L-arginine is often touted as a “miracle treatment.” Some claim it can help you build muscle mass, while others claim it can improve your immune system. While there are certainly benefits to supplementing L-arginine, it’s important to understand exactly what L-arginine is and the possible side effects associated with its use.
What is L-arginine?
To put it simply, L-arginine is an amino acid. It helps create proteins and also helps the body get rid of excess waste.
Malnutrition, protein deficiency, jaundice and sepsis can all prevent the body from producing L-arginine. Those who are deficient in this amino acid may suffer from skin problems, hair loss and constipation. A deficiency can also hinder the body’s ability to heal wounds and some people have issues with fat build-up in their liver. As you can see, having a sufficient supply of L-arginine helps the body run in tip top shape.
L-arginine is considered a semi-essential amino acid. In other words, the body is capable of producing it, but certain conditions can prevent the body form producing enough. It’s needed to regulate waste, keep certain chemicals in balance and to create creatine. As you know, an adequate supply of creatine is needed to build muscle mass.
Sources of L-arginine
Most people use L-arginine supplements to add more of this amino acid to their diet. However, there are natural sources as well. These include:
- Nuts – Walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts
- Seeds – Sunflower and sesame seeds
- Whole grains – Brown rice, oats, barley, buckwheat
- Dairy products
The Benefits of Using L-arginine
No matter whether you choose to use a supplement or rely on natural sources, there are numerous benefits to including more L-arginine into your diet. L-arginine may:
- Improve muscle mass. Because L-arginine is needed to create creatine, supplementing this amino acid can help you build muscle more quickly.
- Increase metabolism. With increased muscle mass, the body will burn more calories while at rest.
- Enhance sexual health. There is evidence that suggests L-arginine may help improve sexual health. In particular, it can help with erectile dysfunction. This is primarily because it helps dilate blood vessels to improve blood flow.
- Improve cardiovascular health. L-arginine is often used to help treat congestive heart failure. Evidence also suggests that the amino acid can reduce the symptoms of coronary disease and chest pains associated with angina.
- Detoxify the body. Because L-arginine is needed to regulate waste, having an adequate supply can help detox the body by eliminating excess waste.
- Improve the body’s ability to heal wounds. L-arginine is known to improve the body’s ability to heal wounds, which reduces the risk of infection. It’s particularly helpful for those who are malnourished or suffering with certain diseases.
Possible Side Effects
L-arginine is considered safe for most individuals, but the dosage requirements must be followed precisely. Possible side effects include:
- Kidney and liver problems. Certain issues with these organs are exacerbated when using an L-arginine supplement.
- Potassium imbalance. Use of L-arginine can lead to a potassium imbalance, which can also lead to dehydration, digestive issues and stomach cramps.
- Circulatory issues. L-arginine is not recommended for those who are recovering from a heart attack or taking blood thinning medications. Because L-arginine dilates the blood vessels, there is increased risk for excessive bleeding.