Obesity in humans is a major public health crisis worldwide. In addition, livestock species exhibit excessive subcutaneous fat at market weight. However, there are currently few means of reducing adiposity in mammals. This study was conducted with a swine model to test the hypothesis that dietary L-arginine supplementation may increase muscle gain and decrease fat deposition. Twenty-four 110-day-old barrows were assigned randomly into two treatments, representing supplementation with 1.0% L-arginine or 2.05% L-alanine (isonitrogenous control) to a corn- and soybean meal-based diet. Growth performance was measured based on weight gain and food intake. After a 60-day period of supplementation, carcass and muscle composition were measured. Serum triglyceride concentration was 20% lower (P < 0.01) but glucagon level was 36% greater (P < 0.05) in arginine-supplemented than in control pigs. Compared with the control, arginine supplementation increased (P < 0.05) body weight gain by 6.5% and carcass skeletal-muscle content by 5.5%, while decreasing (P < 0.01) carcass fat content by 11%. The arginine treatment enhanced (P < 0.05) longissimus dorsi muscle protein, glycogen, and fat contents by 4.8, 42, and 70%, respectively, as well as muscle pH at 45 min post-mortem by 0.32, while reducing muscle lactate content by 37%. These results support our hypothesis that dietary arginine supplementation beneficially promotes muscle gain and reduces body fat accretion in growing-finishing pigs. The findings have a positive impact on development of novel therapeutics to treat human obesity and enhance swine lean-tissue growth.