Although the role of nitric oxide (NO) in peripheral glucose uptake has been thoroughly described, little is known regarding the alterations in NO metabolism during the early onset of insulin resistance. During this study we investigated the alterations in NO synthesis and bioavailability in a model for dietary modulations of insulin sensitivity. For 6 weeks, rats were fed a standard diet (C), a high-sucrose diet inducing insulin resistance (HS), or high-sucrose diets supplemented with cysteine, which endowed protection against the high-sucrose-induced insulin resistance (Ti). Several markers of NO synthesis and bioavailability were assessed and confronted with markers of insulin sensitivity. After 5 weeks, although urinary cGMP excretion did not differ between the groups, insulin resistance in HS rats was associated with both a significant increase in NO oxidation, as determined by plasma nitrotyrosine concentrations, and in the inducible NO synthase (iNOS)/endothelial NO synthase (iNOS/eNOS) mRNA ratio in skeletal muscle compared with C rats. These alterations were prevented in rats fed the cysteine-rich diets. NO production, as assessed by urinary 15NO3* excretion following a [15N2-(guanido)]-arginine intra-venous bolus, independently and significantly correlated with insulin sensitivity but did not significantly differ between C, HS, and Ti rats; neither did the aortic eNOS protein expression or skeletal muscle insulin-induced eNOS activation. Our results indicate that in this model of dietary modulations of insulin sensitivity (i) NO production accounts for part of total inter-individual variation in insulin sensitivity, but (ii) early diet-related changes in insulin sensitivity are accompanied by changes in NO bioavailability.