The use of nutritional supplements is common among athletes to maintain health and improve athletic performance. Proteins and amino acids are specially consumed as ergogenic aids, with a frequency of 35–40%.
However, the supplements with vasodilatory effects are growing lately in popularity, as there is evidence of positive effects on athletic performance. Among them, we already dedicated a post to beetroot juice. But Arginine has also gained great attention.
Arginine (Arg) is a non-essential amino acid. It means that its consumption is not essential, being synthesized in the small intestine from proline, glutamate, and glutamine. It is related to nitric oxide (NO) synthesis, that increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles, consequently improving performance, and plays an important role as a cell signalling molecule in many biological systems.
But Arg has also other additional effects. Among them:
- Stimulation of growth hormone (GH) release, which contributes to muscle mass growth.
- Improved oxidation of carbohydrates and oxygen efficiency.
- Reduction of lactate levels post-exercise.
Thus, there are various effects that could justify its use as a performance enhancing agent, in aerobic (≤VO2max) and anaerobic (>VO2max) exercises.
A recent meta-review looked at the available literature on the topic. 15 articles that adjusting to the selection procedures were included. The main data follows.
Arg on aerobic exercise
Arg supplementation protocols (<7 days or acute) and dosages (6–10 g/day) improved several physiological parameters and performance outcomes (time to exhaustion, power output, and exercise capacity) at moderate exercise intensities.
These results could be explained by improvements in blood flow and oxygen supply to the muscles.
Arg on anaerobic exercise
Chronic Arg supplementation (2-12 g/day) improved the results of one maximum bout of bench press (lifting a weight from a position lying on a bench and feet on the floor).
The positive effects observed could be explained because Arg enhances GH-releasing hormone, while also playing a key role in the synthesis of creatine, the main substrate of anaerobic performance.
Despite these positive effects other authors didn´t find improvements in other anaerobic exercises measuring muscle strength, maximum number of repetitions or sprint power after ingesting 6 g/day of Arg using acute or chronic supplementation.
Arg supplementation could have positive effects on anaerobic and aerobic performance.
Acute Arg supplementation should include a dose of 10-11 g (0.15 g/kg) ingested 60-90 minutes before exercise.
Chronic Arg supplementation would consist of doses of variable quantity (from 1.5-2 g/day to 10-12 g/day) for periods going from 4 to 8 weeks.
Did you use Arginine supplementation yourself?
If so, we would like to read about your experiences.
Effects of Arginine Supplementation on Athletic Performance Based on Energy Metabolism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Viribay A, Burgos J, Fernández-Landa J, Seco-Calvo J, Mielgo-Ayuso J. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1300. Published 2020 May 2. doi:10.3390/nu12051300