L-Arginine Benefits, Side Effects and Food Sources

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L-arginine is most commonly known and used in the fitness industry for its ability to stimulate the release of growth hormone. This is the main reason it is so popular in the body building world for enhancing stamina, strength and performance.

But is it really worth supplementing this amino acid? And do you need it?

In this post, we will discuss in more detail l-arginine benefits, side effects and food sources. This way you can make a more informed decision about whether or not this supplements is right for you.

What Exactly is L-Arginine?

L-arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid used by the body in the biosynthesis of proteins. It is found naturally in dairy products, red meat, fish, poultry and eggs.

This conditionally essential amino acid is converted in the body to nitric oxide – a chemical that opens blood vessels wider, in turn improving the flow of blood around the body.

As it is a conditionally essential amino acid, it means it’s not always essential to obtain it from outside sources. 

The exceptions to this would be in times of illness or stress, such as the stress put on the body due to hard training or lifting weights. These conditions will cause catabolic stress and injury, and under these circumstances the body requirements for l-arginine will be much higher.

L-arginine also has uses other than just stimulating growth hormone. So, let’s take a closer look at this popular amino acid supplement, so you can learn more about its uses, benefits and any side-effects.

L-Arginine Benefits


anti aging skin

I guess you wasn’t expecting that one to come up first. But, one of l-arginine’s most powerful effects is its ability to boost immune function. And, may even help fight the chronic inflammation that can cause certain diseases in the first place.

It works like this: L-arginine’s antioxidant mechanisms help it to scavenge the free radicals that accelerate telomere aging. With the shortening of telomeres comes faster aging. This in turn can lead to increased susceptibility to age related diseases such as diabetes, Alzeimer’s, dementia and heart disease.

The role of antioxidants in anti aging

The above is not a pretty list, and the very reason why it is SO important to have a regular high intake of antioxidants.

Antioxidants can be from l-arginine; or from other sources such as those found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and other antioxidant rich foods. You will need antioxidants from various sources for best results.

Below is a diagram of how aging affects you at certain stages of your life. You can see that things start to rapidly accelerate as you age, so boosting overall antioxidant intake will help slow this telomere aging down.


skin aging process

Combining Anti Aging Supplements

Using l-arginine with a combination of vitamin C, Omega 3 fatty acids, and other natural anti aging sources will make for an effective all round age defying combination.

You should supplement l-arginine along with regular exercise, which is vital for heart health and to keep muscle mass up, especially as you age. Doing this will bring on  hormonal changes that can help build a more powerful, youthful and toned body.

The role of collagen

L-arginine can also help improve collagen synthesis in the skin. We’ve all heard of the importance of collagen in the aging process.

Collagen declines as we get older, giving the appearance of thinner, less plump skin. Taking supplements that help synthesise this precious collagen from the inside (such as l-arginine) is a very important part of slowing this process down.

Be mindful that most so called collagen infused face creams and beauty products are not able to cross through the skin barrier to be of any use (unless they specifically specify this). Rendering them often an expensive waste of money.

Check also this list of collagen promoting foods to help your body naturally make its own.

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As l-arginine improves the flow of blood, it makes it easier for the body to transport nutrients and oxygen to the muscles and joint tissues. This will have the effect of giving you less aches and pains of any kind, both during and AFTER exercise (especially weight bearing exercise where muscles are more easily torn).

Boost your HGH

The main reason l-arginine is so commonly used in the body building and fitness industry is because of its ability to naturally increase the production of HGH (human growth hormone), along with other amino acids such as l-glutamate, l Proline and creatine.

L-arginine also improves insulin sensitivity. This makes its part in metabolic health important because it may help build lean muscle, fight joint inflammation and pain, repair injured tissue.

It’s also a great soother for the central nervous system.

How much l-arginine do I need to feel the benefits?

The most powerful muscle building effects of l-arginine come when it is combined with exercise, especially weight bearing, gym, circuit training and boxing.

Doses of 5-9 grams per day can increase resting growth levels by a minimum of 100%, and when exercising by up to a whopping 500%.


male fertility

Male Fertility

L-arginine helps blood circulation and the replication of cells, thus helping to improve sperm production and motility. Studies show, combined with other anti inflammatory’s and antioxidants, l-arginine supplements can significantly improve sperm motility without any side effects.

This proves even more true for highly stressed men, because stress lowers l-arginine in the sperm production paths.

Supplementation has also been proven to work more effectively when combined with l-glutamate and Yohimbine Hydrochloride.

Female Fertility

L-arginine can also be beneficial in the treatment of female infertility due to the fact it can actually increase the circulation to the genital tissue in both sexes.

Research suggests that l-arginine and NAC together may help to naturally balance hormones, playing a role in helping to alleviate inbalances of estrogen and PCOS.


Not only does l-arginine supplementation support cardiovascular and kidney health, but it also regulates the immune system by positively affecting immune responses and inflammation.

Many studies support these findings, especially when supplemented along with omega 3 fatty acids and other antioxidants such as Vitamin E and C.

Who can take L-Arginine?

As this amino acid is already made in adequate amounts by the body in a person who eats a healthy diet, no supplementation would ordinarily be required.

However, in those partaking in high amounts of physical activity and looking to cut fat and build muscle, then this could be a helpful supplement. It may give that process the extra edge you are looking for.

We must reiterate again, that we can only find evidence of l-arginine’s usefulness when used either for medical reasons, OR in combination with physical exercise. Both of these situtaions is when the body has a higher demand for amino acids in the rebuilding of torn muscle tissue.

In most other cases you should simply get enough from your diet alone.

6 Highest dietary sources of l-arginine (plant based)

peanuts in shells

  1. Peanuts
  2. Pumpkin Seeds
  3. Soy products
  4. Green algae such as spirulina
  5. Chickpeas
  6. Lentils

How much L-Arginine do I need?

2-3 grams, up to 3 times daily, is the adequate amount that has been studied in trials.

Always buy from reputable companies, and ALWAYS read labels carefully. The last thing you want to do is load your body up with synthetic chemicals, fillers and preservatives.

Definitely do not exceed recommended doses.

We have found some good quality supplements on Amazon that have all the above requirements if you wish to take a look: —>Pure Science L Arginine Capsules<—

Possible side effects

L-arginine is safe for most people when either taken in capsules, powder, administered in a shot, or applied to the skin in appropriate doses.

In clinical settings, l-arginine has been trialed safely with only minor side effects.

It has been proven to be beneficial in those who need it for medical reasons (in which case consult with your doctor first). OR for those who are doing a lot of physical activity and are looking to get into shape, cut fat and build muscle.

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Side effects include:-

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gout
  • Allergies
  • Inflammation of airways
  • Asthma may worsen
  • It may interact with medications that lower blood pressure.

Always consult with your doctor before use.

It is important to understand that these supplements are not intended to treat illness or disease unless under the supervision of a medical expert.
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14 thoughts on “L-Arginine Benefits, Side Effects and Food Sources”

    1. Hi Jalal ok don’t panic, usually the dosage is in grams as it is quite a bulky thing (you can even find it in powder form). In my article I speak of the dosage in grams (there are 1000 milligrams in 1 gram), so you are actually taking a minute amount so definitely not too much.

      I can only presume you have got in some kind of really condensed extracted form which could explain why it is in such tiny amounts. I would just take what it says on the label as it has obviously been worked out correctly. But in my research on L Arginine I didn’t come across it in this form. I would be very happy to look into it more if you want to send me a picture of the labeling.

  1. I actually do intermittent fasting and I really would love to have the benefits of l arginine but my coach says I should not take it before workouts. What do you recommend for people who do intermittent fasting?

    1. Hi Furkan, thanks for reading. I don’t know the specific reasons why your coach has told you not to take it before your workouts as in the research I have done I have found a lot saying you should take it both before (30-60 mins)and also after. Some people have side effects of stomach ache and nausea etc so I presume if you are one of those people then you shouldn’t take it before. Anyway, maybe you could ask your coach and let me know his reasons as I would be intersted, and I want to make sure that I have all the correct information.

      As for intermittent fasting, you would have to tell me more about how often you do this and when. Obviously if you are on a fast then you wouldn’t want to put amino acids into your body (but this may depend how strict the fast is and your reasons for doing it).

      In my research on L Arginine (and I have done quite a lot) I can find no clear answer as to whether it should be taken on an empty stomach or with food, as the true data about what is best is just not available yet. There is an argument for taking it on an empty stomach so it doesn’t have to compete with other amino acids for absorption, and then there is argument saying it should be taken with food as the nutrients in the food will ENHANCE absorption.

      So, I guess you have to experiment with what works best for you, bearing in mind possible side effects.

  2. Very interesting article about L Arginine. All of the information that is needed on this subject is shown here. You had given other uses for this supplement besides body building.

    1. Hi Tony, thanks for reading and yes there are many reasons to use this supplement, including medically, which is an eye opener for most people. Very interesting indeed!

  3. Very interesting and helpful. I’m interested in anything thats anti aging these days. Also keeping up with my health from the inside out. Thank you for this article.

    1. Hi Toni, glad you found this interesting, a lot of people are getting into the healthy thing these days, which is great. Just keep everything natural and you won’t go far wrong.

  4. That’s interesting William, I would be interested to know how you feel it is working for you and if you have any side effects? Thank you for reading.

  5. So many benefits for L-Arginine. If we eat a lot of the food high in this supplement such as eggs and fish, is that sufficient or do we need more? I guess I am curious how much I need to supplement. I eat 2 to 4 eggs a day, I know seems like a lot. Maybe I need to look up how much 1 egg provides.

    1. Hi there, I don’t think you need to worry about your egg intake as they are such a great source of protein and other nutrients and they definitely have a place in a healthy diet. As for L-Arginine, I think you would only need to supplement if you had any of the risk factors or reasons to stated in the post, OR maybe if you workout a lot or are on a vegan diet maybe.

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  7. Pingback: Highest Plant Based Protein Foods List to Meet Your Quota

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