Last Updated: May 19, 2021
From capsules and powders to the foods you eat, there are plenty of ways to increase your L-arginine intake. And even though L-arginine supplements might very well be a missing piece in the puzzle of your health, knowing what arginine is, understanding its countless benefits, and being aware of potential side effects will be crucial to your success.
What is L-arginine?
L-arginine is an amino acid that builds protein and releases nitric oxide. Our bodies use proteins to help build muscles and repair damaged tissues, and nitric oxide helps blood vessels relax, improving blood flow and circulatory function.
Even though your body can produce L-arginine on its own, and you can obtain it through certain foods like red meat, fish, and dairy, a deficiency may require the addition of L-arginine supplements. Coming in the form of oral tablets, powder, and even creams, many people tend to benefit significantly from L-arginine, especially those who are older or spend a lot of time in the gym.
Benefits of L-arginine Supplements
Since arginine is an amino acid responsible for building protein and nitric oxide, there are tons of health benefits to be had from adding L-arginine supplements to your nutritional regimen. Whether you’re a bodybuilder or athlete looking to build and repair muscles from working out, or you suffer from erectile dysfunction, for many people this is a supplement that can prove to be life-changing.
Research has backed various benefits of L-arginine supplements that include:
- Lowering blood pressure and hypertension (1)
- Treating circulatory issues like heart disease and angina (2)
- Helping with erectile dysfunction (3)
- Reducing inflammation (4)
- Managing blood sugar for diabetics (5)
Supplementing with l-arginine is also thought to have antioxidant and general anti-aging effects.
Side Effects of L-arginine Supplements
As with most things in life, there will always be pros and cons. While l-arginine supplements certainly bring a lot of benefits, there are also a few potential side effects to be wary of, including:
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Airway inflammation
Even though there are some side effects associated with L-arginine supplementation, most studies indicate that it’s safe for the majority of people. However, it’s not recommended to use L-arginine supplements if you’ve recently had a heart attack, if you have a history of asthma or other breathing problems, or if you’ve just recovered from a virus like herpes, as L-arginine can trigger its return. (6)
How to Get More L-arginine
L-arginine is a versatile amino acid that’s found in a wide variety of foods and health products. Some of the most common ways to consume arginine include preworkout supplements, green powders, and from eating certain foods.
You may have heard of products called pre-workout supplements in the fitness industry. Although the ingredients will vary, most pre-workouts will contain L-arginine blended with other essential amino acids (among loads of other ingredients).
Because nitric oxide is boosted when arginine levels increase, your blood flow will open up as a result. This in turn boosts the amount of nutrients that get delivered to muscle tissue which speeds up recovery time. This extra blood flow also helps you to train harder for longer and definitely gives you a pumped up, vascular appearance.
Plus, working out is literally the process of tearing your muscle fibers so that they rebuild stronger and more robust. Nitric oxide supplements containing L-arginine help build those proteins back as well.
You may already be adding a green powder to your morning smoothies, so it’s possible you meet your arginine quota that way. Most green powders (my favorite is Organifi) include some combination of spirulina, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens in powdered form.
Of all these ingredients, spirulina is the highest in arginine and is common among L-arginine supplements. If you’re running especially low in arginine or you’re looking for a kick before a workout, spirulina powder on its own could be a good idea.
Foods Rich in L-Arginine
If you’re not into taking preworkout supplements or L-arginine products in the form of capsules or powder, you can always get your fix through the foods you eat.
Turkey, Pork, and Chicken
While you’ll find a considerable amount of arginine in turkey breast, other meats high in protein can do the job as well, including pork loin and chicken. Fish has been said to have some arginine-rich properties, but not nearly as much as its poultry counterparts.
People who prefer to focus on plant-based diets also have options when it comes to getting L-arginine through foods. Pumpkin seeds have high levels of arginine as well as iron and zinc and are simple enough to add to salads and trail mixes.
Common legumes that are high in arginine content include soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, and lentils.
Add soybeans to your diet for another plant-based source of arginine. A bowl of edamame or roasted, crunchy soybeans are perfect to munch on, and you’ll reap the benefits as a source of L-arginine. Don’t overdo it though, since soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens. (7)
For an added arginine kick, many people prefer peanuts out of all the L-arginine foods out there. Unless you’ve got a peanut allergy, peanuts are super tasty and nutritious to boot. Grab a handful of peanuts as you head out the door as a delicious arginine hit.
Chickpeas and lentils are both high in fiber, protein, and – you guessed it – arginine. As another one of those plant-based options for L-arginine supplementation, they’re both versatile and delicious.
So, have some hummus for a summer snack, or lentil soup in the winter. No matter the season, you’ll be sure to get enough arginine with these foods.
High in protein, you’ll find dairy to be suitable as an L-arginine source. Between milk, cheese, and yogurt, you should be able to find multiple ways to add dairy products to your diet when low on arginine.
To Sum Up
L-arginine can be very beneficial in many areas, from muscle growth and recovery, erectile dysfunction, and blood pressure, to treating heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation. You can easily boost your intake of this valuable amino acid with supplements or a plethora of various food sources.
Mark McIntyre is the founder of MaleHealthReview.com and acts as it’s chief contributor. He is a fitness trainer and avid mountain biker who also enjoys camping, hiking and fishing. Besides managing Male Health Review, Mark is also a guest columnist for several blogs related to men’s health. More about this author…