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December 2, 2011

Boosting Nitric Oxide With Exercise

nitric oxideNitric Oxide (symbol of NO) and exercise: two boosts in one (remember those Certs commercials?  Certs – 2 mints in one). First you can boost nitric oxide levels by exercising. And, guess what?  Nitric oxide will also boost your exercise.  Why is that?  Well, exercise improves blood flow which stimulates production of nitric oxide and nitric oxide improves blood flow. The perfect relationship. Before we discuss boosting nitric oxide with exercise let’s review some of the literature.  Also, if this is your first time to our website take a look at our other posts on nitric oxide: “What is Nitric Oxide” and “Nitric Oxide Foods”.

What Are the Best Nitric Oxide Boosting Exercises?

Two similar studies were performed examining the effects of different aerobic intensities on endothelium-dependent vasodilation and the bioavailability of nitric oxide.  Both showed (study 1 and study 2) that aerobic exercises of  moderate intensity (exercise performed at 50% of VO2max) improved endothelium vasodilation and increased production of nitric oxide.  Exercise was performed for 30 minutes 5 to 7 times a week. Low intensity exercise (exercise at 25% of VO2max) doesn’t increase blood flow enough to have an effect.  High intensity exercise (performed at 75% of VO2max) was associated with an increase in oxidative stress and a slight decrease in blood flow.  So based on these studies moderate intensity aerobic exercise appears to be the best method of exercise to boost nitric oxide.

High Intensity Interval Training

However, the above studies did not look at the effects of high intensity interval training on vasodilation and nitric oxide production, but subsequent studies have.  Interval training involves alternating exercising at near full exertion with periods of low to moderate intensity. And those studies (study 3 and study 4) have shown high intensity interval training (at 85% to 90% of VO2max) is more effective in improving endothelial function and nitric oxide availability than continuous moderate aerobic exercise.  These studies were done in humans and rats with metabolic syndrome and found that high intensity interval training reversed more risk factors of metabolic syndrome than did continuous moderate aerobic exercise.

High intensity interval training is also associated with better improvement in VO2max and metabolism than continuous moderate aerobics and we encourage our patients to incorporate high intensity interval training into their work-outs. Because high intensity interval training causes more oxidative stress sound nutrition and nutritional supplementation is vital to ensure the body has enough antioxidants on board to deal with the additional oxidative stress associated with interval training.  Check out our post “Fat Burning Exercises: High Intensity Interval Training” for more information regarding how to perform high intensity interval training.

How Nitric Oxide Boosts Exercise

Consuming foods high in nitrate have been shown to lessen the amount of oxygen needed during exercise enabling individuals to exercise longer. Over the last two years several studies have been published looking at the effects of beetjucie which is high in nitrates on exercise performance.  One study showed beetjuice drinkers to have 49% higher nitrate levels, require 19% less in oxygen during exercise, and able to exercise 16% longer than the control group.  To put that in perspective drinking beetjuice in some individuals is more effective at improving exercise efficiency than is performing endurance training itself. But, exercise has many other health benefits so don’t think you can simply drink beetjuice or other high nitrate containing foods.

Lowering the need for oxygen by eating high nitrate containing foods has important health implications and would be a tremendous benefit for those suffering from chronic disease like heart disease, COPD, diabetes, and obesity.  These individuals are hampered physically because of their inability to move oxygen through the body.

So now you know that you can boost your nitric oxide levels by exercising and eating high containing nitrate foods.  Plus you can improve your exercise performance by maintaining high nitric oxide levels.

Other references:  The Nitric Oxide Solution by Nathan Bryan, Ph.D. and Janet Zand, OMD.

“What is Nitric Oxide?”

“4 Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training”





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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

    1. Benefits can last for several hours. High intensity exercise exceeding 20 minutes can provide benefit for 16 hours. 4 minutes will probably benefit your for 3-4 hours though I have not seen specific research regarding 4 minutes.

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