You have probably come across the term l-arginine on multiple occasions.
Many products, especially those for men’s health, claim to boost l-arginine levels in the body.
But have you ever wondered what arginine is? What are the benefits of l-arginine, and is it safe to use? That’s exactly the main focus of this post. We’re going to discuss l-arginine and its benefits or potential adverse reactions.
To get the most out of l-arginine, you need to learn as much as possible about it. So, let’s start.
What is l-arginine?
L-arginine is an amino acid. In the human body, amino acids are building blocks of proteins. Some amino acids are essential, while others are nonessential. The body produces nonessential but not essential amino acids.
For good health and proper function, you need to consume essential amino acids through diet. Arginine is a semi-essential or conditionally essential amino acid. In other words, l-arginine is essential under certain circumstances such as pregnancy, trauma, and illness.
The body needs l-arginine for the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule necessary for various functions such as blood flow regulation, cellular communication, and mitochondrial function.
Moreover, l-arginine is a precursor to other amino acids, including glutamate, creatine, and proline. On the other hand, to produce this amino acid, the body needs citrulline.
Your body needs l-arginine for the proper functioning of the immune system too. You see, arginine is necessary for the development of T-cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cells that play a vital role in the immune response.
Dairy, red meat, fish, and eggs contain low amounts of l-arginine, thus helping the body replenish necessary resources. In some cases, a person’s needs for l-arginine may exceed the body’s ability to produce or consume it. Older adults with certain medical conditions are a good example here. When that happens, the doctor may prescribe l-arginine in the form of oral l-arginine medications, creams, and injections.
Many people opt for an over-the-counter form. Men are particularly interested in l-arginine. Guys use l-arginine supplements to support sexual performance through stronger erections and even to increase muscle mass.
What are the health benefits?
Since the body needs l-arginine for many processes, this amino acid has a lot of health benefits. Below, you can take a look at some of the most significant effects l-arginine has on your health and body.
Improved athletic performance
What every active person wants is to step up their workout routine and enhance athletic performance. The body needs a constant challenge to deliver the results you want to see in the mirror. Supplementation with l-arginine can enhance athletic performance through increased nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide synthase improves blood flow and oxygenation to muscles.
In one study, football (soccer) players who took 2g of l-arginine a day for 45 days improved athletic performance compared to the placebo group.
Improved blood flow
Proper blood flow is vital for our health and wellbeing. You see, the blood delivers nutrients we need to all tissues in the body. L-arginine is crucial for the production of nitric oxide. As a vasodilator, nitric oxide dilates blood vessels. This leads to improved circulation. Problems with blood flow would otherwise lead to heart disease, erectile dysfunction, and other issues.
Regulation of blood pressure
Supplementation with l-arginine could be helpful for persons with hypertension (high blood pressure). When left unmanaged, hypertension can lead to heart attack and stroke. Through improved blood flow, thanks to nitric oxide, l-arginine can lower blood pressure.
L-arginine has the potential to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. If you have hypertension, it’s useful to consult the doctor before you start taking l-arginine. Do not self-medicate yourself, especially if you’re also taking medications to lower your blood pressure.
Blood sugar management
What many people don’t know is that l-arginine could aid in supporting blood sugar control. It may even help prevent diabetes or aid the management of this condition. Studies show people with diabetes tend to have lower l-arginine levels and impaired metabolic pathways of this amino acid.
Also, persons with type 2 diabetes may produce less insulin in response to both l-arginine and blood sugar. In people with metabolic syndrome, supplementation with l-arginine could reduce the onset of type 2 diabetes.
How does l-arginine help manage blood sugar and prevent diabetes? The answer is nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays an important role in cellular function and the body’s response to insulin. Blood sugar can’t enter blood cells without insulin, a hormone. It’s like a ticket without which you can’t get into the concert hall.
Increased availability of nitric oxide could amplify insulin-secreting cells’ function and help the body utilize blood sugar more effectively. Still, diabetic patients should consult a doctor before they start using supplements containing this amino acid.
Nitric oxide has the potential to strengthen the immune system. Thanks to stronger immune defenses, the body is more effective in protecting us against pathogens. Strong immunity is crucial for resisting the common cold, flu, and other problems that may come across. Intake of l-arginine supplements could boost immune cell counts, alter cytokine levels, reduce infections, and make the body stronger and healthier.
One of the most common reasons for l-arginine use is to build muscles. This is particularly the case with men. Although workouts and diet are crucial for stronger, bigger, and more defined muscles, they are usually not enough. L-arginine poses as a natural and safe solution to support muscle building and retain results.
As you can guess, it all comes down to nitric oxide and l-arginine’s function to help the body build protein. These effects help build muscles. L-arginine can also alter skeletal muscle metabolism during exercise. This explains why many workout supplements contain this amino acid.
Other benefits of l-arginine
Besides the above-mentioned benefits, other health effects of l-arginine include:
- Faster wound healing
- Alleviating anxiety
- Improved kidney function for people with congestive heart failure
- Treating and preventing preeclampsia
- Improved fertility
Can it help with ED?
Besides muscle people, men often use l-arginine supplements to get stronger erections. Erectile dysfunction is a common sexual dysfunction for men across the globe. The confirmed organic erectile dysfunction usually occurs due to problems at any stage of the erection process.
Keep in mind the normal erection is a result of increased blood flow to the penis. When you’re aroused, the brain sends signals which encourage increased blood flow to the genital region. Smooth muscle in the penis relaxes, thus allowing blood to fill out penile arteries and two chambers called corpora cavernosa.
As the chambers fill with blood, your penis becomes engorged. Obstructions in blood flow fail to supply the penile area with sufficient blood. As a result, you’re unable to achieve or maintain erections strong enough for pleasurable intercourse. Any impairment in the erectile function can cause problems with the strength of the erections. Serum testosterone level also plays a role in your erectile function.
For many people, l-arginine aspartate is the best solution because it’s natural.
But does it work?
Current evidence shows that l-arginine may be effective for mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. More research on this subject is necessary, though. After all, l-arginine increases the production of nitric oxide. Upon sexual stimulation, nitric oxide can dilate blood vessels and allow more blood to circulate and reach the genital area. In a relaxed penis, blood fills out the chambers mentioned above, and you achieve an erection.
Of course, l-arginine for erectile dysfunction usually works in cases when the cause of ED is obstruction with blood flow. Vascular disorders and ED are connected at the endothelium level. You see, endothelium dysfunction results in the inability of the cells in the cavernous smooth muscle to relax. This prevents vasodilation and impairs blood flow to the genital area.
It’s also useful to mention that l-arginine could be effective for ED treatment in combination therapy with other compounds. For example, a combination of l-arginine and yohimbine hydrochloride could aid the treatment of mild to moderate penile erection problems.
Additionally, a combination of l-arginine and an herbal supplement called pycnogenol could help treat erectile dysfunction. Pycnogenol is a trademark name for a supplement obtained from the pine bark extract of a tree called Pinus pinaster.
Erectile management requires lifestyle modifications, as well. In addition to l-arginine or even medications such as tadalafil, you need to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. That means you need to ditch the junk food and eat healthier foods, especially protein. You should also quit smoking and stop drinking alcohol. Instead, try to introduce daily workouts into your lifestyle.
Remember, l-arginine supplementation is an adjunct to a healthy lifestyle, not a replacement for it. To get the most out of l-arginine, you need to combine it with other modifications. For example, you can use hot summer days to consume watermelon. Refreshing watermelon is rich in citrulline, which converts into arginine in the body.
If you take a look at the label of the l-arginine supplement, you’ll see information about its safety. The manufacturer probably claims the ingredient is safe for general consumption. It’s true! In a supplement form, l-arginine is safe and well-tolerated even when taken daily for a long-term, e.g., a year or longer.
The safety of arginine supplements depends on the quality of the product. For that reason, you need to choose dietary supplements wisely. Buy products from reliable and trustworthy brands only.
Even though l-arginine is safe, some people may experience side effects such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Airway inflammation
- Blood abnormalities
According to some studies, the risk of adverse reactions increases with the intake of higher dosages such as 9g or more per day. Others showed l-arginine was safe even at doses up to 30g a day. It’s useful to bear in mind high doses were taken short-term only.
Every l-arginine product comes with dosage instructions. Follow the recommendations closely. You should avoid increasing or decreasing the dosage. The best thing to do is to consult your doctor if you’re unsure about the current dose of l-arginine you’re taking. The doctor’s input is of particular importance for people with an underlying condition and is taking medications.
Despite their favorable safety profile, l-arginine supplements aren’t for everyone. People who may want to avoid l-arginine include those with:
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Kidney disease
- Low blood pressure
- Guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency (an inherited disorder that affects the metabolism of arginine)
L-arginine is not recommended after a heart attack due to concerns regarding the risk of death.
People with these conditions may be at a higher risk of adverse reactions. Make sure to consult your doctor before you start using these supplements.
Other supplements to naturally improve ED
Erectile dysfunction troubles many men. While it may seem nothing fixes it, ED is usually manageable. Besides lifestyle measures and l-arginine, many other supplements work to improve ED naturally.
Now you may wonder why supplements are a big deal. You need to take them every day. Isn’t it easier to take tadalafil or other erectile dysfunction pill and get an erection within minutes?
Actually, no! You see, dietary supplements are natural solutions. They work to fix the root causes of erectile dysfunction. On the other hand, erection pills don’t do that. So, a natural supplement could be a more favorable solution in the long run.
In supplements, l-arginine is usually in combination with other plant extracts. Other supplements that naturally improve ED include:
- Panax ginseng – also known as Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, or true ginseng. For centuries, people have used Panax ginseng to boost energy and stamina to strengthen the immune system. They also used it as sexual medicine. It also poses as an effective and safe treatment for erectile dysfunction.
- Rhodiola Rosea – an herb that grows in the cold, mountainous regions of Asia and Europe. Roots of the herb have adaptogenic properties. That means Rhodiola Rosea helps the body adapt to stress more effectively. Supplementation with Rhodiola Rosea can substantially improve sexual function, reduce fatigue, and increase energy levels. All these factors are necessary for improved sexual performance and also more durable erections.
- DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) – a natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands. The body can convert DHEA to both estrogen and testosterone. Dietary DHEA supplement is made of wild yam and soy. Supplementation with DHEA can help manage erectile dysfunction. ED patients tend to have low DHEA levels. So by increasing levels of this hormone naturally, it’s possible to get stronger erections.
- Yohimbe – we mentioned Yohimbe above. As you can see, it works well in combination with l-arginine. Yohimbe is extracted from the African Yohimbe tree’s bark, which could exhibit favorable effects on sexual performance.
- Maca – the root vegetable from Peru is rich in amino acids, iodine, iron, and magnesium. Maca extract can improve sexual function and alleviate stress. Let’s not forget that stress can also contribute to ED.
- Gingko Biloba – an herb from a Chinese tree that may increase blood flow to the penis. Gingko can also improve your memory, help manage depression, and support general health.
L-arginine is an amino acid with a wide range of benefits and uses. Probably the most common uses of l-arginine are for muscle building and treatment of organic erectile dysfunction. Evidence shows l arginine for erectile dysfunction may be effective.
The amino acid is particularly effective in combination with other herbs and compounds. A lot more research is necessary to uncover the underlying mechanisms and effects of l-arginine. If you plan to use it for ED management, make sure to adopt healthier lifestyle habits.