What is Arginine? Arginine is a non-essential amino acid that is known to have anabolic (muscle building properties. Arginine supplements are normally available as either L-Arginine, Arginine pyroglutamate or Arginine-alpha-ketoglutatrate. Supplementing with arginine has many benefits including increased protein synthesis, reduced muscle breakdown, elevated growth hormone levels, improved recovery, increased muscle blood flow, lactic acid and ammonia removal, reduced body fat levels, and increased nitric oxide production.
Who might benefit from Arginine supplements? Anyone, who wants increased muscle size, greater recovery. Since the main benefits of arginine supplementation come from increased muscle protein synthesis and enhanced growth hormone levels the people who will primarily benefit are bodybuilders and strength athletes. However, the increased muscle blood flow and lactic acid removal may also be beneficial to endurance athletes.
What does research say about Arginine supplementation? Supplementation with arginine is known to significantly increase growth hormone levels (Merimee 1965; Isidori et al., 1981; Elam, 1988; Di Luigi, 1999). Growth hormone is one of the most important hormones for bodybuilding as it is known to significantly increase muscle mass as well as decreasing body fat levels. It is well known that the positive effects of any exercise training program are primarily due to the natural release of growth hormone in response to the exercise program (Kraemer 1992). The positive effects that arginine supplementation has on growth hormone levels is one of the reasons why it has such a positive impact on muscle mass.
Arginine is also known to dilate blood vessels, primarily through increased nitric oxide production. This is important since it increases the amount of blood flow to the muscles. The increased blood flow allows greater delivery of hormones, protein, carbohydrate and other nutrients to the muscles and therefore aids muscle growth. Other positive effects of increased muscle blood flow include increased muscular endurance, lower lactic acid and ammonia levels.
Increased nitric oxide production, following arginine supplementation, is of great importance to bodybuilders. As well as having an effect on muscle blood flow, nitric oxide also stimulates muscle growth. Increased nitric oxide levels have a positive effect on muscle mass by stimulating an increase in the rate of protein synthesis within muscle cells.
Is Arginine effective? Researchers have found that arginine is effective at enhancing both growth hormone levels and nitric oxide production and should therefore be of benefit for enhancing muscle growth.
1. L-arginine – this is the most basic type of arginine. It has positive effects on growth hormone levels, muscle mass, body fat and nitric oxide. Because it is the most basic (free-form) type of arginine it needs to be taken at a higher doseage (approximately 5g 30minutes before exercise to have a positive effect) than the more advanced types of arginine.
2. Arginine pyroglutamate – is made by binding L-arginine to pyroglutamic acid. It has the same positive effects as L-arginine but has a greater effect on growth hormone levels as it has a greater ability to cross the blood brain barrier. You should take approximately 3g of arginine pyroglutamate, combined with L-lysine, 30minutes before exercise for best results.
3. Arginine alpha ketoglutarate – is made by combining L-arginine with alpha ketoglutaric acid. It has the same benefits as L-arginine but has a greater effect on nitric oxide production. You should take approximately 3g of arginine alpha ketoglutarate 30minutes before exercise for best results.
Di Luigi, L., Guidetti, L., Pigozzi, F. et al., (1999). Acute amino acid supplementation enhances pituitary responsiveness in athletes. Medicine of Science in Sport and Exercise. 31, 1748-1751.
Elam, R. P. (1988) Morphological changes in adult males from resistance exericise amino acid supplementation. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 28, 35-39.
Isiadori, A., Lo Monaco, A. and Cappa, M. (1981) A study of growth hormone release in man after oral administration of amino acids. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 7, 475-481.
Kraemer, W. J. (1992) Influence of the endocrine system on resistance training adaptations. National Strength and Conditioning Journal. 14, 47-54.
Merimee, T. J., Lillicrap, D. A. Rabinowitz, D. (1965) Effect of arginine on serum-levels of growth hormones. Lancet. 2, 668.
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