Reviews

Universal Nutrition Animal Rage Review

Animal Rage

 

Animal Rage is Universal Nutrition’s classic pre-workout supplement. Unfortunately, Universal is no stranger to the use of proprietary blends, and it would be difficult to accurately estimate levels of key ingredients…[Skip to the Bottom Line]

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 in muscle tissue, but if taken over a sustained period of time, can also be an extremely effective performance enhancing supplement with a well-established 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. 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. While the exact amount of Beta-Alanine present in the Animal Rage formula is undisclosed, it is the first ingredient in a 5275mg proprietary blend, so there may be an effective dose.

CITRULLINE:

Citrulline is a precursor to the amino acid Arginine, which is a precursor to Nitric Oxide (NO). A 2009 study, published in the “Journal of Free Radical Research”, found that 6 grams of Citrulline Malate given to male cyclists before a race increased “plasma Arginine availability for NO synthesis and PMNs priming for oxidative burst without oxidative damage”.

You may be wondering: How can Citrulline be more effective at increasing Arginine than Arginine itself? The problem with supplemental Arginine is that it is metabolized in the intestines and liver into other substances such as Ornithine and Urea. The intestines and liver contain relatively high levels of Arginase, the enzyme that converts Arginine to Ornithine and Urea. As a result, very little goes on to be involved with the synthesis of NO because it is being diverted for other purposes. Citrulline, on the other hand, is able to bypass the liver and is metabolized into Arginine elsewhere, where not as much Arginase is present. Thus, more of the Arginine is able to convert into NO.

A 2002 study, published in the “British Journal of Sports Medicine” found that Citrulline supplementation (6g/day for 15 days) significantly increased ATP production during exercise in healthy adult males. A 2011 study, the subjects of which were rats, found that supplemental Citrulline increased muscular contraction efficiency (less ATP was required for the same amount of power), in-line with the findings of the above-mentioned human study. While Citrulline has demonstrated significant ergogenic effects in animals and humans (in multiple studies), most pre-workout supplements use between 1-2g of Citrulline, the true efficacy of which is still unknown. It is unlikely that Animal Rage contains more than 1-2 grams per serving.

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. The usual dose of Taurine used for performance enhancement is about 1 gram.

GLUCURONOLACTONE:

Glucuronolactone has become a popular additive in energy drinks as well as “detox” supplements which claim cellular protective benefits. Despite being included in various energy products, it has not been studied in isolation in regards to any claims made by these companies. For now, we cannot say with any certainty whether Glucuronolactone makes any difference with regards to workout performance.

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.

CHOLINE BITARTRATE:

Choline, once inside the body, is converted into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is associated with many functions including (but not limited to) memory, attention, and muscle control. It is the neurotransmitter most closely associated with the “mind-muscle connection” (although this may be something of an over-simplification), and therefore of much interest to athletes and bodybuilders alike. While certain forms of choline may be associated with increased muscular power output (namely Alpha GPC), Choline Bitartrate is generally considered the least bioavailable choline source, though oral doses of 1000-2000mg have still been shown to increase serum choline levels significantly.

A 2012 study published in the “British Journal of Nutrition” found that 1 gram of Choline Bitartrate was able to significantly increase, not only plasma choline levels, but also plasma Betaine levels. Betaine itself is commonly included in pre-workout formulas as it has been shown, in some cases, to increase power output. While Choline Bitartrate has not been studies in regards to performance enhancement, it is just as effective at increasing Betaine as supplemental Betaine, meaning it may very well convey the same performance enhancement benefits.

BETA-PHENYLETHYLAMINE:

Phenylethylamines are a class of compound which cause an increase in the catecholamine neurotransmitters (epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine) and as such, are relatively potent (though short lived) central nervous system stimulants. While studies testing the effects of PEA supplementation on exercise performance are limited, a boost in catecholamines may certainly translate into more energy in the gym, resulting in a more intense workout.

As far as direct effects on weight loss, studies are more or less non-existent. However, the generally physiological reaction to increases in epinephrine and norepinephrine is activation of the beta-adrenergic receptors which induce lipolysis, so the mechanism by which PEA may induce weight loss is theoretically solid, just not documented. Because the effects are generally short-lived, it is hardly a miracle weight-loss supplement on its own, but combined with other beta-agonists/alpha-antagonists, will likely contribute to the overall effect.

SCHIZANDRA BERRY:

Schizandra Berry has historically been used as a performance enhancer. A 2008 study from the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” found that Schizandra was able to increase time to fatigue in mice. Allegedly, human trials have been conducted in Russia, though these studies have not been made available in the Western world online or in hard copy. For now, we would still consider Schizandra speculative, though it may certainly act as adaptogen, similar to Rhodiola.

RHODIOLA ROSEA:

Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen, meaning it may help the body adapt to stressful situations. RR has been shown to improve stamina and fight mental fatigue in various studies. However, the exact mechanism of action is still unknown. We’re not crazy about herbal extracts because there is often a lot of pseudo-scientific claims attached to them, but we can’t deny that some herbal extracts are effective. After all, most pharmaceuticals are originally derived from some sort of plant. While more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism of action, Rhodolia Rosea has proved to be quite effective at countering exercise induced fatigue, making its inclusion in the Animal Rage formula justified in the eyes of science.

CORDYCEPS SINENSIS:

Cordyceps is a mushroom which has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a variety purposes. In the context of the Animal Rage formula, Cordyceps is meant to reduce fatigue. Though human trials are virtually non-existent with regards to this claim, a 2003 study found that Cordyceps increased time to fatigue in swimming rats.

PANAX GINSENG:

Panax Ginseng, also known as ‘Korean Ginseng’ or ‘True Ginseng’ is one of the most popular herbs originally used in Ancient Chinese Medicine. Its popularity is mostly due to the long list of ailments it is alleged to treat, but for the purpose of this review we’ll focus primarily on its role in managing stress, anxiety, and overall mood. A 2011 study from “Behavioral Medicine” found two different types of Ginseng extracts improved physiological aspects of depression in mice. These results were consistent with two earlier studies, one from “Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry” and the other from the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology”. A 2010, placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized, crossover study noted increased calmness among subjects who consumed 400mg of Panax Ginseng extract. However, these results directly conflicted with an earlier 2001 study which found no such benefit after 60 days of supplementation. The reason for this discrepancy may be time/tolerance related as evidenced by a 2002 study in which benefits were noted at 4 weeks but disappeared by 8 weeks of supplementation. So, while Ginseng certainly has shown efficacy at positively influencing mood in humans, the effects may become negligible with prolonged use.

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, it is a highly effective ergogenic aid and will certainly enhance performance when taken pre-workout.

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. Though Animal Rage is not a fat-burner, COMT inhibition may ultimately improve exercise in a synergistic manner with caffeine. When looked at from this angle, fat-loss is essentially a side-effect whereas increased energy and focus would be the primary effect.

EVODIAMINE:

Evodiamine is a plant extract which appears to mimic the thermogenic effects of Capsaicin in rats. However, no human studies have been published at this time testing the effects of the extract on humans. Due to the lack of human studies available, we cannot determine with any considerable degree of certainty, the efficacy of Evodiamine.

VINPOCETINE:

Perewinkle is generally standardized for the alkaloid Vincamine, which is then used to synthesize Vinpocetine. Vinpocetine is an effective vasodilator which has been demonstrated to increase cerebral blood flow (and thus slightly more oxygenation). Although not commonly mentioned by supplement companies, Vinpocetine can fulfill a secondary role when it comes to stimulant-containing supplements. Stimulants, such as caffeine, tend to be vasoconstrictors, which may result in a feeling of pressure in the heads of individuals who are not used to these compounds. By acting as a vasodilator, Vinpocetine may help avoid potential ‘stimulant-induced headaches’. As a vasodilator, it stands to reason that Vinpocetine also enhances the “pump” dimension of exercise, though it has not been directly tested in humans.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Animal Rage contains the usual pre-workout ingredients as well as a few adaptogenic herbs which may convey some anti-fatigue benefit. From an ingredient standpoint, the formula is solid, but our concern is with regards to the amounts of those ingredients. Though the exact doses are undisclosed, it is likely that multiple doses would be necessary to achieve effective doses of several of the key ingredients. However, given that the formula does not contain many stimulants, consuming multiple doses is an option. From a cost standpoint, Animal Rage is about average.

REFERENCES
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