Nitric oxide, also referred to as NO, is the body’s main vasodilator. Vasodilation is the physiological process in which the diameter of blood vessels is widened to increase blood flow.
Researchers have discovered that increasing NO production improves the flow of blood and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles. The result is faster removal of metabolic waste, improved workout capacity, better recovery, faster growth, enlarged muscle cells and more strength. Some of the best-known natural nitric oxide potentiators are L-arginine, citrulline aspartic acid and chrysin. As the science continues to emerge concerning the anabolic benefits of NO, so does the emergence of new products known as “NO2 potentiators.” While the benefits of the powerful antioxidant pycnogenol are known and have been used on a global scale, its role in the production of nitric oxide and as an anabolic growth agent is just emerging.
Pycnogenol is a natural plant extract found within the bark of the maritime pine tree, indigenous to the coast of southwest France. Within the pine bark are chemical constituents referred to as procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids. To date, more than 220 studies have been conducted on the various health benefits of pycnogenol, including free-radical control, stronger blood vessel walls, improved healing, improved inflammatory response, stress reduction, blood pressure control, strengthened immune response and improved erectile dysfunction. By increasing nitric oxide output, you’ll be able to deliver more nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, which improves the muscles’ ability to handle the extra physical demands placed on them during weight workouts and to build and recover under those intense conditions.
Because of its ability to improve blood flow and control blood pressure, researchers at the University of South Florida and the University of California looked at pycnogenol’s affect on nitric oxide. They discovered that it balances NO levels in artery linings, thus improving blood flow. Recently, in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study, researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan looked at pycnogenol’s effect on NO release and the amino acid L-arginine. After subjects took 180 milligrams of pycnogenol for two weeks, the researchers reported a 42 percent increase in blood flow, citing acetylcholine stimulation. As a point of reference here, acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, stimulates arterial cells to speed up production of nitric oxide from L-arginine.
In addition to its nitric oxide connection, scientists have discovered that pycnogenol increases the breakdown of fat as well as its storage within fat cells. New research indicates that pycnogenol can increase the production of growth hormone, which may be a stimulus to fat burning—GH appears to increase the activity of an enzyme referred to as hormone-sensitive lipase, which accelerates the breakdown of stored fat. Other studies have found that pycnogenol can improve endurance by 21 percent at doses of 200 milligrams daily.
Pycnogenol can also prevent muscle damage by reducing exercise-induced free-radical oxidative damage. Highly reactive molecules that can damage brain cells, free radicals accelerate aging and destroy just about anything they come in contact with, including muscle tissue. Studies indicate that pycnogenol can halt and/or minimize the damage caused by free radicals. Furthermore, antioxidants like pycnogenol play a key role in regulating lactic acid production, which can accelerate muscle fatigue and impede recovery.