As our understanding of fitness and nutrition continues to grow, it is evident that amino acids are increasingly important. Arginine is a highly discussed amino acid because of its wide variety of benefits.
What Does Arginine Do in the Body?
Like all amino acids, arginine is responsible for facilitating a wide range of functions. Arguably the most important of these is its role as the precursor of nitric oxide, a molecule that supports proper blood flow, cellular messaging, and mitochondrial processes. It’s also sometimes used to make other amino acids, such as creatine and proline. And, is a critical part of a healthy immune system, due to the part it plays in the production of certain white blood cells.
Fortunately, arginine is also an example of a nonessential amino acid, which means the body can produce it on its own. Within the body, there are 21 amino acids used to make proteins; these proteinogenic amino acids are the basis for most of what goes on in the body. Of these compounds, 9 cannot be made in the body and have to come from foods, drinks, or supplements, while the other 12 are made in the body. Those that do not have to come from your diet are the nonessential amino acids.
However, some of those nonessential amino acids, including arginine, occasionally need to be supplemented by your diet. For this reason, arginine and amino acids like it are considered “conditionally essential.”
Benefits of Taking Arginine in a Supplement
Arginine is an important part of a healthy body and there is reason to believe that it can be helpful when taken as a supplement1. Medical professionals have used supplements containing L-arginine, the most common form of the amino acid, to treat conditions including angina, hypertension, and more. Reminder, always be sure to talk to your doctor before adding a new supplement to your routine.
One of the most widespread uses of arginine is as a supplement to enhance exercise. People often turn to pre- or mid-workout amino acid supplements containing arginine to improve circulation and enhance performance. Because it turns into nitric oxide in the bloodstream, arginine is believed to help relax the blood vessels, improving blood flow and keeping your muscles fed with oxygen and glucose.
There is some evidence supporting arginine’s use as a fitness supplement. A 2017 study2 published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at arginine’s effects on a group of more than 50 male soccer players concluded that the amino acid could improve the athletic performance of the athletes, noting that performance “significantly increased” among those taking arginine.
A second study3 from 2010, first published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found that supplementing with L-arginine reduced the oxygen expenditure of people engaged in moderate-intensity exercise and extended the time to exhaustion during more intense workouts. Meaning, arginine supplements may help improve a person’s ability to push themselves during an exercise routine, boosting endurance and increasing long-term gains.
Top Sources of Arginine for Exercise
As a nonessential amino acid, arginine is produced naturally in the body, but only in limited amounts. Those looking to get more arginine in their diets, either for health reasons or to improve exercise performance, can find this amino acid in protein-rich foods, such as dairy, fish, red meat, and eggs. However, these foods have a low proportion of arginine in them.
All aminoVITAL products contain arginine, BCAAs, and glutamine. A benefit of using supplements as a source of arginine are the free-form amino acids in are digested more quickly and easily than those in whole foods or protein powders.