Nitric oxide is the popular name for AAKG (arginine alpha-ketoglutarate), a compound made from the amino acid L-arginine and alpha-ketoglutarate, a substance formed in the body’s energy-generating process. AAKG is a popular supplement among bodybuilders and other athletes because of claims that it increases production of nitric oxide in muscles. Nitric oxide is known to have blood-flow-enhancing effects,1 which could in theory increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to exercising muscle. While L-arginine by itself is known to increase nitric oxide production, no research has been done to show that AAKG does the same. However, double-blind trials of AAKG suggest it improves some measures of strength and power resulting from weight training.2 , 3
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4 gram three times per day
It has been speculated that AAKG may increase production of nitric oxide, a substance known to enhance blood flow. In one study, AAKG improved measures of strength and short-term power performance in weight lifters.
AAKG (arginine alpha-ketoglutarate) is a compound made from the amino acid L-arginine and alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) a substance formed in the body’s energy-generating process. It has been speculated that AAKG may increase production in muscles of nitric oxide, a substance known to have blood-flow-enhancing effects. A double-blind study gave trained weight lifters either 4 grams of AAKG or a placebo three times a day during an eight-week weight-training regimen. AAKG had no effect on body composition but did improve measures of strength and short-term power performance.4
Optimal levels remain unknown, though weight lifters were given 12 grams per day in one trial.
Although the substances that comprise AAKG are present in many foods, the AAKG compound is found only in supplements.
A deficiency of AAKG has not been reported.
In an eight-week double-blind trial, weight lifters taking 4 grams of AAKG three times a day reported no significant side effects, showed no changes in blood pressure or heart rate, and had no abnormalities on standard blood tests for general health.5 These athletes also reported no undesirable changes in general health, mental health, libido, sleep quality, or other quality of life measures.6 Some doctors believe that people with herpes (either cold sores or genital herpes) should not take arginine supplements, because of the possibility that arginine might stimulate replication of the virus.
No clear interactions between AAKG and other nutrients have been established.
1. Cylwik D, Mogielnicki A, Buczko W. L-arginine and cardiovascular system. Pharmacol Rep2005;57:14-22 [review].
2. Campbell B, Baer J, Roberts M, et al. Effects of arginine alpha-ketoglutarate supplementation on body composition and training adaptations. Sports Nutrition Review Journal 2004:1(1):S10 [abstract].
3. Campbell B, Roberts M, Kerksick C, et al. Pharmacokinetics, safety, and effects on exercise performance of l-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in trained adult men. Nutrition2006;22:872-81.
4. Campbell B, Baer J, Roberts M, et al. Effects of arginine alpha-ketoglutarate supplementation on body composition and training adaptations. Sports Nutrition Review Journal 2004:1(1):S10 [abstract].
5. Vacanti T, Campbell B, Baer J, et al. Effects of arginine alpha-ketoglutarate supplementation on markers of catabolism and health status. Sports Nutr Rev J2004;1:S10-S11 [abstract].
6. Nassar EI, Bowden RG, Campbell B, et al. Effects of arginine alpha-ketoglutarate supplementation on quality of life. Sports Nutr Rev J 2004;1:S12-S13 [abstract].
Last Review: 07-08-2014
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