Does protein powder have arginine in it?

When looking for the perfect protein powder, you want to make sure it has everything you want, and everything you don’t want. If you have herpes, whether it’s the kind that throws a party on your face or below your waist (like moi!), arginine is something you’ve probably learned by now that you don’t want… at least not too much of it.

If you’re wondering if protein powder has arginine in it, the short and simple answer is yes. But don’t fret! There is a very easy solution. If you have herpes and you’re concerned about getting an outbreak from the arginine, that just means you haven’t learned about our little friend lysine yet.

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In 2012, I came into contact with the herpes virus (Yay, so fun!). A few years later, I started weight training and supplementing with protein shakes. Shortly after, my body promptly proceeded to break out down yonder. And by break out, I mean break out with a F-U-R-Y.

There was a constant party in my pants and not the kind I wanted to host! This was before I was open to the idea of taking any medicine for it, so I suffered in a tremendous amount of pain, without a clue as to what was causing the outbreaks.

The whole thing became so frustrating that I began searching profusely online and finally found the answer I had been looking for. The trigger for my outbreaks was the arginine in my protein powder.

However, that wasn’t the whole story. It turned out that it wasn’t the arginine by itself that caused the outbreaks, but the imbalanced ratio of lysine along side it.

Let me break it down for you.

Lysine (a.k.a. L-Lysine – pronounced LIE-SEEN) and arginine (a.k.a. L-Arginine – pronounced AR-JEN-EEN)) are 2 of 20 amino acids that are the building blocks that make up your body’s proteins. Your body needs both of them.

Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body cannot make it on its own, so you need to get it through the food you eat.

Arginine is a conditional amino acid, meaning that the body makes it on its own, and would only need to be intentionally consumed if the body wasn’t making it sufficiently (e.g. in certain cases of illness or stress).

However, consuming too much arginine causes the herpes virus to replicate, which greatly increases the chance of an outbreak. So technically, arginine doesn’t cause the outbreak itself. What it does is feed the herpes virus, giving it exactly what it needs to multiply and throw those parties we talked about earlier.

On the other hand, lysine blocks the activity of arginine, which helps to prevent the herpes virus from replicating. I would love to be able to cite a source for you that provides details on the antagonistic relationship between lysine and arginine, but I wasn’t able to find a clear explanation on this from a reputable source.

This is really all you need to keep in mind: Consuming too much arginine and not enough lysine can trigger a herpes outbreak.

And I don’t just mean overall in your diet in general. I’m talking within the specific meal you’re having, which includes protein shakes.

So when you’re looking for a protein powder, just make sure it has MORE lysine than arginine, like this one: 

Levels Whey Protein 2lbs
Levels Whey Protein 2lbs
Levels Whey Protein 5lbs

This is the protein powder I’m currently loving and have been using for over a year. It has an excellent ratio of lysine to arginine and hasn’t caused me any outbreaks.

Now that you know have a better understanding of what’s going on, you might be wondering…

Does all protein powder contain arginine?

Yes, all protein powders contain arginine. There is no such thing as an arginine free protein powder. This is because as an amino acid, arginine naturally occurs in the foods that are used to make protein powders. It is literally a building block of protein, so it’s impossible for a protein powder to not have any.

Does all whey protein have arginine?

Yes, all whey protein has arginine because it naturally occurs in milk, and that is what whey protein is derived from. In its natural state, milk (and dairy in general) has more lysine than arginine, so you would think this would always transfer to the same ratio in a protein powder, but it doesn’t always!

I’m honestly not 100% sure why, but it definitely has to do with the manufacturer of the protein. My guess is that they are adding in additional arginine during production, since a lot of body builders (their usual target customer) are looking for high amounts of arginine in order to build more muscle. Some of them even supplement with it separately, so they might be adding it to win them over as a 2-in-1 kinda thing.

Does plant based protein powder have arginine?

Yes, all plant based protein powders have arginine, and for the same reason mentioned about whey above. Regardless of the source, if you’re buying a protein powder, it’s going to have arginine in it because as an amino acid, it’s part of what makes up a complete protein.

The thing about plant based vegan protein powders is they have a very high arginine to lysine ratio, which can definitely cause herpes outbreaks. (Ask me how I know!)

Of all of the protein powders I have researched (and trust me, I have researched A LOT), I have never been able to find a vegan, plant based protein powder with more lysine than arginine. 

Why? Because every one I have found is derived from a plant based ingredient that is SUPER high in arginine and very low in lysine. (The perfect recipe if you want to live in herpes hell!)

For example, peas, hemp, sunflower seeds – these all contain significantly more arginine than lysine in their natural state, and it carries over when they make the protein powder.

What I don’t understand is why someone hasn’t figured this out yet and simply added lysine to the formulation to balance it out and give us a vegan option!


So that’s it friends. I hope this post has been helpful to you. I’m wishing you vibrant, radiant health in all areas of your life!

Lysine-Arginine Blogger

I’m just a regular person who learned the hard way that too much arginine causes herpes outbreaks. I found real solutions that have worked for me to prevent outbreaks for years. My mission is to share everything I've learned with as many people as possible, to prevent them from going through the same pain and suffering I did. Because once you know what to do, you won't have to suffer anymore!

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