Where it comes from: Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate (also known as AAKG and arginine) is a nonessential amino acid that’s necessary when it comes to making nitric oxide in the liver. “Both AAKG and nitric oxide amplify the beneficial muscle-building effects of exercising and nutritional supplements,” explains registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Jim White.
What it’ll do for you: Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate is used to treat kidney disease, intestinal and stomach disorders, liver problems and cataracts. It is also used to increase sexual energy, and for the prevention and treatment of erectile dysfunction disorder and sterility in men. Some people take alpha-ketoglutarate to improve peak athletic performance because it helps the liver break down by-products of muscle exercise such as ammonia. Athletes believe AAKG supplements help them exercise longer with less pain and stiffness, and build up more lean body mass
“Evidence also shows that L-arginine stimulates protein synthesis, which helps the body build muscles, and increase their size, strength and endurance,” says White. It has been found that, by taking 10 to 15 grams of AAKG per day, the body’s insulin level increases by 20 to 30 percent, which in turn, theoretically increases strength gains and muscle growth. How? L-argnine increases nitric oxide production in blood vessels, increasing their diameter. This increases blood flow without raising blood pressure. When blood vessels dilate, more blood reaches the muscles and tissues and provides a larger amount of carbohydrates, proteins and various muscle-building hormones.
“Several studies found that the use of arginine alpha-ketoglutarate by bodybuilders promoted larger and longer lasting pumps,” White explains. “The muscles were tighter and stronger. Some of the bodybuilders reported feeling ‘pumped’ all day long.”
Suggested intake: “Red meat is rich in L-Arginine, so consuming lean cuts of beef do provide increased protein, but this does not have the same effect as taking a supplement with Arginine,” explains White. “Most supplements are manufactured with a time release component that provides the nutrient for a period of time. Also, in order to reap the same amount of nutrients from a supplement, one would have to consume large amounts of food. It is more efficient to use a supplement.”
As a supplement, AAKG is sold in a tablets, pills or powder. The suggested dosage is two or three tablets once or twice a day on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning and at least 30 minutes before workouts. In powder form, the recommended dose ranges from 1500 milligrams to 3500 milligrams. Many experts believe it is safe—and actually more beneficial—to mix AAKG powder with creatine-based products.
Associated risks/scrutiny: So far, research is inconclusive on the adverse side effects of this product and it appears to be safe for most adults. In an eight-week study, subjects reported no abnormal side effects from taking about four grams per day of AAKG.
However, a 2009 paper reported three patients who were admitted to the emergency room with very negative effects including dizziness, vomiting and loss of consciousness. AAKG is not recommended for continuous, high-level use for more than 60 days.
AAKG is a natural blood thinner so people taking blood thinners should use with caution. Some doctors believe that people with any form of the herpes virus (cold sores or genital herpes) should not consume AAKG as it may induce virus symptoms.