Athlete’s Digest

Amino acids, the constituents of protein, are collectively best-known for their ability to support muscle building. Yes, they are responsible for muscles’ structure, but they also support an important aspect of muscle building: boosting the production of nitric oxide, a small gas molecule that has profound effects on the body’s ability to train and recover. Here are four supplements you should take when you want to increase NO production.

Take arginine, which readily converts to NO.
The best-known supplement for boosting NO, this amino acid is virtually ubiquitous in NO-boosting products. Arginine is readily converted to NO, which relaxes blood vessels, allowing more blood, oxygen and nutrients to flow to muscles. Arginine also encourages increased release of growth hormone, supporting muscle gains. For best results, take 3 to 5 grams of arginine upon waking, before workouts and before bed for a total of up to 15 grams a day.

Include citrulline to boost arginine levels.
While you could say citrulline is the drummer to arginine’s lead-singer rock star of NO aminos, studies show that citrulline may be even more effective at boosting NO than arginine. Citrulline converts to arginine in the body, and studies show that supplementing citrulline helps you better maintain your arginine levels than taking arginine directly. To boost arginine and NO levels, also include 2 to 3 grams of citrulline in preworkout shakes.

Add Pycnogenol to encourage greater conversion of arginine to NO.
This extract from the French maritime pine tree is a potent antioxidant that’s known to increase the activity of nitric-oxide synthase, the enzyme that converts arginine into NO. To further boost NO production, take 50 to 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol with arginine and citrulline supplements.

Take vitamin C to prevent NO degradation.
Ascorbic acid, the scientific name for vitamin C, helps promote the muscle-building benefits of NO because of its well-established antioxidant effects, known to reduce free radicals. These harmful molecules degrade NO, so vitamin C’s ability to fight them helps keep NO levels elevated. Take 500 to 1,000 milligrams with arginine, citrulline and Pycnogenol before workouts.