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Friday, April 5, 2013


The increase concern for a healthy lifestyle is leading the pursuit for the best nutrients, natural or fabricated, for positive effect on all body functions. And especially for the ones who include exercise in their daily schedule, the search exists for the best nutrition and supplementation to help with their fitness goals, and of course, to improve physical appearance. The true fitness seeker is always trying new food sources and supplements to increase energy and improve personal performance in exercise because each individual has different tastes, eating habits, body structure and metabolism. What may affect one person may have little or no effect on another. But the outcome of components provided by the nutrients in the human body is always the same. And one of these components is nitric oxide (NO).

Before we discuss the benefits of NO to exercise, we will review the information about its production in the body. Do you know where nitric oxide comes from? How is it produced? What functions does it have on the body? What about what does it do for exercise? Can the food sources that provide NO be considered bad for health?

First of all, Nitrogen is one of the chemical elements that is most abundant in our atmosphere. Only microbes are able to transform Nitrogen into the compound form so that it can be used by other living organisms. Bacteria, located in water and soil, fixate to plants and their roots, and are responsible for transforming the Nitrogen components into nitrates that our bodies are able to use as NO.

Arginine, a non-essential AA available in our bodies, is a natural source dependant on oxygen for the production of NO. But when limited amount of oxygen is available, another pathway for production of NO is from eating Nitrates and Nitrites. Legumes (roots) or green leafy foods are the best sources of dietary nitrates. When these dietary nitrates are consumed, initially in the mouth they are transformed into nitrite by the action of bacteria on the tip of our tongues and carried by the saliva. The Nitrate is transformed into Nitric Oxide by the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. The two pathways work synergistically and complement each other

NO improves blood flow in general so it is essential to maintain the integrity of the cardiovascular, immune and nervous system, and the lack of it could cause cardiovascular disease. According to Antosova, et al (Nitric Oxide – Important messenger in the human body. Open Journal of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. 2012) NO is important for the nervous system (regulation of aggressive and sexual behaviours, food intake, pain perception, and sleep control), the cardiovascular system (regulation of blood flow), the respiratory system (functioning of the lungs), in the general digestive system, the urinary system, the immune system and can have sexual benefits between 4 walls. .

Since general blood flow by the production of NO is increased, vasodilation occurs (opening of blood vessels) which permits greater delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue, and this occurs in greater amounts during exercise increasing performance and prolonging tolerance because ATP is spared. It also has benefits on the cardiovascular system, helping with the prevention of diseases, reduction of blood pressure, lower triglycerides and better platelet function (immune system). Nitrates have an effect on the body causing it to believe energy levels are depleted, which turns on many different energy producing processes that recharge the cell’s energy status, such as production of new mitochondria within the cell. Since the mitochondria directly produces ATP in large part by burning fat, which generates more energy, it also causes enhanced muscle function as well as superior capacity to burn body fat.

To increase levels of nitrate and nitric oxide, one must consume fair amounts of nitrates and one food source could be beetroot. Beets contains polyphenols like quercetin and reservatrol as well as AA betaine (improves molecular endurance power output and strength), and is considered to have high levels of nitrates. Since NO is a vasodilator, beets may be able to deliver more nutrients sparing the utilization of ATP. It has been shown that consuming beetroot juice could significantly increase exercise intensity

Remember increase your NO levels by eating roots and greens or even by supplementing arginine, because if you decide to increase the consumption of red and processed meat, there may be a toxicity effect. Nitrates are added to meats (including bacon, wieners, sausages, and hams) and must be turned into nitrites in order to have antioxidant effects, develop flavor and preserve the red color. The negative effects could be associated with the increased risk of cancers and lung disease.

Articles Consulted:
Dietary Nitrate Supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. Bailey, et al. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009.
Food Sources of Nitrates and Nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. Hord, et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009.
The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway in physiology and therapeutics. Lundberg, et al. Nature Publishing Group. 2008.

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