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Nitric oxide is a molecule produced in the blood vessels' lining, the endothelium. It relaxes muscles along the inside wall of the blood vessels, allowing them to dilate, leading to increased blood flow. The endothelium is sensitive to chemical and physical conditions in our blood vessels, so when it senses the need for increased blood resulting from conditions such as low cholesterol or physical activity, it increases the production of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is a key player in many cellular activities. It regulates blood pressure, acts as a neurotransmitter, increases blood flow and oxygenation of the brain, reduces inflammation, supports mobility in the gastrointestinal tract and increases endurance and strength.
Nitric oxide is increasingly becoming popular with athletes, bodybuilders, and exercise buffs due to the following benefits:
Nitric oxide increases blood flow to the muscles, meaning your muscles have enough oxygen and nutrients to sustain you through your workout. But with time, oxygen is depleted in the muscles causing you to get tired. To counter this, nitric oxide increases glucose uptake by muscle cells, giving you a burst of energy to finish your workout.
Endurance is important if you want to increase your muscle growth. You need to train longer and harder, and nitric oxide can help you do this. When engaged in intense exercise, your body breaks down carbs, glycogen, and other molecules to create adenosine triphosphate, ATP, which is then converted into energy.
But this process uses a lot of oxygen and releases hydrogen ions, which then build up in your muscles, causing a drop in pH and interfering with muscle contraction. This is what causes that mid-workout burn that makes you want to give up. To prevent this, nitric oxide ensures there's consistent blood flow to the muscles so you can train harder and longer without feeling fatigued. This is great for bodybuilders and endurance athletes.
Some weight-training exercises are so intense that the body can't supply oxygen fast enough to produce energy. When this happens, lactic acid builds up in the muscles, causing exhaustion, extreme fatigue, body weakness, muscle cramps, and pain. Nitric oxide prevents this by increasing blood flow to the muscles, ensuring your body has enough oxygen to create energy.
After a tough workout, you're so exhausted you can't think of doing it again. However, nitric oxide ensures your muscles are replenished with nutrients and oxygen, and any lactic acid buildup is cleared. This shortens the amount of recovery time you need before the next workout session.
When weight-training, you get that tight feeling in your muscles that make them look bigger. Since nitric oxide is a vasodilator, it widens your muscles' blood vessels, allowing more blood flow. This will make your veins pop and your muscles bulge. A good muscle pump allows you to see the result of all your hard work, motivating you to work harder.
Nitric oxide can do wonders for your sex life. It causes your blood vessels to relax, increasing blood flow to your sexual organs. Blood circulation is vital for erectile function in men, and in women, increased blood circulation to the pelvis and clitoris results in better lubrication and orgasm.
Nitric oxide has been proven to improve erection quality and duration. In fact, popular erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra stimulate penile nitric oxide pathways to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.
Nitric oxide is important for muscle growth. It gives you the energy to train harder and longer and allows your muscles to recover faster. For more on how to stay driven, have more strength and energy, and improve your health, check out more posts on The Driven blog.
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Ice baths, cryotherapy, cold water immersion: these icy therapy methods are gaining popularity despite their chilly names. An ice bath, also known as cryotherapy or cold water immersion, is a method that athletes use to reduce muscle soreness and accelerate their muscle recovery time between serious workouts. To take an ice bath, fill a tub or tank with cold tap water, then chill it with ice and ice packs until it is frigid, but not actually freezing. Then soak your muscles for 10-15 minutes before diving for safety into the hot shower to warm up.
But just how does cold water help your muscles, and does it really work or are the rumors true about the cold water myth? We're here to unpack everything you need (or want) to know about cryotherapy after workouts and how to help your muscles recover from serious exercise.
We are all granted the same 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds in our day. What we choose to do — and not do — comes down to what we value, and what we don’t.
Talk is cheap. Everyone can talk about doing something. Some can follow up with action. Few are consistent enough to see success.
Every day we are faced with thousands of choices — opportunities that test our will and guide us to success or failure. The cumulation of these choices defines where you are today. The self-reflecting question we ask ourselves at work: “What Drives You?”