Note: Penile performance is, of course, greatly enhanced by your physical fitness and your testosterone level. But that's another article. This one is about instant, or nearly instant, gratification. Let's dive in.
Fix Your Plumbing
Erections are, at their most basic, based on plumbing and hydraulics. Like plumbing, the penile arteries need to stay pliable, unclogged, and maximally open to function properly.
The plumbing analogy only goes so far, though. Unlike copper pipes, the vessels of the penis have muscular linings that both squeeze and relax to facilitate the flow of blood into the penis. Nerves travel alongside these blood vessels and when these nerves are triggered by erotic thoughts or sensations, they release nitric oxide, or NO.
NO in turn relaxes the smooth muscle fibers of the penile arteries and allows more blood to flow into the penis; typically 8 to 10 times what it would normally hold. It's exactly this phenomenon that's the basis of erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs like Viagra and Cialis.
Further, ED drugs also prevent the enzyme that chemically dismantles NO from working, thus keeping NO levels high and allowing even more blood to flow into the penis, in effect keeping it hostage so that your erection won't quit before you're done with it.
The good news is, you can boost NO with natural supplements and even certain foods. But let's start with drugs.
Nitric oxide is the chemical hand that turns on the spigot. Once NO is released, the smooth muscle fibers that line the tiny penile arteries relax and let more blood flow into the swelling penis.
This principle is the basis of almost all of the erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs or, in the case of those men who just want a chemical turbo-charge, erectile enhancing drugs on the market.
Additionally, the drugs stymie the enzyme that normally breaks down NO, thus keeping NO levels high and assuring a hard-on that just won't quit.
Note: Incidentally, using grapefruit juice to help swallow down any one of the popular ED drugs slows down the enzymatic breakdown of the drug itself, assuring an even more potent, even longer lasting erection. If you decide to experiment with grapefruit juice and ED drugs, use caution or you really might be one of the guys that has to see a doctor for "an erection that lasts more than 8 hours."
Unfortunately, NO levels start to decline with age, starting at about 40. Men in their 50's or 60's often produce half the NO they did when they were in their 20's. Luckily, it's something we can easily manipulate. Enhancing NO production is the key to better sex, right now, without having to take into consideration the other factors that determine erectile vitality.
That explains the popularity (and effectiveness) of the ED drugs, the most popular of which are listed below. While they all affect NO production, they differ slightly in how fast they take effect, how fast they wear off, and in their potential side effects.
- Sildenafil (Viagra): Take on an empty stomach one hour before you need your erection. It generally remains effective for 4 hours or so (that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have an erection for that long – it just means the drug will be in your system, ready to help, for approximately that long).
- Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn): Take with or without food about an hour before sex. Like Viagra, it stands by, ready to help you, for about 4 hours.
- Tadalafil (Cialis): Take with or without foods one to two hours before you need wood. Unlike the others, this one remains effective for up to a day and a half.
- Avanafil (Stendra): Take with or without food about 30 minutes before sex. It lasts for about 6 hours.
While generally considered safe to use, these drugs are contraindicated in people who take nitrate drugs (for chest pain), have low blood pressure, or kidney disease. Minor, temporary side effects include flushing, headache, a runny nose, and seeing everything as if you were viewing the world through blue-tinted sunglasses.
All of these drugs, of course, require a prescription. And, for most people, they might amount to overkill. Most men without actual ED just need a nudge and there are plenty of "natural" supplements that do just that. Much like ED drugs, many of these can take effect in an hour or two.
Don't want to have THAT conversation with your doc? Try these supplements:
- Punicaligans (aka the "magic" behind pomegranate): Punicaligans are large molecules in pomegranates and pomegranate juice. They belong to a class of polyphenols known as ellagitannins that, once ingested, act in multiple healthful ways. However, the healthful functions we're most interested in here are improved circulation (anything that improves circulation improves the quality of erections) and enhanced production of NO. To get these, eat the whole fruit, drink its juice, or take 180 mg. of a punicaligans supplement, like P-Well™.
- Pycnogenol: This derivative of tree bark causes the formation of nitrogen oxide synthase, which promotes the production of NO. The effective dosage seems to be about 40 mg. taken two to three times a day. You can get it here.
- Yohimbine: Prior to drugs like Viagra, doctors used to prescribe yohimbine to treat ED. It increases NO while also blocking signals from penile nerves that constrict blood vessels. Unfortunately, it can come with a lot of side-effect baggage, like high blood pressure, palpitations, flushing, sweating, etc. The standard dosage is 5.4 mg. taken three times a day.
Miscellaneous supplements that probably work the same way – Korean ginseng, ginkgo biloba, maca root, ginger, and horny goat weed have all been said to elevate levels of NO, but the effects don't seem to be consistent.
Eating foods that contain dietary nitrate – which gets converted in the body to nitric oxide – are a hugely effective way to increase the quality and frequency of your erections.
The trouble is, it's hard to "prescribe" specific doses of natural foods. Mother Nature has horrible quality control standards. Each "batch" of a particular plant that she manufactures can vary enormously in the amount of dietary nitrate it contains (along with every other chemical, vitamin, or plant chemical inherent to the plant) because of disparities in soil quality, sunlight, water, etc.
The best advice we can offer in terms of "dosage" is that more works better than a little.
Secondly, and this is something I've never heard anyone outside of scientists talking about, is that the effectiveness of any high-nitrate food is hugely dependent on how well you chew it.
Here's the thing: You've got bacteria in the back of your mouth that convert the nitrates in your food to nitrite, which are then absorbed by the salivary glands and converted to NO by the body. You might assume that this is trivial, but up to 25% of the nitrate in circulation is absorbed through the salivary glands.
The take-home lesson? Don't be the average guy who chews his food three times and then swallows it down like a Gila monster swallowing a desert rat. Chew, chew, chew.
With that out of the way, here are a few really potent nitric oxide foods that you might try eating an hour or two before invoking the erection gods:
- Chocolate: The backbone of chocolate is cocoa, which is made by processing cacao, a potent augmenter of nitric oxide (NO) levels. Hershey bars probably won't work, though. You need the good stuff, i.e., the high-cacao, dark stuff that hopefully came straight out of some Peruvian witch doctor's hut. Look for stuff that's 70-80% cacao. Try this. Thirty grams, or about 1-2 ounces, should do the trick.
- Leafy Vegetables: Arugula is a nitrate powerhouse. Too bad nobody eats it. Some less powerful but more palatable alternatives include cabbage, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard.
- Beets: Dwight Schrute was right, beets are a powerful food that ranks nearly as high as leafy greens in their nitrate content.
- Citrus Fruits: While they don't contain a great deal of dietary nitrites, citrus fruits increase the bioavailability of nitrites, while perhaps increasing the amount of an enzyme necessary for the production of NO.
- Popcorn: Okay, I'll confess. I threw this one in more for its wow factor. While popcorn doesn't contain an appreciable amount of nitrates, it does contain a decent amount of the amino acid L-arginine, which is a biologic precursor of nitric oxide. By itself, it wouldn't do much to facilitate erections, but maybe it'd work if you washed it down with some pomegranate juice or some other more powerful nitric oxide producer.
- Walnuts: While walnuts, along with other members of its family, don't contain many dietary nitrates, they do contain a lot of L-arginine, which, as mentioned, is an NO precursor.
While eating a good-sized portion of any of the preceding fruits, vegetable, seeds, or nuts could very well enhance your erection, you'll exponentially increase your chances by having a combination of them in a single sitting. Enter TC's Boner Salad, conditionally guaranteed to create an erection suitable to bang out a violent love song on a Taiko drum.
- Sliced or diced beets
- Tangerine slices
- Pomegranate (split into bite-size chunks)
- Blue Cheese Dressing (just for flavor and because it marries well with the ingredients – no known boner-causing effects)
Again, listing amounts is bogus. Each vegetable, fruit, seed, or nut varies in its nitrate or amino acid concentration. Just let your appetite decide how much of each. Also, it won't matter much if you don't have a particular ingredient in your crisper or cupboard. Just approximate the recipe. It'll work.
Alternately, you could just have a handful of walnuts and wash them down with an 8-10 ounce glass of pomegranate juice.
Again, give any food item you eat about an hour or two to do its magic. And remember to chew.
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