Diet has a profound effect on human health. Nutrients can have both positive and negative effects, depending on the quantity we ingest, the quality of the diet, and what other foods they react with in digestion. In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, contents of the diet before and after exercise are of paramount importance in sports nutrition. Olympic athletes, body builders, or exercise enthusiasts alike must ingest foods and nutrients that complement their sports training in order to optimize their performance.
Arginine is generally considered a non-essential amino acid for adult humans because, in addition to being absorbed by the diet, it can be synthesized within the body.
One of the most important benefits of arginine is its role in nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is a cell-signalling molecule involved in many physiological systems, including the immune system, to kill pathogens, viruses, parasites, and most significantly in vasodilation to reduce vascular resistance and high blood pressure.
Arginine and Strength
In addition to maintaining normal levels of arginine for systemic health, some research has shown that ingesting an above average amount of arginine, within physiological ranges, via supplementation, may be beneficial for increasing muscle mass and strength. For example, research has clearly identified that a daily combination of 12 grams of L-Arginine + alpha ketoglutarate for 8 weeks can increase males 1 repetition maximum bench press strength.
Arginine and Muscle Growth
Arginine has also been shown to stimulate the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland and helps to promote cell growth and regulate the mobilisation of fuel in the body. Several studies have examined the potential role of arginine supplementation increasing overall body mass when combined with exercise or sports training. For example, males and females participating in resistance training 2 to 4 times per week can expect a 2.7 fold increase in growth hormone, 60 minutes after oral supplementation with 1.5 grams of arginine and 1.5 grams of lysine.
Arginine and Weight Loss
Obesity is a major health concern within Australia. In fact, it is estimated that one-third of all Australians are obese (BMI Standardization). This is of utmost importance as obesity increases the risk of developing other severe health problems including hypertension and diabetes. Researchers are therefore focusing on potential interventions that with assist in reducing adiposity and prevent the onset of such metabolic diseases.
Recent evidence shows that arginine may play a role in preventing obesity because of its involvement in brown adipose tissue (BAT) development. In short, an increase in BAT can potentially prevent excess fat accumulation because, when BAT is activated, high amounts of lipids and glucose are broken down within the body’s tissues. Moreover, increased levels of nitric oxide may contribute to the conversion of white adipose tissue (WAT: induces excess fat accumulation) into BAT. Amazing!
However, despite the benefits, it is important to note that because nitric oxide is a free radical species (an agent that competes against antioxidants in your body) it can be toxic to cells in high concentrations. Too much nitric oxide (from overproduction) can negatively affect health by inducing oxidative stress on proteins and lipids and cells, as well as contribute to disease states such as diabetes and muscle injury. For this reason, one should utilise supplementation in conjunction with research or a qualified health care practitioner.
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