The Role of Nitric Oxide in Penile Erection

November 18, 2022

Nitric oxide and erection have been widely studied, so we make the relevant queries to answer the big question: is this compound useful to improve sex life? Let's have a look.

What is nitric oxide and what is it good for?

Nitric oxide (NO) is a versatile molecule that acts as an intracellular messenger. It began to be discussed in the 1980s, thanks to studies carried out by Fuchgott and Zawadzki. It is, in particular, a gas.

It is a lipophilic molecule (it has an affinity for lipids) and is formed from the semi-essential amino acid L-arginine, in its conversion to L-citrulline.

As for what nitric oxide is used for, this same article points out the functions in which it intervenes. Among them are the following:

  • Central nervous system. It regulates cerebral blood flow in response to physical and biochemical factors.

  • Cardiovascular system. Among other functions, it contributes to avoiding arterial thrombosis.

  • Renal system. The interaction between NO and reactive oxygen species is important in the regulation of its function. There are renal diseases associated with oxidative stress and NO depletion.

  • Immune system. Its elevated concentration is important to prevent the overexpansion of Th1 cells, involved in persistent inflammation that can lead to organ dysfunction.

  • Respiratory system. It helps to maintain homeostasis of the pulmonary vasculature. We are talking about autoregulation phenomena.

How does it work in the erection process?

The local release of nitric oxide is essential for the initiation and maintenance of an erection. It is produced through the autonomic dilator nerves and the vascular endothelium, which is a layer of cells that lines the inside of the blood vessels. 

When an erection occurs, it is usually because the body generates a response to the sexual stimulus registered by the brain. 

The dorsal arteries of the penis dilate as much as possible so that the corpus cavernosusm (the body of the penis) fills with blood, a process in which a large amount of NO is needed.

Frequently asked questions about nitric oxide

The relationship between nitric oxide and erections generates doubts that should be cleared up, so we have compiled some frequently asked questions.

  • Does it help in cases of erectile dysfunction?

Nitric oxide can be measured by voltammetric and spectrophotometric techniques. In this regard, it should be noted that elevations in penile NO levels persist longer than erections.

It was also shown that prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) activates NO release. In animals subjected to successive injections of PGE1, an increase in constitutive NO isoenzymes, whose work is essential for erection, is shown.

However, the study concludes that NO is necessary for an erection but insufficient on its own. In other words, if the patient suffers from previous erectile dysfunction, increasing NO intake through food or supplements will not bring any improvement.

If the patient does not suffer from erectile dysfunction, he will see an increase in the strength and duration of the erection.

  • How to take it to generate erections?

    Given the above, you should ask yourself how to take nitric oxide for erection if you do not have any erectile dysfunction. In case you do suffer from it, you should be treated by a specialist because just increasing its intake will not be enough.

    There are two ways to ingest NO: in the diet and supplements, and we will talk about the latter later. As for the diet, it is recommended that you increase the intake of vegetables, such as vegetables with high nitrate content. Examples are green leafy vegetables such as spinach, beets, or radishes. 

    Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, promote adequate levels of nitric oxide because it is not broken down. It is present in fruits and vegetables, which leads us to insist that you increase your vegetable intake.

    As for nitric oxide in pre-workout, a widespread practice is to take it between half an hour and an hour before training. There are specialized sports websites that recommend taking it as an ergogenic supplement, preferably on an empty stomach so that it does not interact with other foods, although accompanied by carbohydrates. But, as far as we have been able to learn, the real effects of this practice have not been scientifically validated.

    Does taking foods with nitric oxide do the same function?

    The question would be: is a healthy, balanced diet rich in vegetables enough? Or are supplements such as L-citrulline or L-arginine necessary?

    This brings us to the debate about the usefulness of supplements. Specialists in training and nutrition, only recommend supplements to people who:

    • Do not take the necessary micronutrients and macronutrients per kg of weight, whether they lead an active life or not.

    • They need specific muscle recovery because they are athletes.

    • Do not do much sport and need help to optimize the process.

    • They do not eat efficiently, which involves preparing balanced and healthy menus and cooking their food. Generally, due to lack of time.

    A person who leads healthy lifestyle habits and has no special physical demands (being an elite athlete, for example) can cover the necessary levels of nutrients through diet.

    In case of doubt or suspicion of a pathology, a doctor or nutritionist should be consulted. They will do the necessary tests and decide whether or not supplementation is necessary as part of extended treatment.

    What is the best nitric oxide supplement?

    As for nitric oxide supplements, among the best-rated is that of a well-known brand that ensures 3,000 mg of L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in each dose. Remember that NO is produced during the conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline. In this case, one dose involves the consumption of four capsules, two on an empty stomach and two before training.

    In short, nitric oxide and erection are related, because their release is essential for its initiation and maintenance. But it does not work by itself, so in the case of erectile dysfunction, it will not solve the problem. It would have to be treated by a professional.