I dove into the research to give you the skinny on some workout supplements here.
I’ve since been assured that a supplement called Jack3d by USP Labs is the best thing since sliced bread. Of course, this is usually supported by “I tried it and it’s awesome!” Well, as you might know, Jeff and I feel pretty strongly about this type of anecdotal evidence, strongly in a bad way. As we say in SPEED, it’s worthless evidence and this is a great example. Let me explain.
First, here’s the label from the Jack3d:
Notice the directions say stir 1-3 scoops, and there are 45 scoops in the container. So, it will last you 15-45 workouts. Also notice that 1 scoop is 5.5 grams, and there are 4145 mg of active ingredients, or 4.145 grams. What I want to do is take a look at the amounts of each of these ingredient that are needed to be effective and compare it to what might be in the proprietary blend. My point here is that I don’t think there’s a chance you could get enough of each of these ingredients to be effective in 4.145 grams (1 scoop).
Let’s look at the cost of this product like this: each scoop costs you about $.55, since it sells for $25.
First ingredient – AAKG
When studied for chronic effects, the lowest dose of L-arginine that was shown to be effective is 1.5 grams/day. Studies show positive acute effects at 6g pre-workout. When AAKG (arginine alpha-ketoglutarate) is used specifically, 6g is the common dose. Since you don’t take Jack3d every day unless you workout every day, you have to use the numbers from acute effects. Let’s be conservative and call it 3 g for the desired effect.
AAKG – 3 grams
If you haven’t read my last post you might not know that creatine monohydrate is the real deal. It’s safe, effective, and cheap. Muscle creatine stores have been sustained at 2g/day but most studies use 5g/day for performance effects. Let’s be conservative and call it 2g for the desired effect.
Creatine Monohydrate – 2g
Third ingredient – beta alanine
A review by Culbertson shows that 2-6g/day of beta alanine supplementation increases muscle carnosine content. So, let’s once again be conservative and call it 2g for the desired effect.
Beta Alanine – 2g
Fourth ingredient – caffeine
Read SPEED yet? If so, you know we like caffeine. It’s another supplement proven safe, effective, and cheap. Let’s call it 150 mg for desired effects.
Caffeine – 150 mg
Fifth ingredient – 1,3 Di-methylamylamine (Geranium stem)
I’ve been unable to find much (any) research on this ingredient by any of the names it’s given. Therefore, I have to admit I have no idea what an effective dose might be.
Geranium Stem – ???
Sixth ingredient – Schizandrol A
This one is also a mystery. Not much research in humans, mostly rats. I’ll be completely honest and say if it’s this hard to find research, it’s probably not worth the time. I guess the Chinese have been using it for centuries. We’ve been using bloodletting for centuries, too, because it works… wait, what? We don’t do that anymore? Oh, so we were wrong for 2,000 years? Oh.
Schizandrol A – ???
Can you just make your own for less money?
Okay, so let’s put it all together, minus the unknowns of the last two ingredients. Being very conservative with our estimates and only considering the first four ingredients, you’d need 7.150 grams of active ingredients. That about 1.5-2 scoops worth of Jack3d. Remember, each scoop of Jack3d costs us $.55. So let’s say it’s 1.5 scoops and call it $.82 total cost.
Now let’s see if we could come up with a poor man’s version if we bought, separately, the ingredients we KNOW to work and put them together. You can get 250g of AAKG for $15, or $.18/3 grams. You can get 1000g of creatine monohydrate for $15, or $.03/2 grams. You can get 500g of beta alanine for $18, or $.07/2 grams. You can get 100g of caffeine for $7, or $.01/150 milligrams.
Add all that up and your total cost, for the stuff that actually works, at very conservative doses is $.29/serving compared to $.82 for Jack3d. Of course, you have to consider Jack3d is flavored, and it’s colorful (oooohhh, aaaaahhh… who cares what color it is?).
Anecdotal Evidence – “I tried it and I felt amazing”
Now, back to anecdotal evidence. People are going to try a supplement and say “it works” because they feel something. Caffeine, the cheapest ingredient in Jack3d by far, is going to be what makes a user of Jack3d feel something due to its stimulatory effects. Next in line might be AAKG due to its vasodilation effects which will create “the pump.” Hell, Arnold said the pump is better than having an orgasm, so talk about feeling something! However, just because you feel better doesn’t mean your workouts will be any more productive in the short term or long term. In order to know whether this is true, you’d have to do everything exactly the same – diet, exercise, sleep – and only change the fact that you started taking the supplement, wait a few weeks, and see if you get stronger/more muscular/more lean.
I’m all for feeling better for a workout, mostly because workouts are just more enjoyable if I’m “into it.” But, who wants to pay $25 every 15 workouts? Not this guy.
Play Time – Matt Schoeneberger’s super-awesome fantastical wicked cheap workout drink (patent pending)
Let’s have a little fun and figure out what we could come up with if we used the doses I’d want to use.
AAKG – 6 grams
Creatine Monohydrate – 5 grams
Beta Alanine – 6 grams
Caffeine – 200 milligrams
BCAA – 3 g
Total cost: $.90/serving. Now that’s a workout supplement!
So what did we learn? First, 1 scoop of Jack3d can’t possibly have enough of each active ingredient to make a real difference. Because of this, you’d have to use 2 or 3 scoops/day to really elicit any gains from the product. Second, we learned that we can order the ingredients that actually work and mix them ourselves, as long as we don’t care what color it is, and save money. Or, we could create a supplement that has everything useful that Jack3d has, put in useful doses of each, and add some BCAAs for only about .90/serving. Third, we learned why the anecdotal evidence you’re going to hear in support of a supplement like this is really just a mind trick. Sure, you’ll feel like your stronger or more muscular, but in reality you just feel this way because you’re now bigger in comparison to your lighter wallet.
I’ve ordered most of the ingredients in my super-awesome fantastical wicked cheap workout drink (patent pending), and I’ll report back on how incredible it makes me feel 🙂