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iX3 Pre-Alpha Review

iX3 Pre-Alpha is a pre-workout by I’m So Alpha which features some pretty standard pre-workout ingredients, some of which are at questionable levels…

iX3 Pre-Alpha

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DI-CREATINE MALATE

Di-Creatine Malate is simply Creatine bonded with Malic Acid, and is sometimes touted as a better absorbed form of Creatine. There is absolutely no evidence to back up this claim so we’d consider it about the same as Creatine Monohydrate.

Creatine has the ability to rapidly produce ATP (cellular energy) to support cellular function (as in exercise). It has been studied more extensively than any other performance enhancing supplement, and has consistently been demonstrated to increase power output as well as muscle size, with maximum benefit achieved at around 8 weeks of consistent supplementation. 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.

It is generally recommended to consume 5 grams per day, but given the 2550mg proprietary blend, there is clearly far less Creatine than that. It’s likely that two servings of iX3 Pre-Alpha would be needed to achieve an effective dose of Di-Creatine Malate.

BETA-ALANINE

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, for at least two weeks, 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 supplements.

A 2008 study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, noted improvements in power in resistance trained males using 4.8g daily for 30 days. This same 4.8 gram dose was also shown to increase muscular endurance in sprinters in a 2007 study from the “Journal of Applied Physiology”.

Needless to say, iX3 Pre-Alpha contains far less Beta-Alanine than what can be considered “clinically dosed”, so as mentioned above, two servings may be needed to receive some real benefit.

CAFFEINE ANHYDROUS

Caffeine is a well-established ergogenic aid, oral consumption of which triggers the release of Catcholamines (Noradrenaline, Dopamine, Adrenaline, etc.), generally inducing a state of increased alertness, focus, and perceived energy. A vast multitude of studies have concluded that Caffeine consumption prior to exercise can favorably impact performance and enhance muscle contractibility.

Since habitual Caffeine consumption often leads to tolerance build-up, those seeking to get the most out of their Caffeine-containing pre-workout should limit Caffeine throughout other parts of the day. I’m So Alpha lists the amount of Caffeine in IX3 Pre-Alpha at 175mg per serving, a pretty average dose, capable of increasing alertness and focus in most (non-Caffeine tolerant) individuals.

L-TYROSINE

Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid which serves as a precursor to Dopamine and Norepinephrine (Catecholamines). Because of this relationship, it is commonly alleged (mostly by supplement companies) that Tyrosine can increase levels of these neurotransmitters, which would ultimately convey some performance enhancement benefits. However, supplemental Tyrosine has failed to produce any noticeable performance enhancement benefit in multiple studies.

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 Tyrosine, upon ingestion, forms a pool which is then drawn from to create more Dopamine and Norepinephrine when depletion occurs. To put it simply, Tyrosine will not increase Dopamine and Noradrenaline, but can help ensure optimal levels are maintained during/after exercise.

I’m So Alpha does not list the exact dose of L-Tyrosine, but given that it comes after Caffeine in the proprietary blend, we know iX3 Pre-Alpha contains no more than 175mg per serving, not a particularly effective dose.

ARGININE ALPHA-KETOGLUTARATE (AKG)

Arginine is a non-essential amino acid that acts as a precursor to Nitric Oxide and the AKG (Alpha Ketogluturate) form is alleged to be better absorbed than standard L-Arginine.

However, recent studies indicate Arginine may not be all it’s cracked up to be, with a 2012 study from the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” finding that subjects performed worse after receiving 3700mg of Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate prior to resistance training, compared to placebo. Due to the relatively small size of this study, it cannot be considered conclusive, but it certainly does not lend credibility to the notion that Arginine AKG is a superior form of Arginine.

While most studies have failed to prove that Arginine (in any form) supplementation increases exercise performance, a 2011 double-blind placebo controlled study from “Sports Medicine” found that supplementation with 6 grams of L-Arginine increased muscle blood volume post-workout, but did not increase intra-workout strength.

Ultimately, the alleged (unproven) benefits of Arginine are the actual (proven) benefits of Citrulline, so we’re not really sure why supplement companies keep insisting that Arginine is of any value in pre-workout supplements when Citrulline is readily available. This refusal to admit the facts most likely has to do with the fact that Arginine is much cheaper than Citrulline (on a per gram basis). I’m So Alpha specifically lists the exact dose of Arginine AKG in iX3 Pre-Alpha at 1500mg.

TAURINE

Despite its inclusion in energy drinks, Taurine is not a stimulant and does not increase perceived energy or focus. It is not at all synergistic with Caffeine. Rather, it is an amino acid with antioxidant properties that has implications for exercise recovery as well as slight performance enhancement.

In a 2011 study from “Cell Biochemistry and Function” Taurine was shown to significantly reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle. These findings were consistent with those of an earlier (2004) study, published in “Amino Acids” which showed that Taurine may decrease exercise induced DNA damage, as well as “enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties”.

A recent 2013 study, also from “Amino Acids” noted a 1.7% improvement in 3k-time trial of runners after supplementing with Taurine, and these findings were further corroborated in a later 2013 study from “Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism “ in which Taurine supplementation was able to increase strength as well as decrease oxidative muscle damage.

The standard dose of Taurine is 1-2g, but given a 376mg proprietary blend, iX3 Pre-Alpha clearly contains far less. Given such a small proprietary blend, it’s doubtful that Taurine provides any additional benefit in this formula.

WAXY MAIZE

Waxy Maize was originally alleged to be fast-digesting carb, capable providing an instant glucose spike and corresponding insulin spike. However, recent research indicates it is actually quite slow-absorbed, which has its own benefits. Given such a small proprietary blend, iX3 Pre-Alpha contains nowhere near a significant dose of Waxy Maize, so in the context of this particular formula there really isn’t much benefit.

GLUCURONOLACTONE

Glucuronolactone has become a popular additive in energy drinks as well as “detox” supplements which claim cellular protective benefits. Despite being included in various energy products, it has not been studied in isolation in regards to any claims made by these companies. For now, we cannot say with any certainty whether Glucuronolactone makes any difference in iX3 Pre-Alpha.

GLYCOCYAMINE

Glycocyamine is a direct precursor of Creatine which can ultimately increase muscular Creatine levels, as demonstrated in a 1995 study in which Glycocyamine increased muscle-creatine levels in adult rats with just a single dosage.

However, a 2001 study, published in the “American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism”, found that Glycocyamine significantly raised plasma homocysteine (in rats), high levels of which are strongly associated with heart disease. Allegedly, this increase in homocysteine can be attenuated by supplementing a methyl donor, such as Betaine, along with Glycocyamine. In fact, the combination of Glycocyamine and Betaine has actually been shown to improve symptoms of certain heart diseases.

The amount of Glycocyamine in iX3 Pre-Alpha is undoubtedly pretty negligible, so users won’t have to worry much about homocysteine levels rising, but any performance benefit is equally unlikely.

L-CITRULLINE

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.

The problem with supplemental Arginine is that it is metabolized in the intestines and liver into other substances such as Ornithine and Urea. The intestines and liver contain relatively high levels of Arginase, the enzyme that converts Arginine to Ornithine and Urea. As a result, very little goes on to be involved with the synthesis of NO because it is being diverted for other purposes. Citrulline, on the other hand, is able to bypass the liver and is metabolized into Arginine elsewhere, where not as much Arginase is present. Thus, more of the Arginine is able to go on to convert into Nitric Oxide.

Unfortunately, the amount of Citrulline Malate in iX3 Pre-Alpha is extremely negligible. Even at multiple servings, there is really no hope of achieving an effective dose with this formula, so it appears as though I’m So Alpha was really just trying to get it on the label.

VINCAMINE

Vincamine is a naturally occurring compound found in Periwinkle, which is often used to synthesize Vinpocetine. For the purposes of this review, the compounds are essentially the same, both vasodilators with implications for performance enhancement.

Vinpocetine’s potential for vasodilation has been known for quite some time, with a 1980 study from the “British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology” noting a roughly 7% increase in cerebral blood flow following infusions in healthy human subjects.

I’m So Alpha does not list the exact amount of Vincamine present in one serving of iX3 Pre-Alpha, but it generally only takes a little bit to elicit some noticeable vasodilation, so an effective dose cannot be ruled out.

BETAINE ANHYDROUS

Betaine (also known as Trimethylglycine) is the amino acid Glycine with the addition of three methyl groups attached. Although Betaine has a variety of non-lifting related health implications, it is alleged to increase power output and strength, with the most likely mechanism of action being increased cellular swelling, a phenomenon well established with Creatine supplementation which can drastically reduce the damaging effect of outside stimuli (such as exercise) on the working muscle. So far, Betaine has been investigated in several human studies, and has had some pretty encouraging results in most.

However, given that the dose of Betaine used in iX3 Pre-Alpha is extremely small, it seems more likely that I’m So Alpha is primarily concerned with countering the homocysteine increase that may accompany Glycocyamine. Even at two servings, there is not enough Betaine in iX3 Pre-Alpha to convey any meaningful performance benefits.

GUANIDINO PROPIONIC ACID

Guanidino Propionic Acid is yet another Creatine analogue with limited research regarding its efficacy. A 2013 systematic review, which sought to compile all the available research on Guanidino Propionic Acid, concluded that prolonged supplementation was effective for increasing fatigue tolerance of skeletal muscle in animal studies, and that “Because it is marked as safe for human use, there is a need for human data.” While we accept the findings of this review, we disagree that there is no need for human data. There is always a need for human data to determine the degree of efficacy in humans. That being said, this comment appears to be more aimed at the safety aspect of supplementation, and unlike the above mentioned Glyocyamine, there does not appear to be any obvious health risks of Guanidino Propionic Acid supplementation.

THE BOTTOM LINE

iX3 Pre-Alpha suffers from a serious case of under-dosing, with some ingredients (such as Citrulline and Betaine) being dosed so low that even two servings wouldn’t yield effective amounts. The ingredient profile is nothing too special compared to the average pre-workout and we don’t feel the addition of a multi-vitamin complex does much in the way of improving efficacy.

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