What is L-arginine?
Simply put, L-arginine is categorized as an amino acid, which aids the body in producing proteins.
This protein, is then employed by the body to enhance muscle growth and rebuild tissue. In addition to producing proteins, a key function of L-arginine is to release nitric oxide in the blood.
However, L-arginine is a semi essential amino acid, since our bodies are able to produce it.
This means that its production isn't vital for a healthy diet. For athletes and bodybuilders, however, its supplementation often proves to be beneficial for mass muscle development.
You might have not realized by now, but you are already consuming arginine from your regular food sources: whole wheat, poultry, red meat, fish, dairy products, nuts, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and soybeans.
Bodybuilders, on the other hand, take it as a supplement, which is why monitoring its dosage is very important.
How does it help in Muscle Growth?
Bodybuilders are always in need of protein, and that is exactly what this chemical does i.e. produce protein for your body.
This explains its acclamation and acceptance among the bodybuilders.
While one way to get this amino acid naturally is to increase intake of food sources that are rich in Arginine, supplements are another way to increase protein synthesis in your body.
Research suggests that L Arginine is responsible for enhancing metabolism, increasing the production of growth hormones, ultimately increasing the muscle mass.
Fat stored under your skin is reduced, which increases your body's strength and fitness level.
As discussed earlier, L Arginine is a precursor for the production of nitric oxide.
Once nitric oxide is released in your blood, muscles relax, allowing blood vessels to widen.
Since the blood can easily pass through the blood vessels now, your blood pressure decreases, increasing blood flow to the muscles at the same time.
This is known as vasodilation, This way, your muscles get the required nutrients and oxygen supply for the workout.
Vasodilation also results in haemodynamic changes.
This along with an increased total blood vessel density helps facilitate a greater muscle pump, which in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger is better than an orgasm.
Experiments and model studies on animals have also revealed that when given L arginine in controlled amounts, result in greater rates of angiogenesis, i.e. blood vessel production from existing blood vessels)
Another unknown benefit of arginine consumption among athletes is that it aids in discontinuation of steroids which they might have been taking previously.
Since steroids lead to hypertension and accumulation of cholesterol in blood vessels, arginine has proved to reverse these conditions among athletes and bodybuilders.
Instructors believe that timing plays a critical role when it comes to how L arginine affects your workout routine.
Better workout performance calls for high nitric oxide levels in the body, enhanced endurance and increased muscle pumping. For this, it is advised that you take L Arginine approximately a half an hour prior to your workout.
Another great time to take your L Arginine dose would be after you've exercised.
This is because your body has a tendency to tire out, which results in fatigue and sore muscles.
Workout followed by a regular dose of Arginine ensures that your muscles get more than adequate oxygen and nutrients supply to match your workout intensity, helping in minimizing sore muscles and fatigue.
L Arginine benefits athletes in training harder, staying within safety limits by reducing the recovery and exhaustion period that follows strenuous exercise.
How much Dosage Should I be taking?
L- Arginine doesn't come with a standard dosage, which gives us the leverage to increase or decrease its dosage as per our requirement. Anywhere between 2-18 grams is safe for human consumption.
However, it is medically advised that you increase its intake slowly, seeing for any side effects that may result as your body's reaction to it.
Initially, you can start with 5-6 grams of the supplement, increasing it slowly with the intensity of the workout.
Does it Actually Help with Bodybuilding?
A 2007 research studied the impacts of 3g L-arginine per day in a sample of 20 males, compared to a control group who were given 1g L-arginine and 1g Vitamin C and a third group who were given 1g Vitamin C solely.
This supplement plan alongside a lower limb weight training program, that continued for 8 weeks.
When results were analyzed, it was seen that lowest fat percentage and greatest bodyweight and lean mass was observed for the L arginine group.
That group also reported to have better and improved leg muscle strength.
A supporting theory also reinforced the hypothesis that a 3 g dose of L arginine provides significant resistance against fatigue and tiredness.
However, more recent studies (1) have shown that exercise and L arginine intake don't go hand in hand.
One such study was conducted in 2014, which suggested that L arginine supplementation does not have a directly proportional relationship with exercise performance.
Mayo Clinic also rates L arginine a “D” for its ability to enhance exercise and workout performance.
This, however, does not nullify its effect on the production of growth hormones.
While that hypothesis still remains valid, it implies that you can still benefit from the increased growth hormone production and vasodilation for your workout and bodybuilding.
What other medical conditions does it help with?
L- arginine use isn't limited to bodybuilders solely, but everyone needs it. Obese people can benefit from L-arginine owing to its lipid oxidizing characteristics and its ability to reduce arterial plaque.
L arginine has also proven to work its magic in muscle injuries. As discussed earlier, it increases the rate of angiogenesis, i.e. blood vessel production.
More efficient transport of oxygen and nutrients accompanied by fast removal of waste products allows muscle injuries to heal better.
According to WebMD (2), Erectile dysfunction has also been treated by taking 5g of L arginine orally in men.
However, lower doses do not seem to work. By increasing the amounts of endogenous Nitric Oxide, the cavernous smooth muscle relaxes, which is used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Chest pain or angina is caused by poor blood circulation in the arteries and arterial plaque, accompanied by high levels of cholesterol.
WebMD suggests that L arginine with its Nitric oxide production properties, helps improve blood flow in the arteries.
Being a powerful neurotransmitter, nitric oxide helps to relax and widen the blood vessels, increasing the overall blood flow and ultimately helping with angina and other symptoms of clogged arteries.
Which Supplements can I use?
While there is a wide variety of commercially available supplements to choose from, it is important to see what dosage you'll be needing everyday.
L-arginine supplements are available in capsules and powder form.
For instance, this CrazyBulk HGH-X2 uses a combination of amino acids to stimulate the production of Human growth hormones (HGH), which helps in faster fat burning and gaining muscle.
It can be taken before breakfast to help you make the most out of your workout routine.
Another supplement that is great for bodybuilding is DecaDuro, which is responsible for retaining nitrogen in your blood.
This allows your body to produce more protein, ultimately helping you gain muscle.
By increasing red blood cells production, it increases the amount of nutrients and oxygen that reaches your muscle, giving you better performance and less recovery times by relieving joint pain.
Are there any side effects?
One can't deny the benefits of L-arginine when it comes to fitness, chest pain, erectile dysfunctions, but you need to look out for the side effects simultaneously.
This is especially important for individuals who might be already having some medical conditions. Some of the most common side effects, according to Mayo clinic, include:
Nausea and Diarrhea
According to when taken in excessive amounts, L-arginine produces increased levels of gastric acids that are responsible for stomach pain, nausea and other gastric issues.
Low Blood Pressure
By widening your arteries and releasing Nitric Oxide in them, L-arginine decreases your blood pressure. Therefore, individuals who already face episodes of low blood pressure should avoid its consumption.
It is recommended that you initially take L arginine in limited amounts to see how your body reacts to it. Some people may be allergic to it and its intake might make inflammation in the airways worse and uncontrollable.
Not Good if You Suffered a Cardiac Arrest Recently
While L arginine does aid in relieving chest pain or Angina, its intake should be avoided if you've recently had a cardiac arrest episode. Since L arginine interferes with blood flow, it should only be taken after doctor's consultation.
Whether or not you should include L arginine in your workout plan depends on a number of factors.
Firstly, you need to analyze the intensity of your workout and what stage are you at currently.
Initially, check for any side effects and increase dosage gradually. While its intake before workout has proved to work for many, you can also take it before bedtime, if you believe that it has nothing to do with exercise.
Its blood pumping and increased blood flow capacities allow you to benefit from it in multiple ways and shouldn't be missed out on, unless if you suffer from serious medical condition.