Magic Supplement ??

Here’s a bit of potentially exciting news for older athletes. A recent (relatively small, but what the heck) study indicates your overall athletic performance may be dramatically increased with a relatively inexpensive commercially available supplement. Any supplement containing the amino acid arginine and some other antioxidants to increase the effectiveness of the arginine may provide a boost of the anabolic threshold averaging 17%. Anabolic threshold is the point where lactic acid starts accumulating in your muscles and you start to feel fatigue.

According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition “The loss of exercise capacity with age often results in a reduction in physical fitness and more rapid [cell death],” says researcher Zhaoping Li, MD, of the University of California at Los Angeles. “A dietary supplement that increases exercise capacity might help to preserve physical fitness by optimizing performance and improving general health and well being in older people.” In the study of 16 male cyclists aged 50 to 73, men who were given the supplement showed a 16.7% increase in their anaerobic threshold at three weeks. By contrast, their counterparts who received the placebo did not see any increase in their anaerobic thresholds.

It’s a dinky little study, but that’s a pretty significant difference. It may be worth trying the supplement and seeing how you do with it.

Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide development. Production of nitric oxide decreases with age. Nitric oxide appears to have several important roles in our bodies, keeping blood vessels around the heart dilated and helping to eliminate lactic acid from exercised muscles. Nitric oxide production is also hampered by damaging free radicals, hence the need for antioxidants, to take up and neutralize the free radicals.

“We have just studied elderly since human exercise capacity declines with advancing age and many individuals lose the inclination to participate in regular physical activity,” Li said. “Our study has shown that the supplements help the muscles work much more efficiently in our study population.

Study participants took the supplements at bedtime, which is when nitric oxide levels are lowest. Arginine may dilate the blood vessels and cause dizziness when standing, which is another reason to take the supplement before bed, Li says.

Study volunteers did not show any evidence of heart disease. The role of L-arginine among people with heart disease is considered controversial, study authors say. Some proponents of L-arginine claim it can eliminate heart disease across the board. seems a bit far-fetched, but if it gives me a 17 percent boost in endurance I’m all over it.

“It is also unclear if arginine supplementation in the sedentary population can have the same results,” the study authors write. They say further research is needed.

I’m not a big fan of the company Herbalife–they seem like a sleazy Ponzi scheme to me, but one of their products–Niteworks–fits the requirements for this supplement. Niteworks is a lemon-flavored powder that is mixed with water. It contains 5.2 grams of L-arginine and L-citrulline, 300 milligrams of L-taurine, 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E, 400 micrograms of folic acid, 10 milligrams of alpha lipoic acid, and 50 milligrams of lemon balm extract. Niteworks was developed by Louis J. Ignarro, PhD., professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the UCLA School of Medicine, who shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research concerning nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system.

It looks like Niteworks costs about $90 per month. There are competing products that are much cheaper. From MLM Watch, a blog devoted to keeping an eye on sleazebuckets like Herbalife (

Ferid Murad, Ph.D., the third scientist who shared the 1998 Nobel award, has cast his lot with another manufacturer. In December 2004, Leiner Health Products announced that it had created Cardio Discovery™, which it said was “based on 28 years of research by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Ferid Murad.” A company press release stated: “Cardio Discovery helps support the cardiovascular system by increasing production of nitric oxide. Naturally produced in the body, nitric oxide helps to maintain the flexibility of veins and arteries so that blood flows freely. Cardio Discovery contains the amino acids l-arginine and l-glutamine. l-arginine is one of the body’s key nutrient sources for nitric oxide production, which is necessary for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system.” Now called [amazon_link id=”B000SV781A” target=”_blank” ]Cardio Support, the product retails for $39.95[/amazon_link].

Digging around on the web, I also found [amazon_link id=”B0031QGL2G” target=”_blank” ]Source Naturals sells a tablet form, which I found on Amazon for $14.95[/amazon_link] for a one month supply (120 tablets, to be taken four times a day). From the comments these tablets must be like horse pills, but I don’t have problems with pills so I ordered some. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

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