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Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG) – Is it Worth Taking?

Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) is it worth taking?

Arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) is a supplement that combines the amino acid arginine with alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG).

Arginine is an amino acid that plays an important role in the urea cycle and is involved in nitric oxide production, which is what it is known for in the performance space.

On its own though, the absorption of arginine is quite low.

AKG plays a role in metabolism by regulating energy production through the Krebs cycle, the process through which cells generate energy in the form of ATP.

By combining arginine with alpha-ketoglutarate, the aim is to potentially enhance the delivery of arginine to cells, where it can be used to produce nitric oxide and contribute to energy production – theoretically leading to increased blood flow and enhanced athletic performance.

Performance Benefits

Deadlift in gym

Although it is marketed to boost performance, overall there is very little research on AAKG specifically and the research is also mixed.

For example, one study showed no improvement in both untrained and trained lifters in 1RM or total lift volume using 3g AAKG vs placebo 45 minutes before exercise.

Another study had 12 trained college athletes consume 3.7g AAKG 4 hours and 30 minutes before completing chin-ups, reverse chin-ups, and push-ups to failure.

Overall it actually led to a slight decrease in muscular endurance compared with placebo nor did it significantly affect blood pressure, suggesting there was little change to nitric oxide..

Looking at the positives, one study had 35 resistance-trained men perform a 4-day periodized resistance training program for 8 weeks, consuming either 4g AAKG split 3 times across the day, or a placebo.

Overall this showed significant improvements in 1RM bench press and Wingate peak power. However, there was no difference in muscular endurance or aerobic capacity.

AAKG Performance Benefits
(Campbell et al., 2006)

The far higher dose may potentially explain the difference in outcomes when compared with other studies.

However, another study did use this same dose per day in 24 trained men. Although it didn’t look specifically at performance outcomes, it found no change in blood pressure, blood flow, or nitric oxide levels vs placebo after 7 days.

Another study looked at the use of creatine (0.1g/kg BW) + AAKG (0.075g/kg BW) vs creatine alone (0.1g/kg BW) vs placebo.

After 10 days those in the creatine + AAKG group had significantly increased peak power, whereas the other groups showed no change.

Both the creatine + AAKG and creatine alone groups showed significant increases in bench press over 3 sets, however, the AAKG group had slightly better results.

It’s important to note that there were also other ingredients such as taurine, B-vitamins, and L-Citrulline used in the creatine + AAKG mix, so it’s hard to isolate where the performance benefits may have stemmed from.

Potential Adverse Effects

The studies mentioned above using 12g/day of just AAKG seemed to be safe and well tolerated.

On the other hand, there have been reports of individuals presenting with headaches, dizziness, tachycardia, and palpitations from supplements including AAKG. However, these supplements also contained other ingredients.

Arginine itself in higher doses can lead to GI upsets, so upper limits are typically set around 20 to 30g.

Summary

Arginine alone in the research has been shown to improve blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, preeclampsia, and triglycerides, particularly in those with metabolic dysfunction. Performance outcomes, however, are mixed.

AKG alone in the research has been shown to decrease protein catabolism, increase protein synthesis, reverse biological aging, and potentially reduce the risk of age-related diseases.

To the best of my knowledge, these are the only studies currently done so far on AAKG specifically. Since there is very little research overall, it is difficult to make any definitive conclusions.

Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support it, overall it seems the current research is mixed at best through both mechanistic (such as nitric oxide levels in the blood) and performance outcomes.

Higher doses may also potentially be necessary, as the positive study did use far higher amounts than other ones.

Ultimately, more research is needed but it doesn’t seem too promising at this stage.

By Josh Wernham

Josh is a Dietitian based in Brisbane who's passion for nutrition stemmed from an interest in optimising sports performance and body composition. He has a lot of experience in bodybuilding style training and also has a background in team sports, strength and endurance events. As he has grown in the field, this enthusiasm has extended beyond just sports and continuously immerses himself in the latest research to support those with general health conditions. He strives to help a range of individuals, from athletes to anyone seeking to improve the quality of their life.