Many people love their physical activity and spend much of their free time in the gym, at the pool, or outdoors. Others are less enthusiastic about the idea of sports and everything that goes with it: exhaustion, fatigue, and injuries. If you count yourself among the second group, this article might be particularly interesting to you.
Arginine is a well known compound in the world of sport supplements. This amino acid can improve physical capabilities in people (especially in people who don’t train), decreasing the sensation of fatigue, and speeding up recovery after exercise. If you want to find out more, keep reading below.
- 1 Key facts
- 2 Ranking: The best arginine supplements on the market
- 2.1 No. 1: Nature’s Bounty – L-Arginine Supplement 1000mg (50 tablets)
- 2.2 No. 2: AllMAX Nutrition – Arginine HCL (400g)
- 2.3 No. 3: Cellulor – NO3 Nitric Oxide Pump Amplifier + Arginine Nitrate (90 capsules)
- 2.4 No. 4: Nutritionn – L-Arginine Premium Amino Acid Supplement (60 capsules)
- 2.5 No. 5: Atman Nutrition Extra Strength – L-Arginine 1300mg Nitric Oxide Booster
- 3 Shopping guide: Everything you should know about arginine
- 3.1 What is L-arginine?
- 3.2 What are the functions of L-arginine?
- 3.3 Why might you have deficient levels of L-arginine?
- 3.4 How does a lack of L-arginine affect my health?
- 3.5 How to increase my levels of L-arginine through diet?
- 3.6 Who might benefit from an L-arginine supplement?
- 3.7 How does my health benefit from increased arginine supplementation?
- 3.8 How will L-arginine help me athletically?
- 3.9 Can L-arginine treat erectile dysfunction?
- 3.10 Can L-arginine improve female sexual health issues?
- 3.11 Can L-arginine improve the look of the skin?
- 3.12 To summarize: what can you expect from L-arginine supplementation?
- 3.13 How to use L-arginine supplements?
- 3.14 Are L-arginine supplements safe?
- 3.15 What warnings to L-arginine supplements come with?
- 3.16 What range of prices can you expect with L-arginine supplements?
- 4 Buying criteria
- 5 Summary
- Arginine is an amino acid necessary in the synthesis of proteins. Furthermore, it is a precursor of the vasodilator compound nitric oxide (NO).
- Vasodilation prompted by arginine not only facilitates healthy muscle function; it is also capable of reducing arterial tension and improving the symptoms of erectile dysfunction
- Arginine supplements are especially useful for people with little training or with specific symptoms, but less effective in young and healthy people.
Ranking: The best arginine supplements on the market
How to choose an arginine supplement? If you don’t want to spend hours looking at different products, it is advised that you to take a look at the below “Ranking of supplements” wherein you will learn about the best arginine products on the market today.
No. 1: Nature’s Bounty – L-Arginine Supplement 1000mg (50 tablets)
Nature’s Bounty is a well respected name in vitamins and supplements, offering a wide range of important vitamins and minerals for athletes and non-athletes. Their arginine supplement comes in 1000mg tablets, with 50 tablets per container. Nature’s bounty arginine supplement is an important protein building block, and an important part of protein synthesis.
Each tablet contains 1000mg of arginine, as well as a number of non-medicinal ingredients, including microcrystalline cellulose, croscarmellose sodium, stearic acid, silica, magnesium stearate and others. Adults are allowed to take one tablet 3-6 times per day, but it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for use longer than 8 weeks.
No. 2: AllMAX Nutrition – Arginine HCL (400g)
AllMAX Nutrition offers a pharmaceutical grade maximum strength and absorption arginine supplement. This product is designed for athletes and weight trainers who are looking to maximize their results and performance through protein synthesis. It is lab tested and certified, providing you with a useful ally at the gym or on the field.
Research done indicates that around 6-9 grams of this powder per day is ideal for maximizing benefits. ALLMAX uses the HCL form of arginine to optimize delivery and and absorption, so you get the most out of the supplement.
No. 3: Cellulor – NO3 Nitric Oxide Pump Amplifier + Arginine Nitrate (90 capsules)
This arginine product is designed for people who are, or would like to be serious about their gym and strength training routines. This is a creatine and stimulant-free pump amplifier that is formulated with arginine to aid protein synthesis and muscle recovery. The aim of this product is increased blood flow to muscles and maximum results.
This arginine supplement is to be taken pre workout, and is designed to give you superior pumps during and after your workout. The arginine component of this supplement is utilized to increase muscle blood flow.
No. 4: Nutritionn – L-Arginine Premium Amino Acid Supplement (60 capsules)
This powerful amino acid supplement helps to improve circulation and blood flow and is a dietary asset for both athletes and those looking for a health boost. Made in the United States and FDA approved, this high quality arginine supplement helps promote improved blood circulation, regulates blood pressure, and is helpful prior to, during, and after physical activity.
Nutritionn offers a 100% satisfaction or your money back guarantee, and stands buy its superior product. Other health benefits associated with this arginine supplement include improved libido, reduced fatigue, and better athletic performance.
No. 5: Atman Nutrition Extra Strength – L-Arginine 1300mg Nitric Oxide Booster
Atman Nutrition’s 1300mg arginine supplement is designed to promote muscle growth, improve libido and vascularity, and increase energy. Efficiently transformed into nitric oxide, this supplement is useful during both physical activity, and in day to day life. All Atman products are made in the U.S. and are approved by FDA and GMP regulations.
Getting the most out of your physical exercise requires ensuring your blood flow and circulation is optimized. Atman’s extra strength arginine supplement helps you take your training, and your day to day energy to the next level.
Shopping guide: Everything you should know about arginine
Arginine is an amino acid of vital importance for any high functioning organism, regulating functions that range from cellular reproduction to the elimination of ammonia. In its active form, L-arginine is used as a dietary supplement in the sports world, where it is used to improve athletic performance.
What is L-arginine?
Arginine (or L-arginine, in its active form) is a molecule that is necessary for the synthesis of proteins. It is considered an amino acid that is “conditionally essential” because it can normally be synthesized from the amino acid citrulline – although during old age and under intense stress it needs to be obtained through diet.
The synthesis and absorption of L-arginine takes place mainly at the intestinal level. Stressful events (accidents, injuries, and sickness) can alter these processes, leading to a situation that can lower the available concentration of this amino acid throughout your body.
Arginine also allows for creation of nitric oxide (whose molecular formula es NO). NO functions as a vasodilator and inasmuch, it is a possible ally against those diseases that are caused by poor blood flow: hypertension, coronary disease, and even erectile dysfunction.
What are the functions of L-arginine?
L-arginine carries out a number of functions, and all of them are of vital importance to the correct functioning of the human organism. You can consult the below table where you will find all of the most important effects of this amino acid according to the different systems and processes of the human body.
|Skin||Cellular division|| Healing of wounds
The creation of new epithelial cells
|Musculoskeletal|| Hormone release (especially growth hormone and insulin)
amino acid synthesis
|Hepatic||Metabolization of urea||Elimination of excess ammonium from the blood|
|Cardiovascular||NO synthesis|| Vasodilation
Reduction of arterial pressure
Increase of muscular perfusion
|digestive system||Amino acid synthesis (glutamine y proline)||Maintenance of the immune system (entertic hemato-barrier)|
|Immune system||Activation of lymphocytes||Immune system activation|
The most recognized function of L-arginine is its role as a precursor of the vasodilator nitric oxide. However, the rest of the functions of this molecule are equally important. This amino acid also has ergogenic properties attributed to it, which is to say, it has the capacity to improve the body’s workload.
Why might you have deficient levels of L-arginine?
Severe arginine deficiency is very rare in nature. The presence of this amino acid in a wide range of foods, and the body’s capacity to create it out of citrulline makes a lack of arginine uncommon. However, it is still possible to identity three types of L-arginine deficiency:
- Severe dietary arginine deficiency: This deficiency only appears in cases of stark malnutrition, in which a person does not consume any solid food for a long period of time.
- An increase in catabolism (destruction) of arginine in the blood: This occurs with certain diseases, such as thalassemia, asthma, malaria, and cystic fibrosis.
- Decrease in the endogenous synthesis of L-arginine: it is possible that the body stops creating arginine from other amino acids. This can happen as a result of the aging process. In this case, L-arginine becomes an essential amino acid (that must be directly obtained through diet, or supplement)
Keep in mind that during pregnancy, the body produces less L-arginine. This inhibits certain immune system functions, which stop the mother’s body from treating her future child as an invasive element in her body. In this way, it allows for the development of the embryo, and the growth of the fetus.
How does a lack of L-arginine affect my health?
A lowering of L-arginine below normal levels can affect the general well-being of a person. In the case of diseases (like asthma) that elevate the rate of destruction of arginine, it will produce more severe symptoms that will take longer to disappear if this amino acid is not supplemented.
On the other hand, a lack of L-arginine will directly affect the ability of your immune system to react. In the medical field, for instance, a loss of secondary arginine because of an injury or accident (e.g. myocardial arrest) has been associated with a reduced chance of healing compared to other patients.
In healthy adults, a deficiency of L-arginine has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular issues, like hypertension, chest angina, or cardiac arrest. On the other hand, a lack of this amino acid might affect the function of testosterone, harming muscular growth and sexual potency.
How to increase my levels of L-arginine through diet?
There are a great many foods that are rich in arginine. Although the highest levels are to be found in animal proteins (meat, eggs, and dairy), this amino acid can also be found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes. The below table provides a list of some of the most common sources of arginine:
|Food||Approximate quantity of arginine (grams)|
|Turkey (medium breast)||16 g|
|Pork ribs (medium portion)||14 g|
|Chicken (medium breast)||9 g|
|Pumpkin seeds (100 grams)||6 g|
|Soy beans (100 grams)||4 g|
|Lentils (100 grams)||1.1 g|
|Garbanzo beans (100 grams, cooked)||1 g|
|Semi-skimmed milk (one glass)||0.2 g|
Although there is no clear recommendation for the daily amount of arginine required, it is estimated that a diet that contains 5.5 grams per day is complete. Omnivorous people will easily reach that amount, while vegans and vegetarians need to watch their diet more to get the required amount.
Who might benefit from an L-arginine supplement?
The majority of healthy individuals are easily able to maintain healthy levels of L-arginine thanks to their diet, or through its synthesis using other amino acids. However, there are some people who would benefit from an extra dose of this substance in the form of a dietary supplement:
- Vegans and vegetarians with unbalanced diets
- Athletes who are prone to injury
- Those who have started new exercise routines
- Young and middle-aged men who suffer from erectile dysfunction
- Women with sexual problems (inability to orgasm or lack of lubrication)
- People under physical and psychological stress
- People diagnosed with pre hypertension or who are at elevated risk of developing hypertension
- People with elevated levels with bad cholesterol
- The elderly, especially if they suffer from arteriosclerosis o other cardiovascular risk factors.
- Convalescent people (especially because of traffic accidents, burns, and other serious injuries
- People suffering from intestinal problems and malabsorption
This amino acid can also be useful for anyone who wants to combat the effects of “oxidative stress” (the main phenomenon responsible for the aging process). This presumed function of L-arginine is still under study and needs to be proven in clinical trials before it can be more useful.
How does my health benefit from increased arginine supplementation?
A range of studies have proven that L-arginine, as a precursor of nitric oxide, is capable of improving vasodilation in the cardiovascular system that can decrease arterial blood pressure. In this way, supplementation with L-arginine improves the health of people with the following cardiovascular risk factors:
- Arterial hypertension: Supplementation with L-arginine moderately reduces medium arterial tension (between three and five points). People considered “pre hypertensive” (for whom the adoption of healthy daily habits is highly recommended), can help control their arterial pressure by taking this supplement.
- Obesity and hipercolesterolemia: Obesity and high LDL cholesterol are associated with high blood concentrations of homocysteine and ADMA, two chemical compounds associated with poor cardiovascular health. Using L-arginine reduces the levels of these two substances and decreases coronary risk.
- Diabetes: Poorly controlled diabetes accelerates oxidative stress, harming blood vessels causing the formation of cholesterol plaques in the arteries. Although L-arginine is not able to improve the body’s tolerance of glucose, it does help combat oxidation and premature arterial aging.
Pregnant women with preeclampsia (a disease that is potentially deadly that manifests as increased arterial pressure during gestation) all benefit from L-arginine. Due to the danger this disease poses, it is recommended that any supplements are prescribed and administered by a medical professional.
In healthy people, with normal arterial pressure and normal levels of healthy cholesterol, L-arginine supplementation has not been observed to protect against cardiac disease. Healthy individuals would benefit more from adopting a healthy lifestyle (Mediterranean diet, exercise, the avoidance of drugs and alcohol).
How will L-arginine help me athletically?
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the use of L-arginine in the sporting world. While many fitness enthusiasts recommend this amino acid as a miracle compound, able to improve athletic performance and physical fitness, others consider it a waste of money. Who is right?
- L-arginine with athletes: There are various studies that don’t find any relationship between L-arginine intake and athletic performance in healthy, young, athletic men. In other clinical papers an increase in aerobic resistance and post-training recovery was observed.
- L-arginine in non-athletes: The intake of L-arginine before beginning a training regimen seems to improve physical capacity and recovery time in people unaccustomed to physical activity.
- L-arginine and its relationship with age: Young men (16-35 years old) don’t appear to benefit much from this supplement as do people in other demographics. However, in older people (60 years and older) a positive effect has been observed in muscle blood flow and in aerobic exercise capacity.
- L-arginine and physical changes: This supplement produces temporary changes in the body’s musculature. By improving blood flow to the muscles, it is possible to observe dilated blood vessels and larger muscles (the “pump” effect) during the hours immediately following consumption.
- L-arginine and changes in body composition: Supplementation with L-arginine is not directly associated with a decrease in body fat, nor with significant weight loss. However, an increase in physical resistance will allow for more physical activity that, as a result, will stimulate weight loss.
- L-arginine and recovery: In various studies, it has been observed that this supplement is capable of increasing the speed at which the body eliminates lactic acid (an indicator of muscle exhaustion) from the blood. It also seems to accelerate muscle regeneration after injuries.
In conclusion, L-arginine has a positive effect on training among people who are less used to physical exercise and who are interested in starting a new exercise routine. Fitness aficionados can use this supplement to speed up recovery after an injury, or after an especially intense training session.
Can L-arginine treat erectile dysfunction?
The term “erectile dysfunction” refers to the difficulty or impossibility of achieving a strong and long enough erection to have full and pleasurable sex. Although it most commonly affects older men (40 years-of-age and older), it can affect men of all ages.
Under normal conditions, vasodilation of the blood vessels of the penis is necessary in order to achieve an erection. The pharmaceuticals that are used to treat erectile dysfunction (like Cialis or Viagra) promote the synthesis of the vasodilator nitric oxide, which allows for an erection.
L-arginine, a compound that also facilitates the synthesis of nitric oxide, has been utilized as a treatment for mild erectile dysfunction in some studies. Combined with other compounds like Pycnogenol or Yohimbine, this amino acid seems to be able to improve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
Can L-arginine improve female sexual health issues?
The feminine anatomy responds to sexual stimuli in a way that is similar to that of men. In women, increased blood flow to the genital region (caused by vasodilation) promotes an increase in libido and allows women to reach orgasm easier. The use of nitric oxide precursors help promote this vasodilation.
After testing the combination of L-arginine and Pycnogenol in women of reproductive age, it has been confirmed that these supplements also improve the sexual health of female subjects. Compared to other medical treatments aimed at improving feminine libido, however, the combination of L-arginine and Pycnogenol does not produce side effects.
Can L-arginine improve the look of the skin?
L-arginine promotes the creation of new cells and the increase of blood flow. As a consequence, it accelerates healing and the scarring of wounds. What’s more, the users of this amino acid report an improved skin, hair, and fingernail texture after one month of supplementation.
However, these benefits are associated with ingesting the L-arginine supplement. Although many cosmetic companies have started to produce different products with this amino acid as an ingredient, it has not been demonstrated that topical application of L-arginine produces any improvement in skin appearance.
To summarize: what can you expect from L-arginine supplementation?
Whatever your reasons for using L-arginine supplements, after one month of continuous use you will notice a general improvement in your mental and psychological well-being. In a survey of the effects of L-arginine, people who used this supplement for four weeks indicated the following findings:
- Increase in concentration capacity
- Increased ability to memorize information
- Reduction in feelings of mental fatigue
- Reduction in nervousness and anxiousness
- Improved tolerance of physical stress
- Better quality of sleep, with less disturbances throughout the night
- Increase in energy, especially after waking up
- A general improvement in mood
- Increased physical performance
- Reverse of physical exhaustion
- In men, increased sexual capacity
- In general, a feeling of subjective well-being
These results seem to indicate that L-arginine is useful far beyond gyms and sports centres. Supplementation with this amino acid, especially during periods of physical and psychological stress, can help maintain a good quality of life both in sedentary people and athletes.
How to use L-arginine supplements?
L-arginine supplements can be administered in different ways depending on the desired effect. In general terms, it is advised to ingest between three to five grams per day, preferably accompanied by food. Below, you can see a table that contains much more specific information:
|Improve performance (in the moment)||3 grams /day||30 minutes before training (training days)|
|Improve performance (daily training and high intensity)||3-6 grams /day||30 minutes before training|
|Treatment of erectile dysfunction||5-6 grams/day|| 1-2 hours before sexual relations
or before going to bed
|Improving the feminine libido||5-6 grams/day||1-2 before sexual relations|
|Increase quality of life (reduction of arterial pressure, prevention of aging, and improving skin texture)||1 gram/day||Take with any of the daily meals|
|Dietary supplement for vegans and vegetarians||1 gram/day||Take with any of the daily meals|
In conclusion, supplementation with L-arginine should be adjusted in accordance with the objectives and individual characteristics of each person. After four weeks of use, you should re evaluate its effectiveness and decrease or increase the dosage according to the ever-changing needs of your body.
Are L-arginine supplements safe?
L-arginine has been used for years as a supplement. In the majority of people, it is considered safe for consumption, including at high doses (30 grams/day). If more than the recommended dose is ingested, gastrointestinal disturbances can occur, but they disappear as you decrease the amount of supplement you take.
On the other hand, people with generally low arterial pressure (equal to or less than 110/70 mmHg) should take special care when using this supplement. Its vasodilator properties can decrease arterial tension rates even more, creating dizziness and feelings of weakness.
Another complication that can be associated with taking L-arginine is the recurrence or reappearance of oral herpes or “cold sores.” Some experts have observed spikes in this virus in people who recently began supplementation with this amino acid. Oral herpes, although very bothersome, is not dangerous for the majority of people.
What warnings to L-arginine supplements come with?
In spite of the general safety of L-arginine, the close relationship between this amino acid and nitric oxide implies a series of usage warnings and precautions. These recommendations affect very specific groups which should consider the risk-benefit relationship before taking any supplement:
- Pregnancy and lactation: Although L-arginine can be used as a treatment for preeclampsia, it is recommended not to use it without the explicit consent of a doctor during pregnancy and lactation.
- Under 18 years-old: L-arginine is considered safe for adults. However, in children, a high dose can cause serious side effects, including death. That it why it is not recommended to take this substance outside of a medical setting.
- Asthma or allergies that affect the airway: In asthmatic people or those predisposed to suffer from angioedema (generalized swelling of the skin and mucous membranes, capable of producing asphyxiation if it happens at the top of the throat) the use of this supplement can cause new allergic reactions. Precaution is recommended during consumption.
- Cirrhosis or liver disease: Generally, people affected by liver disease should consult a specialist before taking any supplement, especially if it has a high amino acid content.
- Specific enzyme deficiencies: There are individuals with genetic mutations that prohibit them from taking advantage of and utilizing L-arginine. Supplementation is not recommended for these people.
- Cardiovascular pathology (especially those with a history of heart attack): Although L-arginine can decrease the cardiovascular risk in people who are at risk, it can be more harmful than beneficial in people recovering from cardiac arrest. Its use is not recommended without previous medical authorization.
- Renal disease: People with kidney issues can have problems regulating electrolyte levels in their blood (especially sodium and potassium). L-arginine can raise potassium levels in these people, resulting in a dangerous imbalance. L-arginine supplementation is not recommended for these people.
- Diabetes: L-arginine can affect certain people’s ability to control their diabetes. It is recommended that they track their glucose levels more carefully during supplementation with this amino acid.
A study in 2013 evaluated the effects of l-arginine supplementation over a long period of time. It concluded that this amino acid loses its effectiveness and increases oxidative stress with continued use. It could be a good idea to limit supplementation to short periods of time (before exercise or sexual activity).
What range of prices can you expect with L-arginine supplements?
The price of L-arginine will depend on its format and on the extra elements and are included in the supplement. That is why the cost of this product is highly variable, ranging between 13.57-52.79 CAD per container. Fortunately, this is a very popular product and you will be able to find great offers that are easy on your wallet.
Higher-priced items will offer, in general, innovative products (like AAKG, another form of L-arginine that includes a compound necessary for energy generation in the body), or come combined with other substances – Pycnogenol and vitamins B6, B12, and B9 being the most popular.
L-arginine is a safe and effective product if you use it carefully. However, its popularity has promoted the creation of products whose quality is less than acceptable. To get the most out of this amino acid, it is recommended that you use the below buying criteria when it comes time to purchase your new supplement:
- Drug interactions
- Vegan or vegetarian nutritional information
- Type of format
- Quality-price relationship
L-arginine is liable to interact with the primary ingredients in pharmaceuticals that are used by a large number of people. The majority of these medications are antihypertensive drugs, whose potency would be greatly increased by the vasodilation action of nitric oxide.
This is why you should consult your doctor before taking this amino acid if you are already taking antihypertensive medication. It might be necessary to decrease the dose of the supplement or your medication in order to avoid any complications. Nitrates (antianginal treatment) and sildenafil can also cause interactions.
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Vegan or vegetarian nutritional information
Although animal products are the richest source of this amino acid, there are arginine supplements made especially for vegetarian or vegan consumers. These are made using dried fruit, legumes, or algaes (like spirulina) and are free of animal products.
Allergic reactions to L-arginine have been described. As a precaution, it is recommended that you immediately cease using this amino acid if you experience, either immediately or hours after, vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal pain, difficulty breathing, muscle pain or cramps. Fortunately these reactions are uncommon.
On the other hand, people who are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, or cannot tolerate dried fruit, fish, or soy should carefully examine the label of their L-arginine supplement before deciding on one. Depending on the manufacturing conditions, there might be one or more allergens.
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L-arginine supplements can come in various different forms. Leaving aside injectable L-arginine (which is only available in a medical or hospital setting), this amino acid comes in different formats that will affect your final experience with the product
- Tablets and pills: This format allows for comfortable and fast supplementation. Generally, the containers for this type of supplement are small and easy to carry. The disadvantage is that it is difficult to modify and personalize the dose
- Powder: L-arginine powder allows you more freedom to adjust the dose. Supplement fans will enjoy this format. Others, however, might be bothered by having to mix and measure this style of supplement.
- Creams, shampoos, serums, and conditioners: Since L-arginine is considered to have regenerative properties for the skin and hair, some cosmetic companies have created topical products that use this amino acid. It’s effectiveness is highly disputed
L-arginine supplements are also sold combined with the compound “alpha ketoglutarate”, labelled under the acronym AAKG (Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate)
Although L-arginine is safe, even at high doses, some studies have found a worrying relationship between higher than recommended doses of L-arginine and secondary brain damage due to extreme increases in NO levels. Choose supplements that don’t exceed the recommended daily dose of 6 grams/day.
If you want to make an intelligent purchase, choose products that contain doses within the recommended range (3-6 grams per day). Additionally, consider whether the addition of other elements that raise the price of the supplement will actually benefit you (e.g. L-arginine combined with pycnogenol for the treatment of ED).
Including an L-arginine supplement in your regular diet might just give you the push you need to take up your old exercise routine, or to start a new, more intensive one. Taking it at the moment of physical or psychological stress will help you better get through difficult moments with more energy and vitality.
While it is possible that L-arginine will not help you win your next fitness competition. it is able to improve your general health by helping control your cholesterol, combating heightened arterial tension and premature aging. So what is stopping you from giving it a try?
If you liked this guide to L-arginine, share the article, and don’t hesitate to mention any doubts, or leave suggestions and comments.
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