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L-Arginine Bodybuilding Benefits
by Walter Eddy
Amino Acids were the rage of the 80's. Amino acid supplements abounded in every type and mix anyone could think of. They were the 'new' secret of the times to enhanced growth and a number of other promises. Like everything 'new' they eventually became old news and the market moved on to 'newer' secrets that would sell. New products always generate much excitement as the unknown always offers new promises. Bodybuilders are always on a quest to find a legal substance that will equal the results the bodybuilders on 'drugs' are getting. Others constantly search for the fountain of youth. Along the way many very good discovery's have been made, but are to often forgotten because 'the market' can get a higher price for unproven promises than it can for reality. The ironic part of this is that many of the 'secret new formulas' simply dress up the same 'old stuff' in newer packages. It has become the fashion, of late, not to put the contents of the products in the ad, just many promises, hype, and a high price tag. What you may be getting is something you can buy a lot more economically from your local health food store, if you can except reality. The truth of the matter is many of us are so eager to believe, that someone could sell us plain water, and if we believe hard enough, it just might work, for a short while. This is the power of the brain however, and belief in something that doesn't work usually doesn't last long.
So lets look back at one of the supplements that really has something to offer, but has been passed by in the flurry of new products, or has it. The supplement is the Amino acid L-arginine. Out of all the Amino acids, perhaps L-arginine has the most to offer. Without a doubt it plays a very significant role in human physiology.
Let me point out first that many supplements are beneficial only if the subject is deficient in that substance, by conventional standards. This is not the case with L-arginine. There is still much work to be done in medical and scientific research of L-arginine, but what is already know may come as quite a surprise to many. L-arginine plays very significant roles in muscle growth and healing, is critically important in male fertility, but its greatest benefits may be linked to better health in general.
L-arginine is a nonessential amino acid in adults. Our bodies are capable of 'making' L-arginine, however, recent research indicates that supplemental L-arginine in the diet may be necessary for optimal health, especially under some circumstances. Part of staying healthy is not 'getting sick', something everyone wants to avoid. This is where L-arginine can perform one of its biggest 'miracles'. Research has shown that supplemental arginine stimulates the thymus gland and increases the production of lymphocytes that are crucial in our immune response. One recent study showed that supplemental arginine may increase natural killer cell activity up to 3 times. Not only that but studies suggest that the additional lymphocytes created are also more active and effective as well.
Of particular note to people who train with weights is that arginine has been shown to have enhanced wound healing effects, (i.e., muscle repair). Part of this effect may be due to this boost in immunity. (More detail on this later in article).
Besides arginines ability to fight infection and increase immunity, there is growing evidence that it can slow the growth of a number of tumors. Unfortunately, because of the fact that arginine is a non-patentable substance, drug companies have not been willing to adequately fund this type of research.
Arginine is also very important in normal sperm production in the human male, which is particularly rich in arginine under normal circumstances. Diets low in arginine have been linked to male infertility. Supplemental arginine, in doses of 4 grams a day orally, showed significant improvement in over 80% of males who had not responded to a large range of other treatments. The male sex hormone is very important in repairing muscle and perhaps another link exists here.
Another aspect of supplemental arginine is its detoxifying properties. Studies showed that supplemental arginine, given to rats, could prevent the deadly effects of giving ammonia to rats.
Arginine is very important to muscle repair, and following will be some information that will be of particular interest to bodybuilders and anyone else who trains hard. Another 'miracle' of supplemental arginine may be related to its ability to repair and rebuild muscle tissue at a more rapid rate than normal. Many bodybuilding articles were centered on this in the past, but they may have been looking in the wrong direction. It is a proven fact that arginine stimulates the pituitary gland in such a way as to increase the output of growth hormone (GH). Before going any farther with this train of thought, however, let's point out that GH has not been directly shown to help build muscle in adult subjects. It is possible that it may have some effects on adults, but at this time that is still pretty much up in the air. The real effects supplemental arginine have on the repair and rebuilding of muscle may or may not have anything to do with this fact.
So what is the real reason for L-arginines ability to speed muscle repair and growth? We do not have all the answers to this question yet, but what is of critical importance to you, the trainer, is that it has been medically proven to have these effects. This is probably do in part to its effects on immunity, and may be partly due to its effects on fertility and GH as well. Whatever the case, it is known, for a fact, that the human adult requires arginine for the optimal muscular repair process to occur. In addition to this it has been shown the large doses of supplemental arginine, intravenously feed, can greatly slow the loss of muscle in severely traumatized patients, and speed wound healing.
If you are currently taking one of the new 'wonder' supplements on the market take a look at the contents label and don't be to surprised to see L-arginine listed as one of the ingredients. Many of the major supplement mixes on the market rely on L-arginine, in whole or in part, to make the product 'work.' They are sure to list a number of exotic ingredients, however, to make sure you feel it's their product you need. That's not to say that there are not a number of good products on the market, there is. Many contain a number of substances that have been proven beneficial. L-arginine probably works best when combined with other essential nutrients that your body needs, many of which will be discussed in future columns.
Recommendations: Before taking any supplements you should discuss there use with your doctor. L-arginine is best taken on an empty stomach. A dose of 1.5 grams per day is considered safe in adults. Best results may be obtained by taking 4 or more grams per day. You may find this most effective taken 1 hour before a workout, or before bedtime. Six grams before a workout will produce dramatic results in workload for most people. Natural sources include some nuts and raw cereals, and chocolate. It is widely available in health food stores. You should not take arginine if you have kidney, or liver, disorders, and unless you first receive permission from a doctor. Those who have herpes should note that arginine promotes herpes growth, this may be counteracted by supplemental lysine, however, which inhibits herpes.
Reference Material: American Journal of Physiology, J. Par. Ent. Nutr., Surgery, Journal of Surgical Research, Surgical Forum, Current Medical Research and Opinion, J. Nutr., Biochemical Pharmacology, Nutrition Research, Cancer Letters, J. Urol.
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The information presented is intended to be used for educational purposes only. The statements made have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (U.S.). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease. Please consult with your own physician or health care practitioner regarding any suggestions and recommendations made.