L-Arginine is a nonessential amino acid that is also involved in the production of nitric oxide, a biological signal that regulates blood flow. Many forms of L-arginine have been developed to improve absorption or enhance effectiveness. A salt of L-arginine and alpha-ketoglutarate, a chemical your body uses to produce energy and amino acids, is commonly included in fitness supplements for its purported ability to enhance blood flow, energy and recovery.
Your body uses L-arginine to produce proteins, enzymes and biochemicals such as creatine and nitric oxide, or NO. NO is produced by cells lining blood vessels, stimulating the blood vessel to dilate and thereby increasing blood flow. Though a small amount of NO is constantly produced, NO levels rise as much as a thousand fold to increase nutrient and oxygen delivery throughout your body. As a gas, NO diffuses and is degraded rapidly by the body, requiring consistent L-arginine for signaling, although your body normally produces sufficient amounts.
Alpha-ketoglutarate is an intermediate in the Krebs or citric acid cycle, one of the primary ways your body produces energy and raw materials. AKG taken as a supplement enters the Krebs cycle, producing energy or other products such as the amino acid L-glutamine, a large component of muscles. The salt L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate combines potential benefits of both substances. AAKG separates into L-arginine and AKG in the intestines and is equivalent to taking both separately.
L-Arginine and AAKG supply raw materials for biological reactions but do not necessarily drive them. L-arginine can improve exercise tolerance and circulation in those with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes as well as aid would healing. A 2006 study by Campbell et al. found that AAKG increases maximum strength in male athletes. Large clinical trials are generally lacking for the purported uses of L-arginine or AAKG.
Supplements containing L-arginine or AAKG appear to be safe for the general population. Because of potential changes in blood flow or pressure, it is important you only to take L-arginine supplements with your doctor's supervision if you are pregnant or have heart, kidney or endocrine disease. L-arginine may raise blood sugar. Rare but serious side effects requiring hospitalization have occurred in a very small number of people. Seek medical help if you experience allergic reactions, persistent headache, bleeding or changes in vision.