Having just read a paper entitled “Lack of nitric-oxide (NO) mediation of flow-dependent arteriolar dilation in Type I Diabetes is restored by sepiapterin”, (which essentially says back-handed that NO helps increase blood flow in diabetics). I began to do the ‘Thoburn ponder’, “Does nitric oxide (NO) produce more blood flow and bigger, stronger muscles in bodybuilders?”
GOT BLOOD: The RED RIVER OF LIFE!
Bodybuilders crave blood more than milk, more than Arnold craves a camera. The more red stuff the better and the NO molecule plays an important role in ramping up and controlling the flow of blood to your muscles, whether you’re eating a bowl of shredded wheat or squatting 400 x 10 reps.
Picture your body as a bustling neighborhood of multi-millions of homes or cells. There are a great many different ways to send a message inside any one of these homes: You can ring the doorbell, make a phone call, mail a letter, blast an e-mail or hey, even rap your fist on the kitchen window.
NO doesn’t necessarily ring the doorbell or send the e-mail, but it fine tunes the strength of any one of these messages inside. NO is a modulator of signals in your body’s cells. Among others, these include those telling your muscle fibers to generate force (i.e., contract), and your heart to beat more efficiently. Let’s examine some of pertinent NO fingerprints for pumping blood and building muscle!
Myofibrillar Protein Increase
NO increases the fusion of myoblasts to increase muscle protein. Myofibrillar proteins comprise the bulk of the protein inside your hair-thin muscle fibers. They go by names like actin and myosin. The myofibrillar proteins are responsible for generating force that allows you to lift weights. When your body is building (synthesizing) more myofibrillar protein each day than it is tearing down (catabolizing), you grow! NO has been proven to stimulate protein synthesis in the muscle of rats and giant rats, so why not humans? Many scientists, despite the naysayers, believe that NO stimulates muscle protein synthesis in humans.
Endurance & Power
Endothelial NOS (eNOS; a.k.a. type 3 NOS), a NO-producing enzyme found in your body, plays a big role in controlling the flow of blood and at least 1 major scientist says, “[If] there is a genetic predisposition to produce NO, as in world class athletes or animals bred to race, NO may contribute to spectacular exercise performance.”
Muscle Size: The Holy Grail
When you make your muscles work hard enough and long enough, they respond by increasing in size. We call this adaptation hypertrophy, and it is our ‘Holy Grail’. NO is involved with hypertrophy of skeletal muscle in rats and NO’s effects on satellite cells –a ‘bodybuilding-friendly’ cell type if there ever was one. Satellite cells are found adjacent to your mature muscle fibers. When activated, as by pumping iron, they can begin dividing and fuse with your existing muscle fibers. This process enables your muscles to progressively increase in size workout after workout. NO stimulates satellite cells. That means bigger muscles – faster!
Neuronal NOS (nNOS; a.k.a. type 1 NOS) is another NO-producing enzyme. N-NOS occurs in many places including neurons (nerve cells). Mice that are genetically modified to ‘over express’ nNOS have less muscle damage following induced injury and subsequent muscle re-loading! Besides a possible role in the growth of healthy muscle, NO produced by satellite cells helps to repair damaged muscle fibers in animal models.
As much as many of us shun carbohydrate (i.e. sugars and starches), glucose, or ‘blood sugar’, is your brain and body’s most precious fuel. As many of you well know, if you don’t eat enough good carbohydrates, your muscles will look and feel flat. The status of your ‘glucose economy’, i.e., your whole-body supply of glucose, is ultimately determined by: (1) the amount of glucose provided by the foods you eat; (2) the amount of glucose produced by your liver and (3) the uptake/use/elimination of glucose in your muscle and fat. After eating a carbohydrate-containing meal, the level of glucose in your bloodstream rises, as does insulin. This facilitates the uptake of glucose.
The feeding in of glucose to your muscle is stimulated by NO. If you inhibit NO, you reduce insulin and thereby, reduce glucose uptake by about 40%! Ouch. You need NO to grow!
Bone building occurs all the time as a necessary component of bone remodeling. However, when the rate of bone breakdown exceeds the rate of bone formation for too long, you bones start to wither away. Bone breakdown is inhibited by NO. NO thereby promotes bone formation.
Bone building occurs all the time as a necessaryEndothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS; type 3 NOS) is responsible for producing the bulk of the NO found in your blood vessels, including those feeding your heart. ENOS-derived NO plays a key role in stimulating the vasodilation, of blood vessels, thereby allowing blood to travel through them more easily.
The literature reports the case of a 13-year-old girl with a defective eNOS gene, who collapsed while running. She’d been suffering from angina, which occurs when your heart doesn’t get enough blood. The girl’s heart stopped, apparently as a result of spasms in its blood vessels. These spasms were attributed to a deficiency of NO.
In another case, the NO precursor, L-Arginine, reversed angina symptoms in a 41-year-old woman previously treated with cardiovascular drugs. When she stopped arginine, her symptoms re-appeared!
Fight or Flight Power
Your sympathetic (‘run or scream’) nervous system talks in a language of chemicals that includes the catecholamines (think attitude). The catecholamines include epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). At least in the lab catecholamines are stimulated by NO. It probably happens in the gym going for a big bench too.
The love-hate hormone
You love it, you hate it, and you can’t live without it. I’m not talking about nookie with your babe. I’m talking about insulin. This hormone helps ‘push’ the nutrients (e.g., glucose) you eat into your muscles where you want them. Unfortunately, when you don’t exercise and/or you eat too much, insulin pushes fat where you don’t want it –like around your waist and on your ass (J. Lo excepted). NO exerts ‘bi-phasic’ effects on glucose-induced insulin secretion: Low levels of NO have been found to stimulate insulin, output so you should exercise while using NO! If you don’t and use NO, you might get fatter!
Minerals and Water
Arginine has been proven to increase the absorption of sodium and water by the gut. Both of course, are critical to life! We also know that arginine and NO help your kidneys flush sodium out of your body. Supplementation with arginine produces marked increases in sodium and water excretion (marked enough to result in weight loss) in healthy subjects consuming a higher-protein diet.
Food, smoking and SEX:
Nicotine, one of the world’s most popular appetite-suppressing drugs, suppresses NO production. (Perhaps the converse is true that by increasing NO one could fight nicotine addition)!
Increasing your body’s production of NO can cause your appetite to increase, so again, for hard training bodybuilders, who need more calories and protein to grow, NO stimulates your appetite and that is good.
FINALLY… NO has been called Sexual Gas! Now, not embarrassing gas from fiber, but gas as in better sex! You have probably heard how Viagra works to help soft or weak erections in case of blood deficient levels of physical impotency.
Viagra makes most men’s erections stronger by affecting an enzyme that usually breaks down NO. Viagra causes this enzyme to not build up or work less effectively and therefore, upon arousal, the enzyme is inhibited and NO builds up and voila’ more blood is trapped in the penis cavity for a better erection.
Once more, Viagra may be beneficial for women to facilitate orgasm in sex. In the same way of increasing NO, the sexual organs may be made more sensitive.
Thus, in a-not-quite-as-of-yet-compete-analysis, of all the facts and studies, the best data PLANET MUSCLE has, is that NO is the new Horsepower for bodybuilders!