Pump’d is Betancourt Nutrition’s pump-based pre-workout which features a variety of non-stimulant “pump” ingredients such as Glycerol and Agmatine…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
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. 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 as a result of that. So, while any meaningful performance benefit is unlikely with Glycerol supplementation, it may increase the pump during workouts.
Agmatine has become relatively popular in pre-workout supplements in recent years for 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. Put simply, increasing the action of NOS will increase NO.
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 (Endothelial NO). Elsewhere in the body (like the brain and immune cells) 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.
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 because 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) in vitro, but human studies are non-existent. Despite the inherent pro-eNOS nature of Agmatine, it remains under-researched in humans so an optimal dose has not been established. That being said, Pump’d contains 750mg of Agmatine which is slightly more than the 500mg dose commonly used in pre-workouts.
Beetroot extract generally contains high levels of Nitrate which is converted to Nitrite and then into Nitric Oxide once inside the body. The cardiovascular benefits of dietary Nitrate have been relatively well-known for some time but recent research indicates Beet Root extract supplementation can reliably improve aspects exercise performance. A 2012 study, published in “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics”, found that increased dietary nitrate intake (in the form of Nitrate-rich whole Beetroot) improved running performance in healthy adults. A 2013 study, published in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology”, found that Nitrate supplementation (from beetroot juice) effectively elevated plasma Nitrate levels which translated to improved performance during high-intensity exercise in athletes. A 2013 Meta-Analysis, which looked specifically at 17 separate studies using doses of 300-600mg Nitrate from various sources, concluded that supplementation is associated with a moderate improvement in time to exhaustion at a given work load.
Pump’d contains 250mg of Beet Root, but since the Nitrate content of the Beet Root used is unknown, its tough to gauge precisely how effective this dose is.
Norvaline is a close chemical relative of the popular amino acid Valine, though its effects are different. Norvaline has been shown to inhibit Arginase, the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of Arginine both in vitro and in vivo (rats). The result would theoretically be an increase in Arginine, which would result in more 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 for Norvaline. Pump’d contains 50mg of Norvaline which is towards the lower end of what we generally see in pump-based pre-workouts.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that, in addition to being used to make proteins, is a precursor to the neurotransmitters Dopamine and Noradrenaline (both of which are involved in focus, concentration, and mood). While commonly alleged to outright increase these neurotransmitters, supplemental Tyrosine has failed to convey the performance benefits generally associated with increased Noradrenaline levels. Research indicates that supplemental Tyrosine can form a sort of “pool” which can be drawn from to create more Dopamine and Noradrenaline when a deficiency occurs. This mechanism explains why Tyrosine has been shown to maintain cognitive function in the presence of an acute stressor (noise, cold, exercise, etc.). Put simply, Tyrosine itself does not have any inherent performance benefit, but can be effective for maintaining optimal levels of Dopamine and Noradrenaline, both of which have inherent performance benefits. The dose of Tyrosine present in the Pump’d formula is considerably less than what has demonstrated the above mentioned benefits, but it is possibly there is some marginal benefit.
Choline, once inside the body, is converted into the neurotransmitter Aetylcholine which is associated with many functions including (but not limited to) memory, attention, and muscle control. It is the neurotransmitter most closely associated with the “mind-muscle connection” (although this may be something of an over-simplification), and therefore of much interest to athletes and bodybuilders alike. While certain forms of choline may be associated with increased muscular power output (namely Alpha GPC), Choline Bitartrate is generally considered the least bioavailable choline source, though oral doses of 1000-2000mg have still been shown to increase serum choline levels significantly.
A 2012 study published in the “British Journal of Nutrition” found that 1 gram of Choline Bitartrate was able to significantly increase, not only plasma choline levels, but also plasma Betaine levels. Betaine itself is commonly included in pre-workout formulas as it has been shown, in some cases, to increase power output. While Choline Bitartrate has not been studies in regards to performance enhancement, it is just as effective at increasing Betaine as supplemental Betaine, meaning it may very well convey the same (or similar) performance enhancement benefits. However, given an 825mg “Pre-Workout Support Blend”, Pump’d clearly contains far less than what would theoretically convey these benefits.
Glutamine is involved with a variety of bodily functions, from immune health, to providing a back-up fuel-source for the brain. Because Glutamine is an amino acid, some people assume that it may have a muscle sparing effect, and to be fair, it has demonstrated increased muscle protein synthesis in vitro as well as in the human gut. However, a 2001 study, published in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology”, found that Glutamine supplementation had no significant muscle sparing effect in resistance trained human subjects. A 2006 study from “Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism” which compared a combination of carbs, amino acids, and glutamine to a combination of just carbs and amino acids (not glutamine), found no difference in muscle protein synthesis following exercise.
A 2007 study, published in “Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism”, found that Glutamine supplementation effectively reduced ammonia in endurance exercise longer than one hour, leading to increased endurance. So, while Glutamine may be of minimal importance to individuals getting a quick 45 minute workout in, it may be quite useful for long-term exercise during which Glutamine depletion would normally occur.
Ornithine is an amino acid used alongside Arginine and Citrulline in the Urea Cycle, the process by which Ammonia is metabolized into the harmless substance Urea. The build-up of Ammonia in muscle tissue is a primary cause of muscular fatigue, so Ornithine supplementation is commonly alleged to reduce exercise fatigue.
As evidenced in a 2010 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, supplemental Ornithine, at a dose of 100mg/kg, has failed to influence fatigue in short duration exercise. However, a 2008 study from “Nutrition Research” noted a significant reduction in fatigue during prolonged exercise in healthy volunteers who consumed 2g Ornithine daily for 6 days and 6g prior to testing. Unfortunately, because of the structure of this study, it is unclear whether Ornithine requires “build-up time” or if acute supplementation is effective. Either way, it appears Ornithine will only be noticeably effective during prolonged exercise, when Ammonia would usually cause fatigue. However, given its position as the last ingredient in an 825mg proprietary blend, there likely isn’t enough Ornithine in the Pump’d formula to convey any meaningful/noticeable performance benefit.
A 2006 study, published in “Nitric Oxide”, found that Pomegranate Juice effectively protected Nitric Oxide from oxidation, thereby enhancing its action in vitro. Though the influence of Pomegranate on Nitric Oxide have not been studied extensively in humans, a 2011 study from “The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research” found that Pomegranate juice slightly reduced soreness and improved exercise performance in trained men. These findings were roughly in-line with those of an earlier (2010) study which found Pomegranate ellagitannins improved aspects of recovery after exercise. Overall, while the mechanisms by which Pomegranate influence exercise performance are not widely understood, there does appear to be some modest benefit. Pump’d contains 250mg of Pomegranate extract but since it isn’t standardized for its active components, we can’t be sure just how potent 250mg is.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Pump’d contains several ingredients which have demonstrated at least preliminary efficacy with regards to enhancing blood flow and improving exercise performance. However, several of these ingredients appear under-dosed and would likely not convey the full benefit, if at all. Two servings would yield highly effective doses of (most) key ingredients, but at a little over $1 per serving, this makes Pump’d a bit pricey. Ultimately, we feel there are better options for pump-based pre-workouts, but Pump’d is a certainly not the worst one on the shelf.
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