Potential ergogenic effects of arginine and creatine supplementation

J Nutr. 2004 Oct;134(10 Suppl):2888S-2894S; discussion 2895S. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.10.2888s.


The rationale for the use of nutritional supplements to enhance exercise capacity is based on the assumption that they will confer an ergogenic effect above and beyond that afforded by regular food ingestion alone. The proposed or advertised ergogenic effect of many supplements is based on a presumptive metabolic pathway and may not necessarily translate to quantifiable changes in a variable as broadly defined as exercise performance. L-arginine is a conditionally essential amino acid that has received considerable attention due to potential effects on growth hormone secretion and nitric oxide production. In some clinical circumstances (e.g., burn injury, sepsis) in which the demand for arginine cannot be fully met by de novo synthesis and normal dietary intake, exogenous arginine has been shown to facilitate the maintenance of lean body mass and functional capacity. However, the evidence that supplemental arginine may also confer an ergogenic effect in normal healthy individuals is less compelling. In contrast to arginine, numerous studies have reported that supplementation with the arginine metabolite creatine facilitates an increase in anaerobic work capacity and muscle mass when accompanied by resistance training programs in both normal and patient populations. Whereas improvement in the rate of phosphocreatine resynthesis is largely responsible for improvements in acute work capacity, the direct effect of creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle protein synthesis is less clear. The purpose of this review is to summarize the role of arginine and its metabolite creatine in the context of a nutrition supplement for use in conjunction with an exercise stimulus in both healthy and patient populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arginine / pharmacology*
  • Creatine / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects*


  • Arginine
  • Creatine