Iron Dream is a sleep-aid/recovery supplement belonging to the Arnold Series line by MusclePharm. It contains both sleep-inducing/recovery ingredients as well as Fenugreek (to promote healthy Test levels)…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
A 2006 study, published in “Sleep and Biological Rhythms”, found that 3 grams of Glycine improved subjective measures of a good night’s sleep such as next day liveliness, fatigue, and clear-headedness in human subjects.
These results were replicated in 2007 with same dose, but this study also found that supplementation also shortened latency to sleep onset and slow-wave sleep. Furthermore, next-day cognitive function (as measured by memory recognition tasks) was improved.
A 2012 study, published in “Frontiers in Neurology”, which also replicated these findings, set out to determine a potential mechanism of action. The researchers concluded that Glycine modulates certain neuropeptides in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, directly responsible for controlling circadian rhythm, which may improve sleepiness and fatigue caused by sleeplessness (i.e. the feeling of a good night’s sleep).
Overall, at 3g Glycine appears to be an effective sleep-aid, but not in the same way that melatonin or compounds that act on GABA receptors to aid sleep.
GABA is the primary inhibitory (downer) neurotransmitter in the brain, as opposed to Glutamate which is the primary excitatory (upper) neurotransmitter in the brain. While increasing GABA levels in the brain certainly has an anxiolytic effect, supplemental GABA cannot effectively cross the blood-brain-barrier so supplementation with GABA itself isn’t really an effective way of increasing it in the brain. However, Nitric Oxide may significantly increase the ability of GABA to reach the brain, as demonstrated in a 2002 study using rats. Furthermore, a 2008 study, published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise”, noted significantly higher Growth Hormone (irGH and ifGH) levels men following either resistance training or rest. irGH and ifGH are but two types of Growth Hormone, and are not necessarily the kind associated with increases in mass.
Mucuna Pruriens contain, among other things, a compound called L-Dopa which is a direct precursor to the neurotransmitter Dopamine. Dopamine, sufficient levels of which are required for REM sleep, is generally believed to play a significant role in the overall sleep-wake cycle, so optimizing levels of Dopamine should theoretically lead to healthier sleep patterns. Indeed, certain REM-sleep disorders are characterized by a Dopamine deficiency. A 2009 study found that treatment with Mucuna Pruriens increased Dopamine levels in healthy men, though the effects on sleep specifically have yet to be studied in humans.
HORNY GOAT WEED:
Epimedium Sagittatum, also known as Horny Goat Weed, has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac. These aphrodisiac effects are generally attributed to the compound Icariin. There are many claims regarding Icariin as a Testosterone booster, though these claims have yet to be substantiated in humans. Icariin has been shown to increase testostserone in sexually dysfunctional rats, but human studies are simply non-existent. Supplementing with Horny Goat Weed is likely to improve aspects such as libido and sexual well-being, but the claim that it will increase (or even optimize) testosterone is simply without merit at this point in time.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, found in the brain. It is heavily involved in the sleep-wake cycle (by causing drowsiness when secreted). Due to its role in promoting sleep, supplemental melatonin has been used to correct and treat mild sleep disorders, as well as by people who experience mild sleeplessness. All evidence suggests that melatonin works very well when it comes to promoting sleep, but the quality of sleep is more difficult to record. A 2004 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that melatonin significantly increased REM sleep in subjects who suffer from lower than normal REM sleep durations. Several other studies have demonstrated the ability of melatonin to increase REM sleep duration, as well as decrease sleep latency (time to fall asleep). Overall, melatonin may be very useful as a sleep aid, and may increase REM sleep especially in those experiencing REM deprivation to some extent.
Does Melatonin Increase Growth Hormone?
Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter which plays a pivitol role in the sleep-wake cycle, as well as various other physiological functions. While Melatonin…[Continue Reading]
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid (your body can make it) that is involved in a variety of bodily functions, from immune health, to providing a back-up fuel-source for the brain. Because Glutamine is an amino acid, some people assume that it may have a muscle sparing effect, and to be fair, it has demonstrated increased muscle protein synthesis in vitro as well as in the human gut. However, a 2001 study, published in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology”, found that Glutamine supplementation had no significant muscle sparing effect in resistance trained human subjects. A 2006 study from “Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism” which compared a combination of carbs, amino acids, and glutamine to a combination of just carbs and amino acids (not glutamine), found no difference in muscle protein synthesis following exercise.
So, while some of the claims that are often attached to Glutamine aren’t quite based on facts, it has shown a lot of promise when it comes to fighting exercise induced immune system suppression. Our immune systems ultimately benefit from regular 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 is highly correlated with lower glutamine levels, so glutamine supplementation can potentially reduce exercise-induced damage to immune cells.
A 2007 study, published in “Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism”, found that Glutamine supplementation effectively reduced ammonia in endurance exercise longer than one hour, leading to increased endurance. So, while Glutamine may be of minimal importance to individuals getting a quick 45 minute workout in, it may be quite useful for long-term exercise during which Glutamine depletion would normally occur.
Leucine is an amino acid that belongs to the group known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). In most BCAA products, there is a higher concentration of Leucine than the other two BCAAs. The ratio found in Iron Dream is the usual MusclePharm ratio of 3:1:2 of Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine respectively. While there is no reliable scientific evidence to indicate one true “optimal ratio”, several studies have confirmed that Leucine is the most important BCAA in regards to muscle protein synthesis. Supplemental Leucine has been shown to increase protein synthesis in rats as well as humans in dozens of studies. A 2012 study found that supplementation with 12 g of L-leucine per day resulted in improved protein synthesis in elderly males consuming a low protein diet, indicating that it may be especially useful for those with low protein intake. Since Leucine is the most studied of the three BCAAs, its mechanism of action has been established. Leucine works via activation of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) which is a signaling protein that signals the body to synthesize protein. To put it simply, Leucine signals mTOR which in turn stimulates protein synthesis.
While Leucine is the most important with regards to muscle protein synthesis, Isoleucine appears to have unique benefits regarding glucose uptake by muscle cells (while lowering blood glucose). In several rat studies, Isoleucine has effectively lowered blood glucose and increased glucose uptake into muscle cells. While the effect of Isoleucine (in isolation) on muscle glucose uptake has not been studied in humans, BCAAs in general due appear to induce glucose uptake, and based on the rat studies this may be due to Isoleucine more so than the others.
Valine appears to possess the least unique benefit, but there are claims circulating that Valine may reduce mental exercise-induced fatigue by reducing the amount of Tryptophan available for Serotonin synthesis. A 2001 study concluded that Valine lowered the amount of exercise-induced 5-HT (Serotonin) in mouse hippocampuses. During exercise Tryptophan is transported to the brain where it is converted into Serotonin. It is hypothesized that Serotonin is responsible for mental fatigue. It has also been established that BCAA directly compete with tryptophan for the same pathway to the brain, and therefore may reduce the amount of Tryptophan available for Serotonin production. This would explain certain subjective anti-fatigue effects of BCAA supplementation noted in a few studies. However, the claim that Valine is solely responsible for this effect is unsubstantiated by human studies. Given the current literature, it appears more likely that BCAAs in general help to attenuate fatigue.
BCAAS IN GENERAL:
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 in no way means you cannot derive added 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.
A major criticism of BCAA supplements is that Leucine alone can achieve a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis. While Leucine does appear to be the most critical in regards to muscle protein synthesis, 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 alone. So, theoretically speaking, if you had to choose, you would choose Leucine, but all three is undeniably a better way to go.
Trigonella Foenum Greacum (also known as Fenugreek) is an herbal extract that has gained traction in the supplement industry as a libido enhancer. However, a 2009 study, published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, found that males who supplemented with Fenugreek extract showed no increase in anabolic hormones (i.e. testosterone). This study was supported by Indus Biotech, a company that manufactures and markets Fenugreek as an aromatase inhibitor. Furthermore, a 2011 double-blind, placebo controlled study found that 6 weeks of supplementation with a Fenugreek derived supplement (Testofen) led to scoring 25% higher on a libido test (sexual arousal and orgasm in particular) than the placebo group, but with no increase in Testosterone levels, meaning that the mechanism of action was not an increase in testosterone. So if these studies have concluded that Fenugreek does not increase testosterone, then how has this supplement gained traction? Well, one 2010 study, published in “The International Journal of Sports Nutrition”, found that supplementation with 500 mg of fenugreek extract (Testofen) resulted in a significant increase in free-testosterone levels. This poses the question: What changed between the 2009 study and the 2010 study? Ultimately, the results are mixed, with two studies indicating no increase in Testosterone and one indicating increased Testosterone. More research is needed to clear up this discrepancy, but for now it appears Fenugreek is only reliable as a libido enhancer, not a testosterone booster.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Iron Dream may ultimately be an effective sleep-aid and nighttime recovery supplement. However, the claims that it will favorably impact testosterone are, for the most part, unsubstantiated. Overall, a good-night’s sleep is essential to proper recovery, especially in those who already have trouble sleeping. At about $1 per serving, Iron Dream is priced about average relative to similar products (aimed at improving sleep and hormonal environment).
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