Everyone wants the best supplements to get the physique of their dreams. Sometimes that means picking up supplements that haven’t been backed by scientific evidence or are often misunderstood by the general public. Some supplements deserve attention but get overlooked because people don’t know enough about them. Case in point: agmatine.
Agmatine has recently developed a reputation as a nitric oxide booster in the bodybuilding realm. This popularity means that it is being added to nearly every pre-work supplement under the sun.
But is agmatine really everything the fitness world thinks it is? Or is it lying to us? It’s time to get the facts straight.
What Is Agmatine?
Also known as 4-aminobutylguanidine or 4-guanidine, agmatine, a metabolite of arginine, is an amino acid. Agmatine is not a BCAA or even related to protein. But it is helpful.
Agmatine is derived from a process called decarboxylation. This is where the carboxylic acid is extracted from arginine. This process primarily happens in the intestines, since our gut microflora (read as ‘bacteria’) are the ones who do this job. Thus, you can expect to find trace sources of agmatine in foods with fermented probiotics. Mitochondria also produce agmatine.
The primary function of agmatine is to impede the production of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) by influencing three enzymes: iNOS, nNOS, and eNOS. Here’s what each of those enzymes does:
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- Inducible NOS (iNOS) – functions in the immune system by attacking harmful bacteria. Unchecked levels of iNOS may cause inflammation.
- Neuronal NOS (nNOS) – facilitates communication throughout the brain. Too much nNOS inhibits neuronal growth and repair.
- Endothelial NOS (eNOS) – signals for distillation to increase blood flow, lowering blood pressure and exportation of cellular waste.
Agmatine influences these three enzymes by blocking iNOS and nNOS production while raising eNOS. It does this by binding to receptors, such as the NMDA, nicotinic acetylcholine, and imidazoline receptors. It then prevents hormones and other chemicals from working. In doing so, over-excitation of neurons, inflammation, and oxidative damage is reduced.
By why do you want to use a byproduct of an amino acid as a supplement? Well, let’s find out.
What Are The Benefits of Agmatine Supplements?
There are so many claims about what agmatine SUPPOSEDLY can do that we often forget about what it truly does. A lot of bro-science tends to exaggerate the truth, and many supplementation companies pump up the hyperbole because they want to make money on your dreams.
Here are some of the purported benefits of agmatine—as well as the truth—so you can figure out whether the supplement is right for you:
Because agmatine likes to activate eNOS, it enhances nitric oxide (NO) in the muscles slightly. An increase of NO in the muscles means you get greater blood flow (also known as vasodilation), and thus, a better “pump.” A better pump does two things. First, it increases nutrient delivery to the working muscles, and second, it accelerates protein synthesis, so you get more muscle growth.
However, research has yet to say whether or not the increase of eNOS is enough to have a positive effect. Studies using rats have shown the desired result, but human studies are still torn.
Increased Exercise Performance
No studies have been found to show that agmatine does anything for your exercise performance.
“So, why is this even listed as a benefit?” you’re probably thinking.
Hear me out. If agmatine does indeed increase the levels of nitric oxide, it can also improve exercise performance. Why? Beta-endorphins.
Beta-endorphins are released whenever the brain and body encounter something challenging, like exercise, to help with dulling pain perception and improving your mood. When you feel less pain, are getting a good pump, and are generally enjoying what you’re doing, doesn’t your focus and performance increase?
Unfortunately, no reliable conclusions can be made on this one, though.
A lot of research on agmatine has been for pain management purposes, not exercise ones. That said, managing pain is all a part of being an athlete. Studies repeatedly conclude that agmatine works against a subclass of glutamate receptors that regulate how you perceive pain by diminishing inflammation and neuronal activity.
Agmatine is thought to reduce the plasticity in the neurons. It also interacts with opioid receptors. One study using human subjects found that a mere 2.67 grams of agmatine a day could reduce the pain associated with pinched nerves (radiculopathy).
Again, more studies are needed to say whether or not this is true.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
Agmatine acts kind of like a neurotransmitter in the brain since it binds to several receptors. In fact, there is substantial evidence that agmatine is naturally present in the brain and is necessary for cognitive function. As you may have guessed, the reason why it is present in the human brain continues to remain a mystery.
A single study using humans instead of mice or rats found that when subjects supplemented with agmatine, they had less depressive symptoms. This change is attributed to the fact that agmatine is present in the brain and binds to receptors sometimes thought to be responsible for depression.
For the same reason, agmatine is also presumed to play a role in reducing stress levels and anxiety. In the body, agmatine levels naturally increase in times of duress to counteract cortisol.
Blood Glucose & Insulin Control
As you may know, the better your insulin response, the leaner your body is. Agmatine was found in studies to attach to imidazoline receptors, assisting in the decrease of blood glucose while enhancing endorphin production. When endorphins are present, glucose is taken into the muscles at a much higher rate, even when you aren’t exercising. Endorphins were also noted to stabilize insulin secretion from the pancreas.
What Kind of Results Can You Expect With Agmatine Supplements?
When you look at the supposed benefits of agmatine, it is hard to make a decision about what results you could get. The compelling evidence is mainly based on mice and rat experiments, and while animal research yields some insight, human subjects are where the true and transparent answers lie.
If agmatine does indeed elevate NO levels and decrease pain, it is indeed possible that your workouts would benefit for it. Additionally, if you feel less stress and depression, you might be more inclined to work out in the first place.
Right now, the best advice is to try out agmatine and see how it works for you. There is no reason not to give it a test drive. Who knows? It could be the supplement you’ve been needing.
What Are Some Side Effects of Agmatine Supplementation?
There has never been any reason to assume that agmatine is unsafe or toxic. However, certain tests have noted that there are some side effects.
- Appetite. Testers noticed that they were hungrier than without supplementation, even when they were full. This side effect might make agmatine a good choice for those who are looking to gain weight or bulk up.
- Gastrointestinal discomfort. While agmatine has some GI tract benefits, some people will experience discomfort, such as bloating and gas. These side effects were noted in a study where participants were taking 3.5 grams of the supplement every day for three weeks.
- Low blood pressure. Those who have hypotension already will need to be careful when using agmatine. It can affect blood pressure with vasodilation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Agmatine
1. Is agmatine found in common foods?
Seeing how agmatine is a byproduct of bacteria, you can find it in any foods that have been fermented, including beer, wine, and some instant coffees. However, the concentration of agmatine in these foods is so small it’s negligible.
2. How much agmatine can I take per day?
Research has found agmatine to be non-toxic when taken appropriately. That said, little research has been done on what the appropriate dosage should be. Most human-based testing has utilized 2.6 grams per day or slightly higher.
The recommended dosage of agmatine is based on weight:
- 120 lbs – 87 mg to 349 mg daily
- 140 lbs – 100 mg to 407 mg daily
- 160 lbs – 116 mg to 465 mg daily
- 180 lbs – 130 mg to 523 mg daily
- 200 lbs – 145 mg to 581 mg daily
- 220 lbs – 160 mg to 640 mg daily
- 240 lbs – 175 mg to 698 mg daily
Keep in mind that agmatine is usually listed on nutritional labels as “agmatine sulfate.” Amounts range between 250-1,000 mg per scoop. Many supplements that contain agmatine sulfate will be focused on pre-workout or inducing pump, so the usual intake recommendation is around 1-2 grams a day.
3. What supplements should NOT be paired with agmatine?
Certain common ingredients in dietary supplements, herbs, and foods have been found to counteract or negate the effects of agmatine. These include arginine, citrulline, yohimbine, and D-aspartic acid. ‘
Arginine, a BCAA, is thought to increase nitric oxide (nNOS and eNOS). Agmatine, on the other hand, decreases nNOS, and so the two do not play nice. By reducing the effectiveness of agmatine, arginine inhibits the neurological and physiological benefits you get from the chemical. Citrulline and agmatine have similar interactions. Citrulline inhibits nNOS.
For the best results when supplementing agmatine, you should also avoid taking it alongside protein. Any protein will decelerate the absorption of agmatine.
4. Can I drink alcohol when taking agmatine?
To be safe, you should probably avoid supplementing with agmatine on the days you drink alcohol and vice versa. Agmatine should never be mixed with alcohol because an increased risk of stomach ulcers has been reported through research.
Final Thoughts on Agmatine
Agmatine is becoming more and more popular these days, mainly because the preliminary research shows promising results. Hopefully, in the future, scientific research will provide us with more answers pertaining to just how useful agmatine supplementation truly is. Until then, despite speculation, there is nothing stopping you from giving this supplement a try.
There is nothing wrong with experimenting with different supplements to see if they work for you, as long as they are considered safe and you follow dosing instructions. Just remember that potential results are not the same as proven results.
Do you have any experiences with agmatine? Let us know!
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