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Haleo Vici Review

Vici is Haleo’s pre-workout, marketed as “The Smart Pre-Workout”. The ingredient profile is a solid one and the ingredients are all, for the most part, clinically dosed…

Haleo Vici

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BETAINE

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 these discrepancies is unknown.

BETA-ALANINE

Beta-Alanine is a precursor to the amino acid Carnosine (formed by combining Histidine and Beta-Alanine). 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 (2+ weeks), can be an extremely effective ergogenic aid 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 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.

Each serving of Vici contains 2g Beta-Alanine which is an effective dose, though additional benefit could be gained from a higher dose.

L-CARNITINE L-TARTRATE

L-Carnitine L-Tartrate is a form of Carnitine which is more rapidly absorbed following oral supplementation when compared to standard L-Carnitine. This makes it ideal for pre-workout supplementation, and while there is some evidence to suggest L-Carnitine L-Tartrate may enhance performance, the most well-established benefit lies in its ability to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.

A 2002 study, published in the “American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism”, found that 2 grams L-Carnitine L-Tartrate effectively reduced various markers of exercise-induced muscle damage in resistance trained men. These findings were replicated with 1 gram in a later (2007) study published in “The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research”. A likely mechanism of action was identified in a 2008 study (from the same journal) in which it was found that L-Carnitine L-Tartrate supplementation significantly increased muscle oxygenation during exercise when oxygen would normally be lacking.

As Haleo points out, LCLT has also shown promise with regards to encouraging a favorable hormonal environment. A 2006 study, published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise”, found that 2g/day L-Carnitine (as L-Carnitine L-Tartrate) for 21 days increased the density of androgen receptors in muscle cells, which would not directly increase Testosterone but may enhance its effects.

Vici contains 2000mg of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate per serving, an clinically effective dose for enhancing both muscle recovery and hormonal environment.

MALIC ACID

Malic Acid is a naturally occurring compound, found in particularly high levels in green apples. It plays an important role in the Krebs Cycle (also known as the Citric Acid Cycle), the process by which the body generates energy from the macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) we consume. It is commonly alleged that Malic Acid supplementation may improve physical performance, as evidenced in a 2007 study in which mice treated with Malic Acid demonstrated improved stamina (swimming). However, no human studies have been conducted to further test these findings, so there is no “optimal dose”. Vici contains 3000mg though, which is certainly a much higher dose than we’ve seen in any other Malic Acid containing pre-workout.

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.

Vici contains an effective 1000mg of Taurine which may very well reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and possibly (subtly) enhance performance.

CAFFEINE

Caffeine is a well-established ergogenic aid, oral consumption of which triggers the release of Catcholamines (Noradrenaline, Dopamine, Adrenaline, etc.), generally inducing a state of increased alertness, focus, and perceived energy. Many studies have concluded that pre-workout Caffeine consumption can enhance exercise capacity and muscle contractibility, in many cases quite significantly.

It should be kept in mind that habitual Caffeine consumption often results in tolerance, reducing the stimulant effects. We generally recommend that individuals seeking the full benefit of pre-workout Caffeine consumption try to limit their Caffeine intake at other times of the day. Vici contains 275mg of Caffeine, a substantial dose for the average non-Caffeine user.

BEETROOT EXTRACT

The active compound found in Beetroot Extract is Nitrate, which converts to Nitric Oxide in the body, a thus is said to convey performance benefits. 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.

Vici contains 600mg of Beetroot Extract, but unfortunately we don’t know how much Nitrate is present in that dose. That being said, 600mg of high-nitrate Beetroot would certainly yield an effective dose.

3 Under-the-Radar Nitric Oxide Boosters to Consider
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AGMATINE SULFATE

Agmatine remains very under-researched, despite having 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.

While Agmatine is commonly touted to increase Nitric Oxide, there is preliminary evidence which indicates it can induce the secretion of Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which can in turn trigger Testosterone production. A 1995 study found that rats treated with Agmatine experienced increased LH secretion in a dose-dependent manner. Due to the lack of research on humans, no optimal dose has been identified with regards to performance enhancement, but Vici contains 500mg, the average dose found in pre-workouts these days.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Haleo markets Vici as the “Smart Pre-Workout” and we’re more or less inclined to agree with that statement. Vici contains effective doses of some well-research, scientifically validated ingredients. It’s the first pre-workout we’ve come across that contains a truly effective (2500mg) dose of Betaine, as well as LCLT and Beetroot extract. The only stimulant in the blend is Caffeine, and while the 275mg dose is enough to elicit a noticeable increase in focus and perceived energy in the average individual, it may not be enough for pre-workout users seeking more intense mental stimulation (from other stimulants). That said, only containing Caffeine strengthens the safety profile and more or less eliminates the negative side effects associated with more intense stimulants.

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

REFERENCES
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