Buy 20 Packets of MRI Black Powder for $18.99
1.76lbs for $36.99
Lately, I've been on a mission to find the best pre-workout drink available (see my previous post on Maximize from IForce). Again, I am not a huge fan of nitric oxide products personally, but after getting an exhaustive amount of inquiries, I've concluded that I might actually be the only one on the planet who cannot claim to have had lengthy affairs with several of them. After watching an elderly gentleman get robbed by what appeared to be an unruly mob of NO-Xplode-toting 8th graders on bicycles from my office window, I have officially adopted the "if you can't beat â€˜em, join â€˜em" mentality" (the pre-workout drink users, not the prepubescent bicycle gang, however tempting).
New Review Video Posted 02-20-11
At the very least, I need to further acquaint myself with these products so I can make more accurate product recommendations to our customers. Anyway, next on my slate is "Black Powder" from MRI, whose powder, in what was either a tragic oversight or a failed attempt at irony on MRI's part, isn't actually black at all? Very confusing.
When examining the label of a product like this, I always look for two things first: servings per container and calorie/carbohydrate content. The servings per container are 40, identical to almost every other product in this category. The carbohydrate content was met with a sigh on my end. 45kcal and 11g of carbohydrate are disappointing because when I am dieting I don't want the excess calories; I'd much rather get them from whole food sources. Plus, the more carbohydrates per scoop, the less "active" ingredients there are per serving. Consider that a serving is 20g in size and right off the bat you lose 11g of that from the carbohydrate content. That only leaves 9g of "active" ingredients. More than half of your product, per serving, is maltodextrin (hint: go look up how cheap maltodextrin is). Finally, this is the industry norm so I don't know if it would be fair to say I'm disappointed, but the label is riddled with proprietary blends which make it next to impossible to discern how much of each ingredient that you are actually getting. (For a more in-depth discussion of why this is bad, and a look at a product that had the gall to break the rules, click here).
Proprietary Blend for Size & Recovery (3000mg): L-Arginine alpha-ketoglutarate & L-Arginine HCL
There's nothing novel or interesting here. It's arginine. Does a single amino acid actually induce vasodilation? Probably not. I've always felt that arginine products functioned via a unique mechanism of action that I call... placebo. Let's examine why.
The general idea goes something like this: Arginine -> Nitric Oxide -> Vasodilation -> Greater Blood Flow -> Greater Nutrient Delivery -> Greater Muscle Growth.
Let's throw some skepticism at the issue. I'm ready and willing to admit that arginine is the precursor to NO synthesis. After that, these companies lose me. Look, I've pored over the research and it's simply not there. Here's a bulleted list of reasons (all validated by said research) why the above theory is not valid:
-10g administered orally caused no vasodilation effect, but caused gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
-Oral arginine only has 70% bioavailability, and up to 50% of that can be broken down into ornithine (note: these percentages refer to L-Arginine).
-The minimum effective dose threshold via I.V. was 30g to induce vasodilation.
-21g/day (7g administered 3 times daily) also had no effect on vasodilation.
-20g/day for 28 days also had no effect on vasodilation.
-A 6 day arginine-free diet had no effect on nitric oxide synthesis.
As you can see, there is absolutely nothing compelling about the research. So, what's going on here? Are we just being scammed? Well, kind of. More like deliberately misled. Arginine is a powerful stimulator of pancreatic insulin release (Schmidt et al. 1992). Insulin drastically increases nitric oxide synthesis compared to fasting levels. Not arginine. And, again, how do we stimulate insulin release? Carbohydrates (well, if you want to nitpick, obviously amino acids can do it too). Ever heard guys that are doing a low/no-carbohydrate diet and complaining how they can't get a pump? Why do you think that is? Usually they're ingesting more protein (hence more amino acids, hence more arginine) than usual. They're also ingesting more fats. Fats blunt insulin release. Less insulin equals fewer pumps.
Do you really need all the extra arginine, given the price? Don't get me wrong - I'm not some carbohydrate Nazi. I'm just pointing out that sipping on half-strength Gatorade mixed with a half-scoop of whey or some peptide-bonded amino acids before/during your workout will have the same effect. Why break the bank? Guys have been getting big, strong, and vascular for a long time - long before nitric oxide products were available, long before supplementing with Black Powder pre-workout. What happened to common sense?
Other ingredients of interest include creatine anhydrous and creatine ethyl-ester, CarnoSyn® beta-alanine, caffeine, green tea extract, taurine, phosphates/minerals, and B-vitamins. The problem is that you don't seem to be getting enough of each. The exact amounts, however, are hidden within the proprietary blend, so you can't be sure (see why this is annoying?).
Finally, I wanted to address one thing. The entire premise of MRI's Black Powder is the "ACTINOSâ‚‚IR" whey peptide fraction. Apparently, it boosts nitric oxide 950%. Compared to what and in whom? Placebo or control group? Double-blind? Humans or rats? Trained or untrained subjects? The research is incredibly hard to find. The study, from what I can tell, was done in-house at Glanbia PLC, the company that owns the trademark on ACTINOSâ‚‚IR. There is another, larger problem with this whole thing as well. Even if ACTINOSâ‚‚IR does what it claims (doubtful) it is a "whey peptide fraction", that would mean it is composed of amino acids. Amino acids have caloric content. They have not listed any protein content on the label, nor are there any additional calories allotted to this magical peptide fraction. We have 11g of carbohydrates (clocking in at 4kcal/g, just like proteins) per serving on the label. 11g carbohydrates x 4kcal/g = 44kcal from carbohydrates. The label lists 45kcal per serving. So either MRI rounded 44kcal up to 45kcal on the label, or this magical "whey peptide fraction" is so small that it only yields 1kcal per serving.
All hopped-up on NO-Xplode
In either case, despite its purported effect, there is probably not enough of it to do anything at all. Was this the studied amount? Or did the study use something like 10g of ACTINOSâ‚‚IR, which would yield 40kcal, assuming it was purely amino acids? See the bait-and-switch here? Don't fall for it. (*Note: if someone reading this has seen or can find the studies to perhaps clarify things a bit, by all means leave a link in the comments. I gave up after two hours.)
The powder both tastes good and mixes fine. You would expect something that contains 11g of carbohydrate per serving to taste good - they don't need to use as many artificial sweeteners. It is when you try to flavor some of the lower/no-carbohydrate pre-workout drinks that you run into trouble. I tried the orange flavor and it was enjoyable, although, as mentioned above, I kept hoping for the drink to turn black as night when I mixed it due to the product's name (it wasn't - just light orange). I think that'd be hilarious to have in the gym with you - e.g. "what are you drinking, tar?"
If you guys want, I'll make a product like that and sell it through Best Price. Imagine the marketing possibilities! "Unlock the anabolic potential of the color black! It's like becoming a blind-man dropped into a black hole - instantly! You have to take it every other day because if you don't, you will actually go blind! Our warehouse operators have to wear night vision goggles when we produce it!" You get the idea. Seriously, though, let me know. If not, I can always just sell it to MuscleTech.
I did not notice any effect from this product. I may be slightly desensitized to caffeine at this point, but I still didn't really "feel it". Same with the beta-alanine – usually if you get a high enough dose of it you get a harmless tingling sensation on your skin known as paresthesia. I did not feel it.
I think that the price of this product does not really justify its effectiveness. I'm trying to be fair in my assessment; I just feel that sometimes everyone is missing the forest for the trees with things like this. You'd be amazed how many people are not getting in enough protein, not getting enough essential fats, and not getting enough calories, and yet they keep going from one pre-workout supplement to the next because they feel like that's the missing link in their supplement and training regimen. There is usually no protein in any of these supplements. You can't synthesize new muscle tissue (which is composed of proteins) without ingesting protein. That'd be like me asking you to build a house without giving you any bricks. It doesn't matter how motivated you are. If you still want to try it, go ahead. We offer the 20-packet size for only $18.99. I'm not trying to get you to NOT buy something from us. I just think there are better things available – in the pre-workout category and overall – and that's my honest opinion. Feel free to call us at (800) 499 - 4810 and we can make some suggestions if you like, or hop on the live chat. The bottom line is that you should find something that you enjoy drinking and drags you off the couch if you're a bit low on energy. If it tastes good and has some performance enhancing ingredients in it, it's a win-win proposition. Just remember why you're taking these products and what they do (and, perhaps more importantly, what they don't do). I want your business, but I want you to come back, too. And the best way for me to do that is to make sure you're buying things that work, and that help you meet your individual goals. And if you have tried the product before, give us a review! Here's the links:
HH Schmidt, TD Warner, K Ishii, H Sheng, and F Murad. 1992. Insulin secretion from pancreatic B cells caused by L-arginine-derived nitrogen oxides. Science, Vol 255, Issue 5045, 721-723.