I will never deny the psychological benefits of a muscle pump. I love the feeling. It doesn’t have quite the pizazz that Arnold Schwarzenegger attributed to it (he likened it to an orgasm in the movie ‘Pumping Iron’), but hey… “Whatever!” I just think it can provide a motivational “kick-in-the-pants” during an intense muscle building workout.
That said, I can’t stand watching this blood-induced phenomenon being marketed as evidence of muscle building progress. Long-story short: You can get a “workout pump” while in the midst of being terribly over-trained. You can get a ‘pump’ while being undertrained. Less cryptically speaking, your overall bodybuilding scheme could be taking you nowhere (or even backwards) and you could still experience the sensation of a ‘pump’ in the gym. So what’s a muscle pump worth besides ‘motivation?’
Enter “nitric oxide for bodybuilding”; a product that blatantly sells itself on the idea that a muscle pump is not only needed for – but also evidence of bodybuilding progress. Under the pretext that a pump is the precursor for muscle growth – ‘nitric oxide for bodybuilding’ is blaring at us from the pages of magazines and the websites of supplement companies to make sure we get that (climax-like?) muscle pump.
Using Nitric Oxide for Bodybuilding
Nitric oxide is a gaseous chemical created in the body when an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase is combined with the amino acid L-arginine. When these two meet in the body, they create citrulline (another amino acid) and nitric oxide (comprised of one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom). Natural amounts of nitric oxide are produced by the body in this manner as this essential gaseous compound is needed for normal bodily functioning such as inter-neuron communication, intra-cellular messaging, and hormonal transmission.
Nitric oxide is produced in the blood vessels, the inside lining of which contain what are called the endothelial cells. As our muscles contract, the endothelial cells synthesize and release nitric oxide, thereby causing the smooth muscle tissue of the blood vessels to relax and contract. This relaxing and contracting of the blood vessels is referred to as ‘vasodilation.’
Those who use nitric oxide for bodybuilding attempt to raise levels of this compound by ingesting supplements containing L-arginine, citrulline and aspartic acid. This is done for the purpose of amplifying the process of vasodilation. Somewhere, sometime, somebody made the far-fetched leap that “vasodilated” blood vessels somehow create an environment for more uptake of oxygen, amino acids, creatine, and glucose by the muscle tissue.
Let’s be frank: The only bodily occurrence that could speed up inter-workout recuperation (and thus, muscle growth) is an increased rate of protein synthesis. But where is the evidence indicating that the slightly (and temporarily) expanded walls of blood vessels through vasodilation speed the rate of this process? I’ve not seen it anywhere – nor experienced it with use of any product containing NO precursors.
Should you use nitric oxide for bodybuilding? My advice is that you shouldn’t use this product with expectations of faster muscle growth. In fact, short of possibly (and that’s a big “possibly”) gaining a better visual ‘pump’ for a photo-shoot, I’d say you should dump the ‘nitric oxide for bodybuilding’ notions in the “hold onto your wallet and credit cards” category.
That’s my opinion – with a lot of natural bodybuilding experience behind it.