Arginine is a non-essential amino acid -- meaning arginine is an amino acid that is produced in the body from other amino acids, and therefore is not required in your diet to survive. Now although it is not technically an essential amino acid, arginine has to be the best kept secret when it comes to non-essential amino acids, especially if you are an athlete!
So what makes arginine so special? Why should an athlete pay attention to arginine? Let’s go through it together!
What is the Role of Arginine in the Body?
Arginine is involved in several biological processes -- it has an effect on hormone secretion, immune modulation, and ammonia detoxification.
The reason athletes find arginine especially important for their lifestyle is due to the fact that arginine is essential for muscle protein synthesis as well as wound healing. It also has an effect on the vascular system as arginine allows blood vessels to relax -- this is known as vasodilation which offers many benefits for cardiovascular health.
With vasodilation from arginine, blood flow is elevated to the exercising muscle and allows for an enhancing metabolic response for the athlete. Furthermore, arginine has also been found to decrease the amount of oxygen needed by muscles during exercise -- allowing for the athlete to increase stamina.
Where Can I Find Arginine?
Arginine can be found naturally in whole foods such as: red meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, whole wheat, and dairy products.
Although arginine is a non-essential amino acid and your body can produce it on its own, your body will not produce more arginine if arginine is depleted or there is an inadequate supply. In a scenario such as these -- arginine would then be classified as a conditionally essential amino acid which we will discuss next.
Arginine as a Conditionally Essential Amino Acid
Yes, arginine is a non-essential amino acid… for most people. Conditionally essential amino acids are non-essential amino acids that can be essential for your individual case based on a specific condition which can be due to your diet, lifestyle, or medical condition.
So let’s look at an athlete’s specific lifestyle. When you are training and physically straining your body it will require more arginine than the average person -- meaning arginine is actually a conditionally essential amino acid for athletes as they cannot produce enough arginine they need to sustain their specific lifestyle. Therefore, athletes must consume arginine through supplements or other whole foods containing arginine to make up for their lack of.
Although we have stated that arginine can be classified as essential for certain people, there has been a lot of controversy as to where to group this specific amino acid. There have been several clinical literature pieces published stating arginine should in fact be classified as an essential amino acid for everyone.
Arginine in Supplement Form
Arginine can also be found within supplements. Creatine is one of the most well studied sports supplements and is made from arginine, glycine, and methionine. With the help from the conditionally essential amino acids arginine and glycine, and the essential amino acid methionine, creatine can form and store energy in the muscles in the form of phosphocreatine.
Although your body will deplete a lot of the energy naturally, when you are working out, you are still able to perform intense workouts -- largely due to the amount of phosphocreatine stored in your muscles.
When looking for arginine within supplements it is always recommended to consume the highest quality NSF Certified for Sport protein supplement that you can find.