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What is L-Arginine good for?

3 min read

L-Arginine is a non-essential amino acid and one of the building blocks of proteins in the body. While it is a non-essential amino acid (meaning it can be produced by our bodies) we can't produce enough to reap the benefits, therefore the rest needs to be obtained through diet or supplementation.

L-Arginine is found naturally in almonds, cashews, coconut, brazil nuts, raisins, sesame seeds, brown rice, cereals, sunflower seeds, barley, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, oats, corn, dairy products, chocolate, eggs, chicken, fish and red meats.

Good for cardiovascular health

L-Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide - it is required by the lining in your blood vessels to create nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to open wider which improves blood flow. Without enough L-Arginine, your cells may not create enough nitric oxide to assist with optimal blood flow and support good cardiovascular health.

Peripheral vascular disease, also known as intermittent claudication, is a narrowing of blood vessels in the legs and feet caused by fatty deposits. This condition causes decreased blood flow to the legs and feet, resulting in cramping, pain and tiredness. A number of studies show that L-Arginine helps to reduce leg cramping and weakness and improve walking distance in people with claudication.

There is good scientific evidence that dietary supplementation with L-Arginine may help people with coronary artery disease, angina, or clogged arteries, due to its vasodilatory effects.

Improves immune system function

When you are under any kind of stress whether physical or emotional, your thymus gland will shrink in size, contributing to an increased likelihood of illness. Taking L-Arginine helps build your immune system by stimulating and increasing the size of the thymus gland thereby upping the manufacturing of the body's T cells. T cells play a crucial role in attacking viruses and bacteria - with the thymus gland at the correct size it can produce the specialised white blood cells the body needs to help fight infections.

Physical performance

L-Arginine contributes to the production of creatine in the body - creatine is an energy source for muscles which is known to enhance strength and endurance.

We know it also relaxes blood vessels thereby increasing blood flow to the muscles. The increased blood flow increases oxygen levels in the muscles and increases aerobic respiration muscle contraction (aerobic respiration creates the metabolic by-products of carbon dioxide and water). Consequently the body has an increased ability to inhibit the creation of lactic acid which is a normal result of aerobic exercise. The result of taking an L-Arginine supplement is increased performance maintained over a longer duration with improved recovery time.

After heavy exercise or an injury, the body may not produce enough L-Arginine to achieve its optimal recovery time. L-Arginine supplements are believed to support injury repair while delaying the normal after-injury muscle wastage, this means L-Arginine may be effective in preventing the breaking down and subsequent loss of protein in injured muscles. The evidence indicates that L-Arginine would be beneficial for athletes who suffer an injury, but don’t want to lose muscle or strength while they recuperate (e.g. muscle shrinkage while your leg is in a cast).

Research supports its effects

A study, published in 2010 in the Journal of Applied Physiology, focused on males aged 19 to 38 years who consumed either a drink with 6g of L-Arginine or a placebo. The drink was taken one hour before the participants were put on an exercise bike. The researchers from the Exeter University found that a supplement containing L-Arginine could enhance the production of nitric oxide in the body and significantly boost stamina levels. The results showed that the group taking L-Arginine were able to exercise up to 20% longer therefore indicating that L-Arginine is able to increase tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

Reducing body fat

Obesity is characterised by the following:

  • increased levels of insulin
  • low human growth hormone (HGH) release. Insulin increases fat and carbohydrate storage while HGH stimulates lypolisis (the process of fat-burning).

Research as shown that when there is a higher ratio of HGH to insulin, humans tend to be leaner. The combination of high insulin and low HGH increases the possibility of obesity. L-Arginine is the main agent responsible for restoration and maintenance of HGH in humans.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.