I have created this guide to assist those of you who would like to better their pump and better their workout, concurrently. The following information is almost all paraphrased from information taken from pubmed and other reputable sites, not supplement related. None of this was taken from a forum. To my knowledge, all of this is fact. Yes, there may be some debate about some topics, but that's why I am posting it here! If anyone has any suggestions of other pump inducing products let me know and I will add them. So here goes:
Glossary: NO: Nitric oxide, PubMed: fantastic site for biomedical literature, eNOS: endothelial nitric oxide synthase, GH: growth hormone, NOS: nitric oxide synthase
First of all… What is nitric oxide?
Nitric Oxide (NO): often referred to incorrectly as Nitrous Oxide (NO2). It is released by the innermost layer of cells, the endothelium, of the arterial wall. It’s released when triggered by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS). NO, at that point, sends a signal to the smooth muscle of the artery wall, thereby making them dilate (relax). This decreases blood pressure and increases blood flow in the arteries increases. Nitric oxide is created by the body when it’s needed, like during physical activity, and as you know, doesn’t hang around for long. That’s why a pump only lasts usually the length of your workout and subsides in less than 2 hours post workout. How to boost nitric oxide: Exercise in itself helps boost nitric oxide. One of the most well-known nitric oxide boosters is that little blue pill, Viagra. Antioxidants help prevent the breakdown of NO in the body. Low fat diets are supposed to help with nitric oxide production as well. Nitric Oxide is antiartherogenic. It helps with heart disease, by increasing blood flow to the heart. It also helps with erectile dysfunction, by increasing the blood flow to the penis. A lot of people have taken pump-inducing PWO’s before having sex… Why is NO beneficial? More arterial blood flow to your muscles means more nutrient and oxygen rich blood can get to your fatigued muscles. It can help supply more of what you need to repair and replenish your muscles. It can help move in the good stuff, and move out the bad stuff like metabolic wastes and lactic acid from the taxing work you do while lifting things up and putting them down. So how does NO give you a pump? The increased blood flow to your muscles creates a feeling of fullness in them. The more blood flowing to the muscle, the better the pump you will have. Nitric oxide also stimulates glucose transport and metabolism into skeletal muscle.
L-Arginine (Arginine): L-Arginine is the biological precursor of nitric oxide. Take that phrase with a grain of salt. Studies in which trained men consumed 6g of arginine a day suggested that short-term arginine supplementation had no effect on nitric oxide production, lactate, and ammonia metabolism and performance in intermittent anaerobic exercise in well-trained male athletes. L-Norvaline is arginine's best friend as it inhibits the arginine destroying enzyme, arginase. As most of us have heard, supplementation with plain old L-Arginine is basically stupid. If you peruse PubMed and other internet sites, you will come to find that you need a heavy dose of Arginine to actually raise NO levels. Basically it is becoming more widely known that L-arginine supplementation WILL NOT aid in the production of nitric oxide. It will raise blood plasma levels of Arginine, but that’s it.
L- Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate (Arginine AKG, AAKG): AAKG Does not improve muscular endurance and has been found to not actually change blood pressure, which leads one to believe that if it doesn’t alter blood pressure then it probably isn’t a good vasodilator. AAKG should have Ornithine AKG (OKG) supplemented along with it for a more positive effect. AAKG alone isn’t as effective if not stacked with OKG, as both form to become precursors to NO. AAKG has been shown to positively affect peak power output and along with creatine, as well as OKG. AAKG did not influence body composition or aerobic capacity in many clinical trials.
Ornithine Alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG, Ornithine AKG): When taken in conjunction with arginine (in AKG form or just L-) in doses higher than 2g/day (1g OKG + 1g L-Arginine) total strength and lean body mass have been shown to increase as compared to a placebo. Ornithine (again, esp. when taken with arginine) helps with recovery from chronic stress, trauma, and injury by quelling tissue breakdown. OKG is also helpful when recovering from burns and other serious physical injuries according to studies.
Agmatine Sulfate (Agmatine): Agmatine is decarboxylated arginine and is a metabolic product of mammalian cells. So far I haven’t been able to find any conclusive evidence supporting that claim that Agmatine directly increases eNOS, but I am still searching. Some of the claimed benefits of Agmatine for bodybuilding include the increase in production of GH and NO, decrease in blood glucose levels, and help with the removal of nitrogen waste products from the body. There are studies relating Agmatine to nitric oxide synthase, where it is described as a regulator, and also the expression of eNOS has been shown to increase through agmatine treatment
Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine (GPLC, Glycocarn): GPLC is one of the very few clinically proven supplements to actually increase nitric oxide levels. When taken in a dose of 4.5g approximately 30 minutes before weightlifting (no more needed, and any less is ineffective) it will work to increase NO levels rather dramatically. I personally have used it and it is fantastic.
Acetyl L-Carnitine Arginate [Dihydrochloride] (ALCA, Arginocarn): ALCA is supposed to have multiple benefits, one being increased blood flow and cardiovascular health. It reportedly induces nitric oxide through tetrahydrobiopetrin (THBP) which in fact is a nitric oxide cofactor. It supposedly also increases cellular energy production and vitality, prolongs stamina, improves fatty acid metabolism, and improves muscle recovery. The only PubMed article about this product is about diabetics, but it does state that it increases the resting nitrate/nitrite levels in pre-diabetics, so there is a chance that ALCA actually increases NO levels!
Citrulline Malate (CM, L-Citrulline): Ingested Citrulline actually improves blood arginine levels more than actual arginine does. Citrulline does not in itself stimulate nitric oxide, rather increases plasma arginine availability for NO synthesis. There are relatively few clinical trials where CM was shown to increase nitric oxide, but one study found that an 8g dose of CM was able to effectively increase the number of reps performed by about 53% in the third set and 100% in the fourth set. Muscle soreness was also reduced by 40% after 24 hours and 90% after 48. I would recommend taking this in conjunction with another NO boosting product.
Glycerol MonoStearate (Glycerol, GMS, GlycerGrow): There’s much debate about GMS and Glycerin and its efficacy. I have found no clinical studies of GMS or glycerin’s effect on it supposed “cell volumization”. The hypothetical effect of GMS, at least, is to increase vascularity and intramuscular volume. When taken with large amounts of water, glycerol is transported and contained in the muscles until it is removed or broken down by your body. It is supposed to improve muscular hydration and prolong it as well. Concurrently with the increased flow of water to your muscles comes the potential for nutrients to be taken along and delivered to the muscles. My theory is that if you take GMS with some BCAAs or a NO boosting product then there’s the possibility of some sort of synergistic effect. I’m not sure if that’s physiologically possibly, but I’m just talking out of my ass. There’s the possibility of pumps lasting longer with this type of product.
Icariin (Horny Goat Weed): Clinically shown to create higher levels or circulating testosterone, boosts osteoblast formation (helps bones), and has therapeutic potential in the management of hypoandrogenism (a deficiency of androgens in the body leading to a lack of virility and sexual potency). Icariin is found in Horny Goat Weed and other sexual enhancement products and is standardized usually up to 50%. Icariin is a flavonoid isolated from the herb Epimedii herba. It has been shown to increase eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase) in a long term setting (<72hrs) and in the short term. Has a cardiovascular protective effect as well.
Arginine and Creatine Nitrates: Nitrates work. They aren’t just in supplements, they are prescribed and have been clinically shown to create nitric oxide and promote vasodilation in return. They work by inducing vasodilation of the arteries and of the veins. It creates less of a workload for the heart, since the blood vessels are opened, making pumping blood that much easier. Taking too many nitrates can cause severe headaches (most common side effect) due to relaxation of the vessels in the head. Dizziness, lightheadedness, and flushing of the skin are also common side effects. If you are taking nitrates consistently every day, you may build up a nitrate tolerance. While this is highly unlikely for supplementing with NO3 BC or Yok3d, play it safe and don’t take it every day, or twice a day. You should stay under 3g of Creatine or Arginine Nitrates per serving and use less than 5g per day.Beet root juice is a fantastic source of dietary nitrates.A combination of beetroot juice and hawthorn berry is a good nitric oxide booster! As mentioned in another post, CN and AN are 2/3 arginine/creatine and 1/3 nitrate. Arginine has been linked, not proven, to help negate the effects of nitrate tolerance.
From a study: “We conclude that dietary nitrate supplementation, in an amount achievable through a diet rich in vegetables, results in a lower oxygen demand during submaximal work. This highly surprising effect occurred without an accompanying increase in lactate concentration, indicating that the energy production had become more efficient. The mechanism of action needs to be clarified but a likely first step is the in vivo reduction of dietary nitrate into bioactive nitrogen oxides including nitrite and NO.” So with nitrate supplementation and ingestion through natural sources you basically become more efficient.
Glutamine lowers NO?: It is possible that glutamine will decrease nitric oxide levels. If you trying to get the most NO possible it might be a good idea to ditch the glutamine pre workout and possibly post workout. See my “Is glutamine worthless?” thread for more info and debate about it. I recently read that glutamine levels are only low for less than 10 hours after a strenuous workout, so supplementing with glutamine after that point may be pointless! But the debate about glutamine is for that other thread so whatever!