Energy Gels Explained | What is OKG?

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Image courtesy of Vfuel on Instagram

OKG. Excuse us, did we typo? OMG, no, we didn’t.

We, like you, have looked at the back of our energy gels and wondered what the heck was going on with all those weird words. Can’t be healthy, right?! On the contrary, most* of the ingredients in your energy gel are very specifically used to help you on your run – to keep you healthy, happy, alert, and recovering quickly.

You may not have even noticed the ingredient OKG listed on the back of your energy gel. And actually, only a few energy gels even contain OKG. Although you may not notice this abbreviation on the label, you will probably notice its effect on your run.

So, what is it?

What is OKG?

OKG stands for L-ornithine alpha-ketogluterate (there’s a mouthful. No wonder it’s abbreviated). OKG is an amino acid that is made by the body (in small quantities) but can also be made in a lab.

Why is OKG used in some energy gels?

This is the important part. OKG is used to prevent muscular breakdown when you’ve been running either for a long time (5+ hours) or in very strenuous conditions (super hot, super high intensity). It also helps your body use proteins efficiently, as well as increasing insulin, a hormone that helps regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. This helps your working muscles absorb glucose better.

Another function of OKG is reducing the amount of ammonia produced by your cells, and therefore reducing the rate at which it accumulates. Ammonia breaks down cells when it accumulates in the blood stream, so reducing the presence of ammonia during long and/or difficult runs can help prevent this cellular damage.

What does OKG do for your run?

Basically, OKG helps you fatigue less and recover faster. It also helps your body regulate sugar and protein use more effectively, helping you to feel better during your run and better faster after your run.

Image courtesy of Vfuel on Instagram

An important question, though, is:

Does every runner need to consume OKG when they run?

Basically, no. While it certainly won’t hurt your run, most runners don’t find a benefit from this amino acid until they are running for a very long time or in very strenuous conditions… which is why you tend to find OKG in energy gels intended for ultra endurance runners. Anecdotally, many ultra runners feel a huge difference in their fatigue level after several hours of running if they have regularly consumed OKG in some form.

Shop these products: Energy Gels that Contain OKG

*Probably all… but just in case.

Juli is known around Running Warehouse for her vast knowledge of running product, from shoes to hydration to nutrition to… well just about anything running related. With a background in food science (Read: Bachelor’s degree and an addiction to scholarly journal articles on exercise nutrition), she’s also a trail lover that fiends for long runs in beautiful places.

Read more posts by Juli

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