Angel Dust by Blackstone Labs is a pre-workout which contains many of the standard PWO ingredients (Creatine, Beta-Alanine, etc.) as Caffeine and AMP Citrate…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
Creatine is the most extensively studied ergogenic aid currently available, and by far one of the most effective at increasing both strength and muscle mass. Its primary mechanism of action is via the ability to rapidly produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) to support cellular energy. A higher availability of ATP directly corresponds to an increase in muscular strength and power output.
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 which poses a secondary mechanism by which Creatine can potentially enhance performance.
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. No other form of Creatine has demonstrated any clear superiority over Creatine Monohydrate, so we generally recommend sticking with this particular form.
Blackstone does not disclose the amount of Creatine in the Angel Dust formula, but given a 7500mg proprietary blend, we’d estimate no more than 2-3g.
Beta-Alanine is a precursor to the amino acid Carnosine, which functions as a lactic acid buffer capable of reducing fatigue in the working muscle. Though it takes time to accumulate in muscle tissue, Beta-Alanine supplementation is very reliable for endurance enhancement and support lean mass gains.
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. The doses used in this study, 1.6 and 3.2g, are the most common doses seen in supplements.
A 2008 study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, noted improvements in power in resistance trained males using 4.8g daily for 30 days. This same 4.8 gram dose was also shown to increase muscular endurance in sprinters in a 2007 study from the “Journal of Applied Physiology”.
Ideally, we like to see 3.2g of Beta-Alanine, although daily doses as low as 1.6g may still be effective in the long-run. Blackstone does not disclose the amount of Beta Alanine in Angel Dust but, based on a 7500mg proprietary blend, there is no reason why it couldn’t contain at least 1.6g.
Despite its inclusion in energy drinks, Taurine is not a stimulant and does not increase perceived energy or focus. Rather, it is an amino acid with antioxidant properties with implications for exercise recovery as well as slight performance enhancement.
In a 2011 study from “Cell Biochemistry and Function” Taurine was shown to significantly reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle. These findings were consistent with those of an earlier (2004) study, published in “Amino Acids” which 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, also from “Amino Acids” noted a 1.7% improvement in 3k-time trial of runners after supplementing with Taurine, and these findings were further corroborated in a later 2013 study from “Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism “ in which Taurine supplementation was able to increase strength as well as decrease oxidative muscle damage.
Effective doses of Taurine range from 1000-2000mg and we’d estimate the amount Taurine in Angel Dust falls towards the lower end of this range.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid which serves as a precursor to Dopamine and Norepinephrine (Catecholamines). Because of this relationship, it is commonly alleged (mostly by supplement companies) that Tyrosine can increase levels of these neurotransmitters, which would ultimately convey some performance enhancement benefits. However, supplemental Tyrosine has failed to produce any noticeable performance enhancement benefit in multiple studies.
While Tyrosine may not increase workout performance directly, it has been shown to preserve cognitive function in the presence of an acute stressor, such as noise, cold exposure, and potentially, exercise. This is because Tyrosine, upon ingestion, forms a pool which is then drawn from to create more Dopamine and Norepinephrine when depletion occurs. To put it simply, Tyrosine will not increase Dopamine and Noradrenaline, but can help ensure optimal levels are maintained during/after exercise.
Although Tyrosine can certainly support cognitive function in the context of a pre-workout supplement, very few contain clinical doses of 2g+. Unfortunately, Angel Dust appears to be no exception, although Blackstone Labs does not disclose the exact dose.
MUCUNA PRURIENS EXTRACT (L-DOPA):
Mucuna Pruriens (also known as Velvet Bean Extract) contain L-Dopa, a precursor to Dopamine. Aside from increasing dopamine, a 2008 study found that “Treatment with M. pruriens regulates steroidogenesis and improves semen quality in infertile men.” In addition to increased levels of dopamine, adernaline, and noradrenaline, the subjects who recieved Mucuna Pruriens also experienced elevated testosterone levels. However, it should emphasized that the subjects who showed increased Testosterone were infertile men, meaning many of them may have initially had low testosterone levels. There is no evidence that Mucuna Pruriens supplementation effectively raises testosterone in individuals with normal testosterone levels. Those suffering from low testosterone levels are much more likely to benefit from supplementation.
Out of the three human studies done specifically to test the effect of D-Aspartic Acid on testosterone, two have shown a significant increase in testosterone levels.
A 2012 study from “Advances in Sexual Medicine”, the subjects of which were infertile men (initially low Testosterone) found that 2.66g of D-Aspartic Acid was able to significantly increase Testosterone levels when measured after 90 days of supplementation. These results were in-line with those of an earlier (2009) study in which D-Aspartic Acid supplementation raised Testosterone by 42% after 12 days in healthy men (initially normal Testosterone).
However, a 2013 study published in “Nutrition Research” found that athletes who supplemented with D-Aspartic Acid for 28 days showed no difference in testosterone levels.
The researchers in the failed study noted abnormally high levels of D-aspartate oxidase, the enzyme which degrades D-Aspartic Acid, indicating that prolonged supplementation in individuals with healthy Testosterone levels may cause “negative feedback” which reduces the effects.
Unfortunately, Angel Dust contains nowhere near a clinical (3g) dose of D-Aspartic Acid, so whether the dose present can actually convey any meaningful benefit remains questionable.
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 elevates or reduces 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.
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.
Although Blackstone does not disclose the exact dose of Agmatine present in Angel Dust, we’d estimate somewhere around 500mg, a pretty average (and possibly effective) dose.
Betaine (also known as Trimethylglycine) is the amino acid Glycine with the addition of three methyl groups attached. It is alleged to increase power output and strength by increasing cellular swelling, a phenomenon well established with Creatine supplementation, which can drastically reduce the damaging effect of outside stimuli (such as exercise) on the working muscle. So far, Betaine has been investigated in several human studies, and has had some pretty encouraging results in most.
A 2009 study, published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, found that 2.5g Betaine (split into two 1.25mg doses) over the course of 15 days increased muscle endurance during squats and appeared to improve the quality of each rep (likely because they were easier).
A 2010 study, again from the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition”, found that the same supplementation protocol (2.5g daily in two equal doses) effectively increased isometric bench press and squat force as well as bench throw and vertical jump power.
A 2011 study, published in “The Journal of Strength & Condition Research” noted improvements in number of bench press repetitions and total volume load with same 2.5g dosing protocol for 14 days. However, another 2011 study from the same journal noted no such improvements in power output or number of reps performed, though there were subjective reports of fatigue reduction.
A 2012 study from the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” noted improvements in cycling sprint power after just one week of supplementation at the standard 2.5g dose.
Most recently, a 2013 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” noted increases in arm size, bench press work capacity, overall body composition, and a trend toward increased power (but not strength). This was the first study to specifically measure the effects of Betaine supplementation on body composition, so further study is needed to corroborate these findings.
Unfortunately for consumers, the amount of Betaine in Angel Dust is undoubtedly far less than the 2.5g used in the above mentioned studies. Given that Betaine is listed after Agmatine, we estimate Angel Dust contains no more than 500mg or so, a pretty negligible dose as far as the research is concerned.
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. A vast multitude of studies have concluded that Caffeine consumption prior to exercise can favorably impact performance and enhance muscle contractibility.
As with the rest of the ingredients in Angel Dust, Blackstone Labs does not disclose the amount of Caffeine and theres really no way to tell how much they’ve packed in there.
GREEN TEA EXTRACT:
Green Tea contains a catechin known as Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and is generally standardized to a specific concentration. EGCG is a moderately potent anti-oxidant, but can also inhibit the enzyme Catechol-O-Methyl Transferase (COMT), the enzyme responsible for the degradation of catecholamine neurotransmitters (noradrenaline, dopamine, etc.). This COMT inhibition makes EGCG very synergistic with stimulants such as Caffeine and the below mentioned N-Coumaroyldopamine, which increase levels of catecholamines. By inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down these neurotransmitters, EGCG effectively potentiates the effects of these stimulant compounds.
A 2005 study from the “British Journal of Nutrition” found that 200mg of caffeine alongside variable doses of EGCG was able to significantly increase 24 hour energy expenditure (calories burned) compared to placebo. Yet another 2005 study, from the “International Journal of Obesity”, noted the ability of EGCG to reduce the action of beta-blockers, indicating that EGCG also has beta-adrenergic agonist mechanisms as well. Ultimately, the weight-loss benefits of EGCG are mostly dependent upon the release of catecholamines (from stimulants or endogenously), so individual tolerance to the accompanying substance (like caffeine) is generally the deciding factor. Individuals who consume caffeine on a regular basis are not likely to benefit from a combination of EGCG and Caffeine as individuals who never consume caffeine.
4-amino-2-methylpentane citrate, also known as 1,3 dimethylbutylamine, bares striking chemical similarities to 1,3 dimethylamylamine (DMAA), the compound that became wildly popular among pre-workouts and fat-burners before being banned by the FDA. Like DMAA, very little is known about 1,3 dimethylbutylamine, other than that it has a very similar chemical structure so it should have similar effects. Anecdotal reports of 1,3 dimethylbutylamine indicate the effects are similar, though perhaps not as overwhelmingly potent, and many are calling it “the next DMAA”. Unfortunately, until more studies are published, we really won’t know too much about this compound, the benefits or the pitfalls.
N-METHYL TYRAMINE (NMT):
Tyramine is a derivative of the amino acid Tyrosine, and has the ability to increase the level of the catecholamine neurotransmitters Norepinephrine, Epinephrine, and Dopamine. Tyramine is thought to act as a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI), meaning it blocks the enzyme (Monoamine Oxidase) responsible for oxidizing the above mentioned neurotransmitters. The result is an elevation in levels of these neurotransmitters which generally results in increased focus, mood, and perceived energy. For this reason, it is recommended that people currently taking prescription MAOIs be careful not to consume too much dietary (or supplemental) Tyramine.
In the context of Angel Dust, NMT serves as a means of amplifying/extending the effects of Caffeine and possibly AMP Citrate.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The ingredient profile of Angel Dust is extremely solid, with everything from Creatine and Beta-Alanine to a relatively potent stimulant blend featuring the up and coming AMP Citrate. However, we have some serious doubts about the levels of individual ingredients. With a 7.5g serving size, there is no way that one serving of Angel Dust contains effective doses of ALL key ingredients, meaning users who want to receive the full host of benefits these compounds have to offer would need multiple servings daily. At a little over $1 per serving, multiple servings at time may be an expensive way to go for many.
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