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 so 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, and is found naturally in dairy products, red meat, fish, poultry and eggs. It 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 that 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.
1. ANTI AGING
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, in turn leading 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. These can be from l-arginine, or from other sources such as those found in fresh fruits, vegetables and other antioxidant rich foods. But, you will need antioxidants fro 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.
Combining Ant 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 – it declines as we get older, giving the appearance of thinner, less plump skin (yikes). 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.
2. BOOSTS PERFORMANCE WHILST EXERCISING
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).
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.
This important amino acid also improves insulin sensitivity. This makes its part in metabolic health important as it may help build lean muscle, fight joint inflammation and pain, repair injured tissue; and is also a great soother for the central nervous system.
How much 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 500%.
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.
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.
4. STRONGER IMMUNE SYSTEM
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.
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 in that process and may give you that extra edge you are looking for.
I must reiterate again, that I can only find evidence of l-arginine’s usefulness when used either for medical reasons, OR in combination with physical exercise 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.
7 Highest Dietary Sources of L-Arginine (Plant based)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Soy products
- Green algae such as spirulina
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.
I 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 and 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.
Side effects include bloating, diarrhea, gout, allergies, inflammation of airways, asthma may worsen. It may interact with medications that lower blood pressure.
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