Arginine is one of the amino acids, which are mainly involved in the sports performance of athletes. It is present in the synthesis of other chemical compounds for the organism, as well as being a precursor for others.

In the following article, we give you all the information about this amino acid and its different uses for the body.

What is arginine?

Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid compound , which is synthesized from citrulline. The human body is capable of producing it, but in athletes where a greater demand for arginine is required , its consumption is increased through supplementation.

To highlight: Arginine participates in protein synthesis , and serves as an energy source. It also has an important role in increasing sports performance, participates in collagen synthesis and improves the function of immune system cells, among others.

Functions of arginine in the body

The use and importance of this amino acid in the human body is due to the wide variety of functions it performs, of which we point out the most relevant:

Stimulates immune function

L arginine has been considered as an immunomodulator, since there is clinical evidence that indicates the improvement of the response of L cells and increases phagocytosis in patients in postoperative processes.

Important: A study on “Effect of Arginine on the Immune System and Nutritional Parameters” , indicated that an increase in lymphocyte counts was observed in patients who were administered arginine as nutritional therapy. (1)

Also, in another review article, the intervention of arginine as an immunomodulatory nutrient is pointed out . (two)

Involved in the synthesis of creatine, polyamines and DNA

Because creatine is a nutrient that is synthesized from amino acids such as arginine, glycine, and methionine, it is generally used to improve sports performance in humans.

Polyamines are nitrogenous aliphatic molecules and among their functions is that they participate in the cell cycle , modulate the immune system and intervene in the redox balance of the organism (reduction-oxidation chemical balance). Its synthesis is carried out through the conversion of L arginine.

During the replication process, whose sequence of nucleotides in each strand is what determines the order of amino acids in a protein, the protein is composed of one or more amino acid chains whose sequence corresponds to the DNA sequence of the gene that encodes it.

Note: Arginine, as an amino acid compound, can integrate some of these proteins to generate a DNA sequence.

Eliminates waste substances

L arginine participates in the production of urea in the body and although this is a waste product, it contributes to the elimination of toxic ammonia in the body through urine.

Stimulates the release of somatotropin and insulin

L arginine generates a mechanism in which it inhibits the secretion of somatostatin which exerts inhibitory effects on growth hormone or somatotropin. In this way, an increase in muscle mass is generated in athletes.

To highlight: Studies indicate that the response of growth hormone in humans is related to its dosage. (3)

Regarding the release of insulin, L arginine stimulates the action of pancreatic cells, directly stimulating the production of insulin.

Reduces muscle fat levels

Arginine is an amino acid, which has the property of making sports activity more efficient in athletes, so you will be less fatigued during physical activity, increasing the elimination of body fat and fat between the muscles, favoring the increase in lean muscle mass in athletes.

A study on “Effects of arginine supplementation on sports performance based on energy metabolism: a systematic review and meta-analysis” , indicates the beneficial effect of L-arginine on aerobic and anaerobic sports performance. (4)

It is a metabolic precursor of nitric oxide

In physiological terms, nitric oxide is a molecule naturally produced by our body at the time of strong stimuli from high-intensity exercise or HIT, and it acts as a cell protector.

L arginine is the precursor amino acid in the production of nitric oxide in our body. Scientific studies describe the beneficial action of nitric oxide for the body. (5)

Note: Nitrous oxide should not be confused with nitric oxide. The first causes hallucinations and a euphoric state in the person. It is also known as laughing gas.

Promotes muscle recovery

Intense physical exercise generates metabolic waste such as lactic acid and ammonia at the muscle level. L arginine, through its transformation into nitric acid, helps dilate blood vessels , allowing better blood circulation through the muscles, cleaning them of this waste that causes muscle fatigue.

natural sources of arginine

The sources of arginine come from the animal kingdom as well as from the plant . However, it can also be found as a nutritional supplement . Here we mention the most important natural sources of this amino acid:


Meats from chicken, cow, pork and turkey provide a high arginine content, but the consumption of this food should be done in moderation, since it can generate other pathologies.

fish and shellfish

Another animal source of arginine is fish and shellfish. Most of these species have a large amount of arginine, but sardines, squid and shrimp are the most generous. They should also be eaten in moderation as some of these specimens contain mercury.


This food of animal origin is rich in protein, and is usually part of the daily diet of many people, so its daily consumption is not a problem. Both the yolk and the white of the egg include arginine , the yolk being the richer of the two.

Dairy products

Milk, like its derivatives, contain a large amount of arginine . Those that contain the most this amino acid are butter, cheeses such as mozzarella, provolone and Parmesan.

Tip: Milk is recommended to be consumed skimmed or skimmed, to avoid the consumption of saturated fats.

whole grains

Whole grains or cereals such as wheat, in all their presentations, have a large amount of this amino acid among their components, which includes arginine. There are also brown rice and quinoa as sources of arginine.


Periodic consumption of legumes in its different varieties such as spinach , seaweed, chives, onion , soybeans, peppers, leeks, garlic and mushrooms also provide arginine to the body.


Likewise, nuts provide arginine. Foods such as almonds, peanuts or peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts or peanut butter and hazelnuts offer fatty acids, protein, iron and of course, arginine.


A food that offers significant amounts of arginine is dark chocolate , but in the version that has more than 60% cocoa. This is important, because this food is almost addictive, and what you want when consuming it is the minimum intake of carbohydrates.

Key Findings

  • Arginine is an important amino acid mainly for performance in athletes.
  • It is a precursor to another compound called nitric oxide , which has many benefits for the body.
  • It can be consumed through a balanced diet and in the form of supplements.
  • The consumption of this amino acid is considered safe.
  • Arginine helps in some cardiovascular pathologies and diabetes.
  • Reduces the accumulation of fats in the body.

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