Tagged: Contraction

Why L-Arginine Isn’t Such a Great Pre-Workout

We know – the world of fitness supplements can be confusing.

You probably know that protein powder is an easy way to reach your calorie and macronutrient goals and that creatine[1] is a safe and effective way to increase power and anaerobic capacity.

That’s roughly where the consensus ends when it comes to fitness supplements, and for those of us looking to improve workout performance, it can be hard to know what else meets the approval of the scientific community at large.

Enter L-arginine[2], (also just called “arginine”) an amino acid that’s been linked to everything from better workouts to stronger erections. Can it improve your PRs, or is it just another well-packaged bottle of powdered snake oil?

The Claims

As a conditionally essential amino acid, the body does a decent job of producing arginine on its own, but there could be some situations where it’s useful to supplement it.

The most common claim surrounding arginine is its purported abilities of vasolidation, meaning that it “opens up” veins and arteries and makes it easier for blood to flow freely throughout your body. This would be because it is a precursor to nitric oxide[3], a known vasolidator.

Following on from that claim, arginine should be able to improve workout performance and decrease the odds of experiencing hypertension, deep vein thrombosis, erectile dysfunction, and other problems that are related to blood flow.

That is, if it’s true.

The Evidence

“L-arginine tends to be marketed towards any physical activity, since the theoretical increase in nitric oxide should benefit anything related to blood flow,” says Kurtis Frank, the research director of the independent nutrition research organization, Examine.com. “For the most part, it seems to favor CrossFit®-style activities; things that involve muscular contraction in a moderate rep range. It doesn’t seem to provide any major benefit to long distance stuff nor maximal power activities like sprinting and heavy lifting.”

When it comes to nitric oxide supplements, there’s something of a “Big Four”: L-arginine, L-citrulline, agmatine, and nitrates. Antioxidants also indirectly aid nitric oxide and are often used alongside the Big Four.

The problem, in Frank’s own words, is that arginine is the “shittiest” nitric oxide supplement of the bunch. It’s not even worth taking it with the other NO supplements, since they’d be competing for the same mechanism. If taken side by side, he explains, it’d end up being a one-plus-one-plus-one equals one-type scenario.

The question, then, is what’s the smartest way to boost nitric oxide?

 “I’d recommend L-citrulline or agmatine over L-arginine any day, for workouts and for the general health benefits,” says Frank. “Agmatine could be seen as the healthiest, since it has other mechanisms in addition to the NO production, like neuronal health.”

Focusing on L-citrulline or agmatine is also likely to benefit your wallet, since dedicated nitric oxide supplements are notorious for trying to increase profits by adding twenty somewhat relevant ingredients, while they usually only have a couple of ingredients that are truly effective. (Frank likens NO supplements to “fat burners” in that regard.)

Arginine, it turns out, is a weak pick for the benefits a buyer is probably after. The link it has to actually boosting nitric oxide is weak, and the initial belief that it’s a solid NO supplement is sometimes known as “The Arginine paradox.”

“L-arginine was initially thought to increase NO because it’s a precursor – you need some arginine for the enzymes that make NO,” says Frank. “But when you put more arginine into a system, NO doesn’t necessarily increase. It turned out that’s because it’s not just a substrate, it works mostly through the A2-andrenergic receptor. Agmatine is a lot more potent in the way it acts on this receptor, and L-citrulline, while it works in a more similar manner to L-arginine, does a much better job of absorbing through the intestines. By the way, that’s why a lot of people get ‘pre-workout’ shits; they combine caffeine with L-arginine, both of which can go right through you.”

But Doesn’t L-Arginine Increase My Muscle Size?

Finally, L-arginine is also thought by many to increase the body’s production of the anabolic human growth hormone[4] (HGH) and creatine.

But arginine doesn’t do anything for your creatine production unless you’re already deficient in arginine, and it’s extremely unlikely that you are. (Remember that the body can make its own arginine, plus it’s present in most sources of protein.)

And as far as growth hormone goes, arginine and creatine do technically increase its production after a workout, but for such a small time frame that it’s doubtful it’ll have any practical effect on your body. So don’t turn to L-arginine to give you Stallone-like[5] HGH levels.

The Takeaway

This science is a little dense, but here’s the take-home lesson.

First, if lowering your risk of hypertension by improving your blood flow, you’re better off talking to your doctor and considering pharmaceuticals and ACE inhibitors. Supplements, after all, aren’t medications.

But, if you’re interested in a nitric oxide-boosting, blood vessel-opening pre-workout supplement, you’re better off turning to L-citrulline or agmatine, the latter of which might be the better choice. About three grams per day of either is a safe and effective dose.

Featured image via @_king_tunde_[6]



  1. ^ creatine (barbend.com)
  2. ^ L-arginine (examine.com)
  3. ^ nitric oxide (examine.com)
  4. ^ human growth hormone (barbend.com)
  5. ^ Stallone-like (www.vanityfair.com)
  6. ^ @_king_tunde_ (instagram.com)

TAURINE -The Next Super Supplement for Bodybuilding?

Does the name Taurine sound familiar? Well, yes, if you are someone who drinks Red Bull frequently and have actually cared to check the ingredients. For those who haven’t, you can check out the word “Taurine” written in a stylish font at the back of the can. There`s a reason why it’s added to Red Bull and if you weren’t aware, we’re going to break it down for y’all.

What is Taurine?

TAURINE -The Next Super Supplement for Bodybuilding© Thinkstock/Getty Images

Taurine is an organic compound, a naturally occurring amino acid which is found in high concentration in white blood cells, skeletal muscles, the central nervous system and as well as in the heart muscles. It is a major component of bile (bile helps in digestion of fat) in humans. It’s found in the large intestine and accounts for up to 0.1% of your total bodyweight. 

Is It An Essential or Non-essential Amino acid?

TAURINE -The Next Super Supplement for Bodybuilding© Thinkstock/Getty Images

For those of you who are hearing these terms for the first time, let me clear them doubts for you. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins which are categorized into two types:-

Essential Amino Acids :-  These cannot be made by the body. As a result, they must come from food or supplements. The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Non-Essential Amino acids:-These are made by the body itself but some of these can be termed ‘conditionally essential’ as well.  That is because external dosage becomes essential under conditions of physical stress or trauma, when the body cannot produce a sufficient amount to meet demand. Some conditionally essential amino acids are: glutamine, arginine, cysteine and ‘taurine’.

What It (Possibly) Can Do 

TAURINE -The Next Super Supplement for Bodybuilding© Thinkstock/Getty Images

Not all supplements act the same way on every consumer. Effects of supplements are very subjective, that’s why we used the word ‘possibly’. 

1. Strength Gains:-It can act similarly to Creatine, increasing cell hydration. Not only will this make muscles appear fuller but also provide indirect stimulus for anabolism.

2. Fat Oxidation:-In some studies, acute ingestion of 1.66 g of Taurine before exercise resulted in a small but significant increase in fat oxidation during sub-maximal cycling in endurance-trained cyclists.

3. Improved Pumps:- Taurine has been shown to participate in the excitation-contraction coupling mechanism in skeletal muscles, which means that it affects the transmission of an electrical signal into muscle fibers. This has obvious importance in ensuring optimal muscle performance, which eventually leads to enhancement in gains. 

4. Improved (Aerobic) Athletic Performance:- A study published by Japanese researchers in 2003 examined 11 men aged 18 to 20, who were told to perform bicycle exercises until they were exhausted. After taking taurine supplements for seven days (each time, before their workout), the men showed significant increases in VO2max (the maximum capacity of a person’s body to transport and use oxygen) and time until exhaustion sets in. The researchers credited the improvement to taurine’s antioxidant activity and protection of cellular properties

5. Taurine and Stress:- Taurine has the ability to calm the CNS, or central nervous system. It can work to reduce anxiety and stress levels as well. Low taurine intake can leave your central nervous system prone to stress and chronic high stress levels. As I mentioned in the start, since it’s a conditionally essential amino, its requirement can go up when an athlete is under physical or mental stress. 

Dietary Sources Of Taurine

Fish , Meat ,Chicken, Egg, whole milk and cheese 

How To Supplement With Taurine

Consume 1-3gm a day, 30 minutes before workout.

Other Important Things About Taurine

Apart from its performance-enhancing benefits, it is also being heavily researched as an anti-diabetic compound due to its effects on various organs of the body of most concern to diabetics (kidney, eye, and nerve health) as well as controlling blood sugar while reducing some forms of insulin resistance.

Due to the multiple benefits it offers, it is a supplement which old people/Vegans/Athletes with medical conditions discussed above can benefit highly from.

More research is needed in healthy athletes and particularly for strength athletes and bodybuilders to determine the complete effects of taurine.

Photo: © YouTube (Main Image)