(NaturalNews) Getting that extra push in the gym or out on the sports field might be as simple as supplementing with an important, nitric oxide-producing amino acid. In a recent study out of the University of Exeter (UE), researchers discovered that L-arginine, one of the 20 most common natural amino acids, helps increase exercise capacity by 20 percent and race times by up to two percent.
Nitric oxide (NO) is an important substance produced by the body that regulates blood flow, fights harmful pathogens and assists in cell communication. NO also helps to improve the efficiency of food and nutrient delivery into muscle tissue, which is why high levels of it help athletes perform better.
When L-arginine is processed by the body, it converts into NO, resulting in improved athletic performance. The amino acid is also a precursor to metabolites in the body like collagen, connective tissues, enzymes and hormones.
"The research found that when the dietary supplement (L-arginine) was used there was a striking increase in performance by altering the use of oxygen during exercise," explained Professor Andrew Jones from UE's School of Sport and Health Sciences.
"This is important for endurance athletes as we would expect the supplement to bring a one-to-two percent improvement in race times. While this may seem small, this is a very meaningful improvement -- particularly at elite levels where small gains can be the difference between winning and losing."
When tested on a group of healthy males, L-arginine not only improved performance levels, but it helped to lower blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise.
L-arginine is naturally found in protein-rich foods like nuts and meat. Chickpeas and coconuts, for instance, are rich in L-arginine. L-arginine supplements are also available, including powders that can easily be added to protein or meal-replacement smoothies.