An arginine-containing supplement had no positive ergogenic benefit in this study, and may acutely be counterproductive in developing muscular endurance. An NO-stimulated increase in blood flow to the working muscle may create a mechanical hindrance preventing a full range of motion during particular exercises (a reverse chin-up in this case). Nitric oxide has also been shown to decrease contractile force of mammalian skeletal muscle (27).
Arginine-induced NO production may directly stimulate protein synthesis via ERK 1/2 activation (28). Arginine supplementation may also be effective at indirectly stimulating protein synthesis when consumed with other amino acids. This results from enhanced amino acid delivery to skeletal muscle via arginine-induced NO production (20). If arginine supplementation proves useful in stimulating protein synthesis directly or indirectly, the results of this study indicate that it would be optimal to ingest the supplement postexercise in conjunction with other amino acids. Although Matsumoto et al. showed a decrease in skeletal muscle proteolysis with arginine supplementation during moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (19), the supplement also contained branched chain amino acids (BCAA), which decreases indirect indicators of muscle damage independently of arginine (14).
Almost all advertised benefits of arginine supplements rest on the assumption of NO stimulation. It should be noted that arginine-induced NO production is not a foregone conclusion, because production is not limited by arginine availability (5,17). Also, if vasodilation is produced via arginine feeding, it may be the result of insulin release as opposed to NO production (17), because insulin induces vasodilation (2).
No significant differences in BP were found between trials despite an over 5-mm drop in systolic BP 5 minutes postexercise in the supplement trial. Diets high in arginine via either oral supplementation or the inclusion of arginine-rich foods are reported to lower BP in healthy, human subjects (25). The BP response in this study may have been confounded by the presence of piperine extract in the supplement. Piperine is derived from the plant Piper nigrum or Piper Iongum L. (black pepper and long pepper, respectively) and may have thermogenic properties (26). However, there is no available evidence known to our laboratory that suggests piperine will affect BP at rest or postexercise.
Oral arginine doses of 10 g have been associated with gastrointestinal pain and diarrhea (23). Although none of the subjects in the present study (7.4 g·d−1) reported gastrointestinal distress, 10 subjects voided between the first and second arginine feedings as compared to only 2 between the placebo feedings. In addition, Jackson identified several unfavorable metabolic effects that may result from single amino acid supplementation (16). The addition of a single amino acid, lysine, to a balanced amino acid solution exacerbated negative nitrogen balance over 10 days in patients under total parenteral nutrition (15). It should be noted, however, that this effect is specific to subjects already in a negative nitrogen balance.
Considering that acute arginine supplementation may contribute to decreased local muscular endurance and that prolonged arginine feeding (7 days) in high doses (appox 25 g·d−1) can cause sodium and consequent water loss in the urine (3), its acute use before resistance training should be questioned and is in need of further study.
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