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Niacin is another name for Vitamin B3 and is one of the essential nutrients required by humans.
A lack of Niacin can lead to the condition Pellagra, which can cause diarrhoea, dermatitis, and dementia.
Luckily Niacin can be found in many of the most commonly consumed foods including meat, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, and even beer!
If you are still deficient you can also take Niacin as a supplement. A new supplement called NiacinMax is one that comes highly recommended!!
In this article we will be looking at the benefits of taking Niacin, possible benefits (that are still debated), any side effects from taking the supplement, and how Niacin can improve your performance in the gym.
We will also take a more in-depth look at good nutritional sources of Niacin and how you can best add it to your diet.
The Benefits of Niacin
There are a lot of benefits to increasing Niacin in your diet, huge muscle growth, and incredible fat loss results tend to be the most commonly looked for benefits whilst potentially lowering your risk of heart disease is not commonly mentioned.
However, it is possible that Niacin can also deliver on this promise too. We will now look into all of the benefits of Niacin.
Benefit #1. Increases HDL-C
Having low levels of High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C) can be a predictor of heart disease, this is because HDL-C removes LDL-C (bad cholesterol) from the bloodstream.
It also maintains and repairs the inner walls of blood vessels which helps prevent heart attacks.
Studies have found Niacin to be the most effective way to rapidly increase HDL-C levels, though this may only be the case for people with very low levels .
Benefit #2. Decreases LDL-C
Whilst studies have shown that Niacin can have a huge effect on increasing low HDL-C levels, there is less of an effect on LDL-C.
However there is still a benefit to taking Niacin, as it does lower LDL-C . This is beneficial as lowering LDL-C can lower the risk of getting a heart attack.
Benefit #3. Decreases Triglycerides
Triglycerides can either come from fatty foods being digested, or from the liver. Once they enter the bloodstream they can either be used as energy or stored as fat.
Having high levels of Triglycerides can result in lowered HDL-C which as mentioned before is not a good thing. A study in 1975 found that Niacin supplementation resulted in lowered Cholesterol and lowered Triglyceride levels .
Benefit #4. Increases Growth Hormone Levels
It's a relatively unknown benefit, but Niacin has been found to increase growth hormone levels. There are a lot of articles mentioning this fact, and they all base their belief on a study by Quabbe et al that took place in 1983 .
In the study, subjects were injected with 500mg of Niacin. After 4 hours their growth hormone levels had spiked massively, however when the Niacin was taken alongside dietary fats the growth hormone levels were nowhere near as high. This shows that Niacin should be taken without food.
The fact that supplementing with Niacin increases human growth hormone production could lead to Niacin being a very powerful supplement.
Benefit #5. Increased Leptin
Leptin is a hormone that creates satiety, or that feeling of fullness you get after a meal.
Increasing your Leptin can have a beneficial effect on your physique as it will help you whilst dieting.
A 2007 study by Westphal et al  found that men suffering from metabolic syndrome who took 1500mg of Niacin had 26.8% more Leptin than the placebo group.
Benefit #6. Protects Red Blood Cells from Damage
If you perform a lot of aerobic exercise you can increase red blood cell aging and actually change their shape! This leads to a condition known as sports anaemia .
You can avoid this through supplementing with Niacin as this has been found to inhibit red blood cell damage .
Benefit #7. Improve Blood Flow
This should be seen as a potential benefit as most studies have not found that Niacin improves blood flow.
Nasser Figueiredo et al (2014) found that niacin improved blood flow in men and women with low HDL-C levels .
There seems to be quite a few benefits of Niacin supplementation, particularly when it comes to lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease or strokes.
If Niacin does indeed increase Growth Hormone then this could be a game-changer, particularly in bodybuilding where increasing Testosterone is hugely beneficial.
The ability of Niacin to increase Leptin levels could make it a great choice for people on diets, and there definitely seems to be a lot of evidence that taking Niacin could improve aerobic performance.
Side Effects of Niacin
If taken in correct doses Niacin appears to have very little (if any) side effects other than the “Niacin Flush” – which we will cover later.
However, some people have attempted to use Niacin in massive quantities as a way to pass urine drugs tests. Whilst there is no evidence (other than anecdotal) that this even works, it has been shown – on occasion to result in multi-organ failure .
Other potential side effects of overdoses of Niacin are blood coagulation, impaired cognitive function, and other effects on renal and liver function.
Basically, don't take medically unsafe levels of Niacin in an effort to pass a drugs test. It doesn't work. If you take sensible and recommended levels of Niacin you will not experience any dangerous side effects whatsoever.
The Niacin Flush
The Niacin flush is a well-documented side effect of Niacin supplementation that is completely harmless (though some people find it annoying).
One of the benefits of Niacin is that it expands the blood vessels (known as vasodilation), which improves blood flow. Small capillaries in your face will expand around 4 minutes or so after you consume Niacin, this will lead to blood flowing through them at a much faster rate which will leave your face flushed.
You may feel hot and itchy whilst this is happening, but the feeling should pass within a very short while. The flush is actually a good sign with Niacin supplements as it proves that there is Niacin present.
There are three types of Niacin supplement, immediate release, sustained release, and extended release. The second and third types will not provide a “flush” as they take a lot longer to create an effect and as such blood won't rush to your face in the same way.
If you really dislike the flush then you can reduce it by taking an aspirin at the same time as your Niacin.
Niacin and Training
As we talked about in the benefits section, Niacin could potentially have a huge effect on performance in the gym, if it does indeed increase Growth Hormone.
It would lead to increased muscle size, increased strength, and improved recovery time. There would be more lean muscle and less body fat in the participant.
The main benefit of Niacin on performance is the increase in blood flow and the prevention of red blood cell damage that can be caused by high intensity exercise. The increased leptin levels will help with those of you who are dieting.
Top Sources of Niacin
There are a lot of sources of Niacin in the diet, which is why deficiencies are so rare. A lot of the sources are animal-based but there are also vegetarian and vegan friendly options as well.
Meat has a high level of Niacin in it, particularly Chicken, Pork, Beef, and Turkey. You can also find decent levels of Niacin in fish (Tuna, Sardines and Salmon are very high).
Niacin can also be found in vegetables, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, and brown rice. The top 10 sources of Niacin are:
- Bell Peppers
Of course eating these foods will prevent you from suffering from a deficiency but will have little to no effect on the benefits we looked at earlier. This is why Niacin supplements exist.
Most of the supplements available at the moment are in the form of pills, but it can also be administered intravenously via a needle.
There is also another product called NiacinMax that makes Niacin strips that can be placed underneath the tongue.
This is supposed to decrease the time it takes to have an effect as it delivers the Niacin straight to the blood stream rather than to the digestive system.
Should you supplement with Niacin?
Niacin may be one of the best kept secrets in the supplement industry, it has been shown to have a very good effect on low HDL-C levels and on Triglycerides. For this reason alone Niacin is a worthy choice.
In terms of performance, Niacin's ability to increase blood flow is probably why it is included in many supplements (particularly pre-workouts) as the theory is that this would speed up the time for them to have an effect.
As a supplement on its own the effect on performance could be huge. The study by Quabbe et al where they found that doses of 500mg led to huge spikes in growth hormone  shows that Niacin would be a fantastic performance enhancer.
In conclusion, so long as you are following a healthy and varied diet you are probably getting enough Niacin to avoid a deficiency.
However if you are looking to get some benefits from it then you will need to start taking Niacin as a supplement. Niacin is a cheap, safe and effective choice of supplement that could really help you stay healthy and perform at peak level.