Arginine, or l-arginine, is an amino acid naturally occurring in meats, fish and dairy. You can also take arginine supplements for conditions such as post-surgical recovery, hypertension and preeclampsia. Because arginine helps your body make protein and may increase blood flow to muscle fibers by raising nitric oxide levels, bodybuilders often consume l-arginine prior to workouts. Active strength-training enthusiasts may also take whey protein supplements to facilitate recovery and muscle growth. Whey and arginine don't have any harmful interactions, so they can be together. However, arginine has the potential to cause side effects in some people, so you should check with your doctor before taking it.
If you take the trouble and expense of adding whey or arginine to your workout nutrition regimen you want their effects to be maximized. Taking whey protein around the time of your strength-training workout can help enhance your ability to build lean muscle mass, notes the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Consuming 3 to 5 grams of arginine prior to a workout may further increase muscle gain. Arginine's ability to increase blood flow and nitric oxide helps facilitate the delivery of oxygen, other amino acids, testosterone and growth hormone to your muscles, notes Dwayne Jackson, PhD, and Jim Stoppani, PhD, in "Muscle and Fitness." A study in the 2010 issue of “Amino Acids” notes that l-arginine holds great promise in being able to reduce body fat while increasing lean muscle mass and improving the metabolism of humans and animals.
Arginine and Whey
Arginine has no known food interactions. In fact, most whey protein formulas contain arginine. The National Institutes of Health notes that arginine can cause an interaction when taken with xylitol, a sugar alcohol sometimes included in whey protein supplement drinks and bars. Arginine helps the body release a hormone known as glucagon which can help prevent your blood sugar from dropping to very low levels. Xylitol taken with arginine can inhibit the production of glucagon, which means you may run out of energy during exercise. It could also lead to symptoms including dizziness and weakness, which prevents maximum lifts and muscle growth.
You should take arginine prior to a strength-training workout because it can increase the availability of the hormones and amino acids you need during your workout, recommend Stoppani and Jackson. You may take a serving of whey prior to a workout as well so your body has access to the branched-chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine, that stimulate muscle protein synthesis as soon as your muscles start to break down during heavy lifting, as noted by the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Whey protein may also be taken immediately after a strength-training session to facilitate recovery.
Arginine can pose some dangers, whether or not it is taken with whey. Do not take l-arginine supplements if you are on high blood pressure medications – it could lower your blood pressure to dangerous levels. You should avoid arginine if you are pregnant or breast feeding. In sensitive people, arginine can cause an allergic reaction. If you suffer from herpes, arginine may cause the virus to multiply faster than usual. You should also avoid arginine if you recently had a heart attack, as it could increase your risk of death.