Reviews

Sparta Nutrition Kraken: An Evidence-Based Review

Kraken is a pre-workout by Sparta Nutrition which contains, among other things, an astounding 200mg of DMHA (a popular substitute for DMAA) per serving…

Sparta Supplements Kraken

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Claims/Benefits

Sparta Nutrition couldn’t have been more direct with the claims made about Kraken…It says it right on the bottle!

  • Focus
  • Energy
  • Pump
  • Endurance

Given that these claims are basically the same claims about just about every other pre-workout supplement, we’ll have to take a closer look at the ingredients to see if Kraken is really something special or not…

Kraken Ingredients

All of the ingredients in Kraken have been used in the pre-workout supplements before, although Sparta does appear to be one of the first brands to openly disclose that Eria Jarensis is stanadardized for N-N-Dimethylphenethylamine.

Given the profile, Kraken appears to an extremely well-balanced profile.  It’s certainly high-stim, but also contains several non-stimulant performance enhancers such as Citrulline and Beta-Alanine.

L-Citrulline

Citrulline is a precursor to the amino acid Arginine which is used in the production of Nitric Oxide.  Increasing Nitric Oxide production during exercise results in greater blood flow, better pumps, and enhanced recovery, so anything that actually increases N.O. to a significant degree would be an effective performance enhancer.

Even though Arginine is a more direct precursor to Nitric Oxide than Citrulline, Arginine supplementation has proven ineffective with regards to performance enhancement.

Citrulline has not only been shown to increase Nitric Oxide levels, but becuase of it’s role in the Urea Cycle (the process by which toxic byproducts such as Ammonia are converted into less harmful substances and excreted from the body), it is also capable of reducing Ammonia build-up in muscle-tissue, effectively delaying fatigue and enhancing muscular endurance.

Specifically, Citrulline has been shown to increase the amount of reps acheived at a given weight, later on in the workout when fatigue would normally set in.  Longer, better lifts will result in greater gains over time.

Kraken contains 4g of L-Citrulline, and although we generally like to see Citrulline Malate as the form of Citrulline used, 4g of L-Citrulline is the same as the amount of Citrulline in 6g (clinical dose) of Citrulline Malate 2:1, so not worries there.

Beta-Alanine

Beta-Alanine is precursor to the amino acid Carnosine, higher muscular concentrations of which are associated with greater endurance performance.  Carnosine works by reducing Lactic Acid build-up in muscle tissue–a major contributor to muscle failure during your workout–effectively delayed fatigue for a bit longer and allowing you to push past your usual limits.

Beta-Alanine has been studied extensively the area of performance enhancement so supplementation is considered a highly reliable way of increasing Carnosine levels, assuming you’re taking 3-6g/day.

Given that Kraken contains 3.2g of Beta-Alanine per serving, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Glycerol

Glycerol is an Osmolyte–meaning it’s capable of drawing water into cells–resulting in optimal hydration and possibly some nice pumps during your workout.  As  far as actaul performance enhancement, Glycerol supplementation isn’t too reliable.  If you’re running a marathon or engaging in some other kind of highly strenuous, long-duration exercise, Glycerol may help because it preserves hydration status.

If it’s pumps you’re after though, Glycerol will get the job done.  Kraken contains 2g of HydroMax Glycerol.

Taurine

Taurine has made it’s way into just about every type of supplement, from pre-workouts to recovery-aids.  As a performance enhancer, Taurine is actually not particularly reliable, having failed at least once to improve exercise performance while also showing some modest performance enhancement benefits elsewhere.

Whether or not it will enhance performance, Taurine is without a doubt an effective recovery-aid.

Due to its powerful antioxidant properties, Taurine can reduce oxidative damage to muscle tissue during exercise.  Kraken contains 1g of Taurine per serving, a clinically effective dose as far as recovery is concerned.

Agmatine

Agmatine is a metabolite of Arginine which has been shown (in vitro) to stimulate Nitric Oxide production via activation of the enzyme Endothelial Nitric Oxide Sythase (eNOS).

It has never been tested in humans in the area of performance enhancement or blood flow, but the mechanism exists by which it be do those things.  Until more studies are conducted and published, it’s kind of a speculative ingredient in our book.

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine

Tyrosine is a precursor to L-Dopa, which is a direct precursor to Dopamine and Noradrenaline, two neurotransmitters closely associated with mood, perceived energy, and motivation.

Unfortunately, Tyrosine supplementation is not capable of increasing levels of these neurotransmitters directly, but instead serves as substrate (building blocks) for when Dopamine and Noradrenaline become depleted.

Supplementation has been shown to preserve (not enhance) cognitive function during/following strenuous and/or mentally-demanding activities.

This is why it is commonly used alongside stimulants which tend to release (and deplete) these neurotransmitters.  So, Tyrosine is really more a support ingredient, but one that plays an important role nonetheless.

Cocoamine (Eria Jarensis)

Eria Jarensis (apparently also known as Cocoamine?) is an herbal stimulant which, according to Sparta Nutrition, contains N-N-Dimethylphenethylamine.

N-N-Dimethylphenethylamine is a CNS Stimulant which belongs to the Phenethylamine class of chemicals and should probably have similar effects as some other closely related stimulants.

N-N-Dimethylphenethylamine

Because no human studies have been conducted, N-N-Dimethylphenethylamine remains a speculative (but potentially effective) compound.  That said, PricePlow has a pretty thorough post on Eria Jarensis that’s worth reading if you’re thinking about taking Kraken.

Caffeine

Caffeine triggers the release of Noradrenaline and Dopamine, two neurotransmitters (discussed above) which directly control mood, motivation, and perceived energy levels.  This is why Caffeine is used in just about every pre-workout supplement…It works!

We discuss the beneficial impact on Caffeine on exercise performance in our article: 3 Supplements That Actually Enhance Muscular Endurance In Different Ways, for those who are interested in learning more.

Kraken contains 200mg of Caffeine, not a particularly hefty dose, but it makes sense given the other stimulants used in the formula.

2-Aminoisoheptane

2-Aminoisoheptane, also known as DMBA, has quickly become the go-to replacement for DMAA.  Unfortunately, there’s no doubt about it…it’s NOT DMAA.  DMAA is a much more powerful stimulant, hence why no pre-workout with DMBA has ever reached the status of such pre-workouts as the original Jack3d and Dust Extreme.

Still, DMBA may do something for you if stimulants are you thing.  Give it a shot, jus don’t expect a DMAA-like experience.

L-Norvaline

Norvaline is an analogue of the branched amino acid Valine which (unlike Valine) is not used to build complete proteins, but has other valuable functions throughout the body.

In vitro, it has been shown to inhibit the enzyme Arginase, responsible for the breakdown of Arginine.  The theory goes something like this…

By inhibiting Arginase, Norvaline can indirectly increase the amount of circulating Arginine which should increase Nitric Oxide production as well.  Unfortunately, it’s just a theory.  No study has ever shown that supplemental Norvaline can actually do anything like this in humans, so the jury’s still out.

Kraken Ingredient Takeaway

Kraken contains a well-balanced array of stimulant and non-stimulant ingredients to enhance performance, pumps, and endurance.  The stimulant aspect is pretty heavy, with a moderate (200mg) dose of Caffeine, DMBA, and N-N-Dimethylphenethylamine, all of which should provide some serious energy and focus.

For that reason, we’d classify Kraken as a “high-stim” pre-workout supplement.  It’s not over the top or anything, but it’s not something you’d give your grandma either.

Is Kraken Safe?

Most of the ingredients in Kraken have well-established safety profiles and wouldn’t even cause harm at double the dose.  However, the formula also contains some stimulants that haven’t been studied in humans.  If you’re sensitive to stimulants, you should probably stay away.

Where To Buy

At the moment, it looks like Kraken is not available from a wide variety of retailers.  We could only find it at:

But we’d expect to see it make it’s way out to the usual Sparta Nutrition retailers because Sparta Nutrition products are general found all over the place.  Then again, many brands seem to be adopting a more direct-to-consumer approach these days in an attempt to cut out the unnecessary middlemen (good strategy).

The Bottom Line

Sparta Nutrition has done an excellent just with Kraken.  It contains clinical doses of non-stimulant, performance enhancing ingredients that will actually promote:

  • Pumps
  • Endurance
  • Recovery

And the stimulant aspect is pretty well-rounded.  There’s not overload of Caffeine, but with DMBA and N-N-Dimethylphenethylamine, it will certainly pack  a powerful punch.

If you’re looking for a “best of both worlds” pre-workout that isn’t just a stim-bomb, and will actually make perform better, you may want to give Kraken a shot…

Still not sure which pre-workout is right for you?  Check out our Best Pre-Workout Supplements list.

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