No2 (nitric oxide) Supplements Review

Nitric Oxide is one of the most popular muscle building supplements on the market now. Can it actually help muscle gains or is it hype? What I’m about to say may surprise you.

What are NO (nitric Oxide) supplements?

NO supplements are supposed to increase Nitric Oxide in the blood. NO Supplements contain arginine, with most in the form of Arginine-alpha-keto-glutarate. Nitric Oxide has hundreds of functions in the body, especially with blood flow, nerves, and cell communication. It acts as a vasodilator(increasing blood flow) in the body by relaxing the smooth muscles. Nitric Oxide (NO) is formed when the amino acid arginine, is broken down by an enzyme into citruline.

Why do bodybuilders take NO supplements?

To get better muscle pumps, increased strength and muscle gains, and for sexual health. It is thought that nitric oxide plays a crucial role in muscle building based on some indirect studies and theory.

NO supplement studies:

It sounds like NO supplementation is a important supplement, but there is no legitimate scientific studies showing NO supplements increased strength and muscle gains. Most of the NO advocates are using indirect reasoning to support the use of NO as a muscle builder. For example, they believe that since NO could help muscle gains because of the increased blood flow to the muscles. Other studies such as published in Am J Hypertens. 2007 Aug;20(8):825-30, showed an increase in NO production after resistance excercise. This has then led some to assume, that NO may then be involved in causing increased protein synthesis post-workout.

The problem with all these assumptions is that arginine doesn’t seem to convert to Nitric Oxide at the recommended dosages. If you go through all the studies done on high doses of arginine, you will see no increase in vasodilation (increased blood flow). It increases vasodilation only at high doses when injected. The reason why we can’t get to those levels orally, is because it is much higher than the level that causes stomach upset. So arginine will convert to nitric oxide, just not at the dosages someone could withstand orally, without getting really sick. I suppose someone could start injecting it, but NO supplements aren’t THAT good to warrant it! No legitimate scientific study I could find has been able to show a difference, in either muscle gains or strength.

Final thoughts:

NO supplements seem to be nothing more than junk. The vasodilation effects some people “experience”, seems to be nothing more than placebo effect. Therefore it’s not going to be a Viagra alternative either, for those who seeked arginine for helping impotence. Many reputable experts, who aren’t affiliated with supplement companies, also believe NO is a waste of money.

Hydroxycut Hardcore X Review

Hydroxycut Hardcore X is being advertised everywhere on TV and magazines these days. I’ll analyze the ingredients, but first some background. Years ago, all the major fat loss supplements contained ephedra. There was no question that ephedra was a very potent fat burner. As hydroxycut and other companies dropped it for legal reasons, many bodybuilders flocked to getting pharmaceutical grade ephedrine. Most fat loss supplements on the market are now based on synephrine or yohimbe, as ephedrine substitutes. The question is whether or not without ephedra, if Hydroxycut Hardcore is worth the money?

I decided to look through some of the ingredients of Hydroxycut Hardcore. The major fat loss ingredients in the product are; Green tea extract, caffeine anhydrous, white willow extract, black pepper extract, and Methyl 17 alpha-hydroxy yohimban-16 alpha-carboxylate hydrochloride.

Green Tea: Green tea is very beneficial for fat loss, as it dramatically raises metabolism. However, you could just get green tea, by replacing your daily cup of joe.

Black Pepper Extract: Black pepper like other peppers, can assist in fat loss and metabolism raising. I wouldn’t consider this a major fat burner on it’s own though.

Methyl 17 alpha-hydroxy-yohimban-16 alpha-carboxylate hydrochloride:
This is one form of Yohimbe. Yohimbe is main fat burning stimulant in the Hydroxy Hardcore stack. Yohimbe like ephedrine, are stimulants that increase adrenaline (among other things) that help aid in fat loss. Yohimbe is different chemically and pharmacologically though. Yohimbe works in promoting the negative feedback loop, whereas ephedrine causes direct stimulation on the adrenaline receptors. Many topical fat loss transdermals use it, for spot reduction in fat. Yohimbe probably won’t burn fat as effectively, as synephrine and especially ephedrine.

Caffeine & white willow extract: They are trying to follow the old ECA stack supplement, ephedrine plus caffeine plus aspirin(white willow extract is where aspirin is derived from). Although there is no ephedrine, the caffeine plus yohimbe is a common bodybuilding stack, to help aid in the fat burning effects of yohimbe. Caffeine by itself, doesn’t directly burn fat. The reasoning for using aspirin for fat loss since it thins the blood, is weak at best. Not to mention, asprin also stops protein synthesis.

After reviewing the ingredients, Hydroxycut Hardcore X has valid fat burning ingredients. However, it probably won’t give you the results of ephedra or other more potent stimulant based stacks, found commercially or customized by bodybuilders. Not everyone may want to tolerate the effects of the more potent fat burning stimulant stacks or bother creating their own stack. One other thing I should address, is that some people found Hydroxycut Hardcore to be hard on the stomach and digestion.

6-OXO Review

6-OXO came on the market a few years ago. It revolutionized testosterone boosting in a effective, yet safe way.

About 6-OXO:

6-OXO is the brand name by ergopharm, for a aromatase inhibitor compound named 3,6,17-androstenetrione (4 etioallocholen-3,6, 17-trione). It was the first legitimate legal aromatase inhibitor available in the supplement industry. Before this, there were only prescriptions or junk herbs that didn’t work.

How 6-OXO works:

Aromotase inhibitors block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, similiar to the prescription drug arimidex. 3,6,17 androstenetrione is more specifically, a suicide aromatase inhibitor because it permanently binds together. As a result your system estrogen levels go down, but your testosterone levels should go up dramatically. If you want your estrogen levels to return to normal, then you can stop taking 6-OXO and eventually your body will replace the aromatase enzymes, restoring normal estrogen levels.

While estrogen is seen as an evil by most bodybuilders against muscle gains, it is also beneficial in moderate amounts. Therefore cycling 6-OXO to boost testosterone levels, probably will not benefit you further in muscle gains. 6-OXO and other anti-aromatase inhibitors, have not shown much benefit in increasing muscle gains in clinical studies. This is probably due to the lowering of estrogen, which is crucial in muscle gains. You can read more about estrogen’s actions on muscle gain and fat loss in 2 previous articles of mine.

Estrogen’s anabolic effects

Estrogen’s fat loss effects

Increasing well above the recommended dosages, would also probably cause a rebound effect, due to overcompensation. Therefore, it is best to stay within the normal dosages, to not cause extremely low estrogen or a rebound.

When should you take 6-OXO?

After a pro-hormone or steroid cycle, 6-OXO should help increase your testosterone levels back to normal. 6-OXO is an alternative to nolva, clomid, and other prescription anti-estrogens post-cycle.

Does 6-OXO really work?

6-OXO was developed by the Patrick Arnold, a world expert in supplement and steroid chemistry. He has also developed many other hormonal products over the years including 1-AD and 11-OXO 6-OXO is also naturally found in the body as a metabolite (Steroids. 1965; 5:479-493) and in the placenta(Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1984 Feb 14;118(3):805-13), thereby making it legal as a supplement. Bodybuilders have been using it for years now, with significant increases in strength and muscle gains in a short period of time. Multiple studies have shown this compound works as a anti-armotase in the body including one published in (J Steroid Biochem. 1987 Sep;28(3):337-44) and (J Med Chem. 1985 Jun;28(6):788-95). A study done on castrated rats (J Endocrinol. 1978 Oct;79(1):69 76.) showed this compound increased testosterone levels.

If you are trying to restore your normal natural testosterone levels after a pro-hormone or steroid cycle, then 6-OXO will work well. Although Ergopharm markets it as a testosterone booster for increasing muscle and strength gains, there is no evidence to suggest it would also be beneficial in that regard.

Does Liquid (Serum) Creatine Work?

For many years now we have seen supplement stores continue to sell the sham called liquid creatine sometimes also called serum creatine. Many bodybuilders today know its a scam, but then why is there still a demand? It’s amazing how supplement companies can prey on naive people, by using biased or faulty studies.

I decided to search around and noticed that many websites still have some older articles up, that say that liquid creatine works as well, if not better, than creatine monohydrate powder. I believe one reason why liquid creatine is around to this day, is many bodybuilding sites don’t update their information articles. I constantly am updating my articles on this blog based on new evidence, so that won’t be a problem here.

Liquid Creatine Studies:

A study published in J Pharm Biomed Anal. 29(5):939 showed that liquid creatine had only 2% of actual creatine compared to label claims. Another study ( Med. Sci. Sports Exere. 33:s204.) on liquid creatine products showed it didn’t work. The reason why the liquid creatine products aren’t meeting the label demands and don’t work, is the creatine breaks down into metabolites, when it’s stored in liquid.

For additional information about the various types of creatine forms out there, read a previous article of mine: Which creatine works the best?

Cortisol Blocking Supplements & Drugs

Cortisol is a nasty hormone, it’s bad for our health, muscle gains, and it promotes fat mostly in the stomach. Cortisol reduction via supplementation, is now getting the attention it deserves with bodybuilders. The mainstream has also jumped on the cortisol blocking bandwagon, with their aggressive T.V ads.

Since cortisol blockers are so popular, I thought I would list all the things that I’m aware of that may reduce cortisol. Cortisol blockers will have most importance pre-workout and before bedtime, since cortisol levels rise the most after excercise and upon waking up.

Vitamin C:

Most bodybuilders take 1 to 3 grams of viatmin C a day because they believe it helps in recovery, immunity, and cortisol control. There is many studies showing the effects of antioxidants, especially vitamin c, in reducing cortisol after excercise. A relatively new study was published Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Apr;39(4):645-52. on 20 endurance athletes for 4 weeks. Half supplemented with 1000mg of vitamin c and 400 IU of Vitamin E. Researchers concluded that 4 weeks of this supplementation reduces the cortisol response to a 2.5 hour bout of excercise.

Androgenic Anabolic Steroids:

Steroids all inherently have anti-cortisol actions on the body. Most
people think of them as being anabolic, but a large part of their muscle building abilities, is actually due to the anti-catabolic actions on lowering cortisol. This is why people on steroids are known for being able to workout longer, without risking overtraining. Overtraining is mainly due to the cortisol response.

Imodium (loperamide):

This over the counter drug for diarrhea, has been shown to have cortisol reducing properties. You will want to read a previous article I wrote about it Imodium (loperamide) a Cortisol Blocker?

Relacore:

You may have seen these cheesy commercials on the T.V the last couple years. There actually might be some merit to the claims. Read my previous article Relacore Review: Does it work? to learn more.

Carbohydrates:

OK, so this is not a supplement or drug, but it’s the only macronutrient that can significantly blunt cortisol production. This helps support the idea of high carb diets for maximum muscle gain, especially post workout and breakfast, when cortisol production is high.

11-OXO

This is a relatively new supplement out by Ergopharms. You will want to read my previous article on 11-OXO to find out more about it.

Relacore Review : Does it Work?

The last 3 years, there has been a lot of T.V commercials for cortisol blocker supplements. One of the more recent ones is now Relacore being advertised on TV. Relacore is marketed as a cortisol blocker that helps aid in fat loss, especially in the belly. Bodybuilders know that cortisol can effect their gains negatively. They also aren’t likely to fall for any hyped pill on a T.V ad either. But does this supplement actually work as claimed and could bodybuilders benefit from it also?

What is Relacore?

Relacore contains a few herbs, but the main ingredient of Relacore and the one that may actually help reduce cortisol, is the Magnolia bark. Magnolia is a sedative anti-anxiety herb. You may be wondering what a herb like this has to do with cortisol. People with long term stress are known to have higher body levels of cortisol. So in theory, lowering their stress with this herb, may lower cortisol levels.

About Magnolia Bark:

Magnolia bark has been used for centuries as a medicine for a variety of mental and physical conditions. Using Magnolia bark has been found in multiple studies to have strong anti-anxiety and to a lesser extent, depressant (sedative) effects on the nervous system.

What does this mean for bodybuilders?

For Relacore to work, you would have to be a chronically stressed out or depressed person. If this is you, then I think Relacore would be very beneficial for the mood enhancement and indirect cortisol reducing effects, otherwise it’s probably a waste of money. The fact that magnolia bark also seems to have heavy drug effects, mainly at high dosages, leads me to believe this supplement may also lead to abuse and addiction if your not careful. The price of Relacore is not bad, $30+ for 90 capsules. It is a better alternative than kava kava (a mood enahncer), since kava kava is very hard on the liver and Magnolia bark seems to be more potent.

Bromelain

What if there was a supplement that made the protein in your diet more effective and easier to digest? A group of digestive enzymes called Bromelain appears to be that supplement.

What is bromelain?

Bromelain is the name of protease enzymes(protein digesting) from the pineapple plant stem. It may also include some other substances grouped with these enzymes naturally found in the stem. Most of the bromelain is in the inedible stem, so eating pineapple won’t help as much as supplementing with it.

How does bromelain work?

The two major enzymes in bromelain break protein down in the body. This helps handle large amounts of protein, when the human stomach may not be able to handle it at once. Bromelain is best taken together with your high protein meals.

Does bromelain really work?

Yes. Bromelain has been is used as a common meat tenderizer for years. Meat tenderizers work by breaking down protein in order to make it softer.

Benefits of taking bromelain:

Digesting protein better means you get the benefits of more protein in your diet, which is increased muscle gains. Most people have some trouble digesting large amounts of protein to some degree. If you get gas and bloating, bromelain will help you digest it better to eliminate these side effects.

Bromelain vs. Aminogen:

Aminogen is a synthetic protein digestive aid on the market. is the other protein digestion aid. You can read more about it in a previous article of mine: Does Aminogen Work?

Other health benefits of Bromelain:

Bromelain appears to be an anti-inflammatory and has been used over the years to help with a wide variety of inflammatory conditions.

Side effects of Bromelain:

Do not go outside the recommended dosages, as it will increase your heart rate beyond the normal dosages.

Does Aminogen Work?

A few years ago on one bodybuilding forum I used to visit, there was a prominent mod who started advocating supplementing with Aminogen. The company behind aminogen, has many claims and research behind it. But does aminogen really work or is it all smoke and mirrors?

Aminogen claims:

The company behind aminogen claims it’s a proprietary synthetic enzyme, that helps breakdown protein during digestion, making it easier to absorb. According to them, aminogen leads to more absorbed protein and nitrogen retention, ultimately leading to more muscle and strength gains. They also claim that aminogen will help against the negative effects of undigested protein, such as gas and bloating.

Aminogen research:

The company has research showing Aminogen works, such
as increasing nitrogen retention, and saying there was a 250% increase in branched chain amino acids. The problem with all this is, who did these studies? It looks to me like the company themselves did(or sponsored) the study. Who is going to trust a study by the supplement company that makes them? Aminogen is a proprietary name, meaning it has no real scientific meaning and therefore we can’t find any studies on this supposed “enzyme” since we don’t know what it is.

Remember how I mentioned that prominent member who was advocating Aminogen? He also was a distrubutor of Herbalife, which happens to make aminogen also. He obviously had financial motive for advocating Aminogen.

Final thoughts:

I can’t say for certain if Aminogen works or not, for the purpose of actually breaking down protein. There is no way to research the compound “Aminogen” since we don’t know what exactly it is(if anything important). We would have to rely on user feedback to find out. If Aminogen works, it should help reduce digestion problems, by aiding the breakdown of protein. If you don’t have any digestion problems when taking protein and aminogen together, then it works as claimed in regards to breaking down protein. If you have a lot of problems digesting your protein it might be worth a try, to see if it eliminates those side effects.

However, increasing the digestibility of protein with Aminogen, is not going to automatically increase nitrogen retention, in fact probably just the opposite. Whey protein has low nitrogen retention because it is digested very easily. Hydrolyzed whey protein, has even less nitrogen retention time because it’s in a more broken down form of protein. There is some evidence that increasing protein in your diet, may increase muscle mass, which is the reasoning behind aminogen claiming it also. However, you could get the same effect by simply increasing protein in your diet, without using the expensive Aminogen supplement.

Carnosine

Carnosine supplements have been around for decades, promoted as a anti-oxidant. But does Carnosine actually play a very significant role in the body for bodybuilders and athletes? The answer may surprise you.

About carnisine:

Carnisine is naturally found in food in small amounts. When it is digested it is broken down by the carnosinase enzyme into the two amino acids beta-alanine and histidine. Once back in the muscle they are then converted back into carnosine.

Carnosine research:

Why do we care about all this? Well two studies, in 95 and 98, showed that carnisine seems to be in much higher concentrations in type 2 fibers. One was done by Harris, the same researcher who helped discover the potential of creatine. These type 2 fibers are responsible for power and significant muscle hypertrophy. Research indicates that carnosines role in the muscle on PH levels may help performance. In other words you can workout longer and harder.

The amino acid beta alanine that carnosine initially converts to, before getting converted back, is actually now a popular bodybuilding supplement. You can read more about beta alanine in a previous article of mine: beta-alanine

Which is better, beta alanine or carnosine?

Since carnosine gets converted to beta-alanine in the body and there seems to be plenty of histidine naturally in the body, you should be able to supplement with either beta alanine or carnosine, and get similiar benefits. One side effect of taking beta alanine instead of carnosone instead however, is that high doses of beta alanine can cause a prickling sensation on the body. Beta alanine is the preferred supplement as it is cheaper and available in bulk powder.

Forskolin

Forskolin is now commonly stacked in many fat loss supplements.Is there any scientific evidence to support that forskolin works for fat loss?

About forskolin:

Forskolin is the name of the active ingredient derived from the Coleus forskohlii plant. It has been used for centuries as a herbal medicine for treating many different diseases.

Research studies on Forskolin:

There is many studies supporting forskolin as a fat loss agent. One study published in Obes Res. 2005 Aug;13(8):1335-43 was done for 12 weeks on obese men, 15 taking forskolin and 15 placebo. Results of the study showed 250 mg of 10% forskolin extract twice a day had a larger increase in lean mass, reduce fat,s erum free testosterone levels, and bone density, compared to control.

Studies have also been able to find the exact role of forskolin in burning fat. Forskolin’s fat burning properties, are the result of it’s action on cAMP.

What is cAMP? It stands for cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP.). It is an important compound that plays a role in dozens of basic cellular functions and signal pathways in the cell. Increasing cAMP, causes an increase in thyroid, insulin secretion, and fat burning. Forskolin apperas to have more action on the body then just with cAMP too.

Other benefits to forskolin:

Forskolin increases in cAMP cause the relaxation of the smooth muscles. This is probably why forskolin is showing benefit for the following conditions; high blood pressure, angina, cramping, digestive problems, and asthma.


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