Below are my comments on NO/Nitric Oxide supplements, with a few comments on a recent study. Below the vid is the abstract for that study, and the link to the full paper for those who wish to get the details. I have never had much faith in this category of supplements – for a variety of reasons – and this study adds additional confirmation to my generally low opinion of NO/Nitric Oxide formulas:


Comparison of pre-workout nitric oxide stimulating dietary supplements on skeletal muscle oxygen saturation, blood nitrate/nitrite, lipid peroxidation, and upper body exercise performance in resistance trained men

Richard J Bloomer1 email, Tyler M Farney1 email, John F Trepanowski1 email, Cameron G McCarthy1 email, Robert E Canale1 email and Brian K Schilling2

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:16doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-16

Abstract

Background

We compared Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine (GlycoCarn®) and three different pre-workout nutritional supplements on measures of skeletal muscle oxygen saturation (StO2), blood nitrate/nitrite (NOx), lactate (HLa), malondialdehyde (MDA), and exercise performance in men.

Methods

Using a randomized, double-blind, cross-over design, 19 resistance trained men performed tests of muscular power (bench press throws) and endurance (10 sets of bench press to muscular failure). A placebo, GlycoCarn®, or one of three dietary supplements (SUPP1, SUPP2, SUPP3) was consumed prior to exercise, with one week separating conditions. Blood was collected before receiving the condition and immediately after exercise. StO2 was measured during the endurance test using Near Infrared Spectroscopy. Heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were determined at the end of each set.

Results

A condition effect was noted for StO2 at the start of exercise (p = 0.02), with GlycoCarn® higher than SUPP2. A condition effect was also noted for StO2 at the end of exercise (p = 0.003), with SUPP1 lower than all other conditions. No statistically significant interaction, condition, or time effects were noted for NOx or MDA (p > 0.05); however, MDA decreased 13.7% with GlycoCarn® and increased in all other conditions. Only a time effect was noted for HLa (p < 0.0001), with values increasing from pre- to post-exercise. No effects were noted for HR, RPE, or for any exercise performance variables (p > 0.05); however, GlycoCarn® resulted in a statistically insignificant greater total volume load compared to the placebo (3.3%), SUPP1 (4.2%), SUPP2 (2.5%), and SUPP3 (4.6%).

Conclusion

None of the products tested resulted in favorable changes in our chosen outcome measures, with the exception of GlycoCarn® in terms of higher StO2 at the start of exercise. GlycoCarn® resulted in a 13.7% decrease in MDA from pre- to post-exercise and yielded a non-significant but greater total volume load compared to all other conditions. These data indicate that 1) a single ingredient (GlycoCarn®) can provide similar practical benefit than finished products containing multiple ingredients, and 2) while we do not have data in relation to post-exercise recovery parameters, the tested products are ineffective in terms of increasing blood flow and improving acute upper body exercise performance.

Full study HERE

25 Comments
  1. Graeme Thomas 9 years ago

    Great synopsis of the general worthlessness of nitric oxide products as a pre-workout "vasodilator". Like yourself, I am science-minded and have never been able to come up with even a plausible mechanism how nitric oxide could demonstrably increased blood flow over and above the level it increases to during max or near-max exercise.
    That being said, I'm going to throw a thought question your way (I have don't have an answer to this so I'd like to hear your opinion): the potential benefit of using nitric oxide boosters well away from the workout period… could such a strategy actually increase nutrient delivery and ostensibly bolster tissue repair?
    I've seen some of the beneficial data in congestive heart failure and whatnot, but the benefits of NO in a healthy individual might be an astronomical extrapolation… your thoughts?

    • Author
      willbrink 9 years ago

      The above study was an acute study, but my hunch is, I don't think it would matter. Blood flow is not a limiting factor to muscle growth in healthy people. Two, the NO system is extremely complex, and simply attempting to increase it in hopes of some effects on LBM, strength, etc a bad idea. A large number of diseases and pathologies are associated with elevated NO levels, so I have never been a fan of this category for that reason alone, much less the total lack of data supporting their use for athletic uses.

  2. guest 9 years ago

    thank you for the video. saved money on this after reading bbr.

  3. Joe 9 years ago

    GreaT VID, Although my education level is no where near yours I know from experience that the only "PUMP" I feel from an NO product is from the hghly caffinated dose and the highly amped vitamins (B especiallY) loaded in these produtcs. Total waste of money and time. Keep the vids coming! We love them

    • Author
      willbrink 9 years ago

      Thanx Joe! 😉

  4. keith 9 years ago

    you the man will……thank God for people like you,because you stop people like me from wasting my money needlesly.

  5. shawnward1066 9 years ago

    some peoples tell om internet about homemade supplements. Are they really work. What is difference between homemade and market made. Are you know anything about this.

    • Author
      willbrink 9 years ago

      It's simply purchasing ingredients apart and combining them vs buying a formula where they are already combined.

  6. joe 9 years ago

    To be honest I tried no2 and loved it !(but it was too pricey to stay on long) I got pumps from just brushing my teeth! But on the downside beside being too exspensive,after 2 weeks of stopping its use the huge pump feel was gone.

  7. Shannon 9 years ago

    I own supplement stores in Australia, and despite profiting from the sale of NO pre workout products I have discouraged their use for years. These products are produced primarily by marketing companies who are there to make a dollar on misinformed consumers. People continually chase ‘the pump’, not realizing that a pump symbolizes blood unable to get out of the muscle & therefore new blood not getting in with the nutrients you require for anabolism!

  8. Carl 9 years ago

    Disclosure: I work for a supplement company that makes NO2 products.
    I read the full abstract and of course found: "Funding for this work was provided by Sigma-Tau HealthScience" Sigma Tau is the maker of Glycocarn® and not only funded the study but was given approval rights before the study was published. In my line of work companies routinely repeat studies until they randomly fall in their favor and then publish the best one. Imho, the deck is stacked and the study means nothing to me.
    It can't be ignored that Sigma Tau has a huge vested interest in positioning the NO2 category as illegitimate so it can back up it's marketing campaign of revolutionizing the category with Glycocarn®. Sure, the study says Glycocarn alone is just as effective as when it's part of a product, and sure it says Glycocarn® doesn't really improve training – and these two things strike me as calculated sacrifices to make the study appear unbiased.
    But it says Glycocarn® has SOME effect where others have zero and that's all the marketing people need to spin their story since most guys who buy supplements don't read extracts.
    The best thing you can do is never take something with a proprietary blend, or with tons of sugar and caffeine. Companies can easily use words like randomized and double blind to make studies sound legit when it's not the full story, in this case the full story being Sigma Tau, maker of Glycocarn® funded the study and read it and approved it prior to the release. Never trust a study about a product that was funded by the maker, where the maker gets to approve the release of the study, because AT BEST they can do a hundred studies and release the best result and at WORST they can stack the deck, manipulate and spin the results in their favor, by comparing metrics that don't matter in an effort to assert superiority.

    • Author
      willbrink 9 years ago

      "I read the full abstract and of course found: "Funding for this work was provided by Sigma-Tau HealthScience" Sigma Tau is the maker of Glycocarn® and not only funded the study but was given approval rights before the study was published. In my line of work companies routinely repeat studies until they randomly fall in their favor and then publish the best one. Imho, the deck is stacked and the study means nothing to me."
      Your line of work? What studies have you published exactly? What's your science background exactly? I have no issue with your questioning the results due to the funding source, but you are also making claims I know to be factually incorrect and lead me to believe you lack the science creds to make your statements.
      "It can't be ignored that Sigma Tau has a huge vested interest in positioning the NO2 category as illegitimate so it can back up it's marketing campaign of revolutionizing the category with Glycocarn®. "
      No doubt, but that does not make the study by default rigged, poorly done, etc. That's why people with the appropriate science backgrounds go through such studies to make sure their methodology holds water, etc. However, it does mean additional research needs to take place to confirm it. Healthy suspicion is warranted, but the results also came as no surprise to me, knowing the data as I do….Companies fund studies all the time, in legit third part locals, which go through peer review, etc. That makes them – on the surface – worth noting and adding to the growing body of research on a topic. Per the study the funding company "had no involvement in data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or manuscript preparation." A bold faced lie perhaps?
      Unless you have the science background and experience with research, really not an area you are qualified to speak on.
      "Sure, the study says Glycocarn alone is just as effective as when it's part of a product, and sure it says Glycocarn® doesn't really improve training – and these two things strike me as calculated sacrifices to make the study appear unbiased."
      And the data will need to be broken down at length to make sure the methodology is sound. Again, fair points, but some how I'm guessing if a company that sold some pre workout NO product funded the study, and found benefits, you would be defending it. Just a guess…
      I'll make you the same offer I make to any company: don't like the results of a study? Fund your own if you believe fully in your product. I'll set it up personally. A good study is always worth the $$$ and shows the company is willing to put it's money where its mouth is.

  9. Carl 9 years ago

    Also, not to knock the JISSN – they are legit. But I can cite tons of articles in that same Journal that show conclusive results in regard to common pre-workout ingredients. Once again, taken out of context in a marketing environment, studies like this Glycocarn one exist for one reason, for marketing spin. They set up a straw man, focus on a very specific benefit, and then spin, spin, spin. It's about hijacking peer-reviewed sound science in the interest of sales. The study is not a LIE, it is just not the whole truth.

    • Author
      willbrink 9 years ago

      And the "whole truth" is? I think you're attempting your own spin now and talking out of all sides to confuse people. This particular study – that so far appears well conducted and on the level – found what it found. Nothing jumped out at me – and I read the entire study vs the abstract – as being out an issue to the conclusions. The authors do a commendable job of talking about the limitations of the study also. So, the study (1) is a total fabrication (2) is on the level but they failed to account for some confounding variable which messed up their results (3) the study findings are legit and methodology sound, but of limited utility. (4) confirms that NO type products are not what they are hyped/marketed to be, and glyocarn is mildly effective.*
      Me, I'd say #4 is most accurate until other studies show otherwise…
      I am very quick to jump on bad studies, that's for sure, and I know all the tricks used to spin studies, etc. Been in this biz as long or longer then just about anyone and been there done that on just about every facet of the industry.
      * = Note also, the benefits of glycocarn were not exactly overwhelming, and at the dose used in the study, would be very expensive to use.

      • Carl 9 years ago

        1. You probably should have more clearly mentioned the study was funded by Glycocarn's maker. You may not care as a man of science, but some people might find that interesting, along with the NCGA's study on high fructose corn syrup, or McDonald's study on whether cow anuses are actually bad for you.
        2. You probably should not have chosen the words "slightly more effective," in your video. "Effective," in laypersons' terms, is usually taken to mean "adequate to achieve expected results."
        Glycocarn results were statistically INSIGNIFICANT, Will. Across all performance variables and therefore the product, by your standards, is not effective at all.
        It did have more of an "effect," on certain observational criteria (set by Sigma Tau), but saying it's more "effective," the way you did in the video, is not careful language – you of all people should know how big of a spin zone that creates. That's why I bothered to critique this. It makes you look a little sketchy.
        In the end, people need to know that MANY common pre-workout ingredients have gotten fine reviews from peer-reviewed journals. There is no doubt that pre-workouts are a big business and the benefits are almost always exaggerated; but let's also be aware that HATING pre-workouts is also a business. In the end, athletes will gravitate toward what works regardless of what scientists think they know.

        • Author
          willbrink 9 years ago

          "1. You probably should have more clearly mentioned the study was funded by Glycocarn's maker. You may not care as a man of science,"
          As a man of science, I care about the funding source, but care more about where it was done, by who, the methodology used, whether their data supports their conclusions, whether it passed peer review and was published in a legit journal, whether the bulk of the existing data supports the findings, and other variables. That's what a "man of science" vs someone looking to protect profits is concerned with.
          "2. You probably should not have chosen the words "slightly more effective," in your video."
          But it was…
          "Glycocarn results were statistically INSIGNIFICANT, Will. Across all performance variables and therefore the product, by your standards, is not effective at all."
          Do you see me recommending it? No. You are fixated on glycocarn, where as I'm more interested in the fact the well known NO formulas were a total bust. Not that it surprises me, because the entire concept behind NO supps is a non starter, and I have never recommended them, and have always pointed out elevated levels of NO are associated with various diseases, people should not be mucking with the NO system in hopes of a better pump, etc, etc,
          "In the end, people need to know that MANY common pre-workout ingredients have gotten fine reviews from peer-reviewed journals."
          Yes, caffeine and other stimulants is great stuff, but what does that have to do with effecting the NO system to achieve it? Nothing. You are attempting your own spin and to get people off track of the issue at hand.
          "There is no doubt that pre-workouts are a big business and the benefits are almost always exaggerated; but let's also be aware that HATING pre-workouts is also a business."
          Errr, for who? Not for me.
          " In the end, athletes will gravitate toward what works regardless of what scientists think they know."
          Right, study supports your product = science good. Study finds your product is not effective for it's claimed uses = science bad, revert to marketing hype and bro-science.
          Now, I have said all I'm planning to say on the topic. If you have something new to offer, you are invited to do so. If you are just going to rehash the above, it will get deleted. As I said, I make the same offer to you as any company: if you believe your product/the product category as merits, fund your own studies. I'll be happy to get them done, and good science is always profitable so it's a win win.
          Good luck. 😉

  10. @pogue25 9 years ago

    I glanced through the full text of the study, but did it specifically mention the brand names of the supplements compared to Glycocarn or will we have to guess and dig around based on the 3 posted lists of ingredients they mentioned?
    I also just wanted to mention a post I made on my blog (I hope that's okay) where I discuss how an individual can simply take the individual ingredients that are in most NO2/preworkout supplements and make their own homebrew for far cheaper and without the unknowns of the proprietary blends available currently on the market. All my sources are cited, so I'd love to hear what you think about it, Will.
    http://pogue972.blogspot.com/2010/06/homemade-no2
    Thanks,
    pogue

    • Author
      willbrink 9 years ago

      Not a bad formula at all, I'd probably up the caff and beta al doses a tad, but I bet people would get more for their $$$ that way, and I too have always recommended "rolling your own" to pre made formulas for that reason. Good work overall.

    • Dick 9 years ago

      Help me out here. If both you and Will state that there is no appreciative value in taking a pre-workout NO supplement, then why devise your own cheaper imitation?

  11. Carl 9 years ago

    Pogue I think what you've done is really strong. Beta Alanine btw is another ingredient that fared okay in peer-reviewed research and is a common key ingredient in some pre-workouts.

  12. Randy Woody 9 years ago

    Ah ya, "bro-science". That ends all discussions. Love that term. Will thank you for education the uninformed and saving them money. Keep up the GREAT work.

  13. stephen 9 years ago

    Saved me a load of $. Thanks.

  14. Dick 9 years ago

    Will , thanks to you and the other contributors here. I just finished my first round of an NO supplement and was going to buy another. Now, I'll save my money and spend it on one of my grandchildren.

  15. Monster Muscle 9 years ago

    Pre workout/NO supplements a becoming pretty big here in the UK, all your America products are hitting the stores here fast!

  16. Dave 8 years ago

    "Not a bad formula at all, I'd probably up the caff and beta al doses a tad, but I bet people would get more for their $$$ that way, and I too have always recommended "rolling your own" to pre made formulas for that reason. Good work overall."
    I was doing a search here on N.O. products. Reading through I saw the link to the homemade pre-workout forumula. Looking at it, it is quite similar to one that I'm currently buying over the counter. My question Will, why comment that the homemade formula isn't a 'bad formula at all' and offer a suggestion to up the dose on a couple of ingredients and then comment on his 'good work overall'…yet you don't recommend taking this type of thing due to health issues?

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