L-Arginine Food Sources and Dietary Intake Recommendations

Arginine is a type of amino acid that are the building blocks of protein. Proteins are digested into amino acids and then absorbed into the body.

Our body can make amino acids on its own, but amino acids, considered as essential amino acids, must come from the food you eat.

Most amino acids fall into one of the essential or nonessential amino acids.

Categories of Amino Acids:


Our body can produce these in sufficient amounts to meet the body’s needs.

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Our body cannot produce these, so we need to get them from foods.


These amino acids are not essential under normal circumstances but maybe in certain situations. As in the case of L-arginine, or arginine, which is essential for children, and only conditionally essential for adults.

Our body can also make arginine in addition to getting it from food sources, so deficiencies are uncommon.

Arginine, as an amino acid, serves as a precursor to nitric oxide (NO). It helps reduce healing time of injuries and damaged tissues, especially bone injuries, as it increases collagen.

It is a popular supplement among bodybuilders, for weightlifting and increased muscle mass.

It is also used as a sexual health supplement to support erectile function, libido, and stamina.

L-arginine is normally obtained through diet from a number of healthy foods, but if you are injured from burns, broken bones and damaged tissues, eating more Arginine-rich foods and supplements may be required.

How Much Arginine Do you Need?

While healthy adults can generally make enough arginine to prevent the risk of deficiency, there are situations in which metabolic needs may be increased due to sickness, stress or other factors.

Research has shown significant health benefits from consuming supplemental amounts of L-Arginine either from foods or from dietary supplements.

As a supplement, it is typically taken in doses of between 3-6 grams. This dose may be repeated up to three times daily for an effective daily dosage of 9-15 g.

However, the FDA has not yet established a recommended daily intake for this compound, but amounts, greater than 10 g per day are linked to increased likelihood of gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea.

Functions of Arginine

Here is what arginine does to the body:

  • creates nitric oxide, which widens and relaxes arteries and blood vessels, improving blood flow in the process
  • speed up healing of injuries
  • helps kidneys in removing waste, and
  • boosts immune system functions

This long-ignored nutrient speeds protein synthesis, helping build muscle and converts into nitric oxide (NO) in the body. NO enables blood vessels to open, and with that, a range of positive effects.

Information according to the National Institutes of Health, suggests that arginine may be effective for treating erectile dysfunction, lowering high blood pressure, improving wound healing and soothing the symptoms of angina.

Nowadays, people take arginine as a dietary supplement to help manage heart disease, angina, and erectile dysfunction, as well as for bodybuilding, healing wounds, and repairing damaged tissues.

L-Arginine Food Sources

Arginine food sources are rich in protein, and include both plant and animal products.

Best Animal Sources

Since healthy adults don’t need to obtain arginine through their diet, a recommended daily intake has not been established, but you can get a high amount of arginine from protein-rich foods, including pork, beef, and chicken, turkey and dairy products.

The top choices for seafood include tuna, salmon, halibut, canned anchovies, trout, and tilapia.

Top Plant-Based Sources

A variety of plant-based foods provide arginine, and the best choices include soybeans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts and walnuts.

Grains such as quinoa, oats and wheat germ deliver arginine, as do a variety of ready-to-eat cereals made from oats, rice and wheat, and you can also get it from sweet green peppers and the seaweed spirulina.


Daily protein requirements have been recognized at 46 grams and 56 grams per day for women and men respectively. A target protein intake of 1.5 g per kg of body weight based on your goal weight is usual.

Bodybuilders will naturally take much higher amounts when engaging in a weight lifting program to gain or retain muscle mass.

These food sources should be eaten two hours away from Lysine rich foods, since such foods can interfere with the benefits of arginine.

Grant Philips

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