If you’re serious about getting the most out of your workout, you’re probably in love with amino acids.
You know the BCAAs and how they help you with your workout, but while those three are important, there are a total of twenty essential amino acids.
One of these is L-arginine.
This particular amino acid can be considered the ultimate healing compound for your body.
While not necessary to supplement, if you lift often or put yourself under constant metabolic stress, it might be a good idea to load up on arginine.
Here, we give you the best supplement selections for L-arginine, so you can get back in the gym faster and harder.
For those who need to recover ASAP, here’s the list:
For those who want to get deep in the science of L-arginine, how it works in the body, and where you can find it naturally, read on.
- What is L-Arginine?
- What are the Benefits of L-Arginine?
- What does L-arginine do for your body?
- What Foods Are High in L-Arginine?
- L-Arginine and Performance
- L-Arginine and Alcohol
- Best Form of L-Arginine To Take
- How Much L-Arginine Should You Take Daily?
- When should you take L-arginine?
- How long does it take for L-arginine to work?
- L-Arginine Side Effects
- Top L-Arginine Supplements Reviewed
What is L-Arginine?
Of the twenty different essential amino acids, there are unique conditions for each to work.
Nine of them cannot be synthesized by the human body, so they need to be ingested via diet.
Six of them are “conditionally essential,” meaning synthesis could be limited under special conditions, and therefore might need to be supplemented.
And the final five are dispensable, which means they can be synthesized in the human body without adding it to your diet.
The amino acid in question is L-arginine, which falls into the second category.
It’s synthesized in the human body, but if there’s a pathophysiological condition where synthesizing is limited, then it is optimal to supplement.
But at its core, L-arginine is an essential amino acid, sometimes made within the body and sometimes taken in through food or supplement.
What are the Benefits of L-Arginine?
Like all amino acids, L-arginine is used for the biosynthesis of proteins.
This particular amino acid serves a lot of purposes, including healing wounds, dividing cells, and releasing hormones.
Mostly, it is a precursor for nitric oxide synthesis, which means it’s an important factor in blood pressure in our bodies.
Therefore, L-arginine is used for a lot of heart and blood vessel conditions, like blocked arteries, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and chest pains.
What does L-arginine do for your body?
Technically, once L-arginine is synthesized in the body, it’s converted into the chemical nitric oxide.
What nitric oxide does is it “causes blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow.”
L-arginine also helps stimulate multiple substances, releasing growth hormone and insulin, but its biggest job is to help with circulation.
It’s semi-essential, so infants and people with poor blood pressure need it in their diet, while normal adults don’t necessarily need it supplemented.
With relaxed blood vessels and improved circulation, L-arginine has a wide range of benefits:
- If you have any wounds or injuries, they can heal faster than normal
- Dilates and relaxes your arteries, which keeps your blood pressure stabilized.
- Helps your kidneys in removing wastes from your body.
- Improves symptoms of blood flow problems, such as chest pain, angina, or coronary artery disease.
- Removes ammonia from the body.
- Helps people with poor circulation in their legs or men with erectile dysfunction.
Heart health, improved circulation, and helping rid your body of waste products are the main reasons to ensure you have enough L-arginine.
What Foods Are High in L-Arginine?
Seeing as L-arginine is an essential amino acid, it can be found in protein-rich foods. Here are the top sources of L-arginine through natural food:
- Turkey: At 16 grams per breast, it is the highest natural supplement of L-arginine.
- Pork Loin: 14 grams of L-arginine per rib and low in fat.
- Chicken: A portion of chicken breast comes packed with 9 grams of L-arginine.
- Pumpkin Seeds: The first non-animal protein, a cup of these nets you about 7 grams.
- Soybeans, Peanuts, and Spirulina: Each have 4.6 grams per portion. For those who are vegetarian or vegan, these three and pumpkin seeds are your best options for L-arginine.
- Dairy: If you can “stomach” it, milk, cheese, and yogurt are small sources of L-arginine at less than a quarter of a gram for a cup of milk or 4 ounces of cheddar.
- Lentils and Chickpeas: 1.3 grams of L-arginine per cup, these are two more options for those who are looking for non-animal products that are high in amino acids.
- Crab and Other Seafood: A serving of delicious crab legs gets you 3.6 grams L-arginine.
- Spinach: Eat yourself a portion of this leafy green, gain another 2.7 grams, among other amazing pros that come with consuming spinach.
While there are more foods that contain L-arginine, these are the top choices for getting decent amounts for your body to use.
Find tasty recipes and incorporate more of this list into your diet!
L-Arginine and Performance
Because L-arginine is a synthesizer for nitric acid, it is known for its performance enhancement abilities.
You see, nitric acid not only improves blood pressure, but it also might optimize oxygen kinetics and enhance exercise.
L-arginine gives your body the potential to use less oxygen during different types of exercise, especially cardio.
Performing the same intensity of exercise while expending less oxygen helps with fatigue.
But the studies on L-arginine and its effects on oxygen-reduction are often inconclusive or varying.
It has also been found to aid in secretion of endogenous growth hormone and be involved in the synthesis of creatine, a long-supported supplement for performance in workouts.
While the studies are sometimes for the positive and sometimes for the negative, it can safely be assumed that L-arginine does not inhibit exercise performance.
L-Arginine and Alcohol
Alcohol and L-arginine are similar in that they are both vasodilators, which means they both improve blood flow circulation, lowering blood pressure, and help dilate your blood vessels.
The problem with using L-arginine while drinking alcohol is this is an instance where too much of a good thing is actually very bad.
If you use a lot of vasodilators, then your blood pressure gets too low, to a dangerous level where you could pass out or worse.
Therefore, it is highly suggested to not drink alcohol while L-arginine supplements are in your body.
Best Form of L-Arginine To Take
Powder vs. Pills
Capsule or pill is always a matter of pros and cons, along with personal preference. Of course, both options will give you the desired effects, but in different ways. For L-arginine specifically, it comes down to cost, dosage, and ingredients.
Powders: Usually, you only need one dose of one scoop daily when you take powders.
Pills: Either 3 or 6 pills, taken 1-2 times per day.
Powders: Because it isn’t encapsulated, the L-arginine will be absorbed quicker into your bloodstream. Plus, you need less product for faster results, and it’s affordable with a monthly supply per bottle.
Pills: It’s easy to travel with and you don’t have to mix it into water to take it.
WINNER: Push. Personal preference will decide this one.
Powders: There isn’t a travel size usually. A month’s worth of powder can come in a bulky container. Also, there are times when the powder you choose tastes tart.
Pills: You have to take multiple pills per dose, it might not be a month’s supply, and taking pills means absorption will be slower.
Powders: $15 – $60
Pills: $15 – $45
WINNER: Pills on the higher end, but the price per dose goes in favor of powders.
In the end, powders would be our recommendation.
Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (A-AKG)
This is a type of L-arginine that also improves vasodilation.
While A-AKG producers claim that their products can absorb faster than traditional L-arginine, there are no scientific studies to prove this to be true.
As for effectiveness, studies are also unclear on the benefits of A-AKG vs. L-arginine.
L-arginine is a natural amino acid that can be synthesized in your body, whereas arginine alpha-ketoglutarate usually has additives and contaminants.
Another problem with A-AKG is that manufacturers alter the chemical process, sometimes adding anabolic steroids to increase the effects of A-AKG.
To avoid the murky waters of this type of L-arginine, stick with the traditional form.
The difference between this supplement and L-arginine is simple: L-arginine Hydrogen Chloride is L-arginine mixed with an HCl molecule. The reason they do this is for taste.
If you really hate the taste of normal L-arginine, then L-arginine HCl will be a better option.
However, it isn’t as cheap as normal L-arginine, which makes it a decision: How much you would pay for your supplement to taste good?
If you don’t care too much about the flavor, opt for the cheaper option that will give you the same effects and go with L-arginine by itself.
The original, this is a tremendous supplement option because it is the purest form of the amino acid.
It is an nonessential amino acid that helps with upping the amount of nitric oxide in your body, so why not go with a supplement that does just that?
How Much L-Arginine Should You Take Daily?
This is vague due to lack of scientific research.
There is no one dosage that works for everybody, so determining the safest and most effective dose is based on your personal testing.
Some studies have gone with as little as 5 grams per day and as much as 16 grams per day, so perhaps somewhere in this range would be a good starting point.
It really depends on you. Start small for sure, and then decide whether you need to ramp the dosage up or down.
The most important thing is to be smart and safe; when you’re supplementing nonessential amino acids, taking too much could be dangerous.
Do you due diligence and test it out for yourself.
When should you take L-arginine?
If you’re taking L-arginine for bodybuilding purposes, the timing of your dose could be essential.
The best times to use L-arginine would be before and after your workout. Why is because it opens your blood vessels, helps oxidize your blood, and give you that pump you’re looking for in the gym.
Taking some after also aids in recovery.
So having a schedule centered around your workout would be most ideal.
How long does it take for L-arginine to work?
Once it enters the bloodstream, L-arginine goes to work, increasing the synthesization of nitric oxide and giving you all the benefits listed above.
Therefore, it depends on which way you take L-arginine; if it’s a pill or tablet, expect it to be within an hour or so of ingesting it, while the powder form should enter as fast as your digestion system acts.
Seeing as this could be coupled with the previous question, if you take one half of your dosage 30-60 minutes before your workout, and then take the other half right after, you should see the most optimal effects from L-arginine.
L-Arginine Side Effects
Of course, with every supplement comes a potential list of things that could go wrong.
The difficult dilemma with L-arginine is that there aren’t enough tests done on the supplement to know what the general side effects are.
Some reports are of extremely low blood pressure, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, asthma or airway inflammation, and more.
It is potentially safe to supplement with L-arginine while pregnant or breastfeeding for the short term, but long-term usage might be problematic.
However, with blood pressure there could be a slew of problems.
Also, if you have had a recent heart attack or you are about to or just had surgery, stop taking L-arginine for safety purposes.
The main thing is to be smart with your current situation and supplementation. As long as you do that, you should be fine.
Top L-Arginine Supplements Reviewed
The first one on our list is a single ingredient powder from BulkSupplements.
It’s all pure, powderized L-arginine, meaning there isn’t any fluff you’re paying for.
Some other benefits of BulkSupplements’ product include:
- 333 750-milligram servings (seeing as we said 5-16 grams, you’d have to put in 3-4 servings – roughly a teaspoon – into water both before and after your workout).
- “Factory Sealed Foil Zip Pouch” for easy storage and freshness.
- Provides you all the benefits of L-arginine, with lab-tested purity and verification.
- Incredibly cheap, at 6 cents per gram. If you get the 1 Kilogram pouch, it goes down to 3 cents per gram.
If you’re looking for a pure, no-nonsense supplement in powder form, BulkSupplements Pure L-Arginine should be your go-to for vasodilation.
This one is for those who want their supplements to taste good.
No one can blame you; taste matters sometimes, and if L-arginine by itself is bitter beyond ingestion, you need something to help wash it down.
MuscleTech’s supplement does just that.
SX-7 Black Onyx contains ingredients like citric acid, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium for both flavor and texture. (The flavor type is called “Icy Rocket Freeze.”) Other additives include:
- L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate, which helps get L-arginine into the bloodstream faster (allegedly).
- L-Arginine Peptides, which allows L-arginine to penetrate cell membranes, improving intracellular synthesization.
Each serving is a whopping 14g, which is a bit much, especially if you’re starting out.
For your workouts, it would be wise to take a half scoop total, split between before you start and after you finish.
Compared to the first supplement, this one comes in at just under 8 cents per gram.
This supplement costs more, but you get with it the added flavor and other variations of L-arginine.
So if that’s what you value in your supplement – taste and other types of L-arginine – then MuscleTech SX-7 Black Onyx is worth a try.
This L-arginine supplement comes in pill form, the first of its kind on the list.
Each capsule contains 500-mg of pure L-arginine, so taking roughly 8-10 pills throughout the day and around your workout on a daily basis is a decent place to begin.
With 300 servings per bottle, this should last you a little over a month.
Of course, pills are simpler to travel with and easier to take for some people.
But others loathe taking multiple pills at once.
So it really depends on your preference in how you take your supplements.
There are other ingredients in the capsule, such as gelatin, rice flour, and magnesium stearate.
These are normal for pills, used for building the capsule, filler, and lubricant respectively.
The sole active ingredient is high quality L-arginine. Plus it’s made in the U.S.A.
So go with Nutricost’s L-arginine capsules if you want a pill supplement that lasts long per bottle and coming in at just under 4 cents per pill.
The final supplement of our list is another capsule.
However, the Muscle X Boost is different in many ways than most conventional L-arginine pills.
For one thing, it is a combination of L-arginine types that Muscle X calls PumpViv NO2 Blend:
- One part L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate
- One part normal L-Arginine
- One part L-Arginine Monohydrochloride, a version of L-Arginine HCl.
With all three covered and mixed into this capsule, you’re getting a wide variety of benefits claimed by each kind of L-arginine.
It also contains traces of L-Citrulline and Dipotassium Phosphate.
The first is another nonessential amino acid that, once it hits the kidneys, turns into even more L-arginine; the second is a high water-soluble salt which is being used as an additive in this case.
Of course, it has its capsule ingredients as well. At 800-mg per serving, you still need a few servings per day to get the desired benefits.
But at 9 cents per serving, a month’s worth of pills sets you back about $27. This is where you’re paying a little more for that high-end blend.
If getting the most bang for a little more buck is more your style, then opt for the Muscle X Boost.
L-arginine is your friend for vasodilation, workout performance, and recovery. It helps you get into the flow, no matter what you’re doing.
As long as you’re aware of the cost, benefits, types, side effects, and timing, you should be in good shape when choosing an L-arginine supplement.
While all four of these supplements have their specific benefits, at the end of the day it needs to be the right one for you.
Taking a supplement that you know is the best for your situation helps with adherence to using L-arginine.
And if that isn’t the case, at least you’ll get a sick pump at the gym!