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Massively Underrated Supplements - Part 1

Posted on December 4, 2019

Massively Underrated Supplements - Part 1Dividerimage

Finding the right supplement to make the most of your chosen sport or exercise can be a tricky task indeed. There are more product than you can poke an Optimum Nutrition protein stick at.


And if you live in a city, there are probably more local sports nutrition stockists than you can actually visit. And each store likely carries more products than you will inspect—while the stores product range represents only a small fraction of what’s actually out there.


So it goes without saying that every now and then there is a product or two that doesn’t quite reach the level of popularity that it deserves due to one simple fact—the marketplace is more aggressive than Conor McGregor on fight night.


Grocery-Options.jpgEach shop, whether it’s a health food store, sports supplements store, pharmacy, gym or supermarket, stocks only what they believe will sell.


There are so many reasons why a product doesn’t reach the popularity that it deserves.


For instance, if the marketing falls short of sensational, this definitely makes an impact. Again, if the message within that marketing is too complex for the consumer, then it may be cast aside for another product with a clearer message about what it can do for them (and also how to use it).


For instance, a product labelled as a pre-workout already delivers a message to the consumer about what they believe it will do. However, the immediate product benefit that can be derived from an amino acid based product or a fortified protein powder may not be so clear.


The products we will be looking at in this article aren’t necessarily unpopular. However, given the high quality of these formulations and the benefits that can be attained with their regular use, their popularity could certainly be a lot higher.


So strap yourself in with a glass of water and a protein-rich snack as we delve into the world of underrated sports and exercise supplements.


Amino Switch

Essential amino acids (EAAs) are relative new-comers to mainstream supplementation. And these fascinating products are already stealing some of the spotlight away from the many BCAA products out there.


EAAs contain the three branched chain amino acids (BCAA), but offer an additional 6 EAAs as well. These nine EAAs are in fact all the amino acids the human body needs to survive.


Though you may notice an occasional reference to 8 essential amino acids, this is simply outdated research. It was believed until the early 1980s that histidine (one of the 9 EAAs) was only essential in children. However, now we know it is essential in adults too (1,2).


There have been many leading amino acid researchers over the years. Through the eyes of some (a hint—the author), these are the superheroes of the scientific world, wielding powder and pen instead of hammer and shield.


Two professors stand out in recent decades as making significant scientific contributions to amino acid research that will be talked about for decades to come. Dr. Robert Wolfe and Dr. Maurizio Luca Moretti: the James Hetfield of Heavy Metal and the Mozart of Classical music.


The_Adventure_of_the_Final_Problem_03.jpgAnd that’s not Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes universe …


Dr. Maurizio Luca Moretti undertook the original research on what he termed the Master Amino Acid profile in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This exact essential amino acid formula has been put to good use in Switch Nutrition’s Amino Switch, making this one of the very few evidence based products available today.


That’s right, the essential amino acids are matched to the original research by Dr. Moretti, milligram for milligram.


Amino Switch does contain some additional nutrients that weren’t used in the original research. These are L-Tyrosine, Schisandra chinensis and a range of vitamins and minerals.


If you are concerned that tyrosine will somehow interfere with protein synthesis or that you won’t experience the full benefits demonstrated in the original research: fear not!


Evidence has shown that non/conditionally-essential amino acids, like tyrosine, don’t interfere with muscle protein synthesis when taken with essential amino acids. In fact, we need non-essential amino acids in order to create muscle and other proteins for the body anyway.


And L-Tyrosine offers numerous benefits for the human body as a conditionally-essential amino acid, such as: supporting thyroid hormone, adrenaline, dopamine and noradrenaline synthesis and even providing a building block for melanin, the pigment found in our skin.


Schisandra is a powerful adaptogenic herbal medicine, offering a range of benefits for the exercise enthusiast, overly busy or mentally and emotionally taxed individual. It also has a liver protective role to play.


Another bastion of all things amino acid and research related is Dr. Robert Wolfe. This gentleman has been conducting amino acid research for many consecutive decades now, with a focus on lean muscle mass. And he has even published a book around his work (more than worth reading twice).


Dr. Wolfe has even gone so far as to undergo research with amino acids on humans in preparation for the lengthy endeavor to Mars. Of course, these studies revolved around preventing muscle mass loss, something that EAAs do very well.


It’s not as Amino Switch is unpopular. However, most people still don’t fully realise just how beneficial this product can really be when taken consistently over months.


Amino Switch switches on muscle protein synthesis—the anabolic pathway of the body. And it does it incredibly well without placing stress on the digestive system, backed by published scientific research.


The beauty of free-form EAAs is that they are ready to be absorbed. This means not long after consumption, our blood and muscle EAA levels are elevating. The only products that even get close to a quality EAA is a 100% hydrolysed protein powder. But these are still very different, like tomatoes and tomato sauce.


Stimulating the anabolic pathways of the body with a quality EAA product like Switch Nutrition’s Amino Switch may be helpful for the following:

  • Preventing Muscle Mass Losses during Weight Loss Programs—this reduces the risk of rebound weight gain.
  • Counteracting Catabolic Cortisol during Exercise.
  • Enhancing Repair and Recovery after Exercise.
  • Convalescence and Recuperation.
  • Trigger Anabolism between meals to prevent age-related muscle decline and also enhance exercise recovery and muscle growth.
  • Post-Bariatric Surgery Protein Substitute.




This could in fact be an enormous list, covering about fifty points. After all, the nine essential amino acids are integral to so many parts of the human body. We use essential amino acids to create enzyme, hormones, neurotransmitters, bile salts, hemoglobin, bone and soft tissues like tendons, ligaments and yes, even collagen for our skin!


How to Use Switch Nutrition Amino Switch

Take 1 serve mixed into 200ml cold water as an intra-workout, post-workout or between meals supplement.


If you are on a mass gains program, or really want to promote anabolism to increase muscle mass, take each serve with a healthy source of high glycemic index carbohydrates. To put that in English, a piece of fruit or two should get the job done.




The natural sugars in fruits, like glucose (dextrose), will trigger a nice insulin release. And when it comes to building muscle, insulin is a good friend with which we want to develop a healthy long-term relationship.


Once the insulin has bound to its receptor on a muscle cell, GLUT-4 is released from it vesicles, which travels to the cell membrane and opens it up. This allows entry of more amino acids, glucose, and even Vitamin C.


This method may only be helpful when taking Amino Switch between meals or away from exercise. This is because GLUT-4 also responds to exercise!


Cellucor Alpha Amino Ultimate

Cellucor are well known for their C4 range, which consists of a number of different pre-workouts and a caffeinated ripped product. C4 has been a household name for decades, delivering plenty of training energy and motivation to thousands of gym-goers around the world.


Cellucor-Alpha-Amino-Ultimate-344g.jpgAnd then there’s Cellucor’s Alpha Amino Ultimate—a unique combination of effective ingredients. Though this product doesn’t necessarily contain ingredients that are immediately recognizable to the consumer, it does contain ingredients that have some scientific support.


This can sometimes be a tough decision for product formulators. Do we go with ingredients that the everyday consumer recognizes and believes are effective? Or do we focus on the ingredients that actually are effective?


Unfortunately, there is often a significant gap between these two points.


This is the push and pull between a marketing-oriented product company and an efficacy-focused one.  Fortunately, Cellucor Alpha Amino Ultimate packs plenty of evidence-based sports nutrition ingredients at clinical dosages.


As we have already explored the benefits of essential amino acids with Amino Switch, we won’t cover them again here. However, a difference worth noting is that Alpha Amino Ultimate does not contain tryptophan, and contains only 8 of the 9 EAAs.


The EAA ratio in this product differs to that used in the original research by Dr. Maurizio Luca Moretti. However, as Dr. Robert Wolfe is indicating in his research, there is no exact EAA formulation that must be strictly adhered to, though there is likely a loose ratio required in order to stimulate the greatest muscle protein synthesis.


And this ratio may be tweaked in order to overcome the anabolic resistance seen in advancing age. In fact, a research paper should be published on this topic soon by Dr. Wolfe.


Some may argue that the lack of tryptophan in Alpha Amino Ultimate is fine for the purposes of stimulating muscle protein synthesis, as this is the only EAA not used for this purpose.


And though this is true, research indicates that branched chain amino acids compete with tryptophan for transport across the blood brain barrier, which makes its inclusion in any EAA product a smart move.


Do you remember a nutrient called Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methylbutyrate, AKA HMB? This nutrient was all the rage a couple of decades ago, before it started to disappear from the Australian market.


Its disappearance may have been due to the fact that HMB powder tastes horrendous, and that it ends up traveling down the kitchen sink more often than the esophagus. It could be compared to the flavour of burnt rubber.


Its disappearance may also have been due to changes in Australian sports supplementation and food regulations, perhaps issued by FSANZ or the TGA.


The benefits offered by the leucine metabolite called HMB, in the form of free HMB and calcium HMB, with dosages ranging from 1-3g are numerous, and can be summarized as the following (3,4,5):

  1. Increased Muscle Mass.
  2. Decreased Fat Mass.
  3. Increased Testosterone and Growth Hormone.
  4. Increased IGF-1 and Insulin.
  5. Enhanced Peak Power and time to Ventilatory Threshold.
  6. Reduced Post-Workout Lactate, Creatine Kinase and Cortisol.


When it comes to natural ergogenic and body composition enhancing supplementation, that’s an impressive list of benefits. Fortunately, Cellucor Alpha Amino Ultimate contains a full 3 grams of Calcium-HMB per serve, which, unless you weight 150kg+, will do quite nicely as a daily dosage.


But the fun doesn’t stop there. Alpah Amino Ultimate also contains betaine, also known as trimethylglycine and Creatine HCL. Both Betaine and Creatine offer plenty of benefits when it comes to supporting performance


The only issue here is the actual quantity per serve for these two ingredients. One serve delivers 1.25 grams of betaine, which is half of the clinically studied dose that is delivering a range of benefits for peak power and improved body composition (6,7,8,9,10).


That’s not to say betaine at this dosage will do nothing. It just simply hasn’t been studied well at this dosage. 1.25g may deliver the same results, or perhaps a lot less. It might be worth sourcing some pure betaine anhydrous to top up your serve if you want to experience the full benefits that betaine has to offer.


Additionally, Creatine HCL at 750mg per serve is a contentious issue. And this is simply because this form of creatine (bound to hydrochloric acid) has not been researched as heavily as most would like.


Creatine monohydrate may cause some to experience gastric or abdominal bloating with some water retention under the skin. This is typically a worst-case scenario and though some state these side-effects can occur quite frequently, other experts believe them to be extremely rare. Certainly the clinical trials have indicated good oral tolerance with creatine monohydrate.


Creatine HCL is believed to be more water soluble than the monohydrate form, allowing for greater absorption and less gastrointestinal side-effects and extra-muscular fluid retention.


As far as the Creatine molecule itself, this is one of the most well-researched natural ergogenic supplements available, making the inclusion of 750mg Creatine HCL in each serve of Cellucor Alpha Amino Ultimate a definite bonus.


To top this all off, the patented black pepper extract called Bioperine has been added to enhance the bioavailability of the ingredients, making the overall product more effective.


Cellucor Alpha Amino Ultimate comes in a 20 serve container in Orange Sherbert, Strawberry Lemonade and Blueberry Coconut. Try it as a pre-trainer that will keep your blood essential amino acid levels topped up, your power and performance cranking, with an added bonus of enhanced recovery.


BSN Isoburn

When it comes to protein powders and sports supplements, few haven’t heard of BSN, owned by Glanbia Nutritionals. BSN is a massive global name with a logo that bears trust and efficacy to shop owners and consumers.


When it comes to sports nutrition supplements, unfortunately the research and development budget isn’t typically in the millions of dollars ... or is that billions. Some industry estimates put average drug development costs at $2.6 billion before they make it the marketplace.


That’s just shy of the amount Avengers Endgame pulled in at the global box office!


Needless to say, it’s a lot.


Most of the higher quality sports nutrition products are formulated based on some generic research that was undertaken in the past, from months to decades ago.


After all, who’s got the money to actually put their finished product through a clinical trial before releasing it onto the market? Especially when natural compounds cannot be patented, which would offer sales exclusivity and the ability to recover costs and perhaps even make some profit.


But every once in a while a company does their homework and discovers a long forgotten piece of research that has been gathering digital dust in some remote corner of a server somewhere.


BSN did this very thing, and decided to use a proprietary blend of natural ingredients called Lepticore. Lepticore is made up of the following ingredients: Gum Arabic, Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Blue-Green Algae Extract, Beta-Carotene and Pomegranate Fruit Extract.


A research paper published in 2010 by Lipids in Health and Disease showed that benefits were derived from 300mg Lepticore per day, though greater benefits were found with a 600mg dosage.


The 600mg daily dose was shown to significantly reduce bodyweight, bodyfat, hip and waist size and even offer beneficial improvements in blood lipids, such as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and a reduction in the inflammatory marker C-Reactive Protein.


BSN Isoburn contains 300mg of Lepticore in each serve, contained within the 1 gram Isoburn Blend proprietary dosage. This Isoburn Blend contains: Green Coffee (50% Chlorogenic Acids), Lepticore, L-Carnitine Tartrate, Choline Bitartrate and Banaba Leaf Extract. 




On top of the Isoburn Blend, each serve provides 20 grams of quality protein in the form of whey protein isolate and also some medium chain triglycerides. Overall, each serve contains minimal carbohydrates and fats.


An ideal daily dosage for fat-loss and the natural management of blood lipids is 2 serves. You may like to try 2 shakes and 2 healthy protein and fibre-rich meals daily for the best results. In addition, an exercise program is essential, ideally incorporating resistance exercise and aerobic training for optimal fat-loss and health promotion.


Despite the fact that BSN Isoburn contains Green Coffee Bean Extract, it is caffeine-free.



With thousands of sports nutrition and body composition focused products on the market, there will always be supplements that don’t reach the level of popularity that they deserve.


These products are nice examples of how supplement companies can excel in their craft, delivering more results than most would expect, and with the backing of more than one clinical trial in support of their ingredient selection.


And this is where supplementation is moving—towards clinical dosages back by hopefully more than one piece of published research. This way, we can be close to certain than each dosage will be delivering the desired effect, which can be reviewed at any time in the supporting published research.  


Look out for Part 2 of this article where we will take a look at some more underrated products from a bodybuilding supplement line from an Australian bodybuilder and holistic health focused brand.




1. Kopple JD and Swendseid ME. Effect of histidine intake of plasma and urine histidine levels, nitrogen balance and N tau-methylhistidine excretion in normal and chronically uremic men. Journal of Nutrition 1981 Vol 111;6 p.931-942

2.Cho ES et al. Long-term effects of low histidine intake on men. Journal of Nutrition 1984 Vol 114;2 p.369-384

3. Townsend J.T., et al. Effects of β-Hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate Free Acid Ingestion and Resistance Exercise on the Acute Endocrine Response. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2015

 3. Asadi Abbasi et al., Effects of B-Hydroxy-B-methylbutyrate-free acid supplementation on strength, power and hormonal adaptation following resistance training. Nutrients. 2017 Vol 9;12 p.1316

5. Durkalec-Michalski et al., The effect of a 12-week beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation on highly-trained combat sports athletes:a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study. Nutrients. 2017 Vol 9;7 p.753

 6. Lee E.C., et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010 Vol 7

 7. Cholewa JM et al. Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013 Vol 10;39

 8. Hoffman JR et al. Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2009 Vol 6;7

 9. Cholewa J.M., et al. The effects of chronic betaine supplementation on body composition and performance in collegiate females: a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2018 Vol 15;37

 10. Apicella J.M., et al. Betaine supplementation enhances anabolic endocrine and Akt signaling in response to acute bouts of exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2013 Vol; 113;3 p.793-802

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