical tasks for hours on end without ceasing to catch your breath.  Wouldn't it be great to go to the gym and for once not be staring at the clock, desperate for your workout to be over?  Wouldn't it be fantastic to lift more, run faster, and pump out a few more reps time after time, always ready to come back for another set?

Well such a feeling definitely is NOT fictitious, and there are many supplements on the shelves today available to gym-goers which will do exactly that: pump you up and keep you going.  They're called nitric oxide supplements, and in the most basic terms they rev up your body to be the most efficient blood pumping, oxygen moving, lifting, running, and overall active system it can possibly be.  Let's examine these supplements, what they're composed of, and whether or not they would be a good idea for you to try.

First, what is nitric oxide?  Sounds kind of like a strange chemical to be ingesting, in my opinion.  nitric oxide (or nitrogren monoxide) is simple in chemical composition, composed of nothing more than one nitrogen molecule bonded to one oxygen molecule.  Just to make my chemistry professors happy, nitric oxide has a molecular mass of 30.01 g/mol, and an enthalpy of formation of 90.29 KJ/mol (endothermic).  In our body, nitric oxide is released through the biosynthesis of the amino acid L-Arginine with Oxygen.  It is present in our bodies at some level constantly, and therefore can't be considered an unnaturally consumed substance.

What does nitric oxide do?  Well THAT'S going to be quite the list, but I'll break it down into it's most related/important functions.  In our bodies, nitric oxide has the tendency to cause blood vessels to dilate, or become larger in diameter.  This allows for increased bloodflow, which in terms of physical exertion/ working out has a whole HOST of benefits.  

Oxygen flow:  Dilated veins will increase the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to your muscles, allowing them to operate in an aerobic state for longer periods of time during strenuous exercise.  This will translate into vastly increased endurance, and hence why almost any athlete (including distance runners) can benefit from a dose of a nitric oxide supplement pre-workout.

Nutrient flow:  Again, dilated veins means better blood flow, which will also allow your body carry more essential nutrients to your muscles both pre and post-workout, catalyzing a more efficient recovery as well as an increase in eventual muscle size.

Alertness:  It all comes back to the veins.  More blood flow means more oxygen to your noggin.  You'll feel extremely alert after a dose of nitric oxide, and this feeling can last for up to six hours after the supplement is taken.  N-O is quite the grogginess removal tool.  

Besides these three very noticeable effects, nitric oxide also stimulates the immune system, helping to kill bacteria and infectious substances in the body.  It also stimualates the anti-inflammatory response in your body, which may relieve workout associated creaks and pains.  

Nitric oxide may even help one to have a better memory, because it enhances the quality of communication between cells.  There's no end to the benefits of this stuff!  

Nitric oxide alone is a fantastic workout tool.  Alone it can increase your strength, endurance, pumps, energy level, pretty much whatever you need most to get an awesome workout.  But nitric oxide alone isn't usually the whole story, at least not with many pre-workout supplements these days.  Often there's another chemical added to really take full advantage of your now dilated veins, bringing that optimally efficient bodily state that nitric oxide creates into full usage.  What's this other magic chemical, that'll really push you over the edge of power and performance?  Well, it's nothing you haven't taken before.  

Caffeine!  Yes, that's right, the same stuff that's in your morning coffee, or soda, or monster energy drink (Don't drink those, they're horrendous!).  Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it puts both your Central Nervous System and metabolism into high gear.  Your heart rate will increase, and your body will respond more quickly and readily to "exciting" or strenuous scenarios.  After consuming caffeine, you might notice that even something little, a thought perhaps of an exciting day coming up two weeks from now, will get your heart racing much faster than it ever would have normally.  When coupled with nitric oxide though, this effect is amplified to an even higher degree.

It doesn't take too much thought to understand why.  Nitric oxide=dilated veins=more bloodflow.  Caffeine=stimulated metabolism=faster heart rate=even MORE bloodflow.  Up the caffeine dosage to about 200-400mg per scoop and you've got yourself an extremely potent supplement.  I remember the first time I ever tried such a supplement, I was in the gym for two and a half hours, and awake all night.  It's powerful stuff!  And I suggest if you're going to try it, take only half a scoop your first time, especially if you have almost no caffeine tolerance like me (I don't drink coffee or soda).  Also, read the nutrition label, know how much caffeine you're ingesting.  Don't accidentally take 7 cups of coffee in one scoop by accident if you only wanted a little boost.

So that brings us to the final segment.  Are pre-workout N-O supplements right for you?  Well, it really depends.  If you're a gym rat, and you/re entering a phase where you really need a kick in the butt to get yourself into the gym, then yes, I suggest you try a LIGHTER Nitric oxide supplement.  It can really benefit your workout, and you'll feel great after having pushed yourself so hard.  And the thing is, many of these pre-workout supplements don't just have nitric oxide and caffeine, they also contain a whole host of other great muscle building tools, like a string of essential amino acids, and usually a creatine dosage as well which will help to volumize your muscles to a higher degree.  These pre-workout supplements are designed well, and most definitely are just what your body needs to create an optimal muscle building state.

Would I suggest pre-workout supplements to the more casual gymgoer?  Listen, if you just go to the gym to keep your joints moving, then this stuff probably isn't for you.  But if you're looking to build any sort of muscle, I wouldn't be against trying a small dosage to see if you like the results you get.  You can always give the stuff up immediately, and many companies sell small trial sizes just to see if you like it.  The stuff WON'T KILL YOU, so don't be afraid.

And the absolute last subject to address.  Are pre-workout NO/caffeine supplements addicting?  I won't lie here, sure they're somewhat addicting.  It's hard not to get hooked on something that helps your body perform so well in the gym (and caffeine is an addictive substance, no matter what people say about it).  I personally do NOT believe this addiction is a bad thing, but to those around you it may appear somewhat strange.  You won't get any more hooked on caffeine than they guy who drinks three or four cups of coffee a day, but you still want to manage your usage of pre-workout supplements.  The general rule of thumb for such supplements is to CYCLE THEM.  One month on, one month off.  That way, every other month you get the same effect as the first time you took the stuff.  The off months will start out SUCKING, because you seemingly have zero energy, but a good diet and good sleep habits can help to minimize the withdrawal. You can taper the dosages at both ends of the month too in order to more easily phase in and out of taking and cleansing.  

So there you have it, a basic explanation of one of the most powerful workout tools on the market today- Nitric oxide caffeine supplements.  They can do a world of good for your workout, and I'm 100% serious about that.  They can help you smash through those plateaus you've always been so frustrated by.  Go ahead and try one, but be smart about it, because they are definitely potent substances.

Lift hard, run fast, and stay healthy.  Good luck!

I've tried three nitric oxide supplements, all of them caffeinated:

Amplified N.O. Loaded (Advanced Muscle Performance)- .EXTREMELY POWERFUL STUFF  High caffeine dosage, over 400mg.  Definitely would only suggest half a scoop at first, if not every time you take it.  Too much will cause jitters and a heart rate that's not even useful for lifting.  This stuff has definitely given me some insanely long workouts though, and will easily give you the jitters if you're not careful.  Make sure you take this at least eight hours before you plan to sleep at all.

N.O. xplode (BSN)- This stuff isn't quite as powerful as N.O. Loaded, but still can give quite the kick.  I didn't find the recommended serving size quite as potent (probably because there's only a quarter of the caffeine, 100mg), and I also didn't find the flavor's to be quite as good.  It's still a great endurance tool though, and probably one of the most popular pre-workout supplements on the market today.

Assault (MusclePharms)- Definitely my favorite thus far.  It has a relatively low caffeine dosage (150mg) and gives sustained, powerful energy.  It's also loaded with other great things like creatine and a host of amino acids.  It never gives that incredible "hit" right off the bat, but instead surges on over time.  The orange-mango flavor is delicious, I swear I'm drinking an orange creamsicle.  *would recommend*.


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