Reviews

Pump Fuel Insanity Review

Pump Fuel Insanity is the slightly stimulant-enhanced version of PMD’s pre-workout, Pump Fuel. The non-stimulant ingredient profile is still pretty much identical…

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Kre-Alkalyn

KreAlkalyn is a form of “buffered” Creatine Monohydrate, the pH of which is much higher than standard Creatine Monohydrate. KreAlkalyn has become relatively popular in the supplement community, based on claims that because it has a higher PH it resists breakdown by the acidic environment of the stomach and is more efficiently absorbed into the muscle. Theoretically, the result is that less KreAlkalyn is required to achieve the same muscle saturation as a given dose of Creatine Monohydrate.

Until recently, there were no studies directly comparing KreAlkalyn to standard Creatine Monohydrate. However, a 2012 study, published in the “Jounal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, set out to determine whether buffered creatine (as KreAlkalyn) was actually superior to Creatine Monohydrate (as CreaPure). The subjects of the study were 36 resistance trained participants who were placed in one of three groups. One group loaded with Creatine Monohydrate at 20g/day for 7 days followed by 5g/day for 21 days. The second group followed the same protocol but using KreAlkalyn (20g/day for 7 days followed by 5g/day for 21 days). The third group consumed the manufacturer recommended dose of KreAlkalyn at 1.5g/day for 28 day (no loading).

Neither dose of KreAlkalyn demonstrated superiority over Creatine Monohydrate with regards to muscle creatine content, strength, body comp, or anaerobic capacity. Unfortunately (for manufacturers of KreAlkalyn), the results of this study are difficult to misinterpret. They clearly demonstrate that there is no benefit of KreAlkalyn over Creatine Monohydrate (provided it’s from a trusted source).

Pump Fuel Insanity contains 2g of Kre-Alkalyn which, when combined with 1 gram of Creatine Magnesium Chelate, may certainly convey the performance enhancement benefits associated with Creatine supplementation.

Creatine Magnesium Chelate

Creatine Magnesium Chelate is Creatine bonded to Magnesium, and was originally invented because of Magnesium’s crucial role in Creatine metabolism. Few studies have been conducted to compare Creatine Magnesium Chelate to other forms of Creatine, but the research that has been conducted indicates it is roughly as effective as Creatine Monohydrate, but not more. A 2004 study, published in “The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research”, found that 2.5mg of Creatine Magnesium Chelate was equivalent to the same dose of Creatine Monohydrate with regards to increasing 1 rep max in trained men. Although Creatine Magnesium Chelate appears no more effective than Monohydrate in terms of physical performance enhancement, a 2003 study published in “Metabolism” did note that Creatine Magnesium Chelate may result in less water retention. However, more studies are needed for a more direct comparison.

Pump Fuel Insanity contains 1 gram of Creatine Magnesium Chelate which, when combined with the above mentioned 2 grams of Kre-Alkalyn, is certainly an effective dose of Creatine all-together.

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. The human body is complex and, unfortunately for supplement companies, ingesting a precursor to a substance doesn’t necessarily increase the levels of that substance. 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.

Furthermore, recent studies have questioned whether Arginine may in fact be counter-productive during exercise. A 2011, placebo controlled study, found that subjects performed worse after receiving 3700mg of Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate prior to resistance training. Due to the size of this study, it cannot be considered conclusive, but it certainly should warrant further studies. 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. While this may be disappointing for those looking to increase strength through supplementation, Arginine’s real benefits may lie in post-workout recovery, rather than intra-workout performance. More blood in the muscle’s after a workout means more nutrients to the muscle cells. However, this one study does offset the mostly negative results of multiple separate studies. Overall, we’re just not quite sure about Arginine, and though it may convey certain performance enhancement benefit, it just doesn’t show the same reliability as certain other substances (such as Citrulline).

Pump Fuel Insanity contains several types of Arginine (L-Arginine AKG, Arginine Pyroglutamate, Di-Arginine Di-Malate) aside from standard L-Arginine. However, none of these forms (including AKG which has actually demonstrated anti-efficacy) have demonstrated superiority over L-Arginine. We’re not crazy about Arginine simply due to the mixed results it has returned throughout so many studies. It would appear overall that certain people are “Arginine Responders” while others are simply not.

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. While we can’t be certain exactly how much Agmatine is present in the Pump Fuel Insanity formula, we can be certain that it is substantially less than the lower end of that range because the total amount of Agmatine, Citrulline, and Norvaline is just 250mg per serving.

Norvaline

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.

Citrulline

Citrulline is a precursor to the amino acid Arginine, which is a precursor to Nitric Oxide (NO). 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”.

You may be wondering: How can Citrulline be more effective at increasing Arginine than Arginine itself? 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 convert into NO.

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 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.

However, Pump Fuel Insanity contains a seemingly negligible amount of Citrulline. Given that Citrulline-Malate (meaning half Malic Acid) is listed third in a 250mg blend of Agmatine, Norvaline, and Citrulline, it is likely the amount of Citrulline is no more than 50mg or so. Even in combination with Agmatine and Norvaline it is unlikely this dose would convey ANY performance benefits whatsoever.

Beta-Alanine

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. Pump Fuel Insanity contains a highly effective 2.5 gram dose of Beta-Alanine.

Taurine

Contrary to popular belief, Taurine is not a stimulant but rather an an amino acid with anti-oxidant properties. In a 2011 study, Taurine was shown to significantly decrease oxidative stress in skeletal muscle following exercise. Prior to that, a 2004 study 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 noted a 1.7% improvement in 3k-time trial of runners after supplementing with Taurine, but noted that more research would be required to determine the exact mechanism of action.

It’s unfortunate that Taurine has developed a sort of stigma because of its inclusion in energy drinks. While Taurine does not provide “energy” in the way that caffeine does, several studies have shown its effectiveness as an antioxidant with workout-enhancing properties, and while the exact mechanism of action remains unknown, it appears likely that Taurine may improve exercise performance by reducing some of the cellular oxidative damage that generally leads to fatigue. The usual dose of Taurine used for performance enhancement is about 1 gram. Unfortunately, Pump Fuel Insanity likely contains much less given that Taurine is included along with several other ingredients in a 979mg blend.

Caffeine

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. Pump Fuel Insanity contains 275mg of Caffeine which is certainly enough to give the average individual a noticeable boost of energy, though not enough to be considered dangerous.

Amla

Emblica officinalis (A.K.A. Indian Gooseberry/Amla) is touted by the herbal medicine community to have a variety of benefits in humans. PMD makes no specific claims regarding the inclusion of amla, but we have seen Amla in the Super HD formula, which Cellucor claimed was to “support mental energy and memory” in the absence of carbs. The claims stem from the fact that Amla does possess antioxidant properties (although less than plenty of other available compounds), which may have a neuro-protective effect. However, there are no human studies demonstrating any significant degree of neuro-protection and for that reason, the inclusion of this ingredient seems based on anecdotal evidence, not science.

Synephrine

AdvantraZ is a patented form of Bitter Orange Extract which is standardized for Synephrine. Syneprhine became popular after the FDA banned Ephedra as a dietary supplement for weight loss, because they share a similar mechanism of action. While Synephrine has been touted as a replacement for Ephedra, it is important to understand that it is significantly less potent (which is why it is not banned). However, that’s not to say it is completely useless. A 2011 study, published in the “International Journal of Medicinal Sciences”, found that supplementation of 50mg Syneprhine increased the metabolic rate in human subjects without affecting blood pressure or heart rate. Similarly to Ephedrine, Synephrine is a beta-receptor agonist and an alpha-receptor antagonist, the net effect of which is an increase in lipolysis.

Glutamine

Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid (your body can make it) that is involved in 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.

So, while some of the claims that are often attached to Glutamine aren’t quite based on facts, it has shown a lot of promise when it comes to fighting exercise induced immune system suppression. Our immune systems ultimately benefit from regular exercise, but in the short-term, exercise actually temporarily lowers our immune defenses, thus making us more susceptible to infection during that time-frame. This temporary compromise of the immune system is highly correlated with lower glutamine levels, so glutamine supplementation can potentially reduce exercise-induced damage to immune cells.

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.

Pump Fuel Insanity contains several types of Glutamine (L-Glutamine, Glutamine AKG, and N-Acetyl L-Glutamine), some of which may be slightly more bioavailable than standard L-Glutamine. However, given that the total amount of Glutamine present in the Pump Fuel Insanity formula is just a few hundred mg, it likely doesn’t make much of a difference.

BCAAs

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, if you have to choose of course go with Leucine, but taking all three is the best way to go. 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.

While the anabolic effects of BCAA supplementation simply cannot be denied, the total dose of combined BCAAs in the Pump Fuel Insanity formula is extremely small compared to what has demonstrated efficacy in any study. It’s clear that PMD is just trying to put BCAAs on the label, but there are simply no benefits to be gained at doses of a few hundred mg.

Phosphatidylserine

There is a vast amount of scientific evidence in favor of phosphatidylserine as an effective cortisol blocker, especially in regards to post-exercise. Cortisol, for those who are unfamiliar, is a hormone that the body produces when exposed to both physical and mental stress. Among the many unfriendly side effects of cortisol are: decreased water excretion, decreased amino acid uptake (by muscle cells), inhibition of protein synthesis, and reduced bone formation. The evolutionary function of cortisol is basically to help us survive tough spots. All of these negative effects actually become the lesser of two evils, when compared to death. However, as humans have evolved, cortisol has gone from something that saved our lives at one point, to something that is quite troublesome for those trying to build and maintain muscle mass. Physical stress (i.e. intense physical activity) releases cortisol which immediately starts to eat away at muscle protein, making it the number one enemy of body builders or athletes looking to gain muscle through training. However, PS has been shown to exert this anti-cortisol effect only in doses of at least 600 mg, far exceeding the dose that could possibly be present in the Pump Fuel Insanity formula, so it is likely that there is no added benefit in this case.

L-Carnitine L-Tartrate

Carnitine has been under investigation for a wide variety of alleged benefits including (but not limited to) weight loss, increasing testosterone, and improved exercise performance. While there is a lack of evidence for the majority of these claims, multiple studies have confirmed the ability of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate (and some other forms of Carnitine) to favorably impact muscle recovery. A 2002 study, published in the “American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism”, found that 2 grams of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate significantly reduced markers of exercise induced stress following squats in healthy adult males. A 2007 study, published in the “Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research”, found that 1 and 2 grams of supplemental L-Carnitine L-Tartrate effectively reduced markers of muscular damage following exercise in healthy humans. While the previously mentioned studies were unable to identify an exact mechanism of action, a 2008 study noted enhanced muscle oxygenation, citing this as a possible mechanism of action.

Guanadino 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, but these comments are likely with regards to safety (which appears to be strong).

Tyrosine

Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid which serves as a precursor to the neurotransmitters Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Epinephrine, the three of which are collectively referred to as ‘catecholamines’. A 1981 study found that subjects who consumed 100mg/kg of Tyrosine experienced a significant increase in urinary catecholamine levels, yet supplemental Tyrosine has failed to produce the performance enhancing effects commonly associated with increased release of catecholamines. This is because Tyrosine does not instantly get converted into noradrenaline, dopamine, or adrenaline. It forms a pool, and when there is a deficit of these neurotransmitters, the pool is drawn from to create more. In other words, Tyrosine may restore levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline when necessary, but does not increase them beyond normal levels. So rather than directly improving physical performance, Tyrosine has demonstrated the ability to improve aspects of cognitive function in the presence of an acute stressor (sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, and possibly exercise).

Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine is an effective vasodilator which has been demonstrated to increase cerebral blood flow (and thus slightly more oxygenation). Although not commonly mentioned by supplement companies, Vinpocetine can fulfill a secondary role when it comes to stimulant-containing supplements. Stimulants, such as caffeine, tend to be vasoconstrictors, which may result in a feeling of pressure in the heads of individuals who are not used to these compounds. By acting as a vasodilator, Vinpocetine may help avoid potential ‘stimulant-induced headaches’. As a vasodilator, it stands to reason that Vinpocetine also enhances the “pump” dimension of exercise, though it has not been directly tested in humans. This is actually one of the few ingredients in the Pump Fuel Insanity blend that is effective at low doses (5-10mg).

Cinnamon Extract

Cinnamon Extract is generally standardized for insulin mimetic-like compounds and to remove the harmful compound, Coumarin. Though referring to Cinnamon extract as an “insulin mimetic” may be an exaggeration, it has demonstrated the ability to lower blood glucose in several human studies, and has drastically potentiated the effects of insulin in vitro.

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is derived from starches and is commonly used as a thickening agent in foods and beverages. However, Maltodextrin has implications for athletes as well. In terms of digestion, Maltodextrin is a simple carb, which means it can quickly supply the body with glucose for energy. A 2006 study, published in “The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness”, found that Maltodextrin supplementation slightly improved performance time in cross-country skiers. These findings were replicated in a 2011 study which found that Maltodextrin, at a dose of 1g/kg, enhanced athletic performance in elite mountain-bikers. Ultimately, Maltodextrin is no miracle performance enhancer, but supplementation before/during exericise may lead to slight improvement.

Waxy Maize

A 1996 study demonstrated that carbohydrates ingestion, when coupled with creatine ingestion, was able to increase creatine retention more than just creatine alone. So, while co-ingestion of simple carbohydrates with Creatine appears to improve Creatine absorption, simple carbohydrates also serve to replenish glycogen stores which are depleted (how much depends on how hard/long the workout is) during exercise. Ideally, the faster absorbing carbs are the most effective for immediate glycogen restoration, though Pump Fuel Insanity contains Maltodextrin, a fast-digesting carb, and Waxy Maize, a slow digesting carb.

Glycerol Powder

Glycerol is a colorless, odorless, syrup-like substance found in such household products as soap, cough syrup, and hair care products. However, NO-Xplode contains several powdered forms of the substance. Glycerol is also used by athletes for its ability to counter dehydration due to its propensity for cellular water retention. 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. While the evidence is not in favor of Glycerol as a performance enhancer, PMD is likely more interested in the “pump” aspect of the substance. Glycerol has been shown to increase cellular water uptake (similar to creatine), which ultimately may result in a fuller muscle feel.

Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine

Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine is a formed when L-Carnitine is bound to the amino acid Glycine. A 2007 study, published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” found that 3 grams of GPLC was able to increase Nitric Oxide in resistance trained men. A 2009 study published in the “International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research” replicated these findings though the researchers also found that 1 gram did not have the same effect. Ultimately, GPLC does appear to increase Nitrix Oxide in most people at a dose of 3 grams, though it is unclear whether Pump Fuel Insanity contains anywhere near this dose.

The Bottom Line

Pump Fuel Insanity may provide slightly more energy/alertness than the PMD’s original Pump Fuel but, like the original, the rest of the formula leaves a lot to be desired. Most key ingredients are severely under-dosed so multiple servings would be needed to acheive effective doses. Given the price range, there are far better options out there.

Not sure which pre-workout is right for you?  Check out our Top 10 Pre-Workout Supplements List!

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