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What Is L-Arginine & All About L-Arginine Supplements

If you’re committed to getting in better shape this year and motivated to work out more in 2018, you may be curious about all of the sports nutrition supplements on the market today. One supplement that has been gaining popularity lately is L-arginine. So, in this article, we’re taking a look at what L-Arginine is, how it works in the body, and whether L-arginine supplements may be beneficial for you.

Photo credit: John Jeddore via Flickr

What Is L-Arginine?

L-arginine is an amino acid, which means that it’s one of the building blocks of proteins in the body. It occurs naturally in the body and is also made artificially in labs to be taken as nutrition supplements. When ingested through food or supplementation, L-arginine is converted into nitric oxide, which helps blood vessels to open up and allow blood to flow.

L-Arginine and Heart Health

Considering that so many millions of Americans have cardiovascular disease, it’s no surprise that L-arginine has been studied for its heart healthy benefits. Research has shown than arginine can boost blood flow in the arteries, which may reduce the risk of clogged arteries and coronary artery disease. Arginine may also help reduce blood pressure, yet other studies indicate that it may actually be detrimental in treating heart attacks.

L-Arginine and Erectile Dysfunction

Since arginine is connected to better blood flow, it has also been studied in relation to erectile dysfunction. Sperm production and mobility may also be impacted by arginine levels in the body. For women, L-arginine has been studied to a lesser extent in regards to heightened sexual response and sensitivity.

L-Arginine and Athletic Performance

L-arginine is a common component of sports nutrition supplements because of its ability to improve blood flow, which is essential in delivering oxygen to joints and muscles during workouts. Many supplement brands claim that L-arginine reduces muscle aches and speeds up recovery time as well, but this is something that you’ll have to try for yourself to see if it makes a significant difference.

Photo credit: GeorgeStepanek via Wikimedia Commons

L-Arginine and Anti-Aging

People today are always looking for the next big anti-aging secret and “quick fix” to looking and feeling young. L-arginine may not be a fountain of youth, but it does contain enzymes and antioxidant properties that may prevent disease and promote good overall health. Like omega-3 fish oil supplements, L-arginine has shown promise in reducing bodily inflammation and supporting the immune system.

Do You Need L-Arginine Supplements?

It should be noted, however, that L-arginine deficiencies are very rare. This is because the human body can make it naturally and because it is present in many different foods. Foods with this nutrient include fish, poultry, red meat, grains, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. Since the body typically makes enough arginine to sustain itself, there are no official guidelines for supplementation.

But in most people, L-arginine supplementation is safe and results in minor side effects, if any at all. Some potential side effects include abdominal bloating and pain, worsening of asthma conditions, and interactions with heart and blood pressure medications.

If you eat a low-protein diet or have genetic risk factors for heart problems, consider talking to your doctor about whether L-arginine supplements would be beneficial as a preventive measure. Alternatively, some of the best food sources of L-arginine are liver, wild-caught fish, sesame seeds, walnuts, and seaweed.

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