L-Arginine & Pycnogenol

L-Arginine and pycnogenol have become relevant dietary supplements because of their effect on nitric oxide, NO, production in the human body. NO was named the "molecule of the year" in 1992 by "Science" magazine because of its many important functions in the human body. In fact, the scientists who discovered NO's function in the cardiovascular system won the Nobel Prize for medicine/physiology. Always consult with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements.

L-arginine and pycnogenol are dietary supplements with many possible practical applications. (Image: chonrawit/iStock/Getty Images)

Significance

Nitric oxide regulates blood pressure, transmits messages from nerve cells, aids the immune system and contributes to the function of many other organ systems, according to "Everything You Need to NO" by Jordana Brown. Increasing NO production may enhance athletic performance, speed up weight loss, provide an alternative to pharmaceutical erectile dysfunction medication and promote lower blood pressure.

Identification

L-Arginine is one of the amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, and it comes from foods such as fish, almonds and dark chocolate. Considered an essential amino acid, more so for children than adults, arginine acts as an NO precursor in the body. Supplemental forms of arginine inlcude L-arginine base, arginine malate, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate and arginine ethyl ester.

Pycnogenol is an extract of French maritime pine tree bark and it contains natural antioxidants called anthocyanins, which may improve your results when taking the amino acid L-arginine, according to "Supplements 101" by Jim Stoppani PhD.

Function

Once arginine gets absorbed by the intestines, it travels into the bloodstream, where it can convert into NO. However, this chemical reaction requires an enzyme known as NOS, or nitric oxide synthase. Therefore, NOS acts as a limiting factor on the amount of arginine that can convert into NO. Taking pycnogenol increases the activity and amount of NOS available to catalyze the conversion. As a potent antioxidant, pycnogenol can also help to fight free radicals that cause disease and aging. Arginine may also increase the secretion of HGH, human growth hormone, from the pituitary gland, says "Amino Action" by Steven Stiefel.

Benefits

Increasing NO production dilates blood vessels, expanding them and allowing more blood flow to the body's extremities. For athletes, weight lifters and fitness enthusiasts, this means more energy, better nutrient delivery to working muscles and more endurance. Dieters can benefit from the increased fat burning and higher levels of HGH, which acts as a potent fat burner, according to "Natural Anabolics" by Jerry Brainum. Taking L-arginine and pycnogenol may also support healthy blood pressure and heart function.

Recommendations

Brown recommends taking 3 g to 5 g of L-arginine, up to three times daily. Optimal times to take arginine include upon waking, before or after a workout and before bed. Arginine works best when taken on an empty stomach. Stoppani recommends a higher, 7 g to 10 g dosage of arginine for increasing HGH production, preferably taken before bed. To increase the amount of arginine converted to NO, take 50 mg to 100 mg of pycnogenol, along with your L-arginine. As an alternative to erectile dysfunction medicine, take arginine and pycnogenol 30 to 60 minutes before sexual activity.

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