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muscled guy curlingThe theory behind NO boosting agents is that they help the body open up its blood vessels and arteries to give better pumps and increase nutrient flow.  There are mixed reviews on NO products though since they have been shown to not build much muscle in supplemented strength athletes.  Like anything, one nutrient isn’t going to help you, the bodybuilder reach all of your goals. It is only through the coupling of many agents that you can achieve your goals for strength and size.  NO boosters have really gotten exotic over the years and each company likes to push the envelope on NO delivery and potentiators (things that increase NO).

NO stands for Nitric Oxide, which is a gas that is released in the many vessels and arteries in the body.  This gas causes the arteries to relax and open up, which dilates them, causing increased blood flow.  NO boosting agents are well known and the best known agent is Nitro Glycerine.  This explosive is often given to heart patients to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.  The product is slipped under the tongue if any heart problems are sensed.  NO boosting products like Arginine have also been shown to help burn fat and increase metabolism, so they are certainly good at producing a cut look in many ways.

The best known use of NO manipulation is in male erection products like Viagra and Cialis.  These products were first developed to help heart patients and diabetics who could benefit from increased blood flow. However, during studies in heart patients, the biggest and most noticed side effect was huge and frequent erections.  This side effect changed the nature of the product and spawned the multi-billion dollar market. Also, nitrogycerine has been used for many years to help increase the

NO boosters have a cult following among bodybuilders who LOVE the pump associated with taking products.  NO products seem to increase the pump associated with lifting, which can feel good and provide some benefit in recovery.  There are many variations on the market and hundreds of products.  Most will be a combination of the following products.

Arginine AKG
Arginine Alpha Keto Glutarate was the first big commercial NO product to hit the market.  It seems to have some ergogenic benefits and seems to increase NO as well or better than other Arginine-based products.  Alpha Keto Glutarate is a glutamine intermediate which should provide some decent recovery benefits.  This product is a proven NO booster that seems to provide ergogenic benefits.  These products can influence both growth hormone levels and recovery via multiple pathways.  AKG has been shown to increase muscle levels of Arginine, so the combination is a good one.

This is just the base amino acid.  It seems to have some direct NO benefits over Arginine AKG since it is better at boosting vascular NO, where Arginine AKG seems better at boosting cellular arginine levels.  The combination of L-Arginine and Arginine AKG seems to be the best way to boost NO via Arginine.  L-Arginine is directly converted to NO and provides a much needed increase in vascular NO.  That being said, it is often excluded from many NO products because it is viewed as cheaper than Arginine AKG.

Arginine Malate
This is L-Arginine bonded to Malic Acid.  The theory behind this supplement is that Malates are intermediates in the Krebs cycle and is used to recharge the body’s energy system.  It comes in 2:1 and 1:1 ratios of Arginine to Malic Acid.  The 2:1 seems to be the superior mix, but it is relatively unknown whether this is true. DiArginine Malate seems to be a good NO potentiator and has some very good anecdotal data behind it.  Often, you will find this supplement mixed with other forms of Arginine.

Arginine Ethyl Ester
Here we go again with another useless form of amino acid.  The ethyl ester craze has given us as many versions of aminos bound to ethyl esters as any other sports supplement.  The problem is that they have never been proven to do anything above their amino acid counter parts and could potentially have a lesser effect in the body.  They are reported to increase absorption by making the amino acids less polar and there for helping them though the gut, which is almost laughable.  Again, I would stay away from this product unless you want to waste money.

Arginine Orotate
This is just simply L-Arginine bound to Orotic Acid.  Orotic Acid has many ergogenic benefits, including being able to increase endurance.  This should be a very good ingredient and has lots of solid scientific information behind it.  Orotic Acid is one of the best chelating agents for minerals and has a lot of study information on it being part of an ergogenic enhancement compound.

Citrulline Malate
This amino acid (Citrulline) is an important metabolite of Arginine in the body and it is actually used by the cells to increase the amount of NO and Arginine.  It seems to have a really good benefit when you add it to Arginine supplements and, on its own, is a proven endurance enhancement product.  CM should be taken at 2-3g per day which is high for most supplements.  At lesser doses, it doesn’t seem to do much for endurance, but can certainly help recharge NO and Arginine levels.  This is a very good ingredient and is useful in any NO boosting supplements.  Citrulline Malate also buffers lactic acid, which makes it a great ingredient to add to Beta Alanine for muscle endurance.

Agents Added To NO Boosters

This amino acid isomer has NO protective benefits that help NO hang around longer in the body.  It is quite expensive and often used at levels that are too low to make a difference, but it is a very good supplement that can be used with any NO boosting agent to increase the “pump” effect.

Pomegranate has been shown in multiple studies to protect the NO molecule and increase its life.  This protective effect is why it is good to add to NO products.  Pomegranate has a multitude of health benefits, but to NO products, it is a very good addition to make L-Arginine more effective.

Grape Seed Extract (GSE)
Similar to Pomegranate, the pro-antocyanadins in grape seed seem to protect vascular NO and increases its effects.  GSE has been shown to strengthen blood vessels and increase their flexibility.

This supposedly helps open up blood vessels along with increasing NO.  I have taken it and I have not seen much of an effect from it. However, I have spoken to many other people that swear by GABA for its NO benefits. It does have some good neuro relaxing effects though.

Jujube Fructus
This fruit extract has been also shown to protect NO from degradation and to increase its effects.

Topical Arginine
This is an amazing find, although most people don’t believe it works.  Topical Arginine and NO boosters have been well-studied in diabetics and have shown increased blood flow over the course of a week of supplementation with topical L-Arginine.  The most amazing thing about this supplement seems to be the amazing restorative and pain management effects of topical Arginine.  Topical Arginine can be used in sexual enhancing products as well.  I can tell you from personal experience that it does indeed work for that effect.  You can make your own topical Arginine by combining it with water and alcohol or buy one of the many interesting products on the market.

Amino Acids: Nitric Oxide Precursors