Optimum Nutrition had tremendous success with Gold Standard Whey and Gold Standard Pre-Workout appears to be an attempt to capitalize off the brand’s trustworthy reputation. As expected, Gold Standard Pre-Workout doesn’t contain any revolutionary ingredients, but is instead made up of some well-established ergogenic aids, all transparently dosed…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
At this point, Creatine has proven to be extremely effective as an ergogenic aid, as well as remarkably reliable (given the right dose). Its primary mechanism of action is the ability to rapidly produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) to support cellular energy. The result, Creatine can directly increase strength and power output
Additionally, during high intensity exercise, Creatine is used for energy which tends to spare the glycogen that would normally be used. Since lactic acid is a by-product created when glucose is burned for energy, Creatine may also indirectly reduce lactic acid build-up which poses a secondary mechanism by which Creatine can potentially enhance performance.
Optimum has tossed 3g of CreaPure (Creatine Monohydrate) per serving in the Gold Standard Pre-Workout formula which is about the lowest dose that could really be considered worth taking. Given that Optimum makes a point to include the amount of each ingredient per 2 servings as well, we assume Gold Standard Pre-Workout is intended to be a 2-scoop type deal (kind of disappointing considering its supposed to set the “Gold Standard” for pre-workouts).
Astragin is a patented combination of Panax Ginseng and Astragalus. Although each of these components have their own set of potential benefits, Atragin is marketed as an absorption enhancer. So, in the context of Gold Standard Pre-Workout, it simply serves to enhance the absorption of the actual “key” ingredients. Astragin has been shown to enhance the absorption of Citrulline in vitro, but not in a living system at this time.
Citrulline is yet another well-established ergogenic aid, which is actually more effective at raising Plasma Arginine levels than supplemental L-Arginine itself, so we’re glad to see Optimum doing the right thing in that regard and not including Arginine.
A 2002 study, published in the “British Journal of Sports Medicine” found that Citrulline Malate supplementation (6g/day for 15 days) significantly increased ATP production during exercise in healthy adult males.
A 2009 study, published in the “Journal of Free Radical Research”, found that 6 grams of Citrulline Malate given to male cyclists before a race increased “plasma Arginine availability for NO synthesis and PMNs priming for oxidative burst without oxidative damage”.
A 2010 study from “The Journal of Strength & Conditioning” found that 8g of Citrulline Malate was able to progressively increase the amount of reps performed later in the workout (by as much as 52%) and significantly reduced muscle soreness.
A 2011 study, the subjects of which were rats, found that supplemental Citrulline increased muscular contraction efficiency (less ATP was required for the same amount of power), in-line with the findings of the above-mentioned human study.
Most recently, a 2014 study from the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” found that subjects who received 8g Citrulline prior to resistance training were able to perform more reps later in the workout, thus replicating the results of the prior 2010 study. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this study was that the subjects were all advanced weight-lifters, meaning the benefits of Citrulline apply to everyone, not just beginners.
It’s unfortunate to see that Optimum has dosed Citrulline Malate at 1.5g per serving. Even at 2 servings, Gold Standard Pre-Workout provides only half of a true “clinical dose” (6g), although there may still be some benefit with 3g.
Beta-Alanine is a precursor to the amino acid Carnosine, which functions as a lactic acid buffer capable of reducing fatigue in the working muscle. Though it takes time to accumulate in muscle tissue, Beta-Alanine supplementation is highly effective at increasing muscular Carnosine concentration.
One study in particular that measured the Carnosine levels of sprinters found that individuals with higher muscular Carnosine levels exhibited higher power output in the latter half of a 30m sprint (because they had less lactic acid build-up).
Multiple studies have confirmed that Beta Alanine supplementation increases muscular Carnosine in a dose dependent manner. In particular, a 2012 study published in “Amino Acids” found that subjects who consumed 1.6 or 3.2 grams of Beta Alanine daily experienced significant increases in muscle Carnosine in as little as two weeks, with the higher dose achieving a higher concentration of Carnosine. The doses used in this study, 1.6 and 3.2g, are the most common doses seen in pre-workout supplements.
Optimum has included 1.5g of Beta-Alanine in the Gold Standard Pre-Workout formula which is close enough to 1.6g to assume some modest benefit, but definitely short of what we’d consider a “highly effective” dose, though two servings would provide such a dose.
Carnitine has been the subject of numerous studies regarding its potential as both a performance enhancer and recovery agent.
Although uncertain, the most likely mechanism of action is enhanced muscle oxygenation, as demonstrated in a 2008 study from “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research”.
Carnitine, as either Acetyl-L-Carnitine or Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine (GPLC) has been shown to increase Nitric Oxide and plasma Nitrate levels at 1-3 grams, meaning Gold Standard Pre-Workout contains just over 1/3 of a clinical dose. It’s not clear whether such a small dose would convey any benefit, and even at two servings, it couldn’t be considered “clinical”.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid which serves as a precursor to Dopamine and Noradrenaline (Catecholamines). Because of this relationship, it is commonly alleged (mostly by supplement companies) to increase levels of these neurotransmitters, which would ultimately convey some performance enhancement benefits. However, supplemental Tyrosine has failed to provide any noticeable performance enhancement when studied.
While Tyrosine may not increase workout performance directly, it has been shown to preserve cognitive function in the presence of an acute stressor, such as noise, cold exposure, and potentially, exercise. This is because, upon ingestion, Tyrosine forms a pool of substrate which can then be drawn from to produce more Dopamine/Noradrenaline when depletion occurs (in times of stress).
Given this role, we’d consider Tyrosine more of a “support” ingredient then a key ingredient, though it has become something of a pre-workouts staple itself. Gold Standard Pre-Workout contains 250mg of N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine which is generally touted as more bioavailable (though evidence for these claims is lacking).
Caffeine is one of the most heavily researched ergogenic aid, probably because it is also happens to be the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. All of the research indicates it is highly effective
Caffeine triggers the release of Noradrenaline which generally induces a state of increased alertness and perceived energy, and can also increase the force of muscle contractions by enhancing calcium ion release.
With 175mg of Caffeine, Gold Standard Pre-Workout falls into the average range, although with no other stimulants, the average pre-workout user may be less than thrilled with this dose. This is yet another indication that Optimum intends for Gold Standard Pre-Workout to be a two-scooper.
The term Bioflavonoid refers to a class of related nutrients which can further be broken down into subsets (antoxanthins, flavanones, flavanonols, flavans, anthoxyanidins). The same ingredient can be found in Optimum’s Pro BCAA formula. Overall, these compounds may support general cardiac health, but since Optimum doesn’t disclose specific bioflavonoids, it’s tough to gauge performance benefit.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
We’re certain we’re not alone when we say we’re somewhat disappointed by Optimum’s extraordinarily basic ingredient selection on this one. Then again, this was to be expected. Over the past few years, Optimum certainly hasn’t strived to be at the forefront of innovation, but has instead positioned itself as a trustworthy, safe, and dependable brand. This strategy, boring as it may be, has allowed Optimum to establish a strong presence in the protein category where simplicity and trust generally play an integral role in any brand’s success. Gold Standard Pre-Workout appears to be Optimum attempt at stealing some pre-workout market-share.
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