Psycho is Scivation’s pre-workout which makes use of several standard pre-workout ingredients such as Citrulline and Beta-Alanine, but also contains some interesting cognitive enhancement/stimulant ingredients…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
Creatine has the ability to rapidly produce ATP (cellular energy) to support cellular function (in this case exercise). During high intensity exercise, creatine is used for energy which tends to spare the glycogen that would normally be used. For this reason, creatine indirectly decreases lactic acid build up because lactic acid is a byproduct formed when glucose (glycogen) is burned for energy. Creatine has consistently been demonstrated to increase power output, as well as muscle size, with maximum benefit being reached at around 8 weeks of consistent supplementation. It is generally recommended to consume 5 grams per day but lower doses (minimum of 3 grams) can still be effective if consumed over a longer period of time. 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 molecule. It is commonplace for companies to tout various forms of creatine as “more bioavailable” or “faster absorbing”, but there is no clear-cut evidence that one form is better than another.
Psycho contains an unknown quantity of Creatine Monohydrate, but we estimate one serving contains around 1 gram. Often times, a “loading phase” is recommended for creatine users during which an excess amount of creatine (10-20 grams) is consumed for a week or two in order to saturate muscle cells, before dropping down to a consistent (5 grams) dose. However, recent research has confirmed that the same saturation can be achieved with smaller doses, over a longer period of time. It’s important to understand that Creatine must accumulate in muscle tissue, and is not effective for one-time use. However, if taken over a sustained period of time it is one of the most effective performance enhancing supplements available. It is also remarkably safe, even at much higher doses than the recommended 5 grams daily. Given that Pyscho probably contains around 1 gram of creatine per serving, 3 servings must be consumed in order to reach an effective dose of creatine, or another source of creatine may be used along-side it.
Considered a beta-amino acid, Taurine plays a variety of roles in the body. It is most concentrated in the brain and liver, but is found in some amount virtually everywhere in the body. What makes Taurine so interesting is that it possesses antioxidant 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”. 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. The mechanism of action here is pretty simple. It is widely believed that, while exercise fatigue general results from a multitude of factors, oxidative stress contributes considerably. By decreasing oxidative stress as it occurs, Taurine may very well ward of fatigue. That’s not to say that you will last forever in the gym by supplementing with Taurine, but to most athletes, even one more rep is always appreciated.
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, but if taken over a sustained period of time, can also be an extremely effective performance enhancing supplement with a strong safety profile. One study in particular that measured the carnosine levels of sprinters found that individuals with high carnosine levels exhibited higher power output in the latter half of a 30m sprint. Various studies have shown that Beta Alanine supplementation increase muscular carnosine, which improves physical performance. 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. Psycho uses an undisclosed quantity of Beta-Alanine, but given that is included along with Creatine and a few other ingredients in a 2500mg blend, it is likely less than what is considered scientifically validated, though an effective dose could certainly be achieved with more servings.
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 that reason, we prefer to disregard it completely.
Inositol is a cell-signalling molecule required for a wide range of bodily processes. Very high doses (18+ grams) have shown promise in treating anxiety, but no performance enhancing benefits have been reported. Inositol deficiency appears to be associated with insulin resistance, but not enough research has been conducted to conclude whether inositol supplementation can increase insulin sensitivity in healthy individuals. Furthermore, the lack of explanation by Scivation as to why they included inositol in the formula leads us to believe that there is no real reason, but supplemental inositol has a strong safety profile so it doesn’t hurt either.
CoQ10 is a molecule found in the mitochondria (energy producing organelle) of cells, and is required for process of energy production. In addition to its role in energy production, CoQ10 is also a relatively potent antioxidant, and may convey some health benefits pertaining to oxidation/ageing. A 2007 study, the subjects of which were rats, concluded that CoQ10 “was useful for reducing exhaustive exercise-induced muscular injury by enhancing stabilization of muscle cell membrane”. A 2010 study, published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food”, produced similar results in rats. A 2008 study, published in the “British Journal of Nutrition”, found that athletes who consumed 300mg of CoQ10 daily for 20 days experienced less exercise-induced muscle injury than the placebo group. However, a separate 2008 study, published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” failed to produce similar effects. Ultimately, CoQ10 supplementation does appear to convey to some physical performance benefits (mostly relating to fatigue), though the degree tends to vary in humans. Furthermore, Scivation does not disclose the amount of CoQ10 present in the Psycho formula, so it’s tough to say how effective it might be.
Citrulline is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to arginine, which in turn acts as a precursor to nitric oxide. Citrulline has recently gained recognition in the supplement community for its ability to increase plasma (blood) arginine levels more effectively than supplemental l-arginine itself. How is this possible? Citrulline is absorbed better than arginine in the gut, and is then converted into arginine in the kidneys. A 2009 study, published in the Journal of Free Radical Research, found that 6 grams of Citrulline Mallate given to male cyclists before a race, “increases plasma arginine availability for NO synthesis and PMNs priming for oxidative burst without oxidative damage”. Several other studies have confirmed these findings, and it is widely accepted that Citrulline, at doses of around 6 grams, can significantly increase plasma arginine. Psycho contains an undisclosed amount of Citrulline (as malate), but we estimate about 1 gram, meaning 3 servings would yield about 3 grams.
Emblica officinalis (A.K.A. Indian Gooseberry/Amla) is touted by the herbal medicine community to have a variety of benefits in humans, the most common of which are cognitive enhancement and blood glucose lowering. The cognitive benefits are the result of several antioxidant compounds found in Amla, as well as the possible inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that is largely accredited with controlling the “mind-muscle connection”, and increasing levels in the brain may very well result in enhanced physical performance. However, human studies generally include Amla with other herbs so its true efficacy has yet to be determined. While the preliminary evidence is promising, at this point we would still consider it a speculative ingredient.
Higenamine, commonly reffered to as norcoclaurine, has gained some traction in the supplement industry as a stimulant fat-burner because of the chemical similarities it shares with ephedrine (now banned). Like Ephedrine, Higenamine acts as Beta(2)adrenergic agonist, meaning it stimulates the beta(2) adrenergic receptors which induce lipolysis (fat burning). In addition to its fat-burning potential, Higenamine has also been demonstrated in vitro to increase acetylcholine levels, though these findings have not yet been replicated in humans. Overall, there is certainly preliminary support for Higenamine as a fat-burner and potential ergogenic aid, but because no human studies exist there is recommended effective dose. Given that Higenamine is a stimulant, those sensitive to stimulants may react poorly.
Caffeine is a well-established ergogenic aid/cognitive enhancer, and also happens to be the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Caffeine causes an increase in catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine), resulting in increased alertness, focus, and perceived energy. In most individuals, increased energy may lead to a more intense/longer workout. Because epinephrine and norepinephrine induce lipolysis, caffeine has often been implicated as a fat-burner, but human studies have demonstrated that tolerance builds fairly quickly so caffeine is not an effective long-term fat burner. That being said, it is a very effective ergogenic aid, and often forms the basis for stimulant based pre-workouts. Psycho contains 100mg of caffeine per serving, a modest dose compared to most pre-workouts, which clearly indicates the the product is designed for multiple servings at a time. Individuals who frequently consume caffeine are not likely to feel a burst of energy from 100mg of caffeine alone, but this seems like more of a strategic move on the part of Scivation to provide the option to double or triple the dose.
Dendrobium is considered the new replacement for 1,3 Dimethylamylamine (DMAA), which the FDA has been adamant about removing from supplements in the past few years. However, companies that include Dendrobium extract claim different things. Craze by DS Sports claims that the active compound in Dendrobium is Phenylethylamine (PEA) which increases norepinephrine and dopamine. However, it is important to understand that no study analyzing the components of Dendrobium have found that it contains PEA. Therefore, either the particular type of Dendrobium contained in these supplements is altered in some way, or the stimulant properties of Dendrobium are due to another compound entirely.
Sceletium tortuosum, also known as Kanna, is an herb mostly indigenous to South Africa which has a long history of use as a mood elevator/anxiolytic. Kanna contains two types of alkaloids, mesembrine tortuosamine, which are alleged to convey the psychoactive effects. A 2011 study published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” found that Sceletium tortuosum extract had limited anxiolytic effects in rats subjected to psychological stress (in the form of restraint). While no mechanism of action has been established, the results of the study indicated that the herb does not act as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). There are currently no human studies, just anecdotal evidence which does seem to suggest an apparent narcotic-anxiolytic effect of Sceletium tortuosum. Scivation does not disclose the exact amount of Sceletium tortuosum in the Psycho formula, but based on the label we know it can be no more than 15mg. Even if the exact amount were disclosed, it would be difficult to determine its efficacy because a standard dose has not been established.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Psycho contains several standard pre-workout ingredients (beta-alanine, citrulline, creatine, caffeine, etc.) as well as some less common ingedients with varying degrees of efficacy. While the price of 48 cents per dose may seem like an insanely good deal, it’s important to keep in mind that in order to obtain truly effective doses of most of the ingredients, more than one serving must be consumed. Depending on individual stimulant sensitivity, Scivation recommends taking up to the three servings at once, which would equate to $1.40 per serving, about average.
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