Nitric oxide (NO) is a small gas molecule that has the capacity to pass readily across the cell membrane and instantly promote immune- and growth- related actions. Nitric oxide plays critical roles in nerve signaling, vasodilatation, potency (erection), protection against infections and cellular growth.
Cellular growth is generally stimulated by specific combinations of signals, not a single signal acting alone. In recent years it’s become clear that NO levels increase during exercise with the activation of a combination of variables such as the calcium channel, heat shock proteins and pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, all of which act as growth-promoting messengers. The NO level is affected by numerous metabolic and environmental factors, including hormone levels, insulin sensitivity, nutritional states, physical stress or sexual stimulation. Nevertheless, two factors in particular affect NO levels and have a real-life impact:
1) The enzyme NOS (nitric oxide synthase), which synthesizes NO from the amino acid L-arginine
2) NO’s short half-life (five to 10 seconds)
As you can see, NO actions are short-lived, and therefore the production of NOS must take place in order to keep the NO level from dropping. NOS production depends on the presence of the antioxidant super oxide dismutase. Without it NOS may convert to another enzyme, nitrogen oxide synthase, rather than to nitric oxide synthase, and thereby fail to synthesize NO. Furthermore, SOD catalyzes NO production and protects body tissues from NO-derived free-radical toxins. Evidently, NO effectiveness depends on the body’s capacity to generate and spare the antioxidant SOD. Other antioxidant compounds, such as glutathione and lipoic acid and in particular its active derivative DHLA, have a profoundly positive effect on NO by helping spare SOD and slowing the conversion of NO to toxic nitrates and nitrite.
In order to effectively maximize the impact of NO, take a daily multivitamin-and-multimineral capsule. Deficiencies in vitamins or minerals may adversely affect NO levels because of the critical metabolic integration between vitamins, electrolyte channels and NO. Moreover, minerals such as manganese, copper and zinc are precursors of SOD. Active people should try to upgrade their antioxidant intake by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as by increasing the amount of supplemental vitamin C (3,000 milligrams), vitamin E (800 international units) and the super antioxidant DHLA (two to three doses).
Editor’s note: Ori Hofmekler is the author of the books The Warrior Diet and Maximum Muscle & Minimum Fat, published by Dragon Door Publications (www.dragondoor.com). For more information or for a consultation, contact him at [email protected], www.warriordiet.com or by phone at 1-866-WAR-DIET.