L-arginine, also known as arginine, is considered a semi-essential amino acid necessary for a number of bodily functions. Although the human body generally produces adequate amounts, supplementation is often needed for individuals with certain conditions. Those suffering from protein malnutrition, excessive ammonia production, infection, as well as pregnant women and children going through growth stages, can all benefit from outside sources of this valuable amino acid. L-arginine is also very popular among people who workout because of its ability to increase strength, endurance, and reduce fatigue during training.
Due to L-arginine's ability to increase nitric oxide production and blood flow to the muscles, it is a favorite supplement among bodybuilders and a staple ingredient in many pre-workout drinks. Jerry Brainum, author of "Natural Anabolics," recommends ingesting 1.5 g of arginine one hour prior to working out in order to boost NO production and reduce metabolic fatigue. As a supplement, L-arginine can be taken in powder, capsule, tablet or liquid form. According to Brainum, pairing it with grape seed extract will also promote a greater release of nitric oxide. L-arginine should be taken on an empty stomach for best results. This eliminates the need for it to compete with other amino acids for absorption in the small intestine, which is the main transport system for absorbing amino acids.
Supplementing with L-arginine before working out can produce several benefits during training sessions. L-arginine is converted into nitric oxide, an important chemical in the body which plays a major role in blood vessel dilation, blood pressure regulation, hormone release and numerous other processes. Due to this increased blood flow, more oxygen is able to reach the muscles. This allows for better delivery of nutrients and reduces fatigue during training. L-arginine also helps reduce recovery time and has been endorsed for being the most potent amino acid in promoting the release of growth hormone.
There are several food sources which contain high amounts of this beneficial amino acid. A high level of arginine is found in plant products such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, sesame, sunflower seeds, brown rice, almonds, barley, oats and peanuts. Other sources include chicken, chocolate, raisins and dairy products.
Possible Side Effects
L-arginine is usually well tolerated by most people, but you should always consult a health professional before adding to your diet. Potential side effects may include stomach discomfort, nausea or stomach cramps. People suffering from asthma may experience a worsening of symptoms, so be sure to talk to your doctor about potential medication interactions.