Safety and performance benefits of arginine supplements for military personnel: a systematic review

Nutr Rev. 2016 Nov;74(11):708-721. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw040.


Context: Dietary supplements are widely used by military personnel and civilians for promotion of health.

Objective: The objective of this evidence-based review was to examine whether supplementation with l-arginine, in combination with caffeine and/or creatine, is safe and whether it enhances athletic performance or improves recovery from exhaustion for military personnel.

Data sources: Information from clinical trials and adverse event reports were collected from 17 databases and 5 adverse event report portals.

Study selection: Studies and reports were included if they evaluated the safety and the putative outcomes of enhanced performance or improved recovery from exhaustion associated with the intake of arginine alone or in combination with caffeine and/or creatine in healthy adults aged 19 to 50 years.

Data extraction: Information related to population, intervention, comparator, and outcomes was abstracted. Of the 2687 articles screened, 62 articles meeting the inclusion criteria were analyzed. Strength of evidence was assessed in terms of risk of bias, consistency, directness, and precision.

Results: Most studies had few participants and suggested risk of bias that could negatively affect the results. l-Arginine supplementation provided little enhancement of athletic performance or improvements in recovery. Short-term supplementation with arginine may result in adverse gastrointestinal and cardiovascular effects. No information about the effects of arginine on the performance of military personnel was available.

Conclusions: The available information does not support the use of l-arginine, either alone or in combination with caffeine, creatine, or both, to enhance athletic performance or improve recovery from exhaustion. Given the information gaps, an evidence-based review to assess the safety or effectiveness of multi-ingredient dietary supplements was not feasible, and therefore the development of a computational model-based approach to predict the safety of multi-ingredient dietary supplements is recommended.

Keywords: arginine; caffeine; creatine; dietary supplements; performance enhancement.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arginine / administration & dosage*
  • Arginine / adverse effects*
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Creatine / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel*


  • Caffeine
  • Arginine
  • Creatine