What is arginine and how to take it?

What on earth is l-arginine? If you’ve ever been puzzled by this question, you’re not alone. Many have heard about this amino acid because of the use of l-arginine in bodybuilding. People say that it’s an excellent supplement for a great pump. However, arginine’s benefits extend past simply improving physical performance. This post will highlight the most important things you should know about arginine and its usage. 

What is l-arginine?

L-arginine is one of the amino acids that the body requires to make proteins. We produce it ourselves. It is a conditionally essential amino acid. During certain times, like when we are ill, pregnant, or growing, we need more arginine than the body is able to make. 

This amino acid has a variety of functions in the body except for protein synthesis. We will cover them in more depth below. 

What does the “l” in l-arginine stand for?

You may have heard of l and d amino acids. Most of the amino acids that make our proteins are l-amino acids. This is a way that we differentiate between amino acids that are chemically the same but structurally different. Time for a quick chemistry aside.

If we take a closer look at any amino acid, we see that it has a central carbon. This carbon has a hydrogen, an amino group, and an acid (carboxyl) group attached to it. That’s why we call this compound an amino acid. In addition to them, we have an R group. An R group is any other group attached to that spot. All the different amino acids have a different R group, which is what makes them unique. 


If we look at amino acids in 3D, we find that they can have a different orientation of these groups. Depending on these orientations, the amino acids have different properties. We devised the l and d names for amino acids to differentiate between the orientations. The l in l-arginine stands for levorotary, meaning that this functional group orientation allows the compound to rotate plane-polarized light to the left. This is one of the ways to tell the l and d forms apart. 

Therefore, l-arginine is the form of arginine that we get in the body and our proteins. 

Functions of Arginine in the Body

Arginine plays a role in many processes in the body. 

Our body is able to make other amino acids from arginine. For example, our cells can produce glutamate, proline and creatine from l-arginine. 

Arginine is a part of our protein synthesis, so the body uses it to make proteins. In addition, it’s key for calcium signaling, neurotransmission, cell division, and even ATP regeneration. 

Arginine is a vital part of the cardiovascular processes in our body. Arginine gets converted into nitric oxide, which is able to act as a vasodilator. Nitric oxide helps our blood vessels expand. 

Arginine is a crucial player in our immune response. It is used to make the proteins that make up the immune system. In addition, it plays a role in specific processes related to immunity. Our B and T cells require plenty of arginine to mature and function well. 

Another role of arginine lies in the urea cycle. This is the process by which we convert ammonia, a waste product, into urea. We are then able to excrete urea. Arginine is needed to eliminate ammonia, a waste product in the body. 

Therefore, the body requires arginine for many different processes. 

Sources of Arginine

Arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is present in many foods. Therefore, if you’d like to increase your overall intake of arginine, whole foods can be a great way to do so. Rich in arginine foods include:

  • Nuts. Nuts are good sources of arginine, and some of the ones high in it include walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds.
  • Seeds. Pumpkin seeds have lots of arginine, and a cup provides around 7 grams of the amino acid.
  • Dairy. You can increase arginine intake by eating dairy foods like milk, yoghurt, and cheese. These foods are rich in protein and can help you meet your requirements for calcium, supporting bone health. 
  • Meat. As arginine is an amino acid, you will be able to get it from protein sources like meat.
  • Whole grains. Grains can also provide plenty of arginine, so choose oats, corn, brown rice and buckwheat. 

Arginine is an amino acid our body can make, so you don’t always need additional arginine from foods. However, some people may want the benefits of additional arginine intake. In those cases, arginine supplements may be a better way to go. 

Arginine Supplements

Sometimes, we can’t get enough l-arginine from foods, or we need an easy way to take it. That’s when supplements can come in handy. 

There are two main types of l-arginine supplements. You can supplement arginine as the amino acid, or you can supplement citrulline. 

When we get arginine, our body quickly metabolizes it. This means that it may not fully reach the bloodstream. L-citrulline can help mediate this effect. It’s an amino acid that the body uses to convert to arginine. Supplementing l-citrulline can help increase our arginine levels more effectively than just arginine supplements. 

It is also possible to combine the two, which can benefit athletes in particular. 

No matter what you choose, remember to choose high-quality supplements. Being open about the production standards and the raw material used is a significant sign of a respectable supplement manufacturer. Alternatively, you can choose third-party tested supplements. Maxler 100% Golden Citrulline Malate is a great option for a citrulline supplement and has been manufactured according to GMP standards. 

In addition, ensure that your supplements fit your nutritional requirements. L-citrulline malate 750mg is a vegan supplement that can suit most people. 

You can also find arginine in other supplements, such as pre-workout complexes. It’s up to you whether you would like to take it as a part of a larger complex or if you want to take arginine on its own. However, make sure that when taking it with other things, you still have enough of a dose for the arginine to have an effect. 

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      Benefits of Arginine Supplementation

      Due to arginine’s multiple roles in the body, supplementing the amino acid has numerous benefits. 

      Better performance. Arginine is best known in the bodybuilding community. That’s because nitric oxide is able to improve blood flow, supplying more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. In addition, it can increase growth hormone release, supporting muscle growth. Its ability to reduce ammonia and lactate levels after exercise makes it useful for recovery. 

      The benefits of the amino acid have been slightly controversial in the research community. It appears that arginine supplementation can support aerobic and anaerobic performance. However, it is dependent on the dose of arginine used, with the improvement of anaerobic performance requiring larger doses. 

      Better blood pressure. Nitric oxide helps with relaxation of blood vessels, which can benefit those with high blood pressure. 

      Better sexual health. The same effects of nitric oxide may help combat erectile dysfunction. 

      Better fat management. L-arginine benefits those who are trying to lose fat. Arginine increases our levels of nitric oxide. This compound can turn on browning processes in our fat tissue and help us burn more fat. Browning is when our white fat tissue gets turned into brown.

      For those who would like some help with the basics of fat loss, our post on how to lose weight safely may be a great place to start. 

      How should I take l-arginine?

      The right dose of l-arginine and the correct timing of the supplement depends on why exactly you’re taking it. It’s always best to consult with a medical professional before starting supplementation, as they’ll be able to advise on the best doses.

      If you’re looking to support normal blood pressure, you may find doses of 6-30 grams for up to 24 weeks to be effective. 

      For normalization of sexual health, anywhere between 1.5 and 5 grams may be sufficient. 

      It appears that we can tolerate up to 30 grams of arginine a day in the short term. However, doses over 9 grams a day may cause some discomfort. Therefore, it’s better to stick to your provider’s recommended or lower doses. It appears to be safe when taken long-term. 

      Who shouldn’t take l-arginine

      L-arginine is a supplement that may sound like it would be just for you. However, as with any supplement, it’s worth noting that not everyone may be able to benefit from it. 

      The following groups of people should avoid taking l-arginine supplements:

      • Those who have had a heart attack
      • Those who have asthma or allergies may find that arginine worsens the conditions
      • Those with kidney issues, as l-arginine may disturb electrolyte balance
      • Those on certain medications, including blood thinners, nitroglycerin, erectile dysfunction medicines and diabetes medication.  

      Whether or not you fall under these categories, it is still best to consult with a professional before starting a new supplementation regimen. They will be able to advise on dosages and whether there is anything else you need to watch out for. 

      Arginine is an amino acid that does more than just make up the proteins in our body. It’s a key player in our performance and health. We can get l-arginine in foods, or we can use supplements to help us meet our requirements for the amino acid. No matter what you use arginine for, remember that changes to your lifestyle will have to come alongside. You can turn your goals into reality with a bit of hard work and proper arginine usage.

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