Morph is a non-stimulant pre-workout supplement by iSatori which is designed to increase pumps and endurance. It features a variety of pretty standard pre-workout ingredients, but for some reason iSatori has elected to use drawn out chemical names…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
BETA-ALANINE (2-HYDROXY-3-AMINOPROPANOIC ACID):
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, assuming the right dose, can be highly effective at reducing muscular fatigue and enhancing performance.
A 2002 study from the “Japanese Journal of Physiology” which 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 (due to 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.
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”.
Unfortunately, given Beta-Alanine is just one of four ingredients that make up a 613mg proprietary “Carnostim-X” blend, Morph contains a negligible dose. Our estimates place the amount of Beta-Alanine at no more than 400mg, which means four doses would be needed just to achieve a minimally effective 1.6g.
As mentioned in the Beta-Alanine section, Histidine is required to form Carnosine, and since it is an essential amino acid, it must be acquired through diet (or supplemented). However, while Histidine deficiency can certainly lead to Carnosine deficiency, supplemental doses of Histidine have proved ineffective at boosting muscle Carnosine above baseline, whereas Beta-Alanine (assuming the right dose) is quite effective at doing so. Morph contains an undisclosed amount of Histidine, but it doesn’t really matter much because even at relatively high amounts, Histidine is ineffective at increasing muscle Carnosine levels.
ASPARTIC ACID (2-AMINOBUTANEDIOIC ACID):
Aspartic Acid has been touted as a performance enhancer for decades now, with preliminary research (in rats) suggesting that it may help remove excess Ammonia during exercise, effectively reducing fatigue. Though some efficacy has been demonstrated, the overall results are mixed and not particularly promising.
A 1964 study, published in the “American Journal of Physiology—Legacy Content”, failed to note any significant changes in various performance measures including breathing capacity and metabolic rate in exercising men who received 2 grams of aspartic acid (magnesium and potassium salts) over a 9 week period. A similar failure occurred in a 1983 study from the “International Journal of Sports Medicine” , this study using 6 gram, acute dosages.
However, a 1988 study from “Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport”, found that 10 grams of Aspartic Acid salts effectively increased time to exhaustion (cycling) in male athletes. This study also noted significant decreases in ammonia and lactate, indicating that this was the mechanism of action. So, while different studies have yielded different results, it does appear that higher doses of Aspartic Acid may convey some anti-fatigue benefits during extended exercise. That being said, as with Beta-Alanine, Morph contains a pretty negligible dose of Aspartic Acid (definitely nowhere near 6 grams).
Glycerol is a colorless, odorless, syrup-like substance commonly used in industrial goods and cosmetics, mostly to increase viscosity. Glycerol, as a chemical compound, has a propensity for cellular water retention, and this property is what makes it of particular interest to bodybuilders and athletes. Originally, Glycerol was purported to enhance athletic/exercise performance. However, while several studies have demonstrated increased water retention as a result of pre-exercise Glycerol consumption, none have demonstrated a clear performance enhancing effect. So, while any meaningful performance benefit is unlikely with Glycerol supplementation, it may increase the feeling of muscle fullness, A.K.A. “the pump”. Standard doses of Glycerol range from 1000-2000mg, and we’d estimate that Morph contains anywhere from 700-1000mg.
Arginine Malate is simply the amino acid Arginine bonded with Malic Acid, and is generally touted to improve absorption (no evidence to support this claim). So, in the context of Morph, we’d consider it just another form of Arginine, no better or worse than standard L-Arginine.
Arginine is a non-essential amino acid that acts as a precursor to Nitric Oxide. Supplement manufactures claim that, because Arginine is a precursor to Nitric Oxide, supplemental Arginine may boost Nitric Oxide levels, resulting in vasodilation. However, recent studies have found that Arginine isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
A 2012 study, published in “Nutrition and Metabolism”, found that acute (one-time) L-Arginine supplementation with 6 grams did not increase plasma (blood) levels of Nitric Oxide in people with normal Asymmetric Dimethylarginine levels. Asymmetric Dimethylarginine is a compound that is chemically related to Arginine and directly interferes with the production of Nitric Oxide.
A 2011, placebo controlled study, found that subjects performed worse after receiving 3700mg of Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate prior to resistance training.
While most studies have failed to prove that L-Arginine supplementation increases strength, a 2012 double-blind placebo controlled study, found that supplementation with 6 grams of L-Arginine increased muscle blood volume post-workout, but did not increase intra-workout strength.
Given the mixed results using various forms of Arginine, it seems unlikely that Arginine Malate would be particularly effective for increasing Nitric Oxide during workouts. Furthermore, the amount of Arginine present in one serving of Morph is very miniscule, compared to what has been used in studies (positive or negative).
Di-Creatine Malate, like Arginine Malate, is simply Creatine bonded with Malic Acid. The claim is the same, with Di-Creatine Malate being touted as a better absorbed form of Creatine. There is absolutely no evidence to back up this claim, so at this point, 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 lower doses (3 grams) can still be effective if consumed over a longer period of time. 2 grams daily has been demonstrated to maintain Creatine levels (but not increase them) in athletes. Given that Di-Creatine Malate (which is only part Creatine) shares a 1250mg blend with Citrulline, there is undoubtedly way too low of a dose in the Morph formula to be considered effective. Even at 3 of 4 servings a day, the amount of Creatine would hardly be enough to convey and meaningful benefit.
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.
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.
Citrulline is generally considered to be most effective at doses of 6-8g, though it is rare to find that much in pre-workout supplements (it gets kind of expensive). Morph contains an extremely negligible dose that is no more than 600mg and possibly much less.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
While the ingredient profile of Morph is about as solid as any other non-stimulant pre-workout, the doses of each individual ingredient are extremely low, almost to the point of making the formula completely ineffective at just one dose. We’d recommend anyone looking to gain any benefit from Morph take multiple servings, but our true recommendation is to just avoid this formula altogether. iSatori, which generally has a pretty solid reputation, seems to have dropped the ball with this one (in terms of dosing), and we’re aware of several other non-stimulant pre-workouts containing the same ingredients at much more effective doses. At a little over 50 cents per dose, Morph may seem like a good deal, but considering that the average individual will need at least 2 or 3 doses to see any sort of tangible results, its actually kind of on the expensive side.
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