This post will teach you everything you need to know about ornithine.
But what is ornithine?
Many of you will be wondering what it is, what ornithine does and what the benefits of ornithine are.
Ornithine is an amino acid, often partnered with arginine but it does have benefits of its own.
This supplement can help reduce feelings of fatigue during tough workouts.
Not only this, it might even lessen your hangover symptoms after a big night on the tiles – bonus!
In addition, this amino acid has been linked to increased virility and better sexual performance – so if you’re struggling with your performance, you know what to do!
Let’s take a more detailed look into ornithine…
What is Ornithine?
Ornithine is an amino acid which is made naturally inside our bodies.
Supplements are sometimes labelled as L-ornithine, the ‘L-’ means that the chemical is not from natural sources, but has been made synthetically.
Ornithine is different from the majority of other amino acids, our bodies don’t use it to build proteins.
Instead, it plays a major part in the urea cycle, along with two other amino acids – arginine and citrulline.
The urea cycle, also known as the ornithine cycle, is the process that turns toxic nitrogen waste products, like ammonia, into urea.
Urea is safer for our bodies to store until the time is right for excretion – lovely.
Without the urea cycle, ammonia and other nitrogen waste products would build up in our bodies causing illness – which of course we don’t want.
This is what often happens when people suffer from liver problems.
The build up of nitrogens also contributes to feelings of fatigue, so extra ornithine can boost the system and help us feel more energetic.
Ornithine hydrochloride, abbreviated to ornithine HCl, is the most well-studied form of this supplement.
Other forms, such as L-ornithine aspartate and L-ornithine α-ketoglutarate have not been as well researched.
Also, these supplements contain less ornithine by weight than ornithine HCl.
What Does Ornithine Do?
Ornithine is said to have many benefits for weightlifters, as well as being useful as a treatment for some medical conditions.
This is useful to know, especially if you lack stamina when lifting weights.
The immune system needs it for optimal functioning and it promotes skin and tissue healing, so may be useful for recovering post-op patients.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways ornithine is used in the body…
Can Ornithine Help With Fighting Fatigue?
Typically, ornithine is found to reduce athletes’ feelings of fatigue after prolonged exercise and it has this effect within a week of starting the supplement.
A study published in Nutrition Research NY gave a group of 18-29-year-old people, with average body types, 2g of L-ornithine HCl per day for six days.
On the seventh day, the participants were given a dose of 6g of the supplement.
After a two-hour cycling test, pedalling at 80% max, the participants who had taken ornithine felt only half as tired as the placebo group.
During the test their bodies built up less ammonia, suggesting that the urea cycle was working more efficiently.
Another study over a 24 hour period gave 100mg/kg ornithine to its male participants, these men then cycled to exhaustion.
The scientists did not expect the single dose of ornithine to affect the participants’ feelings of fatigue, and they were right.
However, the single dose was enough to increase the levels of ammonia in the mens’ blood.
This suggests that even a single dose is enough to boost the urea cycle and clear nitrogen from the body faster.
Does Ornithine Reduce Hangovers?
When we drink alcohol, our bodies experience a rapid rise in ammonia concentrations.
Ornithine boosts the urea cycle which ‘mops up’ excess ammonia, so scientists tested how ornithine interacts with alcohol.
The supplement didn’t make people feel less drunk, but it did have an effect on how they felt the next morning.
A dose of 400mg of L-ornithine before bed helped study participants feel less ‘angry-hostile’ and less confused the morning after.
They also had a longer sleep and felt less tired the next day.
This makes it a win-win situation, surely?
Cirrhosis Related Liver Conditions
84% of people who suffer from cirrhosis of the liver will be affected by hepatic encephalopathy.
As a result, their blood levels of ammonia will be much higher than usual.
This ammonia causes toxicity and the result is a decrease in cognitive function.
To treat hepatic encephalopathy, doctors concentrate on lowering the amount of ammonia in the blood.
L-ornithine appears to be an effective way to lower blood ammonia.
A trial found:
When L-ornithine-L-aspartate was given three times a day (3 x 6g, totalling an 18g daily dose) for 14 days, scientists recorded lowered blood ammonia levels.
Once in the body, ornithine is slowly changed into arginine.
Arginine is well-known for its ability to relax blood vessel walls, thereby helping blood to flow more easily.
Men, take note:
In cases of erectile dysfunction, this has been shown to be a promising treatment.
Arginine and ornithine are good supplements to try if you would like to have increased potency and sexual performance.
You now know what to do if you want to impress your partner.
How Much Ornithine Should You Consume?
We recommend you always read the packaging, and follow guidelines.
Most scientific studies have used doses of 2-6g of ornithine daily (usually L-ornithine HCl).
This daily amount can be split into two or three smaller doses spread throughout the day.
Be careful not to exceed recommended doses as:
Doses of 10g daily may cause stomach problems, nausea, and diarrhoea, in a similar way to arginine supplements.
Different forms of the supplement will require different doses, as they contain different amounts of ornithine by weight.
The most commonly studied form, L-ornithine HCl is 78% ornithine by weight. L-ornithine α-ketoglutarate is 47%, and ornithine aspartate is 50%.
Appropriate doses should be clear from the packaging but will be different for each product.
What Foods Contain Ornithine?
Foods like meat, poultry, eggs, fish, soy, and quinoa are ‘complete protein sources’.
It’s a shame pizza isn’t on that list!
This means that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids the human body needs to build proteins, including ornithine.
Meat eaters who eat a healthy, varied diet will be able to produce ornithine from these complete sources.
Beans and legumes are high protein vegetarian foods, but can’t be called ‘complete’ because they lack L-methionine.
Grains are also high protein foods but lack the essential amino acid, L-lysine.
For all of the vegetarians or vegans out there, you can make sure you have plenty of the basic building blocks of ornithine by eating a variety of grains, beans, legumes, and soy.
It is recommended to avoid deficiency, our diet contains at least 0.8g protein per kg of bodyweight every day.
For endurance athletes this rises to a recommended 1.4g/kg and bodybuilders should aim for 2.0-2.2g/kg protein per day.
Make sure your getting the right amount of protein in your diet.
If you struggle to eat enough protein-rich foods, protein powder is an effective way to ensure your consuming enough.
When to Take Ornithine
When taken as a pre-workout, ornithine has been shown to cause a small peak in human growth hormone after exercising.
However, this peak was seen as insignificant by the scientists who conducted the study as it was very short-lived.
It was also well within the natural fluctuation limits that occur throughout the day.
However, to take account of the anti-fatigue effects of this supplement, it can be used as a pre-workout.
Ornithine can also be split into two or three smaller doses and used throughout the day.
This will boost levels in the body and will still give anti-fatigue effects.
Side Effects of Ornithine
L-ornithine HCl in particular is considered to be unlikely to cause side effects.
However, ornithine gets into the body using the same transporters as arginine.
Because of this, it can theoretically prompt similar symptoms to arginine when taken in doses of 10g or more.
These may include diarrhoea, stomach upset, and nausea – again, not something you want to experience.
Some people say that ornithine is more effective when taken on an empty stomach, but this is more likely to cause side effects.
The best way seems to be splitting the dose, and taking it with food will help avoid them.
Because of ornithine’s similarity to arginine, it may also interact with certain medications.
MAOIs, blood pressure medicines and erectile dysfunction medicines may all be affected.
It is wise to speak to your doctor before beginning any new supplement.
Do You Need to Cycle Ornithine?
Most people agree that you don’t need to cycle amino acids, as they are made in the body anyway.
Don’t panic – if too much ornithine begins to build up the liver will break down the excess, and it will be excreted.
It is this breaking down process, in fact, that removes ammonia from your system, helping you to exercise for longer.
Something to consider…
As most studies of ornithine have been over short periods there isn’t enough scientific evidence to say for certain whether or not a tolerance will develop.
However, as appears to be the case with arginine, the effects of ornithine may taper off after a few months of use.