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Over the years, I’ve noticed that people veer away from supplements with complicated-sounding names like nicotinamide riboside (NR). That could be what’s kept people in the dark so much about this specific form of vitamin B3. I have to admit that I ignored it for a while, when research papers began emerging several years ago, as well. But the health and fitness benefits are too good to ignore, which is why I decided it was time to write a guide covering what it is, how you might benefit from using it, how much to use, and a few other details about NR. You’ll quickly see how it could be helpful for you or someone you know.
What is Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)?
Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) is a naturally occurring form of vitamin B3. As a precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a critical coenzyme found in all living cells, NR maintains cellular energy and supports various biological processes.1Canto, C., Menzies, K. J., & Auwerx, J. (2015). NAD+ metabolism and the control of energy homeostasis: a balancing act between mitochondria and the nucleus. Cell metabolism, 22(1), 31-53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2015.05.023
NAD+ is essential for cellular metabolism, DNA repair, and proper functioning of the mitochondria, the “powerhouses of the cell.” As we age, our NAD+ levels naturally decline, contributing to various age-related health issues.2Verdin, E. (2015). NAD+ in aging, metabolism, and neurodegeneration. Science, 350(6265), 1208-1213. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aac4854 Research suggests that supplementation with NR may help boost NAD+ levels and combat these effects, improving overall health and well-being.3Rajman, L., Chwalek, K., & Sinclair, D. A. (2018). Therapeutic potential of NAD-boosting molecules: the in vivo evidence. Cell metabolism, 27(3), 529-547. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2018.02.011
You get trace levels of NR from dietary sources, such as milk, yeast, and some vegetables, but to consume NR at therapeutic levels, you need to supplement with it. Unlike other forms of vitamin B3, such as niacin and nicotinamide, NR maintains a better safety profile and produces fewer side effects.4Conze, D., Brenner, C., & Kruger, C. L. (2019). Safety and metabolism of long-term administration of NIAGEN (nicotinamide riboside chloride) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of healthy overweight adults. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 9772. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-46120-z
Fitness and Performance Benefits
NR supplementation can improve muscle function, increase endurance, and enhance cellular energy production, making it a valuable supplement, especially for aging athletes.
Improved Muscle Function
One of the key benefits of NR supplementation is its positive impact on muscle function. An animal study found that NR supplementation increased muscle strength and improved exercise capacity. This is believed to result from NR’s role in boosting nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a crucial coenzyme involved in various cellular processes, including energy metabolism and mitochondrial function.5Trammell SA, Schmidt MS, Weidemann BJ, et al. Nicotinamide riboside is uniquely and orally bioavailable in mice and humans. Nat Commun. 2016;7:12948. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12948 By enhancing NAD+ levels, NR supplementation may help promote muscle health and function, making it a valuable addition to any fitness regimen.
NR supplementation increases endurance performance, too. Another animal study demonstrated that supplementation with NR increased endurance due to the activation of sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), a protein critical in regulating energy metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis.6Cantó, C., Houtkooper, R. H., Pirinen, E., Youn, D. Y., Oosterveer, M. H., Cen, Y., … & Sauve, A. A. (2012). The NAD+ precursor nicotinamide riboside enhances oxidative metabolism and protects against high-fat diet-induced obesity. Cell Metabolism, 15(6), 838-847. By activating SIRT1, NR supplementation can improve the efficiency of energy production in the body and support prolonged physical performance.
Read also: Nitric Oxide and Nitrates: Health and Performance Benefits.
Enhanced Cellular Energy Production
NR supplementation has also been shown to impact cellular energy production significantly. NAD+ is a critical player in cellular respiration, as it facilitates the transfer of electrons in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for cells.7Chini, C. C. S., Tarragó, M. G., & Chini, E. N. (2018). NAD and the aging process: Role in life, death and everything in between. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 455, 62-74. Increasing NAD+ levels through NR supplementation can optimize cellular energy production, resulting in greater overall energy levels and improved performance during exercise.
Reduced Muscle Fatigue and Faster Recovery
In addition to the fitness and performance benefits mentioned above, NR supplementation may also aid in reducing muscle fatigue and promoting faster recovery. Muscle fatigue is often associated with the accumulation of metabolic waste products, such as lactic acid, which can impair muscle function.8Lanza, I. R., Short, D. K., Short, K. R., Raghavakaimal, S., Basu, R., Joyner, M. J., … & Nair, K. S. (2010). Endurance exercise as a countermeasure for aging. Diabetes, 57(11), 2933-2942. By enhancing cellular energy production and improving mitochondrial function, NR supplementation can help delay the onset of muscle fatigue, enabling individuals to exercise longer and recover faster.
Read also: Creatine: Health, Fitness, Performance Benefits.
Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) isn’t just a performance-enhancing supplement. It may be even more important for supporting health and helping people ward off the effects of aging.
Improved Cellular Energy Production
As a precursor to NAD+, NR plays a crucial role in energy metabolism within our cells. Increased NAD+ levels support the proper functioning of mitochondria, which generate energy in the form of ATP. This, in turn, can lead to enhanced energy production and reduced fatigue.9Airhart, S. E., Shireman, L. M., Risler, L. J., Anderson, G. D., Gowda, G. A. N., Raftery, D., … & Conklin, K. A. (2017). An open-label, non-randomized study of the pharmacokinetics of the nutritional supplement nicotinamide riboside (NR) and its effects on blood NAD+ levels in healthy volunteers. PloS one, 12(12), e0186459. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0186459 NR supplementation in humans has also been shown to increase mitochondrial biogenesis, the formation of new mitochondria. Not only does this enhance energy production, but the mitochondria are the primary source of fat metabolism, so more of that increased energy could come from body fat.10Lapatto HAK, Kuusela M, Heikkinen A, Muniandy M, van der Kolk BW, Gopalakrishnan S, Pöllänen N, Sandvik M, Schmidt MS, Heinonen S, Saari S, Kuula J, Hakkarainen A, Tampio J, Saarinen T, Taskinen MR, Lundbom N, Groop PH, Tiirola M, Katajisto P, Lehtonen M, Brenner C, Kaprio J, Pekkala S, Ollikainen M, Pietiläinen KH, Pirinen E. Nicotinamide riboside improves muscle mitochondrial biogenesis, satellite cell differentiation, and gut microbiota in a twin study. Sci Adv. 2023 Jan 13;9(2):eadd5163. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.add5163. Epub 2023 Jan 13. PMID: 36638183; PMCID: PMC9839336.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
Research suggests that NR may have neuroprotective effects and support cognitive function. By boosting NAD+ levels, NR can promote brain health, improve memory, and protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.11Hou, Y., Lautrup, S., Cordonnier, S., Wang, Y., Croteau, D. L., Zavala, E., … & Bohr, V. A. (2018). NAD+ supplementation normalizes key Alzheimer’s features and DNA damage responses in a new AD mouse model with introduced DNA repair deficiency. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(8), E1876-E1885. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1718819115
Read also: Fish Oil: Health Benefits for Your Body and Brain.
Supports Healthy Aging
One of NR’s most widely recognized benefits is its potential to counteract age-related decline. As NAD+ levels decrease with age, supplementation with NR can help restore NAD+ levels, promoting cellular health, improving mitochondrial function, and combating various signs of aging.12Martens, C. R., Denman, B. A., Mazzo, M. R., Armstrong, M. L., Reisdorph, N., McQueen, M. B., … & Seals, D. R. (2018). Chronic nicotinamide riboside supplementation is well-tolerated and elevates NAD+ in healthy middle-aged and older adults. Nature Communications, 9(1), 1286. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03421-7
NR may also benefit cardiovascular health by improving blood vessel function, reducing inflammation, and promoting overall heart health. Studies have shown that increased NAD+ levels can improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are essential for maintaining a healthy heart.13Uddin, G. M., Youngson, N. A., Sinclair, D. A., & Morris, M. J. (2016). Head to head comparison of short-term treatment with the NAD(+) precursor nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and 6 weeks of exercise in obese female mice. Frontiers in pharmacology, 7, 258. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2016.00258
Enhanced Metabolic Function
NR has been shown to improve metabolic function and support healthy weight management. By increasing NAD+ levels, NR can enhance insulin sensitivity, promote healthy glucose levels, and support the body’s ability to burn fat more efficiently.14Canto, C., Houtkooper, R. H., Pirinen, E., Youn, D. Y., Oosterveer, M. H., Cen, Y., … & Auwerx, J. (2012). The NAD+ precursor nicotinamide riboside enhances oxidative metabolism and protects against high-fat diet-induced obesity. Cell metabolism, 15(6), 838-847. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2012.04.022
Supports DNA Repair
NAD+ is a critical coenzyme involved in repairing DNA damage, which can occur due to environmental factors or natural cellular processes. By supplementing with NR and boosting NAD+ levels, it may be possible to enhance the body’s ability to repair damaged DNA and protect against age-related diseases, including certain types of cancer.15Ruszkiewicz, Joanna & Bürkle, Alexander & Mangerich, Aswin. (2022). Fueling genome maintenance: On the versatile roles of NAD+ in preserving DNA integrity. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 298. 102037. 10.1016/j.jbc.2022.102037.
Dosages and Safety
Studies on NR supplementation have used a range of dosages, typically between 100-1,000 mg daily.16Conze, D., Brenner, C., & Kruger, C. L. (2019). Safety and metabolism of long-term administration of NIAGEN (nicotinamide riboside chloride) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of healthy overweight adults. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 9772. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-46120-z While there isn’t a universally accepted standard dosage, many experts suggest starting with a daily dose of 300 mg, which has been shown to effectively increase NAD+ levels in healthy adults without causing significant side effects.
NR is generally safe and well-tolerated in most individuals, with few reported side effects. However, following recommended dosages and consulting with a healthcare professional is essential to minimize potential risks. Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women and individuals with pre-existing health conditions or taking medications should consult their healthcare provider before starting NR supplementation.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some of the most common questions people ask about supplementing. Though I’ve covered most of these with the content above, quickly answering them in Q&A format might be helpful for those just scanning this article.
1. Is NR the same as Niacin or Nicotinamide?
NR is a distinct form of vitamin B3 that differs from Niacin and Nicotinamide. While all three are precursors to NAD+, NR has a better safety profile and fewer side effects than Niacin and Nicotinamide.17Conze, D., Brenner, C., & Kruger, C. L. (2019). Safety and metabolism of long-term administration of NIAGEN (nicotinamide riboside chloride) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of healthy overweight adults. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 9772. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-46120-z
2. Are there any side effects associated with NR supplementation?
NR is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, with few reported side effects. Some individuals may experience mild side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort, headache, or fatigue.18Dolopikou, C. F., Kourtzidis, I. A., Margaritelis, N. V., Vrabas, I. S., Koidou, I., Kyparos, A., … & Paschalis, V. (2019). Acute nicotinamide riboside supplementation improves redox homeostasis and exercise performance in old individuals: a double-blind cross-over study. European Journal of Nutrition, 59(2), 505-515. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-019-01919-4 If you experience adverse reactions, consult your healthcare professional for guidance.
3. How long does it take to notice the benefits of NR supplementation?
The time it takes to notice the benefits of NR supplementation can vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience improvements in energy levels, cognitive function, or general well-being within a few weeks, while others may take several months to notice significant changes.19Martens, C. R., Denman, B. A., Mazzo, M. R., Armstrong, M. L., Reisdorph, N., McQueen, M. B., … & Seals, D. R. (2018). Chronic nicotinamide riboside supplementation is well-tolerated and elevates NAD+ in healthy middle-aged and older adults. Nature Communications, 9(1), 1286. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03421-7 Consistency and adherence to the recommended dosage are key factors in achieving the desired benefits.
4. Can I take NR with other supplements or medications?
NR is generally considered safe to take alongside other supplements or medications. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before combining NR with other supplements or medications, as there may be potential interactions or contraindications specific to your situation.20Elhassan, Y. S., Philp, A. A., & Lavery, G. G. (2017). Targeting NAD+ in metabolic disease: new insights into an old molecule. Journal of the Endocrine Society, 1(7), 816-835. https://doi.org/10.1210/js.2017-00092
5. Is NR suitable for vegetarians and vegans?
NR can be suitable for vegetarians and vegans, as it’s not derived from animal sources. However, it’s important to check the label of the specific NR supplement you’re considering, as some products may contain additional ingredients or use capsules made from animal-derived gelatin.
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a form of vitamin B3 that has been shown to provide numerous health benefits. NR supplementation can increase NAD+ levels, which can have anti-aging effects on the body and improve energy, stamina, endurance, and muscle function in athletes. It may also have significant neuroprotective effects, improve cardiovascular health, and support healthy weight management in middle-aged and older adults. Don’t let the big name of this supplement scare you away. After a few months of use, you might be delighted you started with it.
Oh, and if you’re looking for my recommendation on which NR supplement I prefer, email me and I’ll share my two favorite nicotinamide riboside supplements with you.