MVP Fuel is a pre-workout released as part of Twinlab’s Pro Series. The ingredient profile is similar to most pre-workouts, but Twinlab’s use of one big proprietary blend makes it difficult to determine whether certain ingredients are dosed effectively…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
Beta Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that, along with Histidine, serves as a precursor to the amino acid Carnosine. Carnosine acts a lactic acid buffer, effectively delaying fatigue in the working muscle. Beta Alanine takes time to accumulate, but if taken over a sustained period of time (a few weeks), can be an extremely effective performance enhancing supplement with a strong safety profile.
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, which improves physical performance. 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.
MVP Fuel contains an undisclosed amount of Beta-Alanine, but we’d estimate anywhere between 3.2-1.6 grams.
Leucine is an amino acid that belongs to the group known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). In most BCAA products, there is a higher concentration of Leucine than the other two BCAAs. The most common ratio, the ratio found in Pro BCAA, is 2:1:1 of with the higher weight being Leucine. While there is no reliable scientific evidence to indicate one true “optimal ratio”, several studies have confirmed that Leucine is the most important BCAA in regards to muscle protein synthesis.
Supplemental Leucine has been shown to increase protein synthesis in rats as well as humans in dozens of studies. A 2012 study found that supplementation with 12 g of L-leucine per day resulted in improved protein synthesis in elderly males consuming a low protein diet, indicating that it may be especially useful for those with low protein intake. Since Leucine is the most studied of the three BCAAs, its mechanism of action has been established. Leucine works via activation of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) which is a signaling protein that signals the body to synthesize protein. To put it simply, Leucine signals mTOR which in turn stimulates protein synthesis.
While Leucine is the most important with regards to muscle protein synthesis, Isoleucine appears to have unique benefits regarding glucose uptake by muscle cells (while lowering blood glucose). In several rat studies, Isoleucine has effectively lowered blood glucose and increased glucose uptake into muscle cells. While the effect of Isoleucine (in isolation) on muscle glucose uptake has not been studied in humans, BCAAs in general due appear to induce glucose uptake, and based on the rat studies this may be due to Isoleucine more so than the others.
Valine appears to possess the least unique benefit, but there are claims circulating that Valine may reduce mental exercise-induced fatigue by reducing the amount of Tryptophan available for Serotonin synthesis. A 2001 study concluded that Valine lowered the amount of exercise-induced 5-HT (Serotonin) in mouse hippocampuses. During exercise Tryptophan is transported to the brain where it is converted into Serotonin. It is hypothesized that Serotonin is responsible for mental fatigue. It has also been established that BCAA directly compete with tryptophan for the same pathway to the brain, and therefore may reduce the amount of Tryptophan available for Serotonin production. This would explain certain subjective anti-fatigue effects of BCAA supplementation noted in a few studies. However, the claim that Valine is solely responsible for this effect is unsubstantiated by human studies. Given the current literature, it appears more likely that BCAAs in general help to attenuate fatigue.
BCAAs IN GENERAL:
A 2004 study conducted by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences found that BCAA requirement was significantly increased by exercise and that supplementation had “beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis”. A second study, published in the “American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism”, found that while BCAA intake did not seem to affect amino acid concentration during exercise, it did have a protein-sparing effect during recovery. If you consume a diet rich in complete proteins, then you already receive enough dietary BCAAs to fulfill all normal physiological functions. However, this in no way means you cannot derive added benefit from supplementing with BCAAs.
A 2009 study published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” tested the effects of BCAA supplementation in comparison to whey protein supplementation or simple carbohydrates (from a sports drink) in athletes. All subjects consumed the same diet and participated in the same physical training regimen. At the end of the 8 week study, the BCAA group significantly outperformed both the whey group and carbohydrate group in terms of lean body mass as well as strength. Results like these make us question whether skeptics of BCAAs have even bothered to read the literature. There is more than enough evidence to conclude that BCAA supplementation can have a significant anabolic effect in both protein deficient AND non-protein deficient humans.
A major criticism of BCAA supplements is that Leucine alone can achieve a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis. While Leucine does appear to be the most critical in regards to muscle protein synthesis, a 2009 study published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” concluded that BCAAs (2:1:1) have a more pronounced effect on protein synthesis than the same amount of Leucine alone. So, theoretically speaking, if you had to choose, you would choose Leucine, but all three is undeniably a better way to go.
MVP Fuel contains an undisclosed amount of BCAA’s in an unknown ratio but we’d estimate the formula contains about 2 grams in the a 2:1:1 ratio.
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. Creatine comes in various forms, the most common of which is Creatine Monohydrate, which is formed by dehydrating a solution of Creatine, where a single water molecule remains bound to the Creatine powder. The exact amount of Creatine present in the MVP Fuel formula is undisclosed, but we’d estimate it contains 1-2 grams, not the most effective dose.
Betaine Anhydrous, also known as Trimethylglycine, was first isolated from beets (hence the name ‘betaine’), and is currently under investigation for a variety of benefits, some of which pertain to physical performance enhancement. A 2010 study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that daily supplementation with 1.25 grams of Betaine positively influenced strength and power. A 2011 study, published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research”, found that subjects who consumed 2.5 grams of betaine daily for 14 days were able to achieve more repetitions while bench pressing. The researchers in this study also noted signs of increased muscular oxygen consumption. A 2013 study, published in “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” found that 6 weeks of daily Betaine supplementation improved body composition, arm size, bench press work capacity as well as power (but not strength). While Betaine has shown tons of promise in several studies, it has also failed to do so in others, so the scientific community as a whole is still on the fense about it. Personally, we’re leaning more toward the pro-betaine side. As is the case with the above mentioned ingredients, it’s tough to say just how much Betaine is present in the MVP Fuel formula, but our estimates place the dose at around 1-1.25mg, which would certainly be an effective dose.
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.
Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world, and is a well-established ergogenic aid. Caffeine consumption causes an increase in Catecholamines (Adrenaline, Noradrenaline, and Dopamine), which tend to increase focus, concentration, and perceived energy while simultaneously promoting fat oxidation. However, this increase in fat-oxidation tends to fade with prolonged use, so it does not appear as though caffeine is a long-term effective fat burner. While caffeine’s weight loss potential is negligible, it increases focus and perceived energy in most people, which generally leads to more intense workouts. The amount of Caffeine in the MVP Fuel is undisclosed, but the formula likely contains 200-300mg.
AstraGin is a combination of Panax Ginseng and Astragalus, both of which are marketed with a wide variety of claims attached to them. A 2012 study, published in “Vascular Pharmacology”, found that injections of Panax Ginseng extracts resulted in vasodilation in hypertensive rats, though given that the delivery method was via injection (not to mention in rats), the implications for humans remain unclear. The general claim attached to AstraGin is that it improves absorption of other nutrients, namely those alleged to boost nitric oxide (Citrulline and Arginine).
Dendrobium has become a popular addition to pre-workout/fat-burner supplements in the past few years, especially after DMAA was banned by the U.S. FDA. However, the claims surrounding its use tend to differ between companies. Dendrobium is alleged to contain several alkaloids, including Phenylethylamines, a class of compounds which cause an increase in the catecholamine neurotransmitters and therefore may induce lipolysis to a relatively potent (though short-lived) degree. Unfortunately, until more studies on Dendrobium and its constituents are published, the implications of the ingredient will remain somewhat unclear.
Higenamine, commonly reffered to as norcoclaurine, is the active compound found in Nelumbo Nucifera and has gained some traction in the supplement industry as a stimulant fat-burner because of the chemical similarities it shares with ephedrine (now banned). Like Ephedrine, Higenamine acts as Beta(2)adrenergic agonist, meaning it stimulates the beta(2) adrenergic receptors which induce lipolysis (fat breakdown). In addition to its fat-burning potential, Higenamine has also been demonstrated in vitro to increase acetylcholine levels, though these findings have not yet been replicated in humans. Overall, there is certainly preliminary support for Higenamine as a fat-burner and potential ergogenic aid, but because no human studies exist there is no recommended effective dose. Given that Higenamine is a stimulant, those sensitive to stimulants may react poorly.
Huperzine A is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor which means it blocks the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, resulting in increased levels of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine controls skeletal muscle and is largely responsible for the ‘mind-muscle connection’ that fitness experts often talk about. In addition to controlling the muscles, acetylcholine is also involved in learning, memory, decision making, and various other mental activities. Huperzine A is often combined with a choline source to provide a sort of synergy, though it can still raise choline levels without a choline source, as would be the case in the MVP Fuel formula.
Piper nigrum, also known as Black Pepper, contains Piperine. Several studies have found that black pepper extract, when combined with other supplements, has increased the absorption of those supplements (as measured by plasma levels). Piperines ability to increase absorption of other compounds is due to the inhibition of certain enzymes as well as the slowing of intestinal transit, effectively increasing the amount of time these compounds are exposed to the possibility of uptake.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
From the standpoint of the ingredient profile, MVP Fuel contains all the essentials, including a well-balanced stimulant blend. Unfortunately, due to a lack of transparency, there is no guarantee that each ingredient is at an effective dose. That being said, with a proprietary blend of 8,474mg, there is certainly enough room to include effective doses of each major ingredients (perhaps with the exception of Creatine). At just over $1 per serving, MVP Fuel is pretty appropriately priced based on a rough estimate of ingredient levels. Those seeking a well-balanced blend of the standard pre-workout ingredients, as well as a relatively potent stim-profile should consider MVP Fuel.
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