There’s a secret source of power within you -tap it, and you’ll feel stronger, go farther and even live longer. That wonderful fuel is called nitric oxide, and though your body makes it naturally, chances are you need more. While it supplies you with more energy, reduces blood pressure and improves circulation, its biggest benefits are reserved for your muscles. Here’s how you can stay fired up:
1. Kick it higher with cardio
“When you work out, your heart pumps harder. The additional pressure on the arterial wall triggers the production of nitric oxide, which then helps the blood vessels dilate to allow for the increased circulation,” says James Rippe, M.D., a preventive cardiologist and fitness expert and the founder of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute, a health research organisation. The best exercise for nitric oxide production is cardio, because it really revs your heart rate and blood flow, he says. Your levels of gas will start to climb after a single 30-minute session, but if you continue to get your heart pumping three or more times a week, your body will produce more nitric oxide every day.
2. Get juiced
While exercising increases your overall stores of nitric oxide, you can get a quick jolt of it to help fuel your next workout by downing a glass of beet juice. The drink is loaded with nitrate, a compound the body breaks down to form nitric oxide. In a recent study, cyclists who drank five to nine ounces of beet juice two and a half hours before a workout were able to increase the time they spent pedaling by as much as 14 percent. Not a fan of beets? Jones says a cup of spinach also has enough nitrate to give you an edge.
3. Step into the light
Spending time outdoors will rev up your nitric oxide. People who were exposed to UVA rays for 20 minutes found that their nitric oxide levels rose and their blood pressure dropped, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reports. The study authors say the skin has its own stores of nitric oxide and that UVA rays unlock them, releasing the molecules into your bloodstream. But this is the same type of UV light that’s responsible for skin ageing, wrinkles and cancer, so always put on SPF before heading out. It will reduce UVA exposure and may mean you produce slightly less nitric oxide, but experts say that you’ll likely still get enough to reap the health benefits.