Lysine, an essential amino acid, is an exceptionally important amino acid that’s indispensable to building quality muscle fast and it also has quite a variety of benefits.
Some of its benefits include anti-bacterial and anti-viral. (1) It plays a role in regulating hormones, enzymes and antibodies that keep the immunity strong. Due to stronger immunity and its anti-viral properties lysine is frequently used against herpes. It can be applied topically as well as taken orally.
Lysine also induces vasodilator (independently of nitric oxide) and enhance blood flow. (2)
Lysine might be significantly effective against schizophrenia by interfering with brain nitric oxide synthesis. 6g/day was used for 4 weeks in this study and it was very well tolerated and has significant positive effect against schizophrenia. (3)
Lysine has a positive effect of bone formation by stimulating osteoblast (4) as well as both enhances intestinal calcium absorption and increases calcium retention by the kidney. Just 400mg a day with the calcium supplement was enough to significantly enhance its absorption and retention. (8) L-lysine supplementation almost completely ameliorated vascular calcification as well as suppresses parathyroid hormone, (5) which, when elevated leads to low bone mineral density, osteoporosis, soft tissue calcification, hypothyroidism, etc…
It has a neuroprotective effect and protects the brain by preventing swelling during ischemic insults (cerebral edema and infarction), especially in the cerebral cortex, and the protective effect is via the suppression of glutamate-induced neuronal activity. (6) Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and antagonizing it will have a calming, relaxing, anti-anxiety effect.
Speed up muscle growth
Lysine is used in animal feed to optimize growth. Lysine supplementation increased the nitrogen retention and protein accretion, and improved the growth performance of the animals (7, 8, 9, 10, 11). Calves drinks cows milk the first few months of their life and increase their weight very rapidly, due to the lysine in the milk.
Lysine increases cell proliferation (rapid increase in the number or amount of something, in this case, muscle tissue). It also speeds up wound healing (12) and increases angiogenesis which in turn increases vascular endothelial growth factors leading to the formation of new arteries which can then supply tissue with oxygen and nutrients to help it repair and grow.
Insulin is the primary driver of amino acids into muscle tissue, and lysine increases insulin, thus aiding in driving more amino acids into the muscle. (15) It’s best to take lysine with a meal as it also increases postprandial IGF-1.
Myosin mRNA in are highly correlated with the dietary lysine level. (16) Myosin mRNA is correlated with muscle growth (muscle protein synthesis), and the more myosin mRNA, the faster hypertrophy can occur.
Some poly-lysine-containing peptides (14 AA residues) are found to affect the activities of some membrane enzymes including adenylate cyclase (17) which increases cAMP and could, therefore, stimulate testosterone synthesis. Lysine is also an essential amino acid component of androgen receptors.
A higher lysine diet also results in higher thyroid hormone, T3, which increases metabolic rate, protein synthesis, androgen production, etc… (18)
Lysine is involved in histone modifications, which are very critical for regulating chromatin structure (the DNA molecules packaged by histone) and function. This, in turn, can affect many DNA-related processes, such as transcription, recombination, repair, replication, and chromosomal organization, which is essential for building quality muscle (19).
Lysine is probably the most important amino acid for build muscle as it is the building block for de novo syntheses of almost all proteins and many peptides.
Infants need much higher lysine than older children and adults, because of their need to grow. Muscle builders can thus also capitalize on this amino acid to speed up growth.
Boosts Growth hormone
There appears to be a synergy between arginine and lysine as when ingesting of 5-9g arginine alone, only increased growth hormone ∼2 fold. (22) Higher doses arginine isn’t very well tolerated.
Improve joint health
Hydroxylysine is derived from lysine and is essential for the formation of bone matrix. (23)
Allysine is a derivative of lysine, used in the production of elastin and collagen. It is produced by the actions of the enzyme lysyl oxidase on lysine in the extracellular matrix and is essential in the crosslink formation that stabilizes collagen and elastin.
Ketogenic amino acid
Lysine can also serve as fuel in the kreb cycle to make ATP, and is involved in the formation of ketones.
Lysine is metabolized to give acetyl-CoA, via an initial transamination with α-ketoglutarate. Lysine is also a keto-acid, which can be converted to ketones, to supply the body with energy. Acetyl-CoA cannot be converted to glucose so lysine is strictly just and ketogenic amino acid and cannot be used by gluconeogenesis to produce glucose.
Lysine is potent anti-anxiety & anti-serotonin & anti-cortisol
Lysine is powerfully anti-anxiety and in combination with L-arginine. Just 2.64g of each day for only one week was able to lower anxiety and cortisol significantly. (24)
Also, l-lysine acts like a serotonin receptor 4 (5-HT4) antagonist, and prevent serotonin (5-HT)-induced anxiety, diarrhea, ileum contractions, and tachycardia and in stress-induced fecal excretion. (25) As a confirmation to the above-mentioned study that lysine+arginine lowered cortisol, 5-HT4 antagonists (like lysine) block corticosteroid secretion in the adrenal cortex (26).
A dietary deficiency of lysine increase stress-induced colonic transit and anxiety, because of an enhanced transmission of 5-HT in the amygdala. (27).
Lysine also partially blocks 5-HT4 receptors in the heart and can thus increase contractile strength, while can be a major plus for exercise performance. (28)
Also, anything that decreases serotonin indirectly increases dopamine, and lower cortisol with higher dopamine will lead to higher testosterone.
Serotonin really isn’t the happy hormone, dopamine is. Read more on dopamine here…
Lysine helps burn fat
In order to burn fat (particularly long chain fatty acids), your body needs carnitine to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria. The more carnitine, the more fatty acids can be transported and the more energy you can produce. Insufficient carnitine can lead to higher triglycerides, cholesterol, diabetes, etc…
Carnitine is synthesized from two amino acids, namely lysine and methionine and requires ascorbic acid, ferrous iron, pyroxidine (vitamin B6) and niacin (vitamin B3) as cofactors. (29)
Carnitine is also very important to provide fuel during exercise and plays additional physiological roles in protecting organisms from oxidative stress, promoting substrate oxidation in brown adipose tissue, improving cardiac performance, and regulating energy partitioning in the body (30, 31).
a) Fish being the highest source, followed by beef, chicken, milk, etc
b) Arginine and lysine compete for uptake into cells, and excess arginine will disrupt lysine uptake in cells and vise versa. Due to this antagonistic action, lysine and arginine should not be taken together in high doses. As seen in these two studies, 1.2g each resulted in a rise in GH and in young men, but 3g each did not increase GH and IGF-1 in older men. (32, 33)
c) The benefit of taking an amino acid (such as in a supplement), is that is doesn’t have to be deaminated and hydrolyzed in the liver, thus saving a lot of energy and also doesn’t produce waste products such as with digestion of meats etc…
Lysine is pretty cheap on its own and very well absorbed. It would be best to take it with a protein meal. Start with 500mg daily and work up from there. At most consume 1.5g x3 daily. Then it would be important to cycle 3 days on, 3 days off.
- L-lysine HCL – 500g bag, powder form.