It has been hypothesized that L-arginine improves exercise performance by increasing nitric oxide synthesis and levels of insulin and growth hormone (GH). Metabolic and hormonal responses to chronic L-arginine supplementation may clarify the mechanisms underlying its putative physiologic effects on physical performance. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effects that 4 weeks of supplementation with L-arginine would have on metabolic and hormonal parameters at rest and in response to exercise. Fifteen healthy runners were divided into treatment (ARG; 6 g L-arginine) and placebo (PLA; 6 g cornstarch) groups. On the first visit, blood samples were collected for baseline, and the supplement or placebo was provided. After 4 weeks of supplementation (second visit), blood samples were collected at the following intervals: at rest, immediately after the first 5-km time-trial running test (5km-TT), immediately after the second 5km-TT, and after 20 minutes of recovery (+20). In addition to exercise performance (total running time), plasma nitrate, nitrite, nitrate plus nitrite, cyclic guanosine monophosphate, lactate, ammonia and serum insulin, GH, insulinlike growth factor 1, and cortisol concentrations were evaluated. There were significant increases in plasma nitrite, cyclic guanosine monophosphate, lactate, ammonia and serum GH, and cortisol at the first 5km-TT, immediately after the second 5km-TT, and +20 in both ARG and PLA. Nitrate plus nitrite and nitrate increased only at +20. No significant change was observed in serum insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 in any sample period. Total running time did not differ significantly between the 2 tests, in either ARG or PLA. Thus, according to our results, 4 weeks of L-arginine supplementation did not cause beneficial changes in metabolic and hormonal parameters, beyond those achieved with exercise alone.
Nutritional supplements; Amino acids; Exercise; Nitric oxide; Hormones; Healthy adult runners