Personally, I’m a fitness enthusiast. So, I’m constantly looking for dietary supplements that will help promote muscle gain and enhance my exercise regime. As I explored the options, I learned about Arginine. But what is Arginine exactly?
Well, Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid3, and it can perform a wide range of physiological functions in our bodies. And I will cover a good number of them in this post.
However, you must know that our bodies cannot make enough Arginine naturally. As a result, we need to consume supplements or foods that are rich in Arginine to increase its concentration.
With that said….
Would you like to know how Arginine benefits your body, especially if you’re an athlete? Well, why don’t you read on to find out more?
What is Arginine?
Arginine8, also known as L-Arginine, is an amino acid that will help your body to build protein. So, it acts as a chemical building block. It contains a carboxylic acid, an amino group, and a side chain that has a 3-carbon aliphatic straight-chain that ends in a guanidine group.
It is the precursor for the biosynthesis of nitric oxide. And traditionally, it was obtained through the hydrolysis of several sources of protein like gelatin. Commercially, however, it is produced through fermentation.
Under normal circumstances, our bodies will produce L-Arginine. However, it may not be enough. That’s why we may need to supplement it. Fortunately, there is a wide range of arginine sources out there.
Arginine is obtained from your diet and it’s essential for your body to make proteins. You can find it in foods such as dairy products, red meat, fish, and poultry. Additionally, arginine can be made in the lab to be used as a supplement.
When it is a supplement, you can take it topically or orally.
Why do we need Arginine?
When arginine gets into your body, it is converted into nitric oxide2, which is very important in our bodies. You see, this chemical promotes the widening of your blood vessels to enhance blood flow.
But that’s not the only thing arginine contributes to the body. The dietary supplement stimulates the release of insulin, growth hormones, and/or other substances in your body. No wonder it’s used for building muscles and exercising.
Besides, arginine also has a lot of health benefits. Basically, it is used to treat heart and blood vessel conditions like chest pains, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, as well as high blood pressure.
Moreover, it is used to address erectile dysfunction, senile dementia, and recurrent pain in your legs when the arteries block. It can also be used to prevent male infertility and improve athletic performance.
The supplement also acts as a vasodilator. As a result, it is recommended for people with cardiovascular diseases to take arginine orally. Its also taken for its effectiveness in dilating the blood vessels.
Arginine can also be used to prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy. And after you get a kidney transplant, this supplement comes in handy to promote kidney function. It can also help the kidneys remove waste from your body.
Research15 also indicates that arginine helps to heal wounds faster. Additionally, you can take the supplement to maintain the immune and hormone functions in your body.
Fortunately, arginine is considered generally safe. However, that’s only when you take it in moderate doses. It may also have some side effects. As a result, it is imperative you know how this supplement will react with your body, especially if you’re taking other medication.
So, if anybody asks you, what arginine is, now you know what to tell them.
Benefits of Arginine
Fitness Benefits of Arginine
If you exercise regularly, you are well aware of how much energy is consumed, and the effort required to build muscle mass. Luckily, arginine10 has been used by athletes to help them in their exercises and improve muscle mass. The supplement has gained popularity among athletes because it boosts nitric oxide activity in your body.
For those who love to exercise regularly, you might be impressed to know that arginine can help boost anaerobic physical performance. This benefit is attributed to the fact that arginine helps to improve nitric oxide concentrations in our bodies. However, the results are inconclusive.
Better yet, arginine can help to reduce the oxygenation cost of exercise. How so? Well, by increasing the nitric acid concentrations in your body. It could also help to decrease ammonia, but please know that these findings are also inconclusive.
As an athlete, it might interest you to know that arginine can release growth hormones, improve fat metabolism, and also eliminate bad cholesterol. That aside, it can also help regulate the salt levels in your body.
How does it promote muscle growth?
As if that’s not enough, Arginine also has nitrogen-retaining capabilities. How is this of importance to you as an athlete or bodybuilder? Well, nitrogen balance12 encourages muscle growth.
Additionally, arginine is believed to have vasodilating abilities, plus, it promotes protein synthesis. All these activities will help deliver effective results after rigorous exercise.
As such, you become more resilient, plus, it will help to build muscles effectively. However, please note that the findings indicate that the effects it delivers seem to be unreliable when it comes to healthy adults.
If you are a hard-training athlete as well, you need to know that taking arginine supplements can help boost your immune system. So, you can train harder and manage to avoid any severe effects of minor illnesses linked to overtraining.
Also, arginine could come in handy for athletes who’ve discontinued the use of anabolic or androgenic steroids. Usually, these steroids could lead to the accumulation of bad cholesterol, and they could also lead to hypertension. Fortunately, supplementing with arginine can help counter the effects of these steroids.
While you’re here, we have to look at the benefits that arginine has on your body. Obviously, I’ve mentioned some of them previously, but I’ll expand more here, as well as include others.
For starters, arginine is known to increase blood flow. It manages to promote blood flow in your vessels because it activates nitric acid.
Additionally, arginine is known to reduce blood pressure15. Particularly, it helps patients who have intermittent claudication – a condition whereby, a patient experiences leg cramping and/or weakness.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Does it have anti-aging benefits?
Arginine also helps enhance growth hormones. And as you already know, it helps increase nitric acid formation in your body. Ultimately, giving you positive results.
When taken as a supplement, it promotes plasma L-Arginine4 concentration, which has some anti-aging effects.
Does it improve sexual performance?
Furthermore, arginine helps to tackle erectile dysfunction14 and male fertility. However, this becomes effective when you take Arginine with other supplements, including pine bark extract.
Dietary and Immune System Functions
Arginine also takes part in several metabolic pathways. So, if the endogenous production1 is not enough, then you will need to take the dietary supplement to compensate for the deficiency.
Further studies have been conducted to try and determine whether arginine is effective when it comes to the treatment of obesity. There seem to have been positive outcomes. However, the true findings are inconclusive.
Better yet, you can use the supplement to receive vital support for your immune system. How does it work? Well, it promotes your overall cardiovascular system vitality.
It also can reduce the healing period for bone and other injuries.
Is Arginine helpful for some lifestyle diseases?
This amino acid also causes an increase in insulin secretion. So, that makes it handy for patients who suffer from diabetes.
If you have impaired glucose tolerance, this supplement will increase adiponectin, which is a plus for you. Besides, when you take it for a long time, the supplement will cause an increase in lean mass.
Cardiovascular diseases are one of the main challenges facing human beings today. Mainly because of lifestyle changes, among other factors. However, a study13 was conducted and the finding indicated that consumption of Arginine reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases significantly.
Moreover, there are studies that indicate that arginine helps to alleviate the symptoms resulting from angina. Angina is a severe pain that occurs in the chest and the left arm. It is caused by heart disease.
As if that’s not enough, research indicates that consumption of arginine can help to alleviate anxiety9. Better yet, it can help heal your wounds much faster.
Guess what? Arginine is not only helpful to adults and athletes. Apparently, it also has notable benefits when it comes to infants. Particularly, it can help to ease inflammation6 in the digestive tract of premature infants.
As you can see, it delivers plenty of benefits to your body. However, you should consult your doctor regarding consumption in case of underlying conditions and or side effects. Arginine is generally considered to be safe.
Turns out, it also has some side effects11. Here, I’ll cover the most notable side effects.
But before that, you need to know that arginine is considered safe when ingested by mouth over a short-term duration. However, some of the side effects that may arise when you take it orally include:
- Abdominal pains15
- Low blood pressure
- Worsening of asthma
You can also use it by applying it to your skin. Usually, this method is considered safe for the majority of individuals. But that’s when you use it over the short-term. The same goes when you inhale arginine.
Alternatively, arginine can be administered to you through an injection. The shot is also considered relatively safe for most people, over short-term use. However, taking it through a shot could have some side effects. Here are the main ones.
- Blood abnormalities
With that out of the way, you now know why you should consult your doctor before you start taking arginine supplements.
And on that note, there are some precautions that you need to take when taking arginine. Let us have a look at these safety tips.
Precautions when taking Arginine
As I mentioned before, arginine can also be consumed by children. However, you need to take a lot of care when giving arginine to an infant. Overall, administering it to children orally, shots, inhalation, or via toothpaste is considered to be safe.
However, if you administer it via injection to infants, you need to give the dose as recommended. If you give shots containing high doses of arginine, the child may experience serious side effects. Worse even, administering high doses could result in death.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you also need to be cautious when taking arginine. Mainly, you are advised to ingest it by mouth, and over a short period. However, there’s not sufficient evidence indicating the side effects of long-term consumption by expectant and breastfeeding mothers. But I would recommend you stay safe and avoid taking it entirely during these periods.
Additionally, if you have low blood pressure, you need to exercise precaution when taking arginine. Why so? It may end up lowering your blood pressure, and that could be dangerous for you.
The same applies to individuals that suffer from cirrhosis.
What about those who are asthmatic or those who have allergies? Well, here’s the deal. One of the side effects of arginine is allergies. The allergies could cause inflammation in your airway. So, if you’re asthmatic, that might cause problems. Therefore, if you’re allergic or asthmatic, take arginine cautiously.
Furthermore, arginine could cause herpes5 to multiply. So, if you’re suffering from it, exercise precaution.
If you had a heart attack recently, do not take arginine, especially if you’re elderly. Why’s that? It could raise the risk of death after you’ve had a heart attack.
It’s also advisable for people with kidney disease to refrain from taking arginine. The reason behind this? Well, there’s a major concern that arginine will increase the potassium levels in individuals with such a condition. Consequently, the results could be life-threatening.
Also, if you have surgery due, you should cease taking arginine at least 2 weeks before the due date. Why? There’s a worry that it may interfere with your blood pressure during and after your surgery.
Sources of Arginine
You’ll be glad to know that you can get arginine from several sources. It occurs naturally, and you can also take it as a fitness supplement.
How do you obtain Arginine naturally
One of the best things is that you can obtain Arginine naturally from food.
And the best part about obtaining it naturally? You will barely consume too much; hence, avoiding the associated side effects.
Some of the foods that are high in arginine are those that are rich in proteins. They include animal proteins like red meat, turkey, chicken, pork, as well as dairy products.
However, if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be glad to know that you can get arginine from plant-based proteins. The best sources include soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds.
You can always get a dietician to help you adjust your diet accordingly to make sure you get a sufficient amount.
Arginine from supplements
On the other hand, if you decide you want to increase your Arginine intake, you can always get yourself some supplements. Fortunately, you will find plenty of supplements from online retailers. There, you can select the supplement that best suits your needs. But make sure to check the supplement you take and follow the dosage instructions.
However, before you venture into the market to get yourself L-Arginine supplements, make sure to consult your doctor to determine if the supplement you get is right for you. And whether you’re supposed to take Arginine.
Needless to say, there’s a specific dosage7 for arginine. You have to regulate consumption. Otherwise, you may end up taking a dose that’s too high, experiencing adverse effects.
Also, you need to know that there are specific doses for specific persons. With that said, let’s delve into the scientifically proven dosing.
Adults – By mouth
- If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, you’re recommended to take 1.5-5 grams per day. This dosage provides the most effective results.
- As for Angina, patients should take 2-6 grams three times a day for about one month.
- Expectant mothers who have high blood pressure are advised to take 4 grams of Arginine daily for 10 to 12 weeks.
- As for pregnancy complications that are characterized by pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure, the expectant mothers should take 3 grams daily for 3 weeks to treat pre-eclampsia. They should also take 3 grams each day from the 20th week of gestation to prevent pre-eclampsia.
- If you have high blood pressure, you’re advised to take 4-24 grams daily for 2 to 24 weeks
- For peripheral arterial disease, you need to take 6-24 grams daily for about 8 weeks
Adults – By Intravenous injection
- If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, you should take 20 grams11 each day for 5 days.
- For pregnancy complications that are characterized by pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure, you will take 20 grams per day daily for 5 days. Alternatively, take one 30-gram dosage.
- If it’s a peripheral arterial disease, it’s recommended you take 16 grams for 8 weeks.
Children – by mouth
Sometimes, premature infants suffer from inflammation in their digestive tract. Fortunately, arginine can help solve that. The recommended dosage is 261 mg/kg, which is added to the child’s oral feeding for the first 28 days.
To sum up:
What is arginine? Well, this is an amino acid and you can get it naturally from the food you consume daily. You can get it from red meat, white meat such as chicken, and protein-based plants. Alternatively, you can go to a retailer and purchase a supplement.
Can it help in building your muscles and exercises? Yes. But that’s not the only benefit you can obtain from arginine. It’s also great for improving blood flow, treating erectile dysfunction, reducing high blood pressure, and much more.
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- Pahlavani, Naseh, et al. “L-Arginine Supplementation and Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Diseases in Healthy Men: a Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial.” F1000Research, F1000Research, 12 Dec. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510020/.
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