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Blackstone Labs HYPE Review

HYPE is Blackstone Labs’ pump-dedicated pre-workout supplement. The formula is relatively simple and, with ingredients such as Citrulline and Agmatine, should be pretty familiar to most pre-workout users…

Blackstone Labs HYPE

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GLYCEROL

Glycerol is a colorless, odorless, syrup-like substance commonly used in industrial goods and cosmetics, mostly to increase viscosity. Glycerol, as a molecule, has a propensity for cellular water retention, and this property is what makes it of particular interest to bodybuilders and athletes.

A 1996 study, published in the “International Journal of Sports Medicine”, found that Glycerol supplementation prior to exercise increased endurance time in cyclists. These findings were replicated in a 1999 study from the “European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology” in which pre-exercise Glycerol supplementation enhanced time performance (also in cyclists).

However, a 2003 study, published in the “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise”, found that, while post-exercise Glycerol supplementation prevented exercise-induced dehydration, this had no impact on performance measures (compared to placebo).

Ultimately, the results of most of the research on Glycerol indicate that it can be an effective pump agent (due to water retention), but may only noticeably enhance performance (endurance not strength) during long-duration exercise where dehydration becomes a contributing factor. Blackstone Labs does not disclose the exact amount of Glycerol in one serving of HYPE but, based on a 4200mg proprietary blend, we’d estimate anywhere from 1-2g per serving.

CITRULLINE MALATE

Citrulline is a precursor to the amino acid Arginine, which is a precursor to Nitric Oxide (NO). As demonstrated in a 2007 study, supplemental Citrulline is significantly more effective at raising plasma Arginine than supplemental Arginine itself, and while results with Arginine are mixed, Citrulline has demonstrated clear efficacy as a performance enhancer.

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 2008 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 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 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.

Unfortunately, based on its position (second) in a 4200mg proprietary blend, the amount of Citrulline in one serving of HYPE is undoubtedly much less than the 6-8g range used in the above-mentioned studies.

AGMATINE SULFATE

Agmatine remains very under-researched, despite possessing a variety of health/performance implications. Recently, Agmatine has become quite pervasive in pre-workout supplements because of its alleged ability to regulate Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS), an enzyme that catalyzes the production of NO from Arginine, and either elevate or reduce its presence, depending on the type of NOS. NOS is a widely misunderstood enzyme, mostly due to supplement companies not properly explaining its function and how that function relates to physical performance. It is largely thought that NOS is the enzyme that “breaks down” NO, when it is actually the enzyme that catalyzes the production of NO from Arginine in the first place.

Nitric Oxide generally has a positive connotation in the bodybuilding/athletic community because it is associated with vasodilation, which clearly has performance/health benefits. However, this beneficial effect of NO only pertains to NO in the blood vessels. Elsewhere in the body (like the brain) NO can inflict damage and actually be quite harmful. So ideally, what we really are after is a way to reduce NO in the areas of the body where it can cause harm, while increasing it in blood vessels where it can beneficially influence physical performance.

It’s important to understand that there are several types of NOS, all which are required for the production of NO. Inducible NOS (iNOS) and Neuronal NOS (nNOS) are considered harmful because they elevate NO in immune cells (causing inflammation) and the brain (causing neuronal damage), while Endothelial NOS (eNOS) is considered beneficial as this is the kind which increases Nitric Oxide in the blood vessels, resulting in vasodilation. Agmatine has been demonstrated to up-regulate eNOS (the “good” NOS) while inhibiting the other NOS enzymes (the “bad” NOS). However, as mentioned above, Agmatine remains under-researched because it is a relatively new entrant in the supplement industry.

Currently, most of the research has been done in vitro, with absolutely no studies regarding the potential physical performance benefits of Agmatine in humans. Because of the lack of human studies, no optimal dose has been established for Agmatine, though average doses in pre-workout formulas are 500-1000mg. HYPE contains an undisclosed amount of Agmatine, but theres no reason to suspect a less-than-average dose (around 500mg), based on the proprietary blend as a whole.

NORVALINE

Norvaline is chemically related to the branched chain amino acid Valine, though the potential benefits are much different. In vitro studies and rat studies have demonstrated that Norvaline is able to inhibit Arginase, the enzyme that breaks down Arginine. The (theoretical) result is that more Arginine is able to convert into Nitric Oxide.

However, Norvaline has never been studied in humans as it relates to performance enhancement, so for now we are left with only a theoretical mechanism of action. Given a lack of human studies, an optimal dose has not been established, but common doses range from 125-250mg. Although Blackstone Labs doesn’t disclose the exact amount of Norvaline, there are no obvious red flags regarding the dose present in HYPE.

ICARIIN

Icariin in the primary bioactive found in Horny Goat Weed, and is primarily used for treating Erectile Dysfunction (ED). For this purpose, it is actually pretty effective and works via inhibition of the enzyme PDE5. However, since its secondary mechanism of action is Nitric Oxide related, it makes sense that Epimedium is starting to pop up in performance enhancement supplements as well.

While there haven’t been any studies directly tested the effects of Horny Goat Weed on measures of physical performance, several preliminary studies have been conducted specifically to determine the effects of Icariin on Nitric Oxide Synthase enzymes (needed to synthesis Nitric Oxide). A 2007 in vitro study from “Vascular Pharmacology” found that Icariin was able to increase the expression of Endothelial Nitric Oxide (eNOS) in human endothelial cells. Studies involving rats have yielded similar results, lending further credibility to the notion that Icariin may be useful for increasing NO levels in humans.

Given that Blackstone lists Icariin last in the HYPE proprietary blend (right after Norvaline), there is likely no more than 100mg or so. However, until human trials are conducted, we cannot possibly know the degree of efficacy and/or optimal dosage.

THE BOTTOM LINE

HYPE is a fairly simple (only five ingredients), pump-based pre-workout designed to enhance blood flow and performance without the use of stimulants. At one serving, we have our concerns about some individual ingredients (particularly Citrulline), but at two servings, users are likely receiving some seriously effective doses of key ingredients. At about $1.20 per serving, however, taking two servings at a time may get kind of expensive.

REFERENCES
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  3. Magal, M. E. I. R., et al. “Comparison of glycerol and water hydration regimens on tennis-related performance.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise35.1 (2003): 150-156.
  4. Wingo, Jonathan E., et al. “Influence of a pre-exercise glycerol hydration beverage on performance and physiologic function during mountain-bike races in the heat.” Journal of athletic training 39.2 (2004): 169.
  5. Hitchins, S., et al. “Glycerol hyperhydration improves cycle time trial performance in hot humid conditions.” European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology 80.5 (1999): 494-501
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  10. Pérez-Guisado, Joaquín, and Philip M. Jakeman. “Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24.5 (2010): 1215-1222.
  11. Mun, Chin Hee, et al. “Regulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase by agmatine after transient global cerebral ischemia in rat brain.” Anatomy & cell biology 43.3 (2010): 230-240.
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  13. Abe, Kazuho, Yuzuru Abe, and Hiroshi Saito. “Agmatine suppresses nitric oxide production in microglia.” Brain research 872.1 (2000): 141-148.
  14. Saheki, Takeyori, Shigeo TAKADA, and Tsunehiko KATSUNUMA. “Regulation of Urea Synthesis in Rat Liver Inhibition of Urea Synthesis by L-Norvaline.”Journal of biochemistry 86.3 (1979): 745-750.
  15. Silva, Luciano A., et al. “Taurine supplementation decreases oxidative stress in skeletal muscle after eccentric exercise.” Cell biochemistry and function 29.1 (2011): 43-49.
  16. Xu, Hai-Bin, and Zhao-Quan Huang. “Icariin enhances endothelial nitric-oxide synthase expression on human endothelial cells in vitro.” Vascular pharmacology 47.1 (2007): 18-24.
  17. Liu, Wu‐Jiang, et al. “Effects of icariin on erectile function and expression of nitric oxide synthase isoforms in castrated rats.” Asian journal of andrology 7.4 (2005): 381-388.
  18. Shindel, Alan W., et al. “Erectogenic and neurotrophic effects of icariin, a purified extract of horny goat weed (Epimedium spp.) in vitro and in vivo.” The journal of sexual medicine 7.4pt1 (2010): 1518-1528.

 

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