L-arginine is a semi-essential amino acid. This means that it is not required in a healthy diet.
It is produced in humans, and supplementation is sometimes beneficial, especially for athletes and bodybuilders.
Food sources of L-arginine include whole wheat, nuts, seeds, poultry, dairy products, red meat, and fish.
The benefits of L-arginine are mostly from its roles in protein synthesis and serving as a precursor to nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator.
L-arginine is important for cellular functions, muscle mass development, and in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
There is a collective mix-up among the bodybuilding communities, that nitric oxide is a hormone when it is actually an amino acid that may double and act as a hormone when impacting the human body.
Arginine is an amino acid that is necessary in order for an individual to manufacture nitric oxide.
Uses of L-Arginine
L-arginine is used for some complications of diabetes, including peripheral neuropathy. It is also used for asthma, burns, chest pain, coronary artery disease, and cognitive function.
L-arginine converts into nitric oxide in the body, and nitric oxide, in turn, promotes vasodilation, which is characterized by the widening of the blood vessels and arteries.
Since L-arginine helps trigger vasodilation, it is often used for vascular and cardiovascular conditions like Heart disease, Atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, Angina or chest pain, Peripheral vascular disease, and Migraine headaches.
L-Arginine for Bodybuilding
L-arginine contributes to muscle growth, being that it is needed for the synthesis of most proteins.
While the muscle mass increases, L-arginine signals to muscle cells, encouraging the release of growth hormone and promoting fat metabolism.
The overall result is the well-toned, lean muscle mass. Thus, by reducing the fat stores underneath the skin and promoting muscle growth, L-arginine can increase your fitness and improve strength, which is needed for bodybuilding.
Furthermore, as a vasodilator, Nitric Oxide increases the flow of oxygen, glucose and other nutrients through the circulatory system.
This helps to improve the supply of nutrients needed for muscle growth as well as improving athletic performance and workout efficiency.
Bodybuilders can also take L-Arginine to reduce fatigue during intense exercise by increasing oxygen uptake into muscles. L-arginine is also said to support better muscle pumps.
Vasodilation and Endurance
Increased strength through building muscle mass is not the only benefit L-arginine offers to bodybuilders.
By serving as a precursor for nitric oxide, L-arginine promotes endurance and muscle conditioning.
When nitric oxide is released, it widens the blood vessels by relaxing the muscles of their walls, thus, lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow to the muscles during workouts.
This increased blood flow means that oxygen and nutrients are also effectively supplied to the muscles and for a longer duration of time.
This helps reduces muscle damage, promote healing, and provide peak performance.
Supplementation for Body Builders
There is no standard L-arginine dosage for bodybuilding, but a dose range of 2 to 30 g daily can be tolerated.
However, to reduce the occurrence of side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and weakness, it is recommended that you should start with a low dose of 3 to 5 g daily, taken before and after workouts.
After the initial week, the dosage is increased to a point where the benefits are maximized and the side effects are reduced.
L-arginine supplements should also be taken in cycles of two months.
This means that you will discontinue the regimen after two months and resume it after another two months.
Side Effects of L-Arginine
L-arginine may lower blood pressure since it is involved in the formation of nitric oxide. It may also lead to indigestion, nausea, and headache.
If you have a history of heart disease, consult your doctor before taking L-arginine, and it should not be used following a heart attack.
People with kidney disease and those who take ACE inhibitors or potassium-sparing diuretics should not use supplemental L-arginine unless they are under professional supervision, because, it may alter potassium levels, especially in people with liver disease.
L-Arginine may also alter the levels of other chemicals and electrolytes in the body, such as chloride, sodium, and phosphate.
There is the possibility for arginine to increase blood sugar levels, so it should not be used by people with diabetes unless under a doctor’s supervision.
Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children should not use supplemental L-arginine, as its safety has not been established.
People with herpes should not take L-arginine because it may aggravate their symptoms.
There is the tendency that L-arginine may counteract the benefits of lysine to treat herpes. Furthermore, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or other drugs that are hard on the stomach should not be used in combination with L-arginine.