Super Freak is PharmaFreak’s pre-workout. In terms of ingredients, the formula is actually pretty unique and well-rounded. The major issue, however, is a matter of dosing…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
Betaine Anhydrous, also known as Trimethylglycine, is primarily found in Beets (hence the name), but has recently gained popularity in the supplement community for its potential ergogenic effects.
A 2010 study from the Journal of the International to Society of Sports Nutrition found that daily supplementation with 2.5g (1.25g twice daily) of Betaine positively influenced strength and power, but did not determine a mechanism of action.
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 first step towards findings a possible mechanism of action).
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 these results are certainly encouraging, it should be noted that Betaine supplementation, at the standard 2.5g/day doses, has also failed to increase power output more than once. Currently, the reason for the discrepancies is unknown, but it appears there may be “responders” and “non-responders” to Betaine supplementation.
Eleuthero, also known as Siberian Ginseng, is an adaptogenic herb which has been investigated for a variety of potential applications, mostly pertaining to aspects of physical performance.
A 2010 study found that recreationally trained males who consumed 800mg of Eleuthero extract daily experienced increased endurance, elevation of certain cardiovascular functions including lipid oxidation, and decreased glucose metabolism during exercise (indicative of a glucose sparing effect).
Similar affects have been noted in seperate studies. However, it’s worth mentioning that these studies directly conflict with several prior studies. Two 1999 studies, both using a standardized Eleuthero extract (ENDUROX) failed to find an influence on fat oxidation or oxygen consumption during exercise at either 800mg or 1200mg. Due to the mixed results, it cannot be concluded that Eleuthero has a clear performance enhancing or fat-burning effect, nor can these effects be ruled out.
A 2013 study, published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, found male subjects who consumed .05ml of Peppermint oil daily for ten days demonstrated enhanced exercise performance (endurance, work, and power all increased).
Though the mechanism of action was not identified, the researchers speculated that the performance enhancement effects were the result of relaxation of bronchial smooth muscles, increased ventilation and brain oxygen concentration, and reduction of blood lactate. Super Freak contains 50mg of Peppermint Oil per scoop which, assuming the same concentration, is roughly equivalent to the dose used in the above mentioned study.
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, but 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 Catecholamines, the pool is drawn from to create more. So, the claim that Tyrosine outright “increases Dopamine” is off base.
Rather than directly increasing Catecholamines and improving physical performance, Tyrosine has demonstrated the ability to restore levels of these neurotransmitters to base-line, thereby improving aspects of cognitive function in the presence of an acute stressor (sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, and possibly exercise).
To put it simply: Tyrosine may restore levels of Dopamine, Noradrenaline, and Adrenaline when necessary, but does not increase them beyond normal levels. These restorative effects have been noted at doses ranging from 2-13 grams, so the 2.5g of Tyrosine present in the Super Freak formula is technically an effective dose.
Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen, meaning it can help the body adapt to stressful situations, both physical and mental. Generally speaking, we’re not too fond of herbal extracts because the evidence tends to be more anecdotal than scientific, but Rhodiola Rosea is an exception.
A 2013 study, published in “The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research”, found that 225mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract was able to reduce the heart response to exercise and significantly reduce perceived exertion, effectively increasing endurance. These findings were roughly in-line with those of earlier studies (2000-2004), and lend even more credibility to already established notion that Rhodiola Rosea supplementation can in fact improve exercise performance at doses of around 200mg.
Despite having demonstrated the ability to counter fatigue and increase endurance in multiple studies, the exact mechanism of action remains unknown.
Most people are aware that Caffeine is stimulant, capable of providing “energy”, but most are unaware how it physically works. Caffeine consumption causes an increase in Catecholamines (Adrenaline, Noradrenaline, and Dopamine), which tend to increase focus, concentration, and perceived energy. Caffeine has been shown, in multiple studies, to enhance physical performance which makes sense because increases in the above mentioned neurotransmitters may result in greater muscle contractibility (in addition to mental focus/energy). Unfortunately, the effects of Caffeine tend to fade with prolonged use so those seeking to gain the most from their Caffeine-containing pre-workout should limit their Caffeine consumption to only that.
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. It should be noted though, that Phenylethylamines have not actually been isolated from Dendrobium in any documented study.
OLEUROPEIN AGLYCONE (OLIVE LEAF EXTRACT/OLEA EUROPAEA):
Olive leaf extract contains two main bioactive compounds: Hydroxytyrosol and Oleuropein, both phenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In additions to these properties, a 2007 study from “The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” demonstrated increase noradrenaline and adrenaline levels in rats following injection of the extract, which was alleged to be primarily due to Oleuropein.
Similar findings were noted in a 2013 study published in “The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” in which rats fed a diet high in Oleuropein experienced significantly increased noradrenaline levels (measured by urine), though it’s worth mentioning that this was not accompanied by the usual decrease in weight.
In fact, Oleuropein may actually downregulate beta-adrenergic receptors, as evidenced in a 2012 study from “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”. So, while the weight-loss implications of Oleuropein remain unclear, it may enhance focus/perceived energy, possibly synergistic with Caffeine and other stimulants.
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. Super Freak contains 250mg per scoop, which may or may not be beneficial.
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid found in ocean-life, specifically in salmon and shrimp (it is what makes them pink). Though it remains relatively under-researched, so far it appears to be a potent anti-oxidant which may (or may not) improve physical performance. A 2011 study from the “International Journal of Sports Medicine” found that 4mg Astaxanthin for 4 weeks prior to testing was associated with improvements in time-trial performance (cycling) and increased power output. A 2012 study, published in the “Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness”, found that Astaxanthin supplementation (4mg for 90 days) significantly reduced markers of exercise-induced muscle damage in soccer players. This second study did not note the performance improvement of the first study, so for now there are mixed results on that front. Regardless of whether Astaxanthin can directly enhance performance, it’s anti-oxidant effects can benefit athletes by minimizing muscular damage resulting from exercise.
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, but currently these claims are only backed by studies conducted by the company who produces AstraGin, which are not publicly available.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Super Freak is actually one of the better PharmaFreak products we’ve reviewed. One scoop yields effective doses of all key ingredients which are all, for the most part, scientifically validated. However, PharmaFreak uses a potentially deceptive tactic: All doses are listed based on 1 scoop, but a serving is actually ½ scoop, meaning 2 servings must be consumed in order to achieve the stated doses. At $2 per scoop, Super Freak is far from competitively priced, considering an estimated reconstruction cost of around half that. Ultimately, while Super Freak is an effective formula (assuming two servings), there are more economical options out there.
Not sure which pre-workout is right for you?
The Pre-Workout category is one of the most saturated and arguably one of the most difficult to navigate. With every product claiming the be the absolute best, selecting the right one can be extremely difficult. Thats why we created this list…Top 10 Pre-Workout Supplements
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