After Glow is a post-workout recovery formula which contains everything from protein to antioxidants to creatine. From an ingredient stand-point, it is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive formulas out there…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid (your body can synthesize it) that is involved in several important functions, from immune health to providing an alternative fuel-source for the brain in the absence of glucose. However, if you’re a regular at the gym (we assume you are if you’re reading this), you have probably heard of glutamine as it relates to working out. You may have also realized that glutamine, despite being one of the most widely used supplements, is also one of the most debated.
Because glutamine is an amino acid, some people assume that it may have a muscle sparing effect. However, these claims are unsubstantiated for the most part. So, while it is true that some of the alleged benefits are not quite as grounded in science as some supplement companies might have you think, glutamine is far from useless. Glutamine has shown a lot of promise when it comes to fighting exercise induced immune system suppression. The immune system ultimately benefits in the long-run from 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 has been proven to correlate with lower levels of glutamine. For this reason, it is suggested that increased uptake of glutamine may help keep the immune system strong post-exercise. In addition, lower glutamine levels have been recorded in over-trained athletes, which suggests that higher levels of glutamine may help to prevent overtraining.
Branched Chain Amino Acids is a group of amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine which share a similar (branch-like) chemical structure. While skeptics claim that leucine is the only BCAA worth taking, 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’s alone. So it does appear that, while leucine appears to have the most potent effect on protein synthesis, isoleucine and valine are of some value afterall. 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 does not mean you cannot derive 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.
Considered a beta-amino acid, Taurine plays a variety of roles in the body but, contrary to popular belief, Taurine does not “boost energy”. What makes Taurine so interesting is actually the potent anti-oxidant properties it possesses. BioRhythm states that the AfterGlow formula contains “Nearly 2000mg of powerful free radical scavengers and antioxidants” and since the other antioxidant ingredients are R-ALA, Grapeseed Extract, and Pomegranate powder, we know that they consider Taurine part of that group (and rightfully so). 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”. It’s unfortunate that Taurine has developed a sort of stigma because of it’s 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. For these reasons, it makes perfect sense to include Taurine in an exercise recovery formula.
Kre Alkalyn is a essentially a buffered form of creatine that is manufactured at a much higher pH than other forms of creatine. The idea behind this is that, because it has a higher pH (usually around 12 ), the creatine remains more stable in the body and isn’t broken down into the byproduct creatinine before it reaches the muscles. While it is true that creatine does tend to breakdown into the byproduct creatinine which leaves the body in the urine, Kre-Alkalyns self-proclaimed superiority is far from a sure thing. Studies comparing Kre-Alkalyn with other forms of creatine (such as monohydrate) are either non-existent, or are done by companies that manufacture Kre Alkalyn (or at the very least have an economic interest). SuppWithThat.com maintains a very strong stance against accepting these types of studies as facts, and therefore we don’t have much to go on. So, while Kre-Alkalyn still has a ways to go (in terms of scientific evaluation) before we can be convinced, there is no reason NOT to take it other than that it tends to be more expensive. For that reason, we wouldn’t recommend it over creatine monohydrate if you’re planning to run a full cycle, but in the context of After Glow, we feel it works. The way we see it, 1000mg is ATLEAST as effective as 1000mg of Creatine Monohydrate.
Cissus Quadrangularis is a plant found in Africa and parts of Asia. It has a long history of use by the inhabitants in these areas, but has recently made its way into fitness supplements. It is alleged to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain relief), and antioxidant properties. Of particular interest though, is its potential for bone health. A 2003 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that the extract possessed “a definite antiosteoporotic effect” in rats. For anyone who suffers from a bone debilitating disease such as osteoporosis, this is good news, but Cissus has implications for athletes as well. While it has proven effective in decreasing recovery time from bone injury, it does so by influencing early regeneration of connective tissue, meaning it may be beneficial for joints as well. While more studies are needed to directly determine the effects of Cissus supplementation on connective tissue, these findings certainly imply benefits for bodybuilders and athletes whose joints are constantly under stress. One human study found that subjects with exercise related injuries who recieved 3200mg of Cissus Quadrangularis extract over an 8 week period reported a decrease in joint pain. However, given that the nature of the results was somewhat subjective, further study is needed to determine an objective mechanism of action.
Phosphatidylserine is one ingredient that certainly distinguishes AfterGlow from other recovery formulas. Despite the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence in favor of this ingredient as an anti-catabolic agent, it is only found in a few supplements, and even those tend to contain less than an optimal dose. This is likely due to the fact that it is relatively expensive compared to more common ingredients. Study after study has shown that phosphatidylserine is extremely effective at blocking cortisol (the stress hormone). Cortisol 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 situations (such as being chased by a predator). 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 just irritating, especially to bodybuilders and athletes seeking to gain muscle. Physical stress (i.e. intense physical activity) releases cortisol which immediately starts to break down muscle amino acid stores, making it the number one enemy of body builders or athletes looking to gain muscle through training. Phosphatidylserine has repeatedly been shown to blunt exercise induced cortisol spikes. The ideal dose of PS, according to various studies, is between 400mg and 800mg. Afterglow contains 800mg of phosphatidylserine, a highly effective dose.
Pomegranates are among the most studied ‘super fruits’ due to the fruit’s antioxidant properties. Pomegranates contain a vast amount of polyphenols which are the compounds that give it it’s health benefits. Of particular interest is a class of polyphenols known as ellagitannins. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine found that “supplementation with ellagitannins from pomegranate extract significantly improves recovery of isometric strength 2–3 d after a damaging eccentric exercise.” A 2012 study confirmed that a group who underwent 8 days of supplementation with pomegranate juice concentrate experienced a significantly lower increase in interleukin-6 (a marker of inflammation) after exercise than the placebo group.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is a truly amazing substance that, despite possessing a vast amount of proven and potential benefits, remains relatively unknown to most people. Among these potential benefits are: improved glucose utilization, regeneration of other antioxidants (Vitamins C and E), induction of glutathione (your bodies ‘master antioxidant’) synthesis, and improved cognitive function. Because R-ALA is included in the antioxidant blend, we known BioRhythm is primarilR-ALA supplementation has been shown to defend against exercise induced oxidative stress. It is important to understand that not all forms of Alpha Lipoic Acid are equal. The R-form is the bioavailable form that the body can effectively metabolize. Unfortunately, due to the effort required to derive R-ALA, many companies just sell ALA. Supplements labeled ALA are really 50% R-ALA (the natural bioavailable form) and 50% S-ALA (a synthetic byproduct of ALA which results from the production process). So, what you’re really getting from your ALA supplement is 50% of the good stuff and 50% of the useless stuff. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the S-ALA may actually counteract the effectiveness of the R-ALA. Fortunately, BioRhythm uses R-ALA, which means that the Alpha Lipoic Acid has been standardized to only contain the useful form of Lipoic Acid.
GRAPE SEED EXTRACT:
Grape Seed Extract is becoming quite pervasive in the supplement industry these days. While there are those companies that claim some seemingly incredible (and literally unbelievable) benefits of supplementing with Grape Seed Extract, one thing is for sure: it certainly has antioxidant benefits. Grape Seed Extract contains high levels of a group of polyphenols called proanthocyanidins which have been demonstrated to possess powerful free-radical scavenging properties. Research shows that Grape Seed Extract may not only defend against exercise induced oxidative stress, but also reduce muscle fatigue post workout.
AfterGlow contains a significant dose of vitamins and minerals from Vitamin A to Zinc. While we are not going to get into the function of each of these individual ingredients, we’d just like to comment on the levels. The formula contains about 30% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of each of these. When supplements that aren’t multivitamins contain a multivitamin-like blend we actually prefer the levels to be no higher than 40% of RDI. This is because most people who are using these products either eat healthy, or already take a multivitamin that contains these ingredients. Megadoses of most vitamins and minerals may have negative effects if consumed on a daily basis, so when stacking supplements, you need to be careful of this. The levels of vitamins and minerals present in AfterGlow allow the product to be stackable with a multi-vitamin or other workout products that contain these ingredients.
Whey Protein Isolate is undeniably the pinnacle of proteins. Many companies like to use Whey concentrate because it is cheaper. However, it is also less effective because it contains less protein (usually between 75-80%). Whey Protein Isolate is the purest form of whey protein available. Basically, the process involves filtering a protein source in order to achieve whey concentrate, then further filtering the concentrate to achieve whey isolate (90%+ protein). Most reputable companies use Isolate these days, because there is just no denying the fact that it is better than other forms of protein, and we would expect nothing less in a quality recovery blend.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The short answer is yes. AfterGlow is by far the most comprehensive post-workout recovery formula we have analyzed. The ingredient profile is nothing short of everything that should be included in a product such as afterglow. BioRhythm has actually done something here which is quite rare in the supplement industry: The use of quality ingredients at effective levels. The use of phosphatidylserine at an effective dose is what really gives AfterGlow it’s edge over other recovery supplements. The only criticism we can imagine this product getting, is that it comes off as expensive. However, when you consider the cost of each ingredient, the price is actually quite appropriate.
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