Arginine: Four Health Benefits for Athletes

20th March 2020
Arginine is one of the 20 amino acids that make up the proteins in the body. In its L-Arginine form, this molecule is used as a sports supplement. In this article, we'll talk about some of the possible benefits of consuming this amino acid.

Arginine is one of the newest supplements within the fitness industry. Its use has exploded in recent years, as experts assure that it can improve the athlete’s physical and aesthetic condition through various mechanisms.

The truth is that, although it doesn’t have as much scientific evidence to back it up as other supplements (such as creatine), it could have a positive impact on sports performance. In this article, we’ll explain what arginine is and what potential health benefits it has for athletes.

What is arginine?

Arginine is one of the 20 amino acids that make up the peptides and proteins in our bodies. When it forms proteins, its function is essentially structural. This is because the main working molecules in our bodies are proteins. However, when arginine runs free through the bloodstream in the form of L-Arginine, it has some interesting functions for athletes.

L-Arginine, along with other sports supplements such as L-Citrulline or nitric oxide, is a compound that causes vasodilation of the arteries and capillaries. This allows a greater blood supply to reach the muscles, which translates into more oxygen and nutrients to carry out their functions.

The benefits of arginine for athletes

Currently, arginine is a supplement with little scientific evidence in favor of its benefits. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since L-Arginine is a fairly new supplement.

Some studies have shown that it can increase sports performance through various mechanisms. However, more research is needed in this regard to confirm that it’s actually useful as a supplement for athletes.

In this section, we’ll talk about the potential benefits that arginine could have. As we mentioned previously, all the benefits come from its vasodilator action.

A woman lifting weights at the gym

Increased muscle mass

The vasodilation produced by L-Arginine improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients on a muscular level. Therefore, the muscle cell will receive more fuel and endure tougher workouts.

Higher workloads will lead to better training adaptation and greater hypertrophy. This increase in received muscle energy can not only help our body to endure more demanding workouts but also recover better after each session. This is because the vasodilation effect extends beyond training hours.

Strength increase

The same mechanism we explained in the previous point causes an increase in strength gains. There are two reasons for this, the first one being greater hypertrophy, which makes muscle cells more resistant to the loads that we put them through. The second reason is an improvement on a nervous level.

The basis for this is that, given the greater contribution of nutrients, we’re able to do more repetitions and sets. This way, we can improve our movement patterns and the recruitment of muscle fascicles.

Increased fat loss

Following the same line, we find that being able to work out longer and more frequently will allow us to burn more calories. If we follow an adequate diet, this increase in caloric expenditure can be a boost for our fat loss goal.

A woman drinking her arginine supplements to achieve her toned body

A better-looking body

L-Arginine can help us improve the way we look if we have that goal in mind when going to the gym. The vasodilator effect, although it predominantly acts on small arteries and capillaries, also increases the blood flow that reaches the veins of our body.

It helps us achieve greater vascularization and visibility of the superficial veins in our bodies. This is one of the main goals for bodybuilders and people who are regulars at the gym and want to look toned.

In conclusion, it’s worth emphasizing that you shouldn’t use these supplements in any way without a prior medical consultation. Only a doctor can warn us about the contraindications of each particular case and tell us how much we should take, in case they approve said supplement for us.

  • Wu, G., Bazer, F. W., Davis, T. A., Kim, S. W., Li, P., Marc Rhoads, J., … Yin, Y. (2009). Arginine metabolism and nutrition in growth, health and disease. Amino Acids, 37(1), 153–168. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-008-0210-y
  • Pahlavani, N., Entezari, M. H., Nasiri, M., Miri, A., Rezaie, M., Bagheri-Bidakhavidi, M., & Sadeghi, O. (2017). The effect of l-arginine supplementation on body composition and performance in male athletes: a double-blinded randomized clinical trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(4), 544–548. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2016.266
  • McConell, G. K. (2007). Effects of L-arginine supplementation on exercise metabolism. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 10(1), 46–51. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCO.0b013e32801162fa