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Massively Underrated Supplements - Part 2

Posted on December 21, 2019

Massively Underrated Supplements - Part 2Dividerimage

In Part 1 of this article we looked at an underrated thermogenic protein powder, a functional amino acid formula stacked with HMB and an evidence-based essential amino acid product that is all-natural and tastes better than a Sunday morning croissant.


These are all products that can help you make progress towards a body composition or performance goal, like weight-loss (fat-loss), improved strength and power or increased muscle mass.


In this final article we are going to examine three more products that receive less than their fair share of attention. These well-thought-out products, backed by scientific research, have some real benefits to offer anyone looking for a nutritional or herbal advantage.


Are these products substitutes for hard work in the gym, on the field or in the kitchen? And in the kitchen doesn’t just refer to food preparation and cooking, but there are some who literally exercise in the kitchen as a part of their calisthenics routine … like dips by the corner cupboard or lunges between dicing vegetables.




Each to their own, right?


Anyway, illuminating digressions aside, effort and planning are essentials for reaching your performance and/or body composition goals. Once these factors have been integrated into your lifestyle, it’s typically only at this point that sports and exercise supplements are worth pursuing.


In this article we are going to examine a bodybuilding stim-free pre-workout, an encapsulated product containing arguably one of the most powerful herbal medicines yet discovered and a smart take on a protein bar.


So strap yourself into a comfortable chair—ideally with a glass of clean water and a quality protein source nearby (sorry, Cheetos don't count)—as we demystify the mysterious world of underrated sports nutrition and wellness products.


Staunch Pre Zero Stim

These days, most people are caffeinated up to their eyeballs. Whether it’s coffee, cola-based soft-drinks or energy drinks, let’s face it—caffeine keeps you going when you feel like you need to be not going … anywhere.


And if there’s no secluded island retreat on the horizon—only work, jobs, family, exercise, social commitments, social media upkeep, and more of the usual suspects of a modern life—many turn to caffeine in order to keep on track with a hectic schedule.


If you’re an evening trainer or you simply get all the caffeine you need from other sources, it’s more than handy to have a pre-workout in your back pocket that is zero-stim.


What does zero-stim really mean? It means no caffeine, and no herbal extracts that have stimulant properties.


And this is exactly what the Staunch team under the titanic-sized Calum Von Moger have done. But in reality, they’ve actually done a lot more.


Staunch have created a formulation that delivers clinical dosages of some powerful nutrients. While some companies go for a thin sprinkling of an ingredient—just enough to get on the label—these guys have gone all out to help you get, well … staunch.


Pre-workouts are about a lot more than just driving up your caffeine levels and tasting like a holiday—if you buy a quality product that is.


A quality pre-workout delivers ingredients backed by scientific research with an understanding of the synergistic principles of nutrition. This ensures the interaction between nutrients is taken into consideration during formulation.


If muscle pumps are your thing, then look no further than Staunch Pre Zero Stim. This product packs some impressive ingredients, including Agmatine Sulfate, Inositol-Stabilised Arginine Silicate and Citrulline Malate.  




Inositol-Stabilised Arginine Silicate (IAS) is a relative newcomer to the supplement industry. And after decades of Arginine HCL and Arginine AKG availability, it’s a welcome relief.


A 1.5 gram oral dose of IAS has been shown to elevate blood arginine levels for around five to six hours and to elevate nitric oxide levels 1. And IAS did all of this with a solid safety profile.


This may not sound overly incredible. Yet when compared standard arginine, a six gram dose only keeps blood arginine levels elevated for around 1 hour 2.


Some research even indicates that regular L-Arginine does not increase nitric oxide levels significantly at all. This may be due to the short half-life of the amino acid 3.


Fortunately, the team at Staunch have done their homework. IAS has demonstrated some remarkable effects so far, supporting cognitive function (nootropic effect), muscle pumps, reduced muscle damage and improved pre-workout energy levels.




And for a stimulant-free pre-workout, an increase in pre-workout energy levels is a definite plus, and something very few caffeine-free pre-workouts offer—if any 4.


Staunch Pre Zero Stim contains 750mg of AIS per serve. And though this is only half of the clinical dose, it does contains a clinical dosage of citrulline malate at 6 grams per serve.


Citrulline is a well-known amino acid, offering benefits that have been confirmed in numerous clinical trials, such as increased VO2, bench and leg press volume and reduced delayed onset muscle soreness 5,6,7.




With this kind of support from a clinical dose of citrulline malate, it may not be entirely necessary for a full 1.5 gram dosage of AIS anyway, as they both serve the same master via the same pathway—nitric oxide via nitric oxide synthase enzymes.


However, if you’re a strict evidence-based supplement enthusiast, you can certainly top up with an additional 750mg of inositol-stabilised arginine silicate per serve.


And then there’s Agmatine Sulfate. This is an interesting amino acid to say the least, offering some fascinating benefits that extend beyond the physical.




Firstly, it’s safe! A group of scientists actually experimented on themselves for a period of no less than 5 years at a daily dosage of 2.67g to assess the safety of this amino acid when taken long term. After subjecting themselves to plenty of physical examinations, blood and urine testing, Agmatine Sulfate was found to create no adverse effects 8.


And why on earth would a couple of scientists go about testing agmatine on themselves for years? Are they looking for the ultimate long-term muscle pump so they can fill out their lab coats?


There’s a little more to it than that.


Agmatine Sulfate has a wide range of potential therapeutic uses, including the treatment of neuropathic pain (nerve pain) and even the management of depression 9.


In fact, there is a great deal more research examining the effectiveness of agmatine sulfate for mental and cognitive health than there is for bodybuilding!


Surprised yet?


As there was a lack of safety data on this amino acid, these two brave pioneers decided to use themselves as proverbial guinea pigs (so the rodents could take some time off) get to work and prove, at least on a small scale, that at a high daily dosage it is indeed a safe product.


When it comes to training, agmatine sulfate has been shown to activate endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). At the same time, this novel amino acid decreases inducible nitric oxide in the brain, which is a good thing 10.


This indicates that agmatine may act synergistically with citrulline and inositol-stabilised arginine-silicate, as eNOS activation means more enzymatic building of nitric oxide from arginine.




In this sense, the building blocks (citrulline and IAS) and the builder (agmatine stimulated eNOS) are both ready to build some serious nitric oxide. However, it’s worth noting that there is a lot more evidence in support of Citrulline Malate, followed by IAS, while agmatine used for this purpose is more of a theoretical recommendation, with a lot more research required to confirm this activity.


But enough on Nitric Oxide for now, though it does make the one think of laughing uncontrollably at the dentist and making a car move at a ludicrous speed.


Well, that's actually nitrous oxide, not nitric oxide.


Anyway, to return to the matter at hand, Staunch Pre Zero Stim doesn’t stop there, delivering other powerful ingredients, including betaine (covered comprehensively in this article) and a clinical 1,500mg dose of a combination of L-Carnitine Tartrate and Acetyl L-Carnitine.




Suffice to say, carnitine and betaine are supported by a plethora of scientific research, collectively offering benefits for body composition, training volume, maximal oxygen uptake, markers of muscle damage, stamina and even cognitive performance.


This is an absolute top-tier caffeine and stimulant free pre-workout that supports natural energy and stamina. It comes in a 30 serve container and three sumptuous flavours: Peach Mango, Aussie Apple and Blue Raspberry.


If you’re after an effervescent experience—which may actually speed up gastric absorption—mix it with soda water, though not in a shaker bottle unless you’re into pre-workout explosions. And add the soda water slowly to prevent overflow.


Herbs of Gold Ginseng 4 Energy

When it comes to bodybuilding and sports supplements, apart from the occasional appearance in a pre-workout, herbs tend to be left by the wayside.


Instead, most formulators go for amino acid ingredients or other more popular nutrients or food extracts that have more consumer recognition and interest.


Ginseng-4-Energy.jpgAnd often, ingredient popularity can dictate which ingredients are and aren’t included in a product. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a perfect alignment between ingredients that offer benefits—backed by some degree of evidence—and the ones that are popular.


And from a marketing perspective, this makes sense. Popular ingredients can be plastered on the front label in bold to attract interest and attention. However, most consumers are looking for products that deliver long-term benefits, not just ones to get excited about in the short term.


Herbal medicine has as much to offer the exercise enthusiast as it does a sedentary individual. And when it comes to herbs, few have been studied quite like Ginseng. In fact, some believe Panax Ginseng is the most powerful herb discovered to date.


In addition to Panax Ginseng, each tablet of Herbs of Gold Ginseng 4 Energy contains Indian Ginseng (Withania or Ashwagandha), American Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng and Astragalus.


Each of these herbs possess adaptogenic properties, which means they improve the body’s resistance (or adaptation) to a range of stressors, which may be environmental or physical, like strenuous exercise.


Astragalus membranaceus is a popular herb in the field of herbal medicine and naturopathy, as it offers a range of benefits that extend to multiple body systems. For instance, Astragalus is not only considered an adaptogen, but also an herb that supports the immune system and heart, and may reduce fluid retention, high blood pressure and offer general tonic effects.


Withania, DHEA and Cortisol

Withania sominfera—also known as Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha and Winter Cherry—is a herbal medicine that has garnered a great deal of interest over the last decade or so.


A research paper published in 2008 by the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association may have been a decent contributor to this popularity. This group of researchers demonstrated that Withania can have a powerful positive impact on chronically stressed people.




The researchers studied ninety-eight chronically stressed people for sixty days and administered one of three Withania dosages or placebo. The results of 125mg taken four times daily reduced cortisol, pulse rate, blood pressure and C-Reactive Protein, with an increased DHEA level.


Tests and biomarkers aside, the clinical trial participants taking Withania actually felt less stressed as was indicated by reductions in the modified Hamilton Anxiety scale.


This research also struck a note with bodybuilders and professional athletes for one big reason—the DHEA to cortisol ratio increased. If this means about as much to you as an umbrella in a snowstorm, then let’s take a closer look.


DHEA is a natural hormone that women and men produce in the adrenal glands. It was originally believed to only be an inactive testosterone precursor.


However, recent research indicates that DHEA has anti-inflammatory and anti-depressive effects, and an as yet undefined influence on the immune system, amongst many other likely undiscovered roles 11,12.


It’s the fact that DHEA is converted to Androstenedione, which is then converted to Testosterone, that got many muscle-bound researchers intrigued. After all, if we are decreasing cortisol through Withania supplementation, a hormone that triggers muscle catabolism, and jacking up an anabolic precursor, doesn’t’ Withania supplementation lead to bigger muscles?


Well, that’s a stretch. But it may certainly help in some situations.




Certainly, if we are chronically stressed Withania supplementation may assist us in attaining an anabolic state, or at the very least reducing the severity of a catabolic state. However, there are many factors influencing the separate processes of anabolism and catabolism that would also need to be accounted for.


Though, if you’ve been seriously physically, mentally or emotionally stressed for many months (hopefully not all three!) and you decide to start supplementing with Withania and want to capitalize on a DHEA elevation, you might do well trying boron supplementation at an elemental dosage of 12mg per day and a quality zinc supplement if your levels are low.


Both of these minerals can increase free testosterone levels. One research paper indicated increased cortisol levels with boron supplementation, which may be nicely countered with Withania 13.


Herbs of Gold Ginseng 4 Energy is a product that can offer a range of benefits for the health conscious, sports and exercise minded and even bodybuilders. Whether you want to support energy levels during a hectic work schedule or enhance adaptation to your chosen sport, this product is certainly worth a look.


Smart Protein Bar

What on earth could be smart about a protein bar?


It’s got protein in it. It comes in an edible bar that hopefully offers a flavour and  texture that doesn’t make you think about cardboard and sandcastles.


And that’s that, right?


Well, like anything, it can be done well. And it can be done …. well, not so well. And this is exactly where Smart Diet Solutions come into the nutritional equation.


After decades of chomping, munching and the occasional experience that makes us want one of those wine-tasting spit-buckets, many were waiting for a protein bar that packs (exclusively) quality ingredients, tastes great with a nice texture and delivers the bioavailable protein that we deserve.


This is where a Smart Protein Bar is pulled from a hat on stage for the audience to admire and gasp incredulously over. Despite the decent popularity of this protein bar, it still easily falls into the category of underrated.


And that’s because it has been engineered with a high quality protein source. First and foremost, any good protein bar should contain the highest quality protein source available. After all, they’re called protein bars for a reason.


Here enter Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) and Milk Protein Isolate, the first two ingredients in the Smart Protein Bar. This is the protein sources that leaves all others in its wake when it comes to bioavailability and muscle recovery. That’s right, even hydrolysed collagen!


Yeah, WPI is new and exciting. And companies aren’t exactly scrambling for new ways to make products out of it. But, importantly, it contains an unbeatable amino acid profile and is rapidly absorbed.


So why isn’t WPI used more often in protein bars? This answer is so simple it might make steam blow out your ears: because it’s expensive. It’s probably only trumped by hydrolysed whey protein isolate.


However, Smart Diet Solutions have gone ahead and spared no expense in formulating their masterful protein bar, just like John Hammond and his creation of Jurassic Park from the original film, base done on the novel by Michael Crichton.




The benefits of when protein isolate are certainly many and varied and can be found in plenty of previous blog articles at Sporty’s Health. The benefits are supported by theoretical principles based on its amino acid profile, and importantly in evidence-based terms given that we have decades of human research to scour.


The second ingredient in the Smart Protein Bar is Milk Protein Isolate, which contains both of the proteins derived from cows milk: casein and whey. Though in terms of bioavailability casein does lag behind whey, it certainly delivers some decent satiety to keep the munchies away for longer.


Additionally, casein helps sustain our amino acid levels over a longer period of time than whey protein. This is particularly helpful if you are snacking on a bar late at night or know that you won’t be eating any time soon.


Apart from its miraculous protein content, the Smart Protein Bar delivers natural prebiotic, the natural sweetener stevia, almonds, sea salt and natural flavours. There are typically some other flavour-dependent ingredients as well, such as cocoa butter, macadamias or coconut as well.




This ingredient profile makes for a quality natural protein bar that doesn’t pack any nasties—which most protein bars are renowned for. Common protein bar ingredients that are avoided by purists are sorbitol and other polyols, inferior protein sources like collagen and milk solids, and other artificial additives.


But hang on, aren’t all of these other ingredients and additives important to make them palatable? Well, according to the flavour and texture of the Smart Protein Bar, that’s a definite and resounding no.


Smart Protein Bars aren’t dry or cardboard-like at all. In fact, they’re delicious. This only presents one problem: you may eat more of them than you need to.


And trust me, the author has done this. On several occasions.


With flavours like Cinnamon Donut, Marshmallow Choc Biscuit and Salted Caramel, you can be sure when it comes to that time of the day (Protein O’Clock), you’ll be smiling.


Final Verdict

With a market bursting at the seams with brand names, copy products and unique takes, there are always a few that fall through the cracks of our interest or at least don’t reach the echelons of popularity that they deserve.


Staunch Pre Zero Stim, Herbs of Gold Ginseng 4 Energy and Smart Diet Solutions Protein Bar are well-thought-out products that can offer a range of benefits for the everyday holistic health inclined, sports or gym enthusiast.


Whether you’re looking to stack on some muscle, nail some performance goals to the wall for all to look upon, or simply improve your stress and energy levels and nutritional status, these three products are worth your consideration.



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