Much ado has been made about arginine’s ability to provide “skin tearing pumps” and vascularity, thanks to the vasodilating effects of nitric oxide. if you’ve taken a pre-workout supplement that contains a couple of grams or more of the stuff, it’s likely you can attest to the pump this supplement gives you.
But what about the claims of performance enhancing effects? Boosts in strength and muscle growth and what not?
Or in other words, “does arginine actually work?”
That, unfortunately, is far less clear.
Introduction: How Arginine “Works.”
Arginine is an amino acid and a precursor to the gas nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide has multiple uses in the body but the one we’re concerned with is vasodilation – or simply, the expanding of blood vessels.
Arginine is a NO precursor.
When you ingest it, it is acted on by a family of enzymes called nitric oxide synthases, which results in the production of nitric oxide. This leads to vasodilation, and ultimately the “pump” for which arginine-based products are so famous.
Unfortunately, regular use of arginine ramps up the activity of another enzyme called “arginase.” This enzyme also breaks down arginine, but does not convert it to NO. Ultimately, more arginase means increases in the rate at which ingested arginine is broken down, which means there’s less raw material available to be converted to NO for your pump.
That’s why many experts now believe citrulline may be a better supplement for NO production.
Postive Clinical Studies
1. This study, published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition, indicated that there’s a…
“…potential role of L-arginine and antioxidant supplementation in improving exercise performance in elderly.”
2. This study found arginine supplementation was both safe and well tolerated and although it did not influence body composition or aerobic capacity, it positively influenced 1RM bench press and Wingate peak power performance.
3. This study, published in Biology of Sport, showed that arginine supplementation improved time to exhaustion, but not performance levels.
Negative Clinical Studies
1. This study, published in 2011 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, was conducted on 12 trained men (ages 22-26).
It had them perform three sets each of chin-ups, reverse chin-ups, and push-ups to exhaustion with 3 minutes of rest between each set. They did this twice, with a week interval separating the two trials.
The results showed that when taking arginine Vs. the placebo, study participants performed fewer total chin ups and fewer trial repetitions.
2. This study, published in 2012 found that arginine syupplementation increases muscle blood volume during recovery from sets of resistance exercise, but does not result in an increase in strength performance. It concludes…
“It is still premature to recommend nutritional supplements containing L-arg as an ergogenic aid to increase muscle strength during resistance training in healthy subjects.”
Arginine Nitric Oxide Supplements Bottom Line
If you’re confused after reviewing the clinical data…
Here’s a quick summary of what we know. Arginine…
- Increases muscle blood flow and vasodilation.
- Is safe and well tolerated.
- May improve performance, although a single study indicated the opposite.
Personally, I’ve used arginine based nitric oxide supplements on and off for years, and while I don’t always keep a training journal (yeah, I get lazy), I can’t ever recollect when I got weaker taking one.
This could be because this supplement is rarely present in a pump product without a bunch of other ingredients that do improve performance (like creatine, beta alanine, etc.) or stimulants that get you super-motivated to have a great workout.
On the other hand, plenty of folks take arginine on its own and over the years, I can’t think I have ever heard anyone complain that they get weaker taking the stuff. It’s hardly scientific I know, but if you were suddenly doing a couple of fewer reps once you started supplementing, you’d certainly know it.
So I’m not particularly concerned about negative study. Let’s face it…
The pump is awesome. Other benefits, should they exist, are a bonus.
if you’re OK with that, then experimenting is A-OK!
These days, arginine has fallen out of favor a bit as a nitric oxide supplement, being replaced in many products by citrulline, or a combination of citrulline and arginine. However, it’s still a decent option as a NO booster and if you want to experiment we recommend…
- Plain arginine powder from Allmax nutrition; a simple way to supplement! Click here to buy from BodyBuilding.com.
- Nitraflex pre-workout supplement from GAT; contains 3 grams citrulline + 1.5 grams arginine per serving. Buy at BodyBuilding.com!
- Jym’s Pre Jym pre-workout supplement; contains a whopping 6 grams of citrulline per serving. As noted earlier citrulline may be a better alternative for NO production. Click here to buy from BodyBuilding.com!
If you’re looking for a nitric oxide supplement that gives you a pump, these products will do it!
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