There's no shortage of sports supplements lining the shelves of your local health store claiming to improve your athletic performance, and arginine alpha-ketoglutarate is among them. Manufacturers promote AAKG for building muscle, improving exercise endurance and aiding in recovery from workouts. Unfortunately, studies to support these claims are lacking. What's more, reports of adverse side effects exist. Consult your health care provider before taking an AAKG supplement.
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What It Is
Arginine is an amino acid, and alpha-ketoglutarate is an intermediate in the citric acid cycle, also known as the Krebs cycle. The citric acid cycle is a series of reactions that involve the breakdown of stored glucose to produce adenosine triphosphate. ATP is a high-energy molecule that provides your cells with fuel. The citric acid cycle plays a major role in providing the energy you need during exercise.
What Supporters Claim
Proponents claim arginine alpha-ketoglutarate increases nitric oxide production, thus improving athletic performance and helping to build muscle. Nitric oxide is a gas your body produces naturally. It relaxes smooth muscle, expands blood vessels, increases blood flow and helps cells communicate with each other. In theory, increased blood flow to muscles serves to improve endurance and workout performance, decrease recovery time and stimulate muscle growth.
Researchers examined the effect of AAKG supplementation and published the results in the August 2011 issue of the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism." The study involved 24 physically active men who took 12 grams of AAKG daily for seven days. Although the AAKG supplement did increase arginine levels in the blood, this did not translate to ergogenic benefits such as improved blood flow or increased exercise performance.
Safety of Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate
Researchers have yet to study the safety of AAKG. There are reports of adverse effects requiring hospital visits. A 33-year-old man was admitted to the hospital with heart palpitations, dizziness and vomiting after taking an AAKG supplement, according to a report in the journal "Human and Experimental Toxicology" May 2009 issue. Two other men, age 21 and 24, experienced similar symptoms from a different AAKG supplement. The authors suggest blood vessel dilation from increased nitric oxide may have contributed to these symptoms.