Jack 3d has become one of the most popular pre workout substances that has caused an almost cult-like following of fitness fanatics, offering its users promises of muscular strength, decreased body fat percentages and an increase in fitness. Whilst providing a shortcut to weight management and fitness goals, Jack 3d has also become one of the most controversial and talked about supplements of 2012, whereby it was recently banned from UK stores in October 2012 due to its many dangers and adverse side effects. In society today the rapid expansion of the health and fitness paradigm has caused many of the population to take more interest and action towards becoming more active and fit, resulting in an increase of supplement sales across the globe. But I’ve found that much of the population go into the world of supplementation with a blindfold, purchasing a range of expensive products, unaware of what they are actually putting into their bodies. At my local gym you’ll find swarms of males in the weight area on a weekday evening clutching their sports bottles. But how many of them actually know what they are chugging down during every workout? My guess is not many. “It gives you more energy”, “I feel more focused,” are some of the replies I got when I asked about the sensation of Jack 3d, but are the users of the product even aware of which ingredients actually cause their so called “positive” sensations… than can also consequently be caused by a large dose of caffeine. So my question is, how can people identify the relative positive effects of supplements and pre workout formulas such as Jack 3d if they are unaware of the chemical composition? Is jack 3d really getting you “jack3d”?

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Ingredients

So what are we actually putting into our bodies? Jack 3d and other similar pre workout formulas contain many ingredients including Caffeine, L-arginine -ketoglutarate (AAKG), Creatine monohydrate,  beta-alanine and the most talked about 1,3- Dimethylamylamine.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a substance that you will find in nearly all workout supplements. Caffeine is a product that many of us consume every day yet don’t actually understand the effects it has on the body! In terms of science caffeine blocks a neurotransmitter in the body called adenosine receptor. The signalling of adenosine is what causes our body to recognise it is tired, when we block the receptor this causes the activity of dopamine and glutamine to increase in the brain. As a result there is an accumulation of adenosine, and a decrease in glutamine, which is what eventually causes a caffeine crash. Caffeine has many effects, some considered adverse and others positive; it raises your heart rate, tightens your muscles, dilates your pupils and the body releases extra glucose into your body for extra energy. Caffeine has been stated to have an ergogenic effect on the body whereby research by the American College of Sports Medicine has shown that ingesting coffee approximately 1 hour before exercise can increase endurance in high intensity exercise. However, results can be conflicting as with all studies, and it’s important to remember that the effects of ingredients such as caffeine is also highly dependent on an individual’s fitness levels and many other contributing factors.

I personally have a cup of coffee before every morning workout; however, I have built a tolerance towards caffeine and feel I now just have a coffee in the morning before my workouts for psychological reasons rather than physiological reasons.

Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG)

L-arginine is an important amino acid that is used by all cells. It plays a large role in nuclear protein synthesis as well as creatine synthesis and the urea cycle and has been said to serve as a precursor and component for the metabolism and biosynthesis of nitric oxide, a cell signalling molecule that can trigger blood vessel dilation and increase blood flow, improving the nutrient delivery of chemicals such as creatine and amino acids to muscles in the body. Pre workout formulas are often stated to stimulate NO production whereby the relative outcomes could be potentially beneficial to athletes undergoing heavy resistance training. However, when you consumer pre workouts such as BSN “NO Explode” You are not really drinking ‘nitric oxide’ you are consuming AAKG which can help increase levels of nitric oxide in our muscles, creating an “Arginine pump” once consumed. However,”Arginine pumps” that are created by substances like Jack 3d are not permanent, but they can temporarily increase peak output power, meaning you will get more power and more reps during a workout. This is what gives that incredibly fun pump when taking Jack3d.

 Despite this there is no reputable scientific evidence shows any benefits from taking AAKG as a dietary supplement and presently there is no published research that supports that an increase in nitric oxide levels can actually promote greater muscle protein synthesis and improve muscle strength and there is no evidence to suggest that the arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in “nitric oxide” supplements have any effect on nitric oxide levels in muscles. Many studies have been carried out to investigate the effects of AAKG, for example, Campbell et al 2008 evaluated the pharmacokinetics, safety, and efficiency of L-arginine -ketoglutarate in trained adult men. Candidates where given the supplement over an 8 week training period and tests including clinical blood markers, one repetition maximum bench press, isokinetic quadriceps muscle endurance, anaerobic power, aerobic capacity, total body water, body composition, and psychometric parameters tests were taken at 0, 4 and 8 weeks. Results showed that AAKG did lead to an increase in repetitions during weight training however it did not influence body composition or aerobic capacity. Willoughby et al (2011) also carried out a study investigating the effects of AAKG supplementation over a seven day period; they found that their results showed no significant impact on blood flow and nitric oxide levels. However one reason stated for this was that because L-arginine is a semi essential amino acid used by all cells its bioavailability and role in the body may mean that a larger dose of the supplement is require to show significant effects. Therefore, further research is needed to examine the role of AAKG supplementation during training in untrained and trained populations before definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding its potential ergogenic value.

 

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is another ingredient present in many pre workout supplements that has been stated to enhance high-intensity exercise performance in males and females. Tarnopolsky et al (2000) found in a study of 12 males and 12 females that creatine supplementation caused increased peak and relative peak anaerobic cycling power, and increased lactate with no gender specific responses and concluded that short-term supplementation can increase indices of high-intensity exercise performance for both males and females. However, similarly to AAKG there is conflicting evidence.

 

Beta Alanine

Beta Alanine is  a non-essential amino acid and is the only naturally occurring beta-amino acid. Not to be confused with alanine, beta- alanine is classified as a non-proteinogenic amino acid as it is not used in the building of proteins. Beta alanine has been shown in many studies to boost muscular strength and power output, increase muscle mass, increase endurance both muscular and aerobic and increase exercise capacity. This is because, Beta alanine has been shown to increase the concentration of carnosine in muscles. Carnosine is a dipeptide of the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine and is highly concentrated in muscle and brain tissues. When we exercise at high intensities the body produces lactic acid in the muscles. This causes a decrease in pH and increase in Hydrogen ions and other metabolites. This can have deleterious effects on the skeletal muscle function and decreases the ability of muscles to contract, leading to muscle fatigue. By increasing levels of carnosine, this acts as an intercellular buffer to mop up the hydrogen ions and maintain the muscles regular pH, increasing performance. Sale, Saunders and Harris carried out a report whereby they studied the effect of beta- alanine on sport and exercise performance, they found that over 4 weeks or longer supplementation evokes significant improvements to exercise capacity, especially when that performances such as HIIT that is likely to be limited by the accumulation of Hydrogen ions in the skeletal muscle. However, not all studies have shown positive correlations between the concentration of carnosine in high intensity exercise with beta alanine supplementation.

1,3-Dimethylamylamine HCl

This is the key ingredient in jack 3d that separates it from the rest, making it superior from the other pre workouts on the shelves. It has caused controversy over the world, resulting in its addition to the world anti-doping agency’s prohibited substances list for 2010. 1,3-Dimethylamylamine, better known as DMMA, It is a naturally-occurring constitute of the geranium plant and has been stated to have many beneficial effects within pre workout formulas, for example; it improves focus and mood, enhances exercise performance, and has also been said to cause a decrease in appetite. However with positive effects…. Comes negative side effects which are more relevant when considering whether jack3d is really worth it. Some of these adverse side effects include, increased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, tingling, Headaches, Abnormal heart rate, Dizziness, Lack of sleep and Shortness of breath. DMAA is known to narrow the blood vessels and arteries, which can elevate blood pressure and may lead to cardiovascular events ranging from shortness of breath and tightening in the chest to heart attack. Not only this, but Jack3d has also been described as a synthetic stimulant that has caused false positive for amphetamines on drugs tests in many sports, however, there are few studies that have attempted to verify these claims using legitimate laboratory procedures (something that one day I aspire to do!). Abney et al recently carried out a study whereby they investigated the relative effects of the recently banned pre workout supplement Jack 3d on oxygen uptake, muscular strength and causes a body fat percentage. Jack 3d has been stated to not only increase muscular strength but also to decrease body fat percentage of its users when combined with a suitable weight training programme. Abney et al chose two groups of moderately trained males, one group where given the pre workout supplement, whilst the second remained a control group. The study was carried out over a substantial period of time whereby the two groups where pre and post tested on their 1RM bench press and leg press and their VO2 max measurements. Results showed that there was little change to between the two groups body fat percentage, vo2 max and 1rm max before and after testing, indicating that there was very little effect of the pre workout supplement. Results did show that there was a significant improvement and change for the results of the 1RM bench and leg press from the pre test at the start of the study and the post test, highlighting that there was an increase in muscular strength over the training period, however, this was unrelated to the consumption of the pre workout formula.

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My Story

So how safe is jack 3d and is it really worth that extra focus and extra few reps? I used to swear by jack 3d and used it every day to help me run 7 miles a day. I was in love with a man called Jack! Studies may not be present to show the effects of jack 3d, but I can assure you it increased my focus, energy, muscle fatigue and even my oxygen capacity! I felt on top of the world every run and every hour of cardio I performed. However, it got to an unhealthy point whereby I needed around 5 scoops to even feel a positive effect (recommended dosage being one). When I think back now, I’m glad it got banned from UK stores because I don’t need it to enhance my fitness and using so much everyday could have eventually led me to experience the full wrath of Jack, which has been shown in the many death cases such as Claire Squires. One holiday I returned from university to find a new paper article plastered on my wall by dad. My dad is fully aware of my love of exercise, nutrition and supplements and has seen the many little jars, including jack 3d in the cupboards. As a result when he read in the paper that marathon runner Claire Squires has died from a heart attack due to abusing jack3d he was concerned.

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I have another similar product called “hard energy” which also contains this magic ingredient; however the jars been full for months now and I only use it from time to time. Pre workout products such as jack3d which can cause similar effects that illegal drugs can also cause have addictive properties. In my opinion if an individual chooses to use these products in small recommended doses to enhance performance they should be able to do safely and freely. However, those with a predisposition to addiction could be at risk, and there is no way to ensure consumers will exceed the recommended dosage, therefore I believe removing Jack 3d from shelves has been the right decision. If you’re constantly challenging yourself during a workout, feeling the pain, the uncomfortable struggle, then you are increasing your fitness and making a change in your body, possessing mental ability is far more valuable than any pre workout on the market today.

References

Ágnes Hajnal, Orsolya Nagy, Ágnes Litvai, Julius Papp, James R. Parratt, Ágnes Végh. (2005). Nitric oxide involvement in the delayed antiarrhythmic effect of treadmill exercise in dogs. Life Sciences. 77 (16), p1960–1971.

Darryn S. Willoughby, Tony Boucher, Jeremy Reid, Garson Skelton, and Mandy Clark. (2011). Effects of 7 Days of Arginine-Alpha-Ketoglutarate Supplementation on Blood Flow, Plasma L-Arginine, Nitric Oxide Metabolites, and Asymmetric Dimethyl Arginine After Resistance Exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism . 21 ( ), p291-299.

Bill Campbell, Mike Roberts, Chad Kerksick, Colin Wilborn, Brandon Marcello, Lem Taylor, Erika Nassar, Brian Leutholtz, Rodney Bowden, Chris Ras. (2006). Pharmacokinetics, safety, and effects on exercise performance of l-arginine α-ketoglutarate in trained adult men.Nutrition. 22 (9), p872-881.

Tarnopolsky MA, MacLennan DP . (2000). Creatine monohydrate supplementation enhances high-intensity exercise performance in males and females.. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 10 (4), p452-463.

Abney, C. Anderson, B. Guglielmelli, T. Herr, S. Row, J. Schneider. is it really getting you jack3d?. KINE 3325 – Undergraduate Research Methods – Research Project.

NATASHA SINGER and PETER LATTMAN. (2013). A Workout Booster, and a Lawsuit. Available:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/business/death-after-use-of-jack3d-shows-gap-in-regulation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&. Last accessed 28/09/13.

Janet Klein, Lauren Specter and Adrian Taylor. (2013). Deadly workout supplement? Jack3d outside FDA’s reach. Available: http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/11/17707934-deadly-workout-supplement-jack3d-outside-fdas-reach?lite. Last accessed 28/09/13.

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