How to Improve Athletic Performance with Arginine and Grape Seed Extract?

The above photo is of Alberto Contador who won both the 2007 and 2009 Tour de France bicycle races.  Back when I used to compete in bicycle racing (prior to 1994), there were very few supplements  in use by athletes.  I myself can recall consuming copious amounts of Gatorade and PowerBars, but that was primarily what was available at the time or at least commonly used.

With my own esurient appetite for learning about nutrition and physiology at the time, I can recall reading books about soda loading (baking soda) along with creatine which emerged shortly thereafter as a popular supplement.  Oddly enough, I remember having a conversation with another cyclist on the Alberta Provincial Team who was possibly ahead of Bill Philips in his understanding of the importance of creatine monohydrate .  Sadly, the only readily available source that he claimed at the time was from eating raw meat which is obviously a very bad idea…

Arginine and Grape Seed Extract?

Arginine, a semi-essential amino acid, is involved in several metabolic pathways.  Arginine itself is involved in the synthesis of muscle protein, other amino acids, and creatine too.  As a precursor to nitric oxide, it plays an important role in vasodilation.  Consequently, one possible benefit of arginine supplementation includes increased blood flow to the heart and muscle tissue.

Previous studies have shown arginine supplementation to have the following benefits at doses of 5.2-6 grams per day:

  • upper body strength
  • resistance to fatigue
  • increased anaerobic threshold
  • peak and mean power during cycling

Does Arginine and Grape Seed Extract Improve Endurance?

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Camic et al, 2010), explored the effect of supplementation with arginine and grape seed extract on physical endurance.

Study Design:

50 college-aged men either consumed a placebo, 1.5g arginine supplement and 300 mg grape seed extract, or 3.0g arginine supplement and 300 mg of grape seed extract for a period of 4 weeks.

Subjects performed incremental test to exhaustion on a cycle erogmeter (bike) to determine their physical working capacity at fatigue threshold (PWCFT–the highest power output that can be sustained for an extended period without neuromuscular evidence of fatigue) before an after a month-long period of supplementation with arginine and grape seed extract.

[box type=”note”]***The participants in this study did not train between pre and post tests to exhaustion.[/box]

Results:

Both supplementation groups experienced significant increases in PWCFT.

  • 1.5 g (22.4% increase)
  • 3.0 g (18.8% increase)
  • placebo -1.6% decrease

Study Conclusions:

“The results from this study indicated that supplementation of arginine, grape seed extract, and PEG (polyethene glycol) for 4 weeks delayed the onset of neuromuscular fatigue (PWCFT) during cycle ergometry in untrained men. Thus, these findings supported the use of arginine-based supplements, at the dosages examined in the present investigation, as an ergogenic aid for untrained individuals (Camic et al, 2010).”

From the above study, the authors did find that supplementation with either 1.5g/day or 3 g/day of arginine along with 300 mg/day supplementation with grape seed extract delayed the onset of fatigue in untrained men.  For those competing in sports such as bicycle racing, running, or other related endurance sports, this type of supplementation may help to improve athletic performance.

Reference:

  1. Camic CL, Housh TJ, Zuniga JM, Hendrix RC, Mielke M, Johnson GO, Schmidt RJ. Effects of arginine-based supplements on the physical working capacity at the fatigue threshold.  J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1306-12.