L-arginine is an amino acid that plays an essential role in building protein within the muscles. On top of this, the body uses L-arginine to release nitric oxide into the bloodstream.
Nitric oxide widens blood vessels and can be beneficial for certain conditions that involve the circulatory system. Under normal circumstances, your body can produce sufficient amounts of L-arginine. You can also get L-arginine from eating a regular, well-balanced diet.
6 Potential Benefits of L-Arginine
- Aids Muscle Recovery
- Improves Endurance
- Improves Blood Flow
- Increases Vascularity
- Increases Hormone Levels
- Boosts Nitric Oxide Levels
Foods that contain high doses of L-arginine include eggs, dairy, fish, and red meat. Also, plant-based proteins, such as chickpeas, are a great source of L-arginine, although the best source of L-arginine comes from meat and dairy products.
L-Arginine for Strength and Muscle Growth
L-arginine triggers nitric oxide, which enables the body to deliver essential nutrients to muscles and remove waste products. A study conducted by researchers at Syracuse University found that L-arginine can also increase hormone levels in the blood.
If you supplement with L-arginine, you may experience an increase in the volume of blood within your muscles as you recover from resistance training exercise. However, the study found no increase in strength performance, and researchers now consider it premature to recommend L-arginine to increase strength during resistance training.
L-arginine isn’t as effective as creatine when it comes to building muscle, and a potential reason for this is that your body regulates the amount of arginine it can absorb at once.
L-Arginine and Nitric Oxide
L-arginine was the first supplement regarded as a nitric oxide booster. Studies show that elevated levels of nitric oxide can help during exercise since nitric oxide improves blood flow and results in better anaerobic and aerobic endurance.
Surprisingly, research shows that taking citrulline instead of arginine leads to more consistent and more elevated levels of arginine than taking arginine itself. Agmatine is another supplement that is said to boost nitric oxide; however, at present, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that taking agmatine leads to an increase in nitric oxide levels or is more effective than L-arginine.
Safety and Side Effects
It’s difficult to consume too much L-arginine by eating food alone. High doses of L-arginine, however, have been known to cause nausea and stomach discomfort.
Also, in cases where people have the herpes simplex virus or cold sores, arginine can exacerbate the virus and make symptoms worse. If you have herpes or cold sores, you should reduce your arginine levels and increase your intake of lysine to combat the virus.
There is no set recommended dose for L-arginine. Although one of the most popular dose amounts is 2-3 grams of L-arginine three times per day.
Effectiveness of L-Arginine
For the most part, getting your amino acids from your diet is better than taking supplements. Citrulline is a much better alternative to arginine if you want to boost your nitric oxide levels and increase your muscle pumps. Citrulline is also safe, and, if taken in high doses, leads to less gastrointestinal upset than arginine.
Outside of supplements, you can obtain nitrates from foods such as beets and leafy greens to improve exercise performance. If you want a reliable way to boost your nitric oxide levels, it’s better to eat nitrate-rich foods before a workout.