Increasing nitric oxide production can have many outstanding health benefits. Nitric oxide is the common name for a molecule named alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG). This substance is composed of L-arginine and alpha-ketoglutarate which is utilized in the energy generating process. Nitric oxide increases blood flow enhancing delivery of oxygen and nutrients. L-arginine alone is known to increase blood flow and increase nitric oxide production. Several double-blind trials using arginine alpha-ketoglutarate suggest improvements in strength and power with strength training.

Alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) is a ketoacid used in the Kreb’s (citric acid) cycle for ATP production during aerobic metabolism. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the energy source for muscle contraction. AKG also aids in maintaining nitrogen balance, provides a precursor for several amino acids, acts as a cellular energy source, and is a good antioxidant. One of its greatest roles is being used to produce glutamine which is an amino acid that promotes the synthesis of muscle protein and immune system function.

The benefits of nitric oxide are directly related to blood flow. The role of increased blood flow seems obvious for increased strength, muscle growth, body composition changes, sports performance, and recovery. One major benefit of nitric oxide for everyone is a reduction in blood pressure. Therefore, nitric oxide can have a protective role toward cardiovascular disease. This increased blood flow also benefits brain health, computation, and may help degenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In sports nutrition, AAKG is used to increase protein synthesis and decrease muscle breakdown. It may be used for sports performance, improved body composition, or both. Two pathways generate nitric oxide that are both regulated or catalyzed by the enzyme nitric acid synthase. Nitric oxide is a gas that cannot be ingested or consumed in gas form but may be inhaled and therapeutic for pulmonary hypertension. There are foods that help produce nitric oxide, but do not contain nitric oxide. Eating foods rich in nitrates including many vegetables such as leafy greens, root vegetables, and strawberries may naturally benefit nitric oxide production. It may also be beneficial to eat foods that stimulate nitric acid synthase.These foods include garlic, cocoa, some animal protein, and vitamin C -rich foods. Foods high in precursors or that aid in production of nitric oxide include the following: watermelon, walnuts, chia seeds, beetroot, leafy green vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, garlic, and cocoa.

Watermelon contains L-citrulline which increases the availability of L-arginine for nitric oxide synthesis. It is a great source of L-citrulline and is a way to increase nitric oxide production. One of the highest nitric oxide promoters are walnuts containing the precursor L0-arginine. Chia seeds also have a high amount of L-arginine for nitric oxide production and aiding the relaxation of blood vessels. Beetroot is very high in nitrates. It is one of the best foods for promoting nitric oxide production which can be eaten raw or in pure juice form. Dark green leafy vegetable such as kale, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, Bok choy, and mustard greens are good sources of nitrates. Cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots are also hefty in nitrates. Garlic has been demonstrated to increase the activity of nitric oxide synthase. In this manner, garlic does not directly increase production. Through the increase of this enzyme, garlic still contributes significantly to its production. Cocoa, which is found in dark chocolate, is high in flavanols. The flavanols in cocoa has been suggested in studies to increase nitric oxide and result in vasodilation.