Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Get better training results with 3 g L-arginine a day

Give strength athletes just 3 g L-arginine [structure below] per day, and they make more progress on all fronts than athletes who don't take this amino acid. A Brazilian study from 2007, published in Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte, comes to this conclusion.

Arginine is as interesting as leucine when it comes to amino acids. Muscle cells use it as a raw material for nitrogen monoxide (NO). About 2-3 hours after starting a strength training session your muscle cells activate growth factors via NO, and these in turn activate stem cells to grow into fully-fledged new muscle cells. After 24 hours the stem cells start to develop. If you increase your NO production in this period you'll grow faster.

The Brazilians did an experiment with 20 male teenagers, aged between 17 and 19. The subjects trained their legs for 8 weeks. Three times a week they went to a gym, where they did 3 sets of each exercise with weights at 70 percent of their 1RM. The article says nothing about the training programme itself. Point lost there.

Half of the subjects took 1 g vitamin C each day: the placebo group. The other half took 1 g vitamin C and 3 g L-arginine: the experimental group. The article says nothing about what time of day the subjects took their amino acid, and in what form it was. Another point lost.

After the 8 weeks, the fat percentage of the control group [below left] had remained almost the same. The fat percentage of the arginine users [below right] on the other hand had decreased from 9.5 to 8.7 percent.

Get better training results with 3 g L-arginine a day

The lean body mass including the muscle mass increased in the arginine users by 1.4 kg. [Top figure below] In the control group there was almost no change.

Get better training results with 3 g L-arginine a day

Here below you see the development of the arginine users' maximal strength for the leg extension and the leg curl. For both these exercises there was a significant increase in strength. The athletes in the control group had less encouraging results. For the leg extension their maximal strength actually decreased by a small amount.

Get better training results with 3 g L-arginine a day

It's strange that the control group reacted so badly. The researchers' explanation is that "the training program performed during the study's period had already been applied to the athletes for a previous time of 12 weeks, totalizing hence a period of 20 weeks with no frequency, intensity and/or training volume alteration". But where they got the 12 weeks' training from is not clear from the article. Third point lost there.

The lack of methodological clarity is probably why this article was not published in a recognised scientific journal stored in the PubMed databank. But that doesn't make the study any less interesting for us.

L-arginine works, according to the Brazilians. "We consider the increase of muscular mass obtained important, which may actually provide an indication of arginine use not only in physical fitness programs but also in rehabilitation programs where the increase of muscular mass becomes a priority."

Rev Bras Med Esporte. 2007 Mar/Apr (13)2: 112e-115e.

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