Nitric Oxide for Distance Running

Being amongst the half million marathon runners in the US (2013 was a record year for the classic distance with more than 1,100 marathons run across the country generating 541,000 finishers with a breakdown of 57% men and 43% women)[1], I like to keep up on new trends and developments in the performance side of things.

Along with testing out a new pair of running shoes, or adding some extra core strength to my normal regime comes investigating nutritional protocols that might serve to give me an even better edge in addition to the high fat Paleo inspired eating plan I follow.

And while I’m certainly not interested in getting into the habit of taking a plethora of tablet and pills on a daily basis, every now and then something comes along that piques my interest and provides the impetus to see if there’s any truth behind the hype.

One such thing is the concept of nitric oxide supplementation.

I first heard about it from a friend, also a triathlete, who’d been taking it on the recommendation of his coach.   He used a powdered beet supplement before and after a workout, touted to provide a mega dose of nitric oxide in a single serving packet, easily mixed into a cup of water.

When I asked him if it was really helping his performance, he wasn’t sure.   He thought maybe he felt a bit more energy but he didn’t know if it was an actual effect of the supplement or more of a placebo effect.

I decided to investigate a little for myself.

Amongst its health benefits, nitric oxide (not to be confused with nitrous oxide, which you may have received during a dental procedure) expands the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and decreasing plaque growth and blood clotting[2].

Plus, Research from the University of Exeter has revealed taking a dietary supplement to boost nitric oxide in the body can significantly boost stamina during high-intensity exercise[3].

So far so good, but where do supplements like powdered beets factor in?

MedlinePlus notes that the evidence is weak regarding athletic enhancements attributed to NO (nitric oxide) supplements. acknowledges that there is scant evidence showing that it may improve blood flow, but the data regarding it’s usefulness to athletes is conflicting and more research is needed before it can be conclusively recommended or discounted. If nitric oxide does increase blood flow, that would account for the “pumped” look following a workout, but the extra definition is not permanent and will subside. Additionally, nitric oxide supplements have never been shown to reduce or delay fatigue[4].

Apart from that, the gains may be minimal. Professor Andrew Jones, who ran the study at Exeter said: “The research found that when the dietary supplement was used, we would expect the supplement to bring a 1-2% improvement in race times. While this may seem small, this is a very meaningful improvement — particularly at elite levels where small gains can be the difference between winning and losing.”

So what’s the takeaway message?

Supplementing with a reliable, high quality nitric oxide can help, but be sure to consider it as just that little extra edge you need, rather than a magic bullet that’s going to take you from a 4:00 marathon runner to someone who’s running in the sub elite corral.

Interested in checking out a great option?

Amrap Nob is a high quality option offering single serve packets to go.

[1] “Running USA’s Annual Marathon Report | Running USA.” Running USA’s Annual Marathon Report | Running USA. Running USA, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

[2] “Sex, Nitric Oxide, and Your Heart.” Pritikin Weight Loss Resort. The Pritikin Longevity Center, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

[3] “Supplement Produces a ‘striking’ Endurance Boost.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015

[4] “Pros & Cons of Nitric Oxide Supplements.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 17 June 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2015