The preworkout category has long been riddled with ineffective, underdosed products lacking scientific validation. Companies do zero research yet pump tons of marketing dollars into convincing consumers their product is the best available. Typically, they design lengthy and purposely confusing nutrition panels, haphazardly concoct pixie dust proprietary blends masking their cheap formulas, and load half the container with filler attempting to fool consumers into thinking they are getting more.
Consider Muscle Marinade™ the anomaly. It was systematically forged from science and research by real scientists and athletes, boasting an ensemble of performance enhancing and recovery stimulating ingredients supported by peer reviewed and published human scientific data. Taking it a step further, Muscle Marinade™ includes the clinically supported effective dosage of each ingredient in every one scoop serving. NO OTHER COMPANY’S PRODUCT can match these claims. All facets of exercise performance and recovery are addressed within our formula including increasing high intensity power output and muscular work, boosting mental acuity, enhancing fluid balance and hydration, reducing cortisol and free radical damage, enhancing cellular immunity, and facilitating maximal post exercise protein synthesis.
Marketing does not propel or sustain our products; Efficacy and Results do.
PRE WORKOUT DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Although other supplement classes may have some merit in their own regard, it is generally well accepted that the pre workout supplement/drink is an absolute “must have” for all serious athletes, bodybuilders in particular. Such drinks are typically purchased in powder form, mixed with water to taste, and consumed 20-30 minutes prior to strenuous exercise. Most products contain a mixture of stimulants (caffeine being most common), certain amino acids (such as arginine—as discussed in more detail below as related to nitric oxide), performance-enhancing agents (such as creatine), some so-called “novel” ingredients usually included at insanely low dosages and hidden within a “proprietary blend” to beef up the label panel, and a cheap carbohydrate filler (usually maltodextrin). The interesting thing to consider about this class of dietary supplement (and many supplements for that matter), is that there does exist scientific evidence to support the use of some ingredients found within the pre workout products currently available. However, because so many companies are more concerned about including a long list of ingredients on their label panel in favor of a few scientifically supported ingredients that actually do something beneficial (in human subjects for that matter) and making a greater profit rather than producing a quality product (with some exceptions), most products eventually turn into a container of maltodextrin and caffeine with 50 other ingredients provided at such a low dosage that they could not possibly provide any benefit to the consumer (even when used at the 2-3 scoop dosing level—an absolute necessity for most products despite claiming a serving size of 1 scoop). Take a careful look at many such labels and see for yourself. The unfortunate reality is that if certain ingredients were actually provided within each product at dosages that were proven to be efficacious (based on clinical studies in human subjects), pre workout products would likely be an extremely valuable tool in the dietary supplement arsenal, rather than simply a stimulant-loaded placebo. The section below discusses this in some detail.
What to Include
The most crucial decision in developing a new dietary supplement is what to include within the actual finished product. In a well thought out plan, hundreds of hours can be spent reviewing the available scientific literature in an attempt to identify ingredients of interest for inclusion within the finished product. The process of product formulation should ideally involve reviewing scientific abstracts, attending presentations at scientific and industry-focused meetings, retrieving and evaluating full text scientific manuscripts, discussing data with chemists and technical support staff working for companies selling ingredients of interest, conversing with investigators actually conducting the research, self-using of and experimenting with ingredients of interest, and/or designing studies and actually conducting clinical trials with yourself as the principal investigator (assuming you have the expertise and resources to do this). All of the above steps were thoroughly exhausted by PURUS LABS™ and colleagues over the course of a six month period in formulating Muscle Marinade™.
Ingredients Tested in Human Subjects
In regards to the above, it is imperative that the majority of chosen ingredients have been investigated within human subjects who received the ingredient via oral ingestion and at a dosage similar to that provided within the finished product of sale. Although some ingredients may meet these criteria, a decision not to include them may still be rendered for other reasons (as discussed in some detail below). The two most common reasons for this decision are: 1) the overall effects of the ingredient may be physiologically negligible, albeit of statistical significance; and/or 2) the subject population in the research study may not be representative of the product’s target market (e.g., elderly heart failure patients used in research study; product marketed to young, healthy bodybuilders). Under such circumstances, it is important that the formulation team make an educated and informed decision regarding the use of such ingredients. Alternatively, if a novel ingredient is identified and has yet to receive a great deal of attention from the scientific community (e.g., perhaps one obscure study has been done) but appears to have excellent potential based on anecdotal reports, this may be considered for inclusion aftercareful review. However, use of such ingredients should clearly not be the norm, as objective and independent scientific data should ultimately drive the development of any new dietary supplement. If the above plan is stringently adhered to, it is certainly possible to develop a product that is scientifically sound, will provide for the desired effects, and will likely yield results for most individuals who choose to use it (see the section on Muscle Marinade™ below for ingredients that meet these criteria for inclusion within a pre workout product). Unfortunately, the more commonly used alternative to this multi-component plan is to simply look at your competitor’s label and use what they use. Muscle Marinade™ exclusively uses only ingredients with proven effects noted in human clinical research studies coupled with strong anecdotal evidence within human subjects.
What not to Include
While the list of what to include in a pre workout product is far from extensive, the list of what not to include is indeed much longer. At PURUS LABS™, the rationale for not including certain ingredients is based largely on one simple fact: There exists absolutely no scientific studies or anecdotal reports obtained from human subjects pertaining to said ingredient of interest. The fact that PURUS LABSTM only considers information gleaned from human subjects is important, as many ingredients contained within the majority of pre workout products have only been investigated in cell culture with the ingredient simply being added to the incubation medium. The research ends there without even the inclusion of animal studies indicating a benefit. This being the case, how can a company feel confident they have any idea of the correct dosing of such an ingredient (something that can carefully be calculated if animal data are available) or that the ingredient would do anything remotely similar to what they are claiming? The answer is simple—these companies are merely guessing! Of course, it is possible (but not probable) that some of these novel ingredients may actually provide a benefit, but the studies ideally need to be done before people should be making such ridiculous claims. At the very least, the ingredient needs to be provided to human subjects in oral form at the recommended dosage for an assessment in a “non-scientific environment” (e.g., field testing in the gym). Considering the above and having spent countless hours reviewing the scientific findings and anecdotal reports (or lack thereof) related to the ingredients contained within several pre workout supplements currently being sold on the market today, I can say with confidence that not only are there no human data to support the inclusion of many of these ingredients, but there exists little to no biochemical rationale as to why many of these ingredients would be included within the product in the first place. It all goes back to companies just wanting to beef up their label panel for marketing purposes regardless of an ingredient’s efficacy. This is especially true when considering the ridiculously low dosage used of most ingredients, coupled with the fact that oral intake will likely render much of the ingredient inactive once it reaches the gut.
Ingredients with Little Scientific Rationale
Regarding the above, a great example of this industry foolishness over the past 5 years is the hype surrounding ingredients touted to increase the gaseous molecule known as nitric oxide (NO). While NO is indeed an important signaling molecule promoting vasodilation by acting on vascular smooth muscle (Maiorana et al., 2003) and mediating increased blood flow at rest (Hickner et al., 1997) and during exercise (Gilligan et al., 1994), there exists no direct evidence that increasing NO is associated with improved exercise performance (Bloomer et al., 2009; In press). Companies claiming insane exercise intensity and muscle pumps with use of their pre workout products due to the supposed NO increase have no evidence to back their claims: I base this assertion on the fact that if companies actually had such evidence, they would certainly feature it in their marketing pieces. All of the advertising, marketing, testimonials, and endorsements are mere hype. Granted, they may mention a few references pertaining to a certain NO precursor such as L-arginine, but such studies often have absolutely nothing to do with the product of sale or to the claim being made.
For example, although L-arginine is indeed the precursor to NO biosynthesis and has been associated with enhanced vasodilatation (Bode-Böger et al., 1994; Giugliano et al., 1997), the rationale for inclusion of L-arginine within pre workout powders is based largely on research using intravenous L-arginine, often at dosages of 20-30 grams, not oral intake of L-arginine at the usually included 2-3 grams. This is obviously a major concern considering most products currently on the market only use 1-3 grams at most. In fact, studies directly comparing intravenous and oral L-arginine indicate no effect of oral L-arginine on vasodilatation, possibly attributed to variance in oral L-arginine bioavailability (Bode-Böger et al., 1998). Additionally, studies involving oral intake of L-arginine at dosages from 10-20 grams indicate no benefit with regards to increasing circulating NO or enhancing blood flow (Adams et al., 1995; Chin-Dusting et al., 1996; Robinson et al., 2003). Logic dictates that if 10-20 grams of oral L-arginine fails to provide a favorable effect for blood NO and vasodilation, 3 grams is not going to get the job done! Two recent investigations substantiate my point. One study used 3 grams per day of Larginine and found no increase in NO availability, and actually noted a reduction in exercise time to fatigue in a sample of patients with peripheral arterial disease (Wilson et al., 2007). Another recent investigation involved supplementation with 6 grams per day of L-arginine in trained men, with authors concluding that “short-term arginine supplementation had no effect on NO production, lactate and ammonia metabolism and performance in intermittent anaerobic exercise” (Liu et al., 2009). A final consideration for this lack of effect of supplemental Larginine is that L-arginine itself may not be the rate limiting component to NO biosynthesis; but NO synthase enzymes may be most important (Kurz and Harrison, 1997). Therefore, adding Larginine to a pre workout powder for purposes of NO elevation makes little scientific sense.
In the same vain, companies often like to egregiously claim percent increases for their pre workout NO supplement, with some being close to 1000%. This is ridiculous, bearing in mind that NO itself can react with superoxide to form peroxynitrite, a very harmful chemical (Beckman et al., 1996) involved in nitrosative stress (Wink et al., 2001). A 1000% increase in NO is not good. It’s very bad. Companies making such claims should first consider consultation with a chemist instead of haphazardly misleading consumers.
Ingredients with Little Physiological Effect (despite a statistically significant effect) or No
Direct Data Related to the Outcome Variable of Interest
Aside from human evidence, it is important to consider what overall benefit an ingredient will lend to the product’s desired effect. For example, some ingredients may have been studied in both humans and animals and may have been reported to increase or decrease a certain variable thought to be linked to improved physical performance (e.g., increased catecholamine release, decreased cortisol, etc.). Unfortunately, many of those same studies have failed to actually measure exercise performance variables and merely speculate that because one specific variable was altered, exercise performance would then also be improved. Such speculation is rampant within the sport supplement field and is not grounded in firm scientific process. Unless more work is done with the particular ingredient of interest that includes exercise performance as the chief outcome variable, companies should either not include the ingredient within the finished product or should temper their outlandish claims for that ingredient. Of course, doing so would limit the company’s ability to develop their misleading marketing pieces.
In addition to the above, studies on a given ingredient have often ended after one or two trials, and other studies related to the role of the particular measured variable have been published demonstrating that the alteration in the variable is clearly not associated with improved physical performance. Therefore, when collectively considering the data, one would easily deduce that the ingredient, despite altering a particular variable, would not favorably affect exercise performance. In such cases, companies often choose to ignore the studies failing to support the use of said ingredient and only cite those studies that support their position. A great example of this is found in the use of the amino acid glutamine within many pre workout supplements. While glutamine has clinical application in conditions of trauma and burn, and has been reported to decrease the self-reported incidence of illness in endurance athletes (Castill, 2003), the majority of exercise studies involving human subjects receiving glutamine supplementation in an attempt to combat post exercise immunosuppression have failed to note significant benefits despite daily dosages of glutamine typically ranging from 10-20 grams. For a detailed overview of such work, the reader is referred to the following review articles on this topic (Gleeson, 2008; Hiscock and Pedersen, 2002).
Furthermore, and in specific relation to pre workout dietary supplements, while certain ingredients have been reported in a few isolated studies to favorably impact one variable that is believed to influence exercise performance, there remains many other variables that contribute to exercise performance that were either not influenced by these ingredients or were not assessed within the study design. Hence, it would be premature to conclude that exercise performance will be improved because one variable was positively affected by these ingredients. While a favorable impact on one variable may be interesting to note and may possibly be associated with improved performance, additional research would then be necessary to provide such evidence. If this association were proved to be accurate, the ingredient could then be considered for inclusion within the finished product.
Ingredients which are Cost Prohibitive
It should be stated up front that PURUS LABS™ is unaware of any single ingredient, outside of those already included within Muscle Marinade™ that has been reported in the scientific literature to result in such a significant impact on physical performance or recovery that it absolutely must be included within a pre workout dietary supplement independent of cost. With that understanding, a final consideration of what not to include within a finished product is the actual price of a particular ingredient. That is, some ingredients may have shown promise in human clinical trials, but the reality is no company can realistically afford to include it within a finished product due to industry pre-established end consumer pricing parameters. The way around this is to hide the ingredient within a proprietary blend, use it at a dosage that is so insignificant that it might as well not be included at all, and then market it as though it delivers “drug like” effects. Make no mistake about it; this happens all the time in the dietary supplement industry.
The scenario goes something like this: Companies know that consumers may be familiar with a certain ingredient name. Therefore, they use trace amounts of the ingredient, plaster it all over the product label and advertisements, and cite the clinical studies pertaining to the ingredient— all the while using the ingredient at a dosage equal to a minute fraction of the dosage used in the clinical studies they are referencing. Although extremely misleading, that is the business. If the company used the full clinically effective dosage, they might have to charge the consumer $119.95 for their pre workout powder rather than $39.95. That’s the absolute reality, and everyone in the industry knows it. The consumer needs to understand this and demand the best product possible for the price being paid. This amounts to the inclusion of only high-quality ingredients that have been shown to provide a favorable effect, included at the clinically supported dosages with no fillers and no “window dressing”.
Pertaining to the cost issue, the company also needs to consider that despite the fact that the ingredient has been shown to favorably impact a given variable, it may not be worth spending the additional money needed to include the ingredient within the finished product. For example, suppose a given ingredient had been shown to improve high intensity exercise performance by an average of 4.5% in a sample of resistance-trained men (with 60% of subjects responding to treatment and 40% of subjects not responding) but would cost an additional $20 per container to include within the finished product. Given the small likelihood of the ingredient eliciting a significant improvement in performance, it is likely not worth the cost of inclusion.
Considering all of the above sections, the focus of product development at PURUS LABS™ is quite simple: Include those ingredients supported by peer-reviewed and published scientific data obtained from human subjects reporting a significant and meaningful affect on a given outcome variable at the dosage used in the clinical research studies. Using this approach, PURUS LABS™ formulated Muscle Marinade™ for consumers who expect the best, including us. No hype. No outlandish claims. No pixie dust proprietary blend. Muscle Marinade™ is simply a quality product containing the specific dosages of performance-enhancing/recovery ingredients supported by human clinical research to provide the stated benefit.
INTRODUCING MUSCLE MARINADE™
Muscle Marinade™ represents a true breakthrough in the supplement industry with a specific focus on pre workout nutrition. As outlined above, Muscle Marinade™ was engineered using a detailed, systematic, and scientifically sound approach including only those ingredients supported by peer-reviewed and published scientific data in human subjects (in addition to strong anecdotal evidence) and included at the dosage used in the clinical research studies. The ingredient matrix comprising Muscle Marinade™ addresses all components related to both exercise performance and exercise recovery. Performance-related factors include mind/ muscle stimulation and energy production, hydrogen ion buffering, electrolyte balancing and hydration, and enhancement of muscle power and endurance. Recovery-related factors include insulin release and nutrient shuttling, cortisol reduction, protein anabolism, enhancement of cellular immunity, and improved health and antioxidant defense. Collectively, the ingredients provided within Muscle Marinade™ serve a dual purpose: 1) to improve acute exercise performance and 2) to facilitate post-exercise recovery.
What Makes Muscle Marinade™ Different?
As stated above, unlike other products within the pre workout category, Muscle Marinade™ contains only those ingredients supported by peer-reviewed and published scientific data in human subjects, in addition to anecdotal evidence for effect. Additionally, all ingredients included are at dosages used in the clinical research studies and are fully disclosed on the nutrition panel either by individual ingredient or by the specific ingredient class. While the actual number of ingredients contained within Muscle Marinade™ is lower than most other pre workout products on the market, it is important to note that the gram amount of active ingredients is much higher than most other products in this class. After all, as established throughout this paper, “quality and then quantity” of effective ingredients is much more important than sheer quantity of random individual ingredients. What good does it do to add 50 mg of a proven effective ingredient when the clinical studies report an effect only when used at 1000 mg? For many companies it increases the number of ingredients on the nutrition panel and allows them to hype the ingredient based on the original research using the effective dosage. Likewise, what good does it do to add 2000 mg of an absolutely useless ingredient that has been shown time and time again to have no impact on exercise performance or recovery, or that has never been tested at all for that purpose? For many companies it not only increases the number of ingredients on the nutrition panel but it also increases the gram weight of the serving, and hence the weight of the container. These companies bank on the fact that the consumers will do no real research of their own and instead be naively overwhelmed by a lengthy and confusing nutrition panel, a “heavy jug”, and fancy marketing within the major magazines. Such practices are commonplace within the sport supplement industry and, for these aforementioned reasons, give sport nutrition supplements a bad name.
This practice is akin to a bodybuilder going to a new gym and seeing that they have 12 different machines to train legs, all of which are shiny, appear effective, and have fancy pictures posted on them for instruction. Rather than waste time using each of the 12 machines for one set over the course of the workout, the bodybuilder decides to stick with what they knows works well and simply knocks out 10 sets of barbell squats and stiff leg deadlifts. Using this approach, the bodybuilder recognizes that it’s not about the total number of ineffective exercises that matters; it’s about selecting a small number of effective exercises and applying the correct “dosage” of effort. In straightforward terms: Quality exercise done at the correct volume = effectiveness. The same principle applies with nutritional supplements: Quality ingredients provided at the correct dosage = effectiveness. It’s really that simple, yet most companies don’t have the initiative or integrity to toil over stacks of research literature to identify just what these quality ingredients actually are.
Also, many products contain large amounts of maltodextrin, which essentially comprises onethird to one-half of the entire gram weight. This is an inexpensive way for companies to increase the serving size and container weight while minimally increasing their costs. This is a trick to make consumers think they are getting more for their money. Another trick most companies selling pre workout products frequently use lies within their “supposed servings” per container. Many products claim to have 40 or 50 servings/scoops on the front of their product label, but when the consumer reads the directions for use they are instructed to take 2 or even 3 servings/scoops as opposed to the advertised 1 scoop (look on your current product’s label). This scam is used to convince consumers that they are getting more for their money. Muscle Marinade™ contains 27 “true” servings, and each serving is designed to include the maximum clinically-supported efficacious dose of each performance/ recovery-impacting component and is devoid of inactive and useless ingredients and fillers. Therefore, only one serving/scoop is needed at any one time. No guessing. No experimentation. No false advertising. In fact, one serving is so substantial in strength that additional servings are strongly discouraged.
The text below provides specifics related to the Muscle Marinade™ formula. It is in no way meant to represent a detailed discussion of all available evidence for the highlighted ingredients. Readers are encouraged to review the reference data provided at the end of this paper for additional information. While dosages of individual ingredients vary considerably across studies and not every study using a particular ingredient has been met with positive effects, consumers should feel confident that a great deal of unbiased attention has been put into the decision to include the below-discussed ingredients (as well as the exclusion of other commonly used ingredients). All those mentioned and included within the formula have been proven to be effective in human subjects with oral consumption based on peer-reviewed scientific reports and anecdotal (in the gym) evidence. Moreover, as consistently mentioned, the dosage of each ingredient within Muscle Marinade™ matches the dosage used in these clinical studies. This is indeed a novel concept in the field of sport nutrition supplements. Because the referenced studies often provide ingredients to subjects on a daily basis over the course of days or weeks (e.g., creatine, beta alanine), it should be understood that the below-discussed effects for a given ingredient may only be observed after continued use of that ingredient. It is assumed that individuals will use Muscle Marinade™ on a daily basis along with their normal nutrition and exercise training program in order to reap the product’s full benefits.
Muscle Marinade™: Energy Production, Stimulation, and Exercise Performance
Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic compound produced in the human body from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. While production occurs primarily in the kidney and liver, creatine is transported in the blood and taken up by other tissues (skeletal muscle primarily). To date, aside from carbohydrate, creatine is likely the most well-researched sport supplement in history. In fact, a PubMed search performed on 11/12/09 using the term “creatine and exercise” returned 3217 articles, while the term “creatine and exercise performance” returned 588 articles. Clearly, this is a well-researched ingredient and is thought to pose no adverse effects to healthy individuals (Poortmans and Francaux, 2000).
While the effects of creatine supplementation are multiple, including antioxidant activity, maintenance of neuronal health, and improved cardiac muscle performance, the effect of most interest related to exercise performance in otherwise healthy individuals is improved performance during high intensity anaerobic exercise (Hespel and Derave, 2007). Creatine aids in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) resynthesis and can lead to high intensity performance improvements as demonstrated in literally hundreds of scientific studies. Creatine supplementation has also been associated with enhanced muscle hypertrophy, which may relate to satellite cell proliferation, as well as myogenic transcription factors and insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling. Other evidence indicates that creatine could enhance muscle glycogen accumulation and glucose transporter (GLUT4) expression. Positive findings for creatine are noted for both healthy and diseased populations. Although noted in animals and not human subjects, oral creatine supplementation has been shown to significantly increase carnosine (+88%) and anserine (+40%) content in skeletal muscle, which coincides with improved resistance to contractile fatigue (Derave et al., 2008). The physiological effect of carnosine is discussed below in the section on beta alanine.
Much discussion exists related to the optimal form of creatine to be used. While creatine monohydrate is certainly the most well-researched and most common form available, other forms such as creatine ethyl ester (CEE), di-creatine malate, tri-creatine citrate, creatine gluconate, creatine taurinate, creatine pyruvate, creatine l-pyroglutamate, and “pH balanced” creatine among others are currently marketed throughout the sport supplement industry. In addition, some companies are now using an agent known as creatinol-O-phosphate within their products. Although this agent is not technically creatine, some companies proceed to falsely market it as a super-creatine. Most reports for COP were published in the late 1970s in the journal entitled Arzneimittelforschung, and most studies focus on cardiac function with COP. A PubMed search indicates that there is only one study dealing with physical performance (Nicaise, 1975) and included 50 female in-patients ranging in age from 58-96 years. Patients were treated intramuscularly and intravenously (not orally) with 2 ampoules of 500 mg each of COP. Muscular strength was then measured by having women squeeze a bulb in each hand 5 times. Results were of statistical significance but were rather meaningless from a physiological perspective (e.g., sum of 85.86 vs. 90.40 (kg/cm2)10-1 for placebo and intravenous COP, respectively; sum of 82.00 vs. 88.60 (kg/cm2)10-1 for placebo and intramuscular COP, respectively). Perhaps companies have other data to support their use of COP in their products (although they must be quite obscure, because these are not readily available via PubMed). If companies are basing their use of COP on the particular study described above and assuming that because intramuscular or intravenous COP increased hand strength to a minor extent in elderly in-patient women that oral intake of COP will lead to increased strength in young healthy men and women, they really need to reevaluate their formulation guidelines or do some real applied research using this ingredient. Inclusion of COP within a formula designed for young healthy men and women based on the data presented above is an absolute joke. Unfortunately, this is no exception in this industry.
While the more modern creatine versions are often heavily advertised so as to appear superior, there exists very little evidence that any of these creatine forms are better than creatine monohydrate, despite their substantial costs. For example, a study presented at the National Strength and Conditioning Association meeting in 2007 indicated that CEE was actually less stable than creatine monohydrate and experienced an accelerated breakdown to the byproduct known as creatinine (Child and Tallon, 2007). Other work agrees with this finding (Spillane et al., 2009). Authors comparing CEE with creatine monohydrate have concluded “when compared to creatine monohydrate, CEE was not as effective at increasing serum and muscle creatine levels or in improving body composition, muscle mass, strength, and power.” Investigators from another recent study concluded that “the half-life of CEE in blood is on the order of one minute, suggesting that CEE may hydrolyze too quickly to reach muscle cells in its ester form (Katseres et al., 2009). Collectively, these findings indicate that CEE is not a desired form of creatine to be used as a nutritional supplement.
Similar negative findings have been noted for the supposed “pH balanced” creatine known as Kre-Alkalyn® (Tallon and Child, 2007). Marketers claim that this product, unlike creatine monohydrate, is stabilized and will not undergo conversion into creatinine. To the contrary, investigators noted that the rate of creatinine formation for creatine monohydrate was <1% of the initial dose, indicating that creatine monohydrate is actually very stable under acidic conditions. Additionally, the Kre-Alkalyn® resulted in 35% greater conversion to creatinine than creatine monohydrate.
As for other creatine forms, very little research has been conducted to determine differences in either absorption or effectiveness as compared to creatine monohydrate. Therefore, at the present time, there is little to no evidence to support the use of forms other than creatine monohydrate. One recent study determined the plasma creatine appearance in men and women assigned to ingest a single dose of isomolar amounts of creatine (4.4 grams) as creatine monohydrate, tricreatine citrate, or creatine pyruvate (Jäger et al., 2007). The investigators noted that while peak concentration and area under the curve of plasma creatine was highest for creatine pyruvate, there was no difference between the estimated velocity constants of absorption or elimination between the three creatine forms. These investigators concluded that “differences in bioavailability are thought to be unlikely since absorption of creatine monohydrate is already close to 100%. The small differences in kinetics are unlikely to have any effect on muscle creatine elevation during periods of creatine loading.” This is especially true considering that oral creatine monohydrate is rapidly and efficiently absorbed, a fact established over 10 years ago (Vanakoski et al., 1998).
Despite these solid findings related to the already excellent absorption of creatine monohydrate, new products continue to be developed in an attempt to further improve creatine absorption. One such product (BIOCREAT) was recently studied and reported to yield similar adaptations in both muscle strength and lean mass as compared to a creatine+carbohydrate supplement, with no significant differences noted between the two creatine conditions (Lewing et al., 2009). Another form recently studied is polyethylene glycosylated creatine (creatine bound to polyethylene glycosylate [PEG]), hypothesized to result in increased creatine absorption and uptake into muscle cells (Herda et al., 2009). Subjects were assigned to a placebo condition, 1.80 or 3.60 grams of PEG (providing 1.25 and 2.50 grams of creatine, respectively), or 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for 30 days. Although the dosage of actual creatine was less in the PEG conditions, the results indicated that the creatine monohydrate condition yielded similar or better results in terms of lean body mass and performance improvement as compared to the PEG. These data reinforce the fact that creatine monohydrate, despite being considered “old school”, yields favorable results comparable or better than those observed with “new school” creatine forms.
Another new product, CON-CRĒT (Creatine HCL) marketed by ProMera health, is also being heavily advertised as a superior form of creatine in terms of solubility and absorption in the bloodstream. However, regardless of whether or not this is true (see below for more info), the company makes no claim related to the variable of real importance—skeletal muscle creatine uptake. While the product website indicates two university studies were conducted demonstrating this enhanced absorption, no reference data are provided, and no such studies are readily available via PubMed. Therefore, it is unknown whether or not the findings being claimed by ProMera health can stand up to the scrutiny of peer review. While it is possible that we may someday see published scientific evidence in support of CON-CRĒT (to date we simply have testimonials—which are alone, next to worthless in the scientific world), the question remains as to how much greater benefit a consumer could experience using this product (or any other novel creatine product for that matter) in order to justify the significant increase in cost as compared to creatine monohydrate. Aside from this important consideration, the fact that ProMera health boldly and deceptively states on their website, “CON-CRĒT is 59-times more potent than creatine monohydrate,” and “CON-CRĒT offers steroid-like results in strength, endurance and muscle recovery” is concerning to say the least. If the first claim were true, one serving (1500 mg for a 200 pound man) of CON-CRĒT would be equal to 88,500mg of creatine monohydrate. It is also stated on the website that one serving has potency equal to 5-10 grams of creatine monohydrate. There is clearly a discrepancy here within ProMera’s own claims. Such ridiculous and contradicting statements lead me to believe that this is yet another product fueled by pure marketing and hype, not hard scientific evidence.
As alluded to above, it should be understood that even if small differences in absorption time or concentration were noted between a novel form of creatine and creatine monohydrate, the question a consumer should have is “Who cares?” What real difference does this make considering creatine monohydrate already has absorption of close to 100% (Jäger et al., 2007)? Is it really worth paying more in order to use one of these hyped up novel creatine forms only to maybe experience a 5-10% increased plasma appearance rate? The rate of appearance of creatine is irrelevant anyway considering it is intramuscular and not plasma creatine that is important. Consumers also need to keep in mind that it is not the creatine taken immediately prior to each workout that is assisting in that particular workout; rather, it is the creatine that has been taken repeatedly over time that is now built up within the muscle that can provide for a benefit. Taking the daily dosage of creatine prior to (or immediately following) exercise makes good sense simply based on the fact that creatine transport into muscle may be enhanced due to the increased blood flow (Candow and Chilibeck, 2008) and possibly the increased activity of creatine transport proteins associated with acute exercise.
Aside from acute exercise, intake of creatine along with carbohydrate (usually simple sugars at high dosage; the basis of many creatine+carbohydrate products) has been shown to enhance creatine absorption in skeletal muscle (Green et al., 1996) and may enhance the effectiveness of creatine supplementation. Therefore, if adding extra carbohydrate to the diet does not interfere with daily caloric requirements, combining creatine and carbohydrate supplementation may be something to consider. That being said, PURUS LABS™ has chosen not to include carbohydrate within Muscle Marinade™, as more emphasis is placed on actual active ingredients rather than on inexpensive fillers. After all, carbohydrates are an inexpensive and readily-available addition if one chooses to include them.
Oral supplementation with creatine has been reported to substantially elevate the creatine content of human skeletal muscle. The most common dosage schedule in research studies has included a “loading” phase of 20 grams per day taken in 4 dosages of 5 grams each for a period of 5-7 days. Following this, creatine saturation in skeletal muscle can be maintained at a daily dosage as low as 2-5 grams for most individuals (Preen et al., 2003), although the International Society of Sport Nutrition (ISSN) has recommended a daily intake as high as 0.1 gram/kg body mass/day (Kerksick et al., 2008). As with all dietary supplements, individual needs may vary. As mentioned above, it has been suggested that creatine ingestion proximate to resistance exercise may be more beneficial for increasing muscle mass and strength than ingestion at times distant to the exercise session, possibly due to increased blood flow and therefore increased transport of creatine to skeletal muscle (Candow and Chilibeck, 2008). Hence, inclusion of creatine within a pre workout supplement appears logical, and this is why creatine is contained within Muscle Marinade™.
Beta alanine, also referred to as 3-aminopropanoic acid, is a non-proteinogenic amino acid. Although initially discovered over 100 years ago, research with beta alanine pertaining to exercise performance in human subjects is relatively new, with the first scientific paper published just a few years ago. The plasma concentration of beta alanine is significantly and rapidly elevated following oral intake of beta alanine ranging from 20-40 mg/kg body mass (Harris et al., 2006). Moreover, the muscle carnosine (beta-alanyl-l-histidine) concentration, comprised of both beta alanine and histidine, is significantly increased when beta alanine is provided at a dosage of 3-6 grams per day (Harris et al., 2006). Carnosine helps to stabilize muscular pH by acting as a buffer for hydrogen ions that are released as a result of high intensity exercise. While not all studies have reported positive findings, the majority of work involving beta alanine supplementation indicates a significant performance-enhancing effect with regards to high intensity exercise.
One concern expressed in relation to beta alanine is the mild “prickling/tingling” sensation often felt soon after ingestion (e.g., as soon as 15 minutes and often lasting up to 60 minutes). This is referred to as parethesia, and is thought to be caused by beta-alanine binding to nerve receptors and causing them to fire. While this is well-tolerated by some users, others would prefer not to feel this prickling/tingling. In a study involving acute ingestion of beta alanine at dosages of 10, 20, and 40 mg/kg body mass, extreme tingling was noted with the 40 mg/kg body mass dosage, while only moderate tingling was experienced with the 20 mg/kg body mass dosage (Harris et al., 2006). Moreover, the increase in plasma beta alanine from the 10 to 20 mg/kg body mass dose was 6-8 fold, while the increase from 20-40 mg/kg body mass was only 2.2 fold. Peak plasma concentration of beta alanine occurred within 30-40 minutes following acute ingestion, and a subsequent study indicates that chronic supplementation (e.g., 15 days) does not affect this. Additionally, less beta alanine is lost in the urine following a 20 vs. 40 mg/kg body mass dosage. Therefore, based on the relatively small further increase in plasma beta alanine following ingestion of a single dosage from 20 to 40 mg/kg body mass, the fact that dosages as low as 2 grams per day have been found to be efficacious in scientific investigations (Van Thienen et al., 2009), and the fact that higher dosages of beta alanine lead to greater parethesia, Muscle Marinade™ contains a dosage of beta alanine equivalent to 25 mg/kg body mass for an 80 kg man. This dosage should minimize profound parethesia and is close to the dosage previously reported to increase muscle carnosine content by ~40% following four weeks of ingestion (Harris et al., 2006).
As discussed above in the section on creatine, although noted in animals and not human subjects, it has been reported that creatine intake alone results in enhanced muscle carnosine content (Derave et al., 2008). Considering this evidence, using an adequate dosage of creatine along with beta alanine may justify using a slightly lower dosage of beta alanine. As with creatine, it has been suggested that beta alanine uptake into skeletal muscle to form carnosine may be enhanced by carbohydrate intake due to the insulin response from such feeding. Again, users may add carbohydrate as they see fit.
Betaine (chemically known as 2-(Trimethylammonio) ethanoic acid, hydroxide, inner salt) is an osmolyte (i.e., protects the cells against dehydration), an antioxidant agent, as well as a methyl group donor serving a chief purpose of lowering homocysteine (Olthof and Verhoef, 2005), a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease (Boushey et al., 1995). The B-vitamins folic acid (B9), B12, and B6 are often used for this same purpose of lowering homocysteine. As a methyl group donor, betaine has a potential effect on creatine biosynthesis by providing a methyl group to guanidinoacetate via methionine that can synthesize creatine in skeletal muscle (du Vigneaud et al., 1946).
In regards to exercise performance, a few studies have been conducted over the past few years using betaine (anhydrous form). The dosage of betaine in these studies has been 2.5 grams per day. Muscle endurance (Hoffman et al., 2009) as well as muscular power and force (Maresh et al., 2007) have been reported to increase following 14 days of betaine supplementation. Mechanistically, betaine may improve exercise performance by providing antioxidant activity, maintaining cellular hydration, and increasing blood flow, the latter possibly mediated by the effect betaine has on increasing NO (unpublished data). Although betaine is relatively new to the sport nutrition market, PURUS LABS™ believes that this ingredient has promise as a sport supplement. For this reason it is included within Muscle Marinade™ at the proper, researchsupported dosage.
Commonly referred to as caffeine, 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine is very well studied in relation to exercise. Findings for improved aerobic (Ganio et al., 2009) and anaerobic (Davis and Green, 2009) exercise performance are common with acute ingestion of caffeine prior to exercise (typically 30-60 minutes prior). Multiple mechanisms are associated with caffeine’s ergogenic effects including improved cognitive performance, increased catecholamine secretion and lipolysis, enhanced calcium mobilization and phosphodiesterase inhibition, enhanced Na+/K+ pump activity to enhance excitation contraction coupling, and adenosine receptor antagonism. While individual response to caffeine varies, dosages in the literature have generally ranged from 3-6 mg/kg body mass, and individuals who do not frequently use caffeine appear to respond to the greatest extent (Ganio et al., 2009).
The ingredient 2-amino-4-methylhexane is a component of geranium oil and appears to provide a sympathomimetic effect in human subjects. That is, it mimics the effects of the sympathetic nervous system such as the chemicals epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. In this way it may stimulate energy release and provide a feeling of euphoria. Very little is known about this ingredient, but anecdotal reports are impressive. It should be noted that this is the one ingredient contained within Muscle Marinade™ that is not yet supported by peer-reviewed published clinical data. However, a controlled laboratory study investigating the effects of 2-amino-4- methylhexane combined with caffeine on resistance exercise performance in a sample of resistance trained men was recently completed (unpublished data). The results indicate that the simple combination of 2-amino-4-methylhexane and caffeine is as effective as the top selling pre workout powders currently being sold on the sport nutrition market in terms of enhancing upperbody muscular power and endurance (using bench press throws and bench press exercise to fatigue, respectively). These findings reinforce the position of PURUS LABS™ that the correct ingredients provided at the correct dosages are much more effective than the sheer number of ingredients. That is, 2-amino-4-methylhexane and caffeine (mixed into 16 grams of maltodextrin in an attempt to match the carbohydrate content of other pre workout powders used for comparison) was similar in effectiveness as the other products which contained 35-65 individual ingredients! This is a great example of the “window dressing” hype within the sport supplement industry. It is truly a shame that most companies are more concerned with beefing up their product label with worthless ingredients used at ridiculously low dosages, rather than providing a solid dosage of real ingredients that actually have been shown in human subjects to yield an effect.
In addition to the laboratory study mentioned above, the dosage of 2-amino-4-methylhexane contained within Muscle Marinade™ is based on pilot testing in a variety of healthy men and women using this ingredient either alone at varying dosages, as well as in combination with caffeine. Subjective reports related to subjects’ “perceived feeling of energy and focus” as well as subjects’ actual exercise performances have guided the dosing of this ingredient. Indeed, further research is warranted in relation to 2-amino-4-methylhexane and exercise performance alone and in combination with other performance aids–to scientifically validate the inclusion of this ingredient.
Electrolytes are ionized salts (dissociated into positive and negative ions) found within body fluids. Electrolytes serve the function of maintaining concentration and charge differences across cell membranes and are involved in neural and muscle cell functioning. In relation to dietary supplements, electrolytes are most commonly contained withi