Arginine and its 8 proven health and sports effects

Do you know the effects of arginine? The amino acid L-arginine found in both food and supplements has unmistakable functions in the body. It allows the production of nitric oxide, which affects many processes in the body. Which ones? You’ll find out in the article.

What is Arginine?

Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid found in the diet, but also as a nutritional supplement. It is mainly used by athletes because it is an amino acid involved in the nitric oxide formation process. It is also an important substance in diseases and chronic cases such as hypertension or type 2 diabetes. [1]

Arginine and its 8 proven health and sports effects

Arginine is necessary for the body for several reasons. It is one of three substrates in formation of creatine, which is an important nutrient and its deficiency causes mental retardation. It is also used in the production of agmatine, a signalling molecule in the body, and is an intermediate product in the urea cycle along with L-ornithine and L-citrulline. [1] [2]

Arginine helps in the body to create proteins and stimulate insulin release. [9] As part of the nitric oxide cycle, it brings a significant number of benefits to physically active people. This makes arginine a popular dietary supplement for athletes. This is evidenced by a survey that states that from 5% to 8% of athletes at NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) supplement arginine. [3]

Arginine sources

Sources of arginine

Arginine is mainly contained in meat, particularly in red meat, poultry, such as turkey and chicken breasts, in fish and dairy products. It is also found in pumpkin seeds, soybeans, peanuts, spirulina, chickpeas and lentils. It is also produced laboratory, as a medicine or nutritional supplement. [4] The individual content of arginine in foods can be summarized in the table below. [5]

Amount of arginine per 100 g
Pork4841 mg
Egg white4813 mg
Spirulina4148 mg
Pumpkin seeds4033 mg
Cod3759 mg
Peanuts3349 mg
Soybeans3153 mg
Beef2336 mg
Chicken meat2159 mg
Tuna1794 mg

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5 positive effects of arginine for health

The effects of arginine are mainly related to its ability to produce nitric oxide, which affects many other processes in the body. Let’s summarize the individual benefits of arginine for health as well as for enhancing sport performance step by step.

1. Promotes the passage of blood in the arteries

In the body, the amino acid arginine is converted to nitric oxide. It is a very important neurotransmitter that helps in the release of arteries and also improves blood circulation. In this way it works as a prevention of cardiovascular diseases. [7] [8]

Some research shows that arginine can help improve the flow of blood in the arteries that point to the heart. This phenomenon may alleviate the symptoms of clogged arteries, chest pain, or angina, or coronary artery disease. [7] It benefits people with peripheral vascular disease and thus a disease that causes vessel narrowing and poor blood flow in the limbs. [10]

On the other hand, research from 2016 found that arginine did not improve arterial condition or cardiac function when used in combination with standard post-stroke treatment. Consequently, if you have heart problems, you should consult your doctor about taking arginine. [9] [11]

Arginine and its effects

2. Helps treat erectile dysfunction

Given the above-mentioned effects of arginine, such as improving arterial patency and blood flow, this element can help men with erectile dysfunction. [7] Many cases of erectile dysfunction are related to heart disease. The problem of arterial blood circulation can reduce blood flow to the penis, which can make erection difficult. [10]

Some research shows that arginine supplements can improve blood permeability throughout the body. Because of this effect, doctors prescribe arginine for patients with erectile dysfunction. Studies have confirmed that nutritional supplements with arginine can help alleviate this disease in men with low nitrate levels. One study found that L-citrulline can help treat mild to moderate erectile dysfunction because the body changes L-citrulline to L-arginine. [12] [13]

3. It benefits type 2 diabetes patients

The study showed that people with type 2 diabetes had reduced levels of L-arginine compared to healthy standard. [14] Arginine metabolism was impaired in patients and therefore L-arginine supplementation may help to restore molecular imbalance. [15] Type 2 diabetes also causes oxidative stress in patients. One controlled study in humans has confirmed that supplementation of arginine can help reduce this adverse disease effect. [16] [17]

At the same time, studies have found that L-arginine indirectly activates SOD, and thus a free radical scavenger protein that helps reduce oxidative damage in the body. The effect of arginine on nitrous oxide levels reduces the damage caused by reactive oxygen species. [16] [19] 

Health benefits of arginine for sportsmen

4. Increases immunity

Research has confirmed that increased levels of nitric oxide support the body’s immune response. In fact, nitric oxide can stimulate the immune system to take action against devastating pathogens. As mentioned before, arginine has the ability to increase the production of nitric oxide in the body, thereby improving the response of the immune system in fighting against undesirable substances. [20] [21]

5. Together with lysine helps to relieve anxiety

One study experimented with a combination of arginine and lysine in healthy people with a high degree of anxiety. Subjects received 3 grams of lysine and 3 grams of arginine per day. The results showed that more hormones were released in the test group at the time of stress. In doing so, these hormones helped reduce the feeling of stress and anxiety in the test subjects. [22]

What is arginine and its effects

3 benefits of arginine for athletes

Taking arginine indicates that you want to shift your performance to a higher level. If you exercise, indulge in enough rest and take proper pre-workout supplements and protein after training, it’s time to find a supplement with which you take an extra step. Exactly such nutritional supplement is arginine or L-citrulline, which is converted into arginine in the body. We will convince you of the benefits of arginine in sports activities on the basis of its effects.

1. It increases regeneration rate

Do you know the feeling when you perform extremely in the gym and are so exhausted the next day that you need a few days to recover? It is at this time that arginine, can help you because it increases nitric oxide levels. [23]

Nitric oxide helps to promote blood flow to tissues, thereby stimulating muscle relaxation. This in turn allows the delivery of larger doses of oxygen to the muscles. One of the factors of fast regeneration is that the muscles get enough nutrients after a hard workout and the blood flow really makes a difference. [23]

It is important to realize that you will only achieve this effect if you care about a quality drink after training and the right diet. You will also see the effect of arginine in your results, because when the body recovers faster, you will be able to train more intensively, leading you to your fitness goals even closer. [23]

Arginine - increases regeneration rate

2. Improves endurance and reduces fatigue 

If you are an endurance athlete, you will enjoy the effect of arginine on your performance. Endurance performance also depends on the amount of oxygen coming into the muscle tissues. Oxygen is transmitted through the blood, which helps you to train longer without feeling tired. This has also been confirmed by one study on professional cyclists, who have seen prolonged times of occurrence of their exhaustion. [24]

Some studies have studied using a form of arginine known as GAKIC (glycine L-arginine A-ketose caproic acid). In human testing, they have seen an increase in their average physical activity. At the same time, they measured the increase in performance and also increased fatigue resistance. [25] [26]

3. Promotes fat burning

Researchers have also begun to investigate L-arginine for its effects on increased fat loss. Those athletes who want to burn body fat should therefore consider supplementing arginine. One research examined the effect of nitric oxide on glucose metabolism during exercise. The results suggest that athletes who used arginine were able to transfer glucose more quickly to muscle cells. [27]

In addition, supplementation of arginine has promoted an increase in unesterified fatty acid as well as glycerol in the body. This points to the use of fat as an energy source. [27]

The optimal daily dose of arginine 

The body of an adult can produce arginine itself, but only in very small quantities. Therefore, we should supplement the arginine to support its effects in the body.

The average diet of L-arginine in the diet is about 5.4 grams per day. [30]  However, the recommended daily dose of arginine supplement is not strictly determined. The usual dose ranges from 3 to 6 grams, although with no daily side effects of L-arginine up to 20 g.

However, always look at the dosage on the packaging before taking the supplement. We also recommend taking arginine with food to avoid possible laxative effects. [31]

The optimal daily dose of arginine

Side effects of arginine

Studies have confirmed that when taking arginine for three months, its side effects are very rare. However, these may include nausea, convulsions, stomach pain, diarrhoea or headache. [7] [28]

Arginine can also react in combination with low blood pressure medicines, or heart medicines, or Viagra. If you are taking these medicines, make sure to consult your doctor before taking arginine. Likewise, pregnant and breast-feeding women should not take arginine supplements before discussing with the doctor. [7]

We believe you have learned everything you need about arginine and thus consider its use in the diet or supplements. It can have beneficial health effects for you, where it promotes blood flow, strengthens immunity and alleviates anxiety. It provides separate benefits to patients with diabetes and erectile dysfunction.

Athletes will also love its features because it helps them to increase stamina and performance, accelerate combustion and improve regeneration. Write to us on your experience with arginine use. If you like the article, let your friends know too and support it by sharing.


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[4] Peggy Pletcher - 10 healthy high arginine foods – https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-high-arginine-foods

[5] Self Nutrition Data - Food highest in Arginine – https://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000089000000000000000-w.html

[6] Science Direct - Arginine https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/arginine]

[7] Arginine: Heart benefits and side effects – https://www.webmd.com/heart/arginine-heart-benefits-and-side-effects

[8] Matthew Hoffman - Picture of blood – https://www.webmd.com/heart/anatomy-picture-of-blood

[9] Cathy Wong - Health benefits and side effects of L-Arginine – https://www.verywellhealth.com/using-l-arginine-for-health-88322

[10] Debra Sullivan - Arginine: Good for the heart – https://www.healthline.com/health/arginine-heart-health

[11] Steven P. Schulman, Lewis C. Becker, David A. Kass - L-Arginine Therapy in Acute Myocardial InfarctionThe Vascular Interaction With Age in Myocardial Infarction (VINTAGE MI) Randomized Clinical Trial – https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/202136

[12] Mayo Clinic - L-arginine – https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-l-arginine/art-20364681

[13] Cormio L, De SIati M, Lorusso F? Selvaggio O, Mirabella L, Sanguedoice F, Carrieri G - Oral L-citrulline supplementation improves erection hardness in men with mild erectile dysfunction. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21195829

[14] Xinfeng Liu, Jian Gao, Jianxin Chen, Zhiyong Wang, Qi Shi, Hongxue Man, Shuzhen Guo, Yingfeng Li, Wei Wang - Identification of metabolic biomarkers in patients with type 2 diabetic coronary heart diseases based on metabolomic approach – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4965763/

[15] L-Arginine - overview, uses, side effects, interactions, dosing – https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-875/l-arginine

[16] Jablecka A, Bogdanski P, Balcer N, Cieslewicz A, Skoluda A, Musialik K - The effect of oral L-arginine supplementation on fasting glucose, HbA1c, nitric oxide and total antioxidant status in diabetic patients with atherosclerotic peripheral arterial disease of lower extremities. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22530351

[17] Lucotti P, Setola E, Monti LD, Galluccio E, Costa S, Sandoli EP, Fermo I, Rabaiotti G, Gatti R, Piatti P - Beneficial effects of a long-term oral L-arginine treatment added to a hypocaloric diet and exercise training program in obese, insulin-resistant type 2 diabetic patients. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16772327

[18] Flynn NE, Meininger CJ, Haynes TE, Wu G - The metabolic basis of arginine nutrition and pharmacotherapy. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12481979

[19] Arginine supplement guide - Does it actually do anything for athletes? – http://muaythaipros.com/arginine-supplement-guide/

[20] Stevens BR, Godfrey MD, Kaminski TW, Braith RW - High-intensity dynamic human muscle performance enhanced by a metabolic intervention. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11128858

[21] Buford BN, Koch AJ - Glycine -arginine-alpha-ketoisocaproic acid improves performance of repeated cycling sprints. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15064584

[22] Jezova D, Makatsori A? Smriga M, Morinaga Y, Duncko R - Subchronic treatment with amino acid mixture of L-lysine and L-arginine modifies neuroendocrine activation during psychosocial stress in subjects with high trait anxiety. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16117182

[23] Shannon Clark - 6 Vein-Popping Reasons To Use Nitric Oxide Supplements! – https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/6-vein-popping-reasons-to-use-nitric-oxide-supplements.html

[24] Stephen J. Balley, Paul G. Winyard, Anni Vanhatalo, Jamie R. Blackwell, Fred J. DiMenna, Daryl P. Wilkerson, Andrew M. Jonec - Acute l-arginine supplementation reduces the O2 cost of moderate-intensity exercise and enhances high-intensity exercise tolerance – https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00503.2010