This study investigated the combined effect of resistance exercise and arginine ingestion on spontaneous growth hormone (GH) release. Eight healthy male subjects were studied randomly on four separate occasions [placebo, arginine (Arg), placebo + exercise (Ex), arginine + exercise (Arg+Ex)]. Subjects had blood sampled every 10 min for 3.5 h. After baseline sampling (30 min), subjects ingested a 7-g dose of arginine or placebo (blinded, randomly assigned). On the exercise days, the subject performed 3 sets of 9 exercises, 10 repetitions at 80% one repetition maximum. Resting GH concentrations were similar on each study day. Integrated GH area under the curve was significantly higher on the Ex day (508.7 +/- 169.6 min.ng/ml; P < 0.05) than on any of the other study days. Arg+Ex (260.5 +/- 76.8 min.ng/ml) resulted in a greater response than the placebo day but not significantly greater than the Arg day. The GH half-life and half duration were not influenced by the stimulus administered. The GH secretory burst mass was larger, but not significantly, on the Arg, Ex, and Arg+Ex day than the placebo day. Endogenous GH production rate (Ex > Arg+Ex > Arg > placebo) was greater on the Ex and Arg+Ex day than on the placebo day (P < 0.05) but there were no differences between the Ex and Arg+Ex day. Oral arginine alone (7 g) stimulated GH release, but a greater GH response was seen with exercise alone. The combined effect of arginine before exercise attenuates the GH response. Autonegative feedback possibly causes a refractory period such that when the two stimuli are presented there will be suppression of the somatotrope.