Enhancing Muscular Performance: What Science Says About Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate

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In today’s world, enhancing muscular performance involves as much brain as it does brawn. 

Supplements are increasingly sought after for their role in boosting the body’s natural functions, and arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) stands out in this regard. AAKG is widely used among athletes, yet it remains relatively under-researched. With so much information circulating, it’s important to question the reliability of what we hear.

To truly understand AAKG’s effectiveness and safety, we must delve into the scientific research and studies that explore its potential benefits and limitations.

What is Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate?

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Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) is a popular supplement among athletes, aimed at enhancing endurance, physical performance, and muscle building while reducing fatigue. 

It works by increasing nitric oxide production, which improves blood flow and, consequently, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles. This is distinct from L-arginine, an amino acid known for widening blood vessels and treating various health conditions, including erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure. 

Scientists are still studying how well AAKG can match the benefits of L-arginine, especially in improving vascular health and performance. Its full potential remains to be fully understood.

Is L-Arginine the Same as Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate?

AAKG, a form of L-arginine, is a dietary supplement derived from combining arginine with alpha-ketoglutarate, a molecule from glutaric acid. L-Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid vital for protein synthesis in the body. 

Many studies assume that connecting L-arginine to alpha-ketoglutarate will help the body absorb the amino acid better, taking full advantage of the vast health benefits of L-arginine.

What Are the Benefits of Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate?

Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) is often heralded as an ergogenic aid, promising to elevate muscle strength, endurance, and peak power for athletes, particularly bodybuilders. 

The pursuit of top physical performance increasingly combines mental sharpness with physical strength, making supplements like AAKG, which are said to boost the body’s natural abilities, more attractive. However, with the growing popularity of these supplements, it’s crucial to look beyond personal stories and base our knowledge on solid scientific evidence.

1. Improves Blood Flow

Central to the appeal of AAKG is its purported role in boosting nitric oxide production, a key player in vasodilation – the process of widening blood vessels. 

This physiological effect is crucial as it facilitates increased blood flow without adversely affecting blood pressure, thus enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles during strenuous activities. However, the scientific examination of these claims presents a more nuanced picture. 

A study involving 24 physically active men, who consumed 12 grams/day of AAKG over seven days, found that while AAKG supplementation did elevate plasma L-arginine levels, it didn’t significantly impact hemodynamics, brachial-artery blood flow, or nitric oxide metabolites (NOx) when juxtaposed with a placebo group. These findings suggest that the vasodilatory effects attributed to AAKG might be more closely associated with the physical exercise itself rather than the supplementation.

After exercising, both the groups taking the supplement and the placebo showed higher heart rates, blood pressure, and blood flow in the arm’s main artery. This highlights that these physical changes were likely caused by the exercise itself, rather than the AAKG supplement.

2. Boosts Muscle Power

AAKG is popular for its claimed ability to increase nitric oxide production, which helps widen blood vessels for better blood flow. This is important for delivering more oxygen and nutrients to muscles during intense workouts without raising blood pressure.

In a study with 35 resistance-trained men aged 30-50 years, participants were assigned to either a regimen of 12g daily AAKG supplementation or a placebo over eight weeks, alongside a structured resistance training program. 

The outcomes were promising for the AAKG group, which showed notable improvements in one-repetition maximum (1RM) bench press and Wingate peak power, alongside elevated blood glucose and plasma arginine levels. These markers collectively hint at AAKG’s role in enhancing upper body strength and anaerobic power. 

However, it’s crucial to note that these benefits did not extend to alterations in body composition, total body water, muscle endurance, or aerobic capacity, delineating the scope of AAKG’s efficacy to specific performance metrics.

A 2021 study echoed similar results, demonstrating that supplementation with β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) and AAKG helped maintain countermovement jump (CMJ) height in adolescent runners, suggesting a preservation of lower limb power without significantly impacting muscle damage markers or mood. 

Yet, another study in 2022 countered these findings, showing no discernible benefits of AAKG on muscular strength or endurance in resistance-trained or untrained men, further complicating the narrative around AAKG’s ergogenic potential.

Because the study designs are very different and one study even failed to come up with the same results, it cannot be said with certainty that AAKG can — without a shadow of doubt — make you stronger.

3. Amps Up Peak Power

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The discourse around AAKG also touches on its ability to elevate peak power, potentially enabling bodybuilders to endure more rigorous high-intensity exercises. 

A 2021 study delved into this by examining the effects of L-Arginine (L-Arg) supplementation on cardiorespiratory responses during high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) in overweight men. The study found that L-Arg supplementation significantly reduced ventilation, VE/VCO2 ratio, oxygen uptake (VO2), and heart rate during HIIE, suggesting an improved exercise tolerance that could be particularly beneficial for individuals with higher body mass indexes seeking to engage in regular, intensive workouts for health enhancement.

In 2020, a systematic review and meta-analysis further substantiated the potential of Arg supplementation in enhancing both aerobic and anaerobic performance, offering dosage and timing guidelines for optimizing athletic performance across these domains. 

But keep in mind — there are no studies proving that AAKG is a better, more absorbable form of arginine. 

As the scientific community continues to unravel the intricacies of AAKG’s impact on physical performance, it becomes clear that while certain benefits are observable, they are often contingent on specific exercise contexts and may not universally apply across all facets of athletic performance. 

The journey toward fully understanding AAKG’s role in sports science is ongoing, and future research will undoubtedly shed more light on how best to leverage this supplement within the broader spectrum of ergogenic aids.

The Verdict on Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate

The existing research on AAKG supplements, though promising, doesn’t yet provide a definitive answer on their benefits for athletes and bodybuilders. 

To establish reliability, studies need to be:

  • comprehensive
  • consistently yield similar results
  • undergo peer review
  • include meta-analyses 

Given the current state of evidence, prioritizing well-structured training over reliance on AAKG supplements might be more beneficial for enhancing athletic performance. 

Nevertheless, if AAKG supplements or other muscle recovery supplements have caught your interest or you’ve seen positive effects in someone you know, it’s worth noting that they are generally considered safe. However, when considering their potential impact on your training regimen, it’s advisable to remain cautious and not to expect dramatic improvements solely from supplementation.

If you have questions about AAKG or want to know what dietary supplements can improve your physical performance, contact us and learn more. 

At Peak Human, our team of healthcare professionals helps you reach your ‘peak’ health with a custom whole-person approach. Using the most cutting-edge, science-backed biohacking and aesthetic tools available today, we help you achieve the highest physical/cognitive performance state, improving your overall quality of life.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for questions or to book an appointment. Get personalized support and insight from expert physicians.

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