Nitric Oxide Supplements vs. Pre-Workouts

Nitric Oxide Supplements vs. Pre-Workouts: Your Ultimate Guide

17 min read


05 Mar 2024

Hack Beast Mode

  1. What is nitric oxide?
  2. The benefits of nitric oxide
  3. What are the ingredients in nitric oxide supplements?
  4. What are the additional benefits of taking a nitric oxide supplement?
  5. Are there any side effects from nitric oxide supplementation?
  6. When should I take a nitric oxide supplement?
  7. What is a pre-workout?
  8. What are the ingredients in a pre-workout?
  9. What are the benefits of a pre-workout?
  10. When should I take a pre-workout?
  11. Are there any side effects from a pre-workout?
  12. Nitric Oxide vs pre-workout: Which is best?
  13. Final thoughts
  14. FAQs

If you want to make gains, you have to work harder than before to push yourself through the barrier and onto success.

Building a bigger, better version of yourself means going that extra mile and heading out of your comfort zone regularly. Without doing this, you won't be able to progress and gain muscle and strength.

Working out regularly means being focused and ready for the challenge, getting fired up for every workout, and pushing harder than before on every occasion you hit the gym. It takes discipline and a significant effort on your part.

Getting that extra nudge in the right direction can be challenging. But the good news is that there are ways in which you can get yourself fired up for your workout and power your way through it.

Unless you have superhuman mental and physical strength, giving it 100% each time is challenging—which is why bodybuilders turn to natural supplementation.

Taking supplements before a workout can give you the added boost you need both before and during a workout.

Two of the most popular workout boosters are pre-workouts and nitric oxide supplements.

Both dietary supplements can get you pumped up and ready for action and help to push you through the barriers to success.

The question is…which is the better option?

Let’s explore.

What is nitric oxide?

Nitric Oxide

Your body produces nitric oxide naturally, and it’s essential for many aspects of your health, including blood circulation., and oxygen delivery.

That’s why taking a nitric oxide supplement is the choice of many people looking to get that extra muscle pump, or bench press for bigger gains.

The increased nutrient delivery you’ll get from increasing nitric oxide production means you can improve exercise performance, increase your aerobic capacity, and enhance muscle growth. This makes it an extremely popular supplement among endurance athletes, particularly due to l-citrulline's role in nitric oxide synthesis, which supports muscular endurance and cardiovascular health

There's plenty of talk about taking nitric oxide as a supplement—but what exactly is nitric oxide?

The first thing to point out is that nitric oxide (NO) itself isn't a supplement. It's a gas that occurs naturally in your body. The nitric oxide supplements are usually taken as pills or powders and are packed with ingredients designed to boost your nitric oxide levels.

So what's the big deal, and why would more nitric oxide help you through your workouts?

One of the main functions of nitric oxide is to relax your blood vessels to increase blood flow in your body.

This means a better oxygen delivery around your system, enabling your body to work harder, improve muscular endurance, and provide a better quality and more productive workout.

The benefits of nitric oxide

You can get nitric oxide from your diet through nitrate-rich foods like beetroot juice. Strength athletes try to raise the levels of nitric oxide in the body to help boost performance, and push harder when resistance training.

Let’s have a closer look at the health benefits.

Blood flow regulation

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it’s great for widening blood vessels, and enhancing blood flow.

This enables oxygen to travel more freely around your body. Increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery are two of the main benefits of nitric oxide—which is why the idea of raising nitric oxide levels is so popular among athletes.

Better heart health

Nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to help promote heart health. It can help to improve symptoms of clogged arteries, high blood pressure, angina, and coronary artery disease.

Erectile dysfunction treatment

Studies show the benefit of increased NO on sexual function in males. Nitric oxide is needed to help the muscles in the penis to relax, which allows the penis to fill with blood and rise to the occasion.

Athletic performance

Athletic performance

Nitric oxide is perfect for boosting exercise performance as it helps the blood and oxygen flow freely around the body, enabling you to work harder and push further than before.

Yes, getting enough nitric oxide in your body helps to relax the blood vessels and increase glucose uptake, giving you more strength and energy than ever before.

Nitric Oxide Deficiency explained...

Nitric oxide deficiency can be caused by several factors, including diet, medical conditions, and lack of physical activity. This type of dietary deficiency can have various side effects on the body, including impacts on skeletal muscle function.

  • Diabetes
  • Eye problems
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve issues
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Breathing problems

  • So, topping up with nitric oxide supplements can significantly help your health, even if you're not working out.

    What are the ingredients in nitric oxide supplements?

    Nitric oxide supplements include ingredients that have been scientifically proven to raise levels in your body.

    Regularly taking one can help you stay healthy and seriously boost your exercise performance.

    So, which ingredients can you expect? Often, you will find nitric oxide synthase activators in the mix, essential for converting l-arginine into nitric oxide, a gas crucial for improving exercise efficiency and supporting skeletal muscle health.


    L-arginine is a popular ingredient in nitric oxide supplements because it raises nitric oxide levels.

    Research shows that L-arginine can improve blood flow and help increase nitric oxide production. As a result, l-arginine has also been used to treat issues such as erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure.


    Citrulline helps with vasodilation and allows more blood and oxygen flow around your body. It converts to arginine and then to nitric oxide.

    Citrulline has been shown to increase nitric oxide bioavailability, positively affecting nitric oxide levels and athletic performance, and incorporating elements like l-citrulline supplementation can directly convert to nitric oxide in the body.

    It has been used to help treat patients with type 2 diabetes, as well as other medical conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.


    Beta-alanine can increase carnosine levels, which in turn, helps to boost nitric oxide levels, similar to how beet enriched foods can also enhance nitrate content beneficial for those engaging in pre workout routines. It has been used to treat blood flow and muscle loss and has been shown to regulate acid in muscles. It's also often found in pre-workout formulas, but usually in larger amounts.

    What are the body-boosting benefits of taking a nitric oxide supplement?

    Man running with healthy heart

    Getting through a heavy workout and making it count means you'll need plenty of physical and mental energy.

    Nitric oxide supplements are perfect for improving your energy levels, both before and during exercise.

    They relax the blood vessels, giving you an improved blood flow. Increased blood and oxygen flow means more pumps and gains.

    As if that wasn't enough, they have a heap of other health benefits, including…

  • Better heart health
  • Reduced muscle soreness
  • Better brain function
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Increased blood and oxygen flow
  • Helping to lower blood pressure

  • Read: Nitric oxide supplements: benefits, dosage, and side effects

    Are there any side effects from nitric oxide supplementation?

    A nitric oxide supplement which contains only natural ingredients such as l-arginine and citrulline, should have no side effects if you follow the recommended dose.

    Any adverse reactions are likely to be down to taking more than is considered safe. There is a temptation for some, which is to take more than the recommended amount in the belief that it will enable you to work even harder—but that isn't the case.

    You don't need to take more than the amount stated to give yourself an added boost. The amount recommended will be based on scientific research, and taking more won't give you superhuman powers.

    One thing that research does show is that taking too much can have issues on your body.

    The most common side effects are…

    • Digestive issues
    • Stomach upset
    • Headaches
    • Nausea

    If you feel you may have an adverse reaction from taking a regular dose of a nitric oxide supplement, it's a good idea to talk to a medical professional.

    When should I take a nitric oxide supplement?

    The ingredients in nitric oxide boosters need to be absorbed into your system, so you should take them between an hour and two hours before a workout.

    L-arginine, citrulline, and beta-alanine will take some time to get into your body—so it's a good idea to allow them to work before you hit the gym.

    When you start exercising, the bioavailability will be present, and you can use the booster to your best advantage.

    You can put in more quality reps and progress quickly with the added oxygen boost.

    So we know that a nitric oxide booster will enhance your exercise performance and give you that extra boost of sustained energy to help you take each workout to the max.

    But what advantages does it have over a pre-workout?

    What is a pre-workout?

    Pre-workout powder

    Getting yourself fired up and ready for a hard session in the gym can be challenging. It can also depend on what time of day you start your workout and the mood you're in at the time.

    Sometimes, you lack the buzz and motivation to put it all in. This is where a pre-workout can help.

    What are the ingredients in a pre workout?

    A pre-workout is packed with ingredients designed to give you a huge energy boost before your workout.

    Pre-workouts usually contain ingredients such as caffeine and a host of vitamins to get your body going from zero to 100 quickly.

    You can take a pre-workout in drink, pill, or powder form to get you right into the zone every time you hit the gym.

    Bodybuilders swear by them, so there must be something in it, possibly because these supplements contain nitric oxide, enhancing muscle pump and recovery.

    Let's look at some of the premium ingredients your pre-workout nutrition should contain.

    Vitamin C

    Better known for being a cold-buster, vitamin C is also great for supporting your energy levels by helping in carnitine biosynthesis.

    It also helps with iron absorption, which has been shown to reduce fatigue. Making sure you're well topped up with vitamin C is essential for keeping your energy levels in the green..

    Vitamin B6

    Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is essential for energy production as it helps in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbs and boosts your mental energy by regulating brain function.


    Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that helps in the production of carnosine. It's often found in higher amounts in pre-workouts than nitric oxide boosters as it plays a significant role in muscle endurance during high-intensity exercise. It's perfect for enhancing sports performance and endurance.


    If you want to maintain a quality physical performance, your iron levels must be high. Iron helps with both energy production and the transporting of oxygen around your body and mental focus.

    Studies show that those with iron deficiency tend to suffer from fatigue, low stamina, anemia, poor mental focus, stress, and low mood.

    Vitamin B3

    Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, plays a crucial role in energy production and producing energy from the food you consume. As a result, vitamin B3 helps to reduce fatigue and push you further in your workouts.

    Vitamin B1

    Thiamine (vitamin B1) is an all-round health booster, but it's perfect for absorbing energy from our food.

    The importance of vitamin B1 has been shown in scientific studies highlighting the issues a lack of it can cause.

    These include headaches, tiredness, mood swings, stomach issues, and depression.

    Vitamin B12

    Vitamin B12 can be found naturally in foods such as fish, meat and eggs, as well as some dairy products.

    A lack of B12 can lead to tiredness, muscle weakness and cognitive decline, so its role in energy is there for all to see. To stay strong, focused, and energized, B12 is an essential vitamin, and studies often highlight its importance alongside l-citrulline supplementation for enhancing nitric oxide production.


    Taurine is an amino acid that has numerous health benefits, including an antioxidant supporting immune health, the nervous system, and the heart. Its energy benefits are considered best effective when you are tired, as it acts as a way to pick you up.



    One ingredient that has stood the test of time is Ashwagandha, a herb used in traditional medicine for centuries.

    This ancient super herb has been used to treat stress, anxiety, insomnia, fertility, and blood sugar,—it’s also known to boost athletic performance.


    The stimulating effects of caffeine are well-known to most, and the pick-me-up you get from it is why you'll find caffeine in most pre-workout formulas.

    Caffeine can increase activity in your brain and your nervous system, making you feel more alert, and helping you concentrate better—enjoy a quicker boost of energy. Perfect for a power-packed workout.

    What are the benefits of taking a pre workout?

    A good pre-workout will empower you to hit the gym with all guns blazing. Even when you don't feel up to it, you'll get a lift from taking one, which will help you launch full-on into your exercise routine.

    Yes, a pre-workout will give you a massive boost of energy, empowering you to concentrate better and perform to the max.

    A pre-workout has a whole host of benefits, including…

    • A quick and colossal energy boost
    • Improved athletic performance
    • Increased strength
    • Better mental focus
    • Greater endurance

    When should I take a pre workout?

    As pre-workouts are packed with ingredients designed to stimulate your mind and body quickly, they are fast-acting.

    It's usually recommended that you take one around 30 minutes before you train to enable the formula to get into your body and start working.

    Are there any side effects from a pre workout?

    Like most supplements made from natural ingredients, any side effects tend to come from overuse or exceeding the recommended safe dosage.

    They can affect those sensitive to caffeine or with underlying health conditions. The most common side effects from taking too much include..

    • Stomach discomfort
    • Headaches
    • Water retention

    The best advice is to follow the recommended dose and use only before exercise.

    Let's talk about the "tingles"...

    After taking a pre-workout, you can often experience a tingling sensation. This is caused mainly by the beta-alanine found in most formulas, which metabolizes to produce carnosine.

    This process causes what is commonly known as the tingles and indicates that things are getting to work in your body—and it's time for action. It usually wears off quickly and isn't something to be concerned about.

    Nitric Oxide vs Pre-Workout: Which is best?

    Weightlifter supplementing

    If you want to hit the gym and give it your all every time, it's a good idea to choose a supplement that is packed with natural ingredients that will work with your body to achieve your aim, including those that contain nitric oxide for improved blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues.

    A nitric oxide supplement and a pre-workout supplement are designed to do just that, so what is the difference?

    A pre workout

    If you want to hit the gym running and give it a power-packed performance every time, a pre-workout will give you the boost you need.

    As well as giving you additional energy, you'll also find you can concentrate better, leading to a better workout quality.

    Pre-workouts are when you need that instant hit and rush of adrenaline to kick-start your body and mind, typically powered by ingredients like l-citrulline and beet extracts to enhance nitric oxide production.

    They're designed to give you a power-packed performance from start to finish, helping you push harder and make more significant gains.

    Note: Pre-workouts are a short-term solution to gaining an energy boost and are perfect for taking before a workout, as many contain nitric oxide to help enhance performance.

    The pros of a pre-workout…

    • A quick energy boost when you need it
    • Better mental focus
    • It will enhance exercise performance

    The cons of a pre-workout…

    • Potential side effects of caffeine intolerance
    • It is only designed for a single workout, so it won't necessarily support muscle soreness, growth and repair

    We recommend consulting a doctor before taking pre-workout supplements—especially if you have any underlying health conditions or take any medications.

    A nitric oxide supplement

    A nitric oxide supplement is perfect for helping you to gain extra strength and energy during a workout.

    Unlike a pre-workout, you can take a booster at any time during the day, and the nutrients will be in your system, ready to work for you at a moment's notice.

    Not only do they help you with your athletic performance by giving you an increased blood flow and oxygen supply around your body—NO boosters can also help support you after a workout by helping with muscle soreness, stiffness, and repair.

    Unlike pre-workouts, they won't give you a sudden rush of energy. It's more of a slow, sustained release when you need it.

    The pros of a nitric oxide supplement…

    • It will give you a slow release of energy
    • It will increase nitric oxide production
    • It can reduce muscle soreness
    • You can take it at any time of the day

    The cons of a nitric oxide supplement…

    • You won’t get a sudden rush of energy prior to a workout
    • May not be suitable for those with underlying health conditions

    Final thoughts…

    Lifting heavy weights

    So there you have it. A pre-workout and a nitric oxide supplement will give you additional energy support for your most challenging workouts. They're not designed to take in tandem, as some ingredients will likely clash. This means you might take more than a safe dose. Whatever you decide to take will depend on what you want from each.

    If you want a quick burst of energy just before a workout to push you through and help you to work harder, it's a pre-workout. You'll get a quick boost and possibly a small "crash" afterwards as the effects wear off. But a good pre-workout will help you achieve a more productive workout, especially when it contains l-arginine and l-citrulline to amplify your results.

    Which supplement you take is down to personal preference, as some prefer to be ultimately on their toes like a coiled spring before a heavy workout session—and this is precisely what a pre-workout offers.

    If you're looking for a more sustained release of energy (which will also support your muscles after a workout), it's nitric oxide all the way.

    You won't get such a big rush before your workout, but you'll still be able to push harder and make more significant gains thanks to the vasodilating properties of the ingredients, such as l-citrulline and beet extracts for optimal nitric oxide production. As it's more of a slow energy release, you won't get the "crash" you tend to get from a pre-workout.

    Level up your gains today

    Crazy Nutrition's INTENSIVE Pre-Train Formula 2.0 has everything you need for a pre-workout boost.

    It's crafted with a unique blend of 13 natural ingredients to help give you explosive energy, improve performance, and mental focus every time you hit the gym, and without the "crash" you get with many low-quality formulas.

    Crazybulk's Nitric Max is scientifically formulated with the strongest ingredients. It's a premium nitric oxide supplement designed to improve blood flow and oxygen circulation during your workouts by boosting your natural nitric oxide levels to the extreme.

    You'll experience a whole host of benefits, from heightened energy and endurance to rapid recovery rates and mind-blowing pumps.


    Can I take both a nitric oxide and a pre-workout supplement simultaneously?

    As both will have similar ingredients, it's not recommended that you take both as you can take too much of a particular ingredient, which may cause side effects.

    Can I use a nitric oxide supplement as a pre-workout?

    Technically, yes. But a pre-workout is designed to get you mentally and physically energized quickly.

    In contrast, a nitric oxide supplement will deliver a slow release of energy throughout your entire workout. A pre-workout would be the best option if you're looking for something to get you buzzed up before hitting the gym, especially those that contain nitric oxide pre-workout formulas for enhanced blood flow.

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