L-arginine as a muscle recovery nutrient

BEYOND muscle injuries due to sports (e.g. football, boxing and martial arts) and pathological conditions (e.g. tendonitis), muscle injury may, at times, occur due to common muscle strains due to overstretching and sudden, forceful contraction (e.g. heavyweight lifting or speed running).

These muscle injuries are oftentimes called “overuse injuries” and may or may not involve muscle tearing. Soreness and pain, which are indicators of inflammation, are signs of at least minor muscle injuries.

The initial approach in treating minor muscle injuries is called the “RICE” method: Rest, Ice application, Compression and Elevation. You simply take hours, or even a day’s rest (better with sleep and relaxing music) with an ice pack on the injured muscle until the soreness subsides. Some compression may be applied to minimize further strain when movements cannot be avoided. Elevating the sore part of the body may help minimize inflammation, so the method says.

However, beyond these external remedies, the internal muscular injuries may need other help to increase the healing rate. L-arginine is an important nutrient that had been proven capable of hastening muscle injury healing, including wound healing.

When muscle injury occurs, the body triggers the activation of macrophages, which are white blood cells charged in repairing the injured muscle fibers. The strongest macrophages are the so-called “M2 macrophages,” which contain a high level of arginase. Arginase is an enzyme that breaks down L-arginine into L-ornithine and urea when it reacts with water. Remember that our body is at least 85 percent water.

The byproduct L-ornithine is directly effective in efficiently healing wounds, including exaggerated wounds. Macrophages, in their own specific functions, digest dead muscle cells for disposal from the body. Meanwhile, L-ornithine works on helping the body regenerate muscle cells, thereby repairing the muscle injury.

Since proteins are the main building blocks in muscle cell production, a good diet of protein must be maintained during periods with muscle injury.

However, there are two other nutrients that are involved in contributing to faster muscle recovery. The other two will be explored in this column in the next two weeks.
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