The use of arginine and other related supplements that work to boost nitric oxide as a pre-workout strategy has been widely touted and used by recreational lifters and athletes.
Now if you’re not familiar with this, the theory is that by increasing nitric oxide levels with a pre-workout supplement, you’ll essentially increase your capacity to get a “pump” due to the relaxation of blood vessels. The result is an increase in energy, and more of an ability to get achieve that pumped up look that lots of people (namely men) are chasing when they train.
Although some disagree, this ability to achieve a pump certainly has some merits as far as muscle building potential goes.
But sadly it’s not all sunshine and rainbows…
It’s important that you are aware of the potential consequences of long-term use, and how it may harm your body. Here’s the darker side of the story.
Research has shown that whilst acute arginine supplementation boosts nitric oxide [cool!], in contrast long-term arginine supplementation can actually depress nitric oxide (Mohan et al, 2012). This is not what you want, right?!
The proposed mechanism for this is nitric oxide’s ability to induce oxidative stress with increased levels of the harmful superoxide.
Now if that wasn’t bad enough, another worrying thing is that after this has occurred, your elevated superoxide levels can damage BH4. If this seems complicated, let’s break it down into an equation (overly simplified, but useful):
Long-term arginine = depressed NOS activity = elevated superoxide = damaged BH4
Now why do we care about BH4?
BH4 is responsible for:
- neurotransmitter production
- nitric oxide production (ironically).
- cardiovascular health
- detoxing ammonia
So hopefully you can now see that if you impair this pathway, you’re potentially facing a whole host of problems. If you supplement with said products long-term, and are finding that your concentration levels and general “spark for life” has diminished, you may well have found your answer.
The bottom line: Supplementation can be very useful.
But most people who use them don’t really understand what they’re doing and the related mechanisms … This can end in tears.
So be careful my friends