Reviews

ACG3 Charged Review

ACG3 is a pre-workout made by NDS Nutrition (marketed under the PMD brand) which contains just about every traditional pre-workout ingredient under the sun. Unfortunately, the doses of these individual ingredients are highly questionable…

ACG3 Charged

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CREATINE

Creatine has the ability to rapidly produce ATP (cellular energy) to support cellular function (as in exercise). 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. Creatine has consistently been demonstrated to increase power output as well as muscle size, with maximum benefit achieved at around 8 weeks of consistent supplementation.

It is generally recommended to consume 5 grams per day but lower doses (minimum of 3 grams) can still be effective if consumed over a longer period of time. 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. AC-G3 Charged contains three types of Creatine: Creatine Citrate, Creatine Magnesium Chelate (creatine bound to magnesium), and Creatine Ethyl Ester. While none of these forms have demonstrated any increased efficacy over Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Ethyl Ester has actually been shown to be much less effective.

A 2009 study, published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, directly compared Creatine Ethyl Ester to Creatine Monohydrate with regards to various measures of performance as well as muscle creation levels. Ethyl Ester was significantly less effective for increasing muscle Creatine levels as well improving muscle mass, strength, power, and body composition. This poses the question: Why would NDS include this form of Creatine if it is not the highest quality or best performing? Unfortunately, we cannot answer that for them.

BETA-ALANINE

Beta Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that serves as a precursor to the amino acid Carnosine, which acts as a lactic acid buffer, effectively reducing muscular fatigue. Like Creatine, Beta Alanine takes time to accumulate, but if taken over a sustained period of time, can also 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). Various studies have shown 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. Though the exact amount of Beta-Alanine in AC-G3 Charged is undisclosed, it is certainly possible that there is around 1.6g, though this is just speculation based on the over-all weight of the proprietary blend.

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.

HISTIDINE

Histidine is one of the 9 essential amino acids, meaning the body cannot synthesize it and must acquire it through diet. You may have also come across Histidine while looking into beta-alanine, since Histidine and Beta-Alanine are the two amino acids necessary for Carnosine synthesis. However, while Beta-Alanine supplementation increases carnosine synthesis, histidine supplementation does not. This is because Histidine is highly available to begin with and therefore is not the rate limiting factor in Beta-Alanine synthesis. It appears PMD is using a “just in case” approach with the inclusion of this ingredient.

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.

BIS PICOLONATO OXO VANADIUM

Vanadium is a chemical element which has been referred to as the “iron of the sea”, because it plays a similar role in sea creatures as iron plays in humans. For decades, bodybuilders have taken vanadium (in forms such as vanadyl sulfate) for its alleged glucose regulating effects. Preliminary research has shown that vanadium may very well act as an insulin mimetic (really it prolongs the signaling of insulin), by suppressing the action protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), which signals the degredation of insulin. Though much of the studies conducted were done with rats, the evidence certainly suggests that vanadium may be useful for those looking to control blood glucose.

L-ARGININE AKG

Arginine is a non-essential amino acid that acts as a precursor to Nitric Oxide. Supplement manufacturers 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 positive study does not offset the mostly negative results of multiple separate studies.

AGMATINE SULFATE

Very little is known about Agmatine, although it possesses a variety of implications. The proposed benefits include: Increased growth hormone production, anti-oxidant properties, increased Nitric Oxide (NO), and fat loss, though none of these claims have been completely substantiated. Recently, Agmatine has become quite pervasive in pre-workout supplements because of its alleged ability to inhibit Nitric Oxide Synthase (an enzyme that breaks down excess NO). However, lack of sufficient evidence makes us skeptical of this claim. In fact, Agmatine has been shown to do the opposite. A 2000 study, published in the “Journal of Brain Research”, found that Agmatine actually suppressed NO production in microglia (glial cells in the brain which mainly protect neurons). It should be noted that NO can be harmful to neurons, and the conclusion of the study was that Agmatine may support cognitive function. Furthermore, it is possible that Agmatine suppresses NO in microglia but not elsewhere. However, these findings certainly do not lend credibility to the notion that it increases NO. Further research should shed some light on the proposed benefits of Agmatine, but for now there is just not enough evidence for us to get behind it as a vasodilator (though cognitive benefits seem more likely).

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, but supplemental Tyrosine has failed to produce the performance enhancing effects commonly associated with increased release of catecholamine. 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 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). In other words, Tyrosine may restore levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline when necessary, but does not increase them beyond normal levels.

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 AC-G3 Charged formula.

CAFFEINE

Caffeine is a well-established ergogenic aid/cognitive enhancer and is the most commonly consumed psychoactive stimulant in the world. Caffeine causes an increase in catecholamines, resulting in increased alertness, focus, and perceived energy. These neurotransmitters tend to be pro-lipolytic, so it is commonly assumed that caffeine is a fat-burner. While the mechanisms of caffeine are certainly pro-fat-burner, the effects tend to fade with prolonged use, rendering caffeine ineffective as a long-term weight loss solution. However, caffeine may potentiate the effects of other stimulant fat-burners as well as increase energy and focus, resulting in longer, more intense workouts.

AMLA (EMBLICA OFFICINALIS)

Emblica officinalis (A.K.A. Indian Gooseberry/Amla) is touted by the herbal medicine community to have a variety of benefits in humans. NDS 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 carbohydrates. 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 and not science.

CITRUS AURANTIUM FRUIT EXTRACT

AdvantraZ is a patented form of Bitter Orange Extract which is standardized for Synephrine. Synephrine became popular after the FDA banned Ephedra as a dietary supplement for weight loss because they share a similar mechanism of action. Although 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. However, Syneprhine has not been studied extensively with respect to any fat-burning potential, so its difficult to determine the degree of efficacy.

DENDROBIUM

Dendrobium has become something of a replacement for DMAA in recent years since the FDA banned the popular pre-workout/weight-loss substance. The most popular claim attached to Dendrobium is that it allegedly contains PEA (mentioned above). However, no studies have yet isolated PEA from Dendrobium, so it is unclear whether PEA is really responsible for the psychoactive effects of Dendrobium as a whole. More than likely, there are other alkaloids which contribute, though one thing is clear: Dendrobium is a psychoactive stimulant, which (because it’s a stimulant) may have potential as a fat-burner. The truth is, as of right now, not much research has been conducted on this substance so it’s difficult to draw those type of conclusions.

THEOBROMINE

Theobromine belongs to the same class of chemical compounds as caffeine, known as methylxanthines. While its stimulant properties are less potent than caffeine, it is alleged to increase heart rate to a greater degree. In theory, increasing heart rate could provide more oxygen for fat oxidation (burning fat), but this is JUST a theory. Very few studies have examined the effects of Theobromine on weight loss, and those that have, have studied the effects in conjunction with other stimulants such as caffeine and synephrine. While we doubt Theobromine on its own would yield particularly significant results, it is possible that its addition in the formula could subtly compliment the effects of the more potent stimulants, and ultimately convey some sort of pro-fat-burning effects.

GUARANA

Guarana is a plant native to the Amazon, the fruit of which contains caffeine. Although guarana is touted as being a sort of “slow-release” form of caffeine, a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology showed that there was no difference in absorption rates in rats. Human studies have yet to be confirmed, but there is certainly no reason to think that guarana is any different (in terms of absorption) than regular caffeine.

GREEN TEA EXTRACT

Multiple studies have confirmed Green Tea Extract appears to be able to induce fat-loss. Although this effect was originally thought to be related to caffeine content, more recent research has pointed to a green tea catechin known as Epigallocatechin gallate as the compound primarily responsible for these effects. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is an antioxidant found in green tea, and is a member of the group of antioxidants known as catechins. In addition to these antioxidant properties, EGCG has demonstrated the ability to induce fat–loss when combined with caffeine, more than just caffeine alone. EGCG works synergistically with caffeine in regards to its effect on noradrenaline. Caffeine boosts noradrenaline while EGCG inhibits catechol-o-methyl transferase (COMT), the enzyme responsible for the degredation of noradrenaline. So, caffeine increases noradrenaline, while EGCG prevents its breakdown, the net effect of which is increased levels of noradrenaline (which induces the breakdown of fat). Although caffeine is generally used along-side EGCG to induce catecholamine release, EGCG can be synergistic with endogenously produced catcholamines (from exercise) as well as other fat burning compounds that release catecholamines. However, since PMD makes no mention of the EGCG content, it is likely that this particular Green Tea Extract is actually standardized for caffeine as opposed to EGCG.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The ACG3 Charged formula is similar to Cardio Cuts in terms of its ingredient profile, though without the weight-loss related ingredients. While the formula certainly contains beneficial ingredients such as Creatine, Beta-Alanine and Taurine we question the actual doses of each ingredient. However, ACG3 contains a variety of stimulants which may certainly enhance focus and perceived energy during workouts.

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

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