Previous studies showed that dietary L-arginine supplementation decreased white fat mass in genetically obese rats. This study tested the effectiveness of L-arginine in diet-induced obesity. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed for 15 wk a high-fat (HF) (40% energy) or low-fat (LF) (10% energy) diet beginning at 4 wk of age, resulting in 18% higher body weight gains and 74% higher weights of major white fat pads (retroperitoneal, epididymal, subcutaneous, and mesenteric adipose tissues) in HF than in LF fed rats. Starting at 19 wk of age, rats in each dietary group were supplemented for 12 wk with 1.51% L-arginine-HCl or 2.55% L-alanine (isonitrogenous control) (n = 8 per treatment) in drinking water and arginine groups were individually pair-fed to alanine controls. Despite similar energy intake, absolute weights of white fat pads increased by 98% in control rats over a 12-wk period but only by 35% in arginine-supplemented rats. The arginine treatment reduced the relative weights of white fat pads by 30% and enhanced those of soleus muscle by 13%, extensor digitorum longus muscle by 11%, and brown fat by 34% compared with control rats. Serum concentrations of insulin, adiponectin, growth hormone, corticosterone, triiodothyronine, and thyroxine did not differ between control and arginine-supplemented rats. However, arginine treatment resulted in lower serum concentrations of leptin, glucose, triglycerides, urea, glutamine, and branched-chain amino acids, higher serum concentrations of nitric-oxide metabolites, and improvement in glucose tolerance. Thus, dietary arginine supplementation shifts nutrient partitioning to promote muscle over fat gain and may provide a useful treatment for improving the metabolic profile and reducing body white fat in diet-induced obese rats.