Ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate, or 0KG, was recently introduced in the commercial food supplement market. The rationale for using 0KG for bodybuilding purposes stems from its reputed anticatabolic effects in the human body, and all of the existing research involves hospital
patients who were in severe catabolic states, such as trauma and burn victims. If 0KG can successfully treat such debilitated people, someone reasoned, imagine what it could do for relatively healthy athletes. The parallel between the two isn't as farfetched as it seems. The
muscles of normal people who lift weights can easily slip into a catabolic state, particularly when those people are lifters who don't use drugs that promote clearly defined anticatabolic activity, such as anabolic steroids.
0KG is believed to work through at least two mechanisms, The ornithine portion of the molecule may promote growth hormone release more effectively than the commonly used GH-promoting amino acids like arginine. 0KG also potently stimulates insulin release, and insulin, in turn, promotes amino acid uptake in muscle, encourages protein synthesis and prevents muscle protein degradation. A recent study conducted by researchers at the St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix compared the effects of 0KG to those of another popular anticatabolic substance, ketoisocaproic acid, or ICC, a derivative of the branched-chain amino acid leucine.
The subjects in this case were rats. The goal of the study was to see which of the two substances, 0KG or KIC, was more effective in promoting growth hormone release. Patients who experience catabolic conditions are usually deficient in growth hormone, so something that increases GH release would, therefore, most likely improve a patient's metabolic activity. The results of the study showed a significantly greater nitrogen, or protein, retention in rats that were given 0KG compared to rats that were given straight ornithine or KIC.
In another study rats that suffered burns were given 0KG to test the effect of the substance on certain immune cells that are deficient in burned or traumatized patients. Scientists believe this deficiency may play a role in causing the increased infection that often proves fatal to these patients. Because 0KG acts as a source of substances that are needed for proper immune function, such as nitric oxide, polyamines and glutamine, the researchers suspected that giving it to burn patients who had compromised immunity would improve their immune systems and prevent infection.
The results of this study showed preserved thymus gland function - a source of immune cells - in the rats that were given 0KG. The 0KG-supplemented rats also maintained lean tissue and demonstrated heightened immune cell activity. The question facing bodybuilders is, What is the best way to use supplemental 0KG? Some experts have suggested taking 10 grams of it on an empty stomach in the morning. This is based on one study in which researchers wanted to test the potential hypoglycemic, or blood sugar-lowering, properties of 0KG. Far better to take advantage of the potent insulin-stimulating effects of this substance by taking it with meals, especially meals that are high in protein.
One problem with 0KG is its terrible taste. To offset this, you can either take it in capsule form or use a supplement that combines 0KG with other amino acids in optimally balanced proportions to encourage muscle growth.