Arginine is an amino acid that has a number of beneficial effects in the human body. It can improve the functioning of the circulatory system, support the building of muscle mass, as well as strengthen immunity and take care of the proper functioning of the intestines

Arginine is a relatively exogenous amino acid, it also occurs in commonly available food products and in the form of dietary supplements.

Arginine - what is it?

Arginine (2-amino-5-guanidinovaleric acid) belongs to endogenous amino acids and to some extent can be naturally produced by the human body. Its synthesis, however, depends on exogenous compounds, i.a. glutamic acid, which must be supplied to the body with food.

For this reason, arginine is often referred to as a relatively exogenous amino acid. This compound can be naturally produced in the human body, however, in quantities that will not cover the increased demand for this ingredient.

Arginine comes in two forms, as L-arginine and D-arginine. L-arginine has important functions in the human body, while D-arginine is a biologically inactive form.

In the body, it undergoes numerous transformations, both anabolic and catabolic. Anabolic transformations occur mainly in the liver and kidneys.

Sources of arginine in the diet

Arginine is found in both animal and plant products. Sources of amino acid include, i.a.:

  • nuts and seeds,
  • pumpkin seeds,
  • wholegrain cereal products,
  • seafood,
  • meat,
  • chickpeas and soybeans,
  • milk and dairy products.

In case of increased demand for arginine, e.g. in some physiological situations, such as excessive stress, it is also worth considering taking dietary supplements rich in this amino acid.

Action and properties of arginine

Arginine has a number of different effects in the body. It is used, i.a., for the construction of creatine or protein synthesis. It may also be involved in the production of collagen. Amino acid can also participate in the formation of nitric oxide in the human body, the presence of which is necessary for the construction and proper functioning of the circulatory system. Nitric oxide i.a. can cause vasodilation. This compound can also contribute to improving potency and sperm quality.

In addition, arginine can strengthen the immune processes of the body by affecting the functioning of the thymus. Amino acid can also affect the processes of cell division and accelerate tissue repair, and thus faster wound healing and bone fusion.

Among athletes, arginine is particularly appreciated because it can affect the increase in physical performance. Increasing the production of nitric oxide can help to improve blood flow and oxygenation of muscles, which in turn can increase their efficiency and endurance. Moreover, arginine may participate in the synthesis and release of creatine and growth hormone.

It can have a positive effect on the intestinal microflora, i.a. by supporting the continuity of the intestinal barrier. Arginine may also benefit the functioning of the liver.

The compound may also increase insulin sensitivity and contribute to lowering blood pressure.

L-arginine is also used in cosmetics because it can accelerate the healing of the epidermis and shorten the time of tissue regeneration. When used in skin care products, it can also strengthen and accelerate hair growth.

Arginine supplementation - for whom and in what amount?

In case of increased demand for arginine, e.g. among physically active people or exposed to long-term stress, it is worth considering taking dietary supplements containing arginine.

Most often, arginine comes in the form of a powder that must be dissolved in water or juice. The recommended daily portion of the supplement depends on the selected preparation and the type of physical effort undertaken and the consumer's expectations.

On training days, one serving (about 3 g) is usually recommended half an hour before the start of exercise.

It is worth remembering that arginine can raise the level of insulin in blood.

Arginine contraindications and side effects

Taking too large portions of the supplement or using preparations rich in arginine for a long time can contribute to the occurrence of side effects, such as:

  • nausea,
  • diarrhea,
  • dehydration,
  • stomach cramps.

Long-term intake of the amino acid in the form of a supplement may also contribute to the deterioration of kidney and liver function.

It is worth noting that arginine can enhance the effect of blood thinners. This, in turn, can contribute to haemorrhages and wound healing problems.

Therefore, arginine should not be taken at the time of using blood thinners, as well as while taking medicines to lower blood pressure. Contraindications are also liver and kidney disorders.

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