Before we can get into what role nitric oxide supplements play in health, a quick look at the compound itself will clear up a lot of things. Basically this compound is supposed to be produced naturally in the human body and this happens when it breaks down arginine. This is an amino acid that is found in a number of food items such as shrimp, green vegetables, turnkey, crab etc. So if there is a sufficient amount of such food in a diet chances are there is no need for supplements.
The compound plays a large role in transporting different cells in the body, assists blood circulation and regulates the activities of several organs as well such as the brain, liver, lungs and stomach. It is also a well known vasodilator which basically means that it dilates blood vessels and makes them larger as well for better blood flow. This is good news for body builders who do a lot of weight training and is also the reason why some choose NO supplements. (Click here to see reviews of the top NO supplements on the market.)
What are Nitric Oxide Supplements?
Even though the name implies that the drugs contain nitric oxide, they do not. That’s because NO is a gas which is a product of synthesis. That is why most of these supplements, as shown in this Advocare review, contain a mix of primary ingredients of one or more amino acids such as alpha ketoglutarate  which is a good source of arginine.
This amino acid is said to boost muscle, endurance besides NO levels in the body and they are sold and marketed as muscle builders. In order to ensure the supplements sell, the drugs often come with cited research claiming that it boosts NO levels and widens blood vessels to enhance blood flow, two effects that body builders and athletes covet. That’s because when blood flow increases, over worked muscles get nutrients that much faster which in turn increases protein levels. This is why supplements for nitric oxide and arginine are described as natural steroids in addition to the fact that the latter can increase the production rate of the growth hormone during workouts.
This is music to the ears especially for those who are in search of fast and effective solutions to get leaner and increase muscle mass at the same time. However, the truth is far from being savory. While it is true that these supplements can increase nitric oxide levels such as citrulline and arginine, it cannot aid in muscle growth.
The reason is simple. Even though the growth hormone has strong anticatabolic effects, it does not stimulate bone growth and so does nothing to increase strength. This was proven by a study  which analyzed a subject who lifted weights five times a week for a total of 12 weeks and followed a normal high protein and post workout diet plan to sustain himself.
Long story short, the main finding of the study concluded that the spikes in crucial hormones such as the growth hormone, testosterone and IGF-1 remained within normal physiological levels. The interesting discovery was that it had little to no effect on muscle growth and strength. The subject did gain more muscle, but the variations in the size of the hormone spikes had little to no bearing on the results. In other words, raising anabolic hormone levels which NO steroids claim to do, can be done naturally and they have little effect on muscle growth.
The reason why nitric oxide supplements are hailed by bodybuilders is because most of them take it alongside insulin doses and anabolic steroids to increase potency.
Side Effects of NO Steroids
Anything which is ingested that is not produced naturally by the body has side effects and not all of them are good. The following are some that can result from taking nitric oxide supplements:
Irregular Blood Pressure
Since NO effects blood vessels and can constrict them, an excess dose can result in a rapid drop. This can be followed by headaches, nausea, light headedness, vomiting and loss of balance. The symptoms can also get worse while urinating or when standing up from a sitting position. If these conditions are imminent, then it would be best to quit the supplements for a while.
An upset stomach almost always results from supplements and the nitric oxide variety are no different. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, cramps in the stomach and loose stool. In order to ensure this does not happen as frequently the supplements should be taken with food. If the side effects get worse or refuse to abate, a visit to the doctor should be in order.
Fluctuations in Body Electrolytes
Since these supplements can change the internal environment of the body, it can result in high potassium, chloride, low phosphate and sodium as well as high creatinine levels. In other words, the supplements should not be used if there is an issue in the kidneys or liver. These organs are responsible for regulating electrolytes and can react adversely to the side effects the supplement can cause.
If there are no side effects or they are negligible, your doctor may prescribe arginine injections to increase NO levels in the body naturally. However, this also comes with its own side effects including numbness, headaches, lower back pain, restless legs and it can even kill off tissue surrounding the site where the needle is inserted.
In conclusion we can say that even though nitric oxide supplements can give a boost to muscle and strength, the effects are negligible at best and can be achieved via natural means. Anything that is not produced by the body naturally should be avoided if the body is young and healthy enough to produce it itself with proper diet and regular workouts. Otherwise debilitating health issues will be imminent and prolonged ingestion can cripple growth and break down muscles.