Review Of VPX NO Shotgun: The Ultimate Nitric Oxide Supplement?
Note: NO Shotgun has been replaced by NO Shotgun MHF-1.
Combination nitric oxide (NO)/creatine/energy supplements are among the hottest bodybuilding products on the market. NO Shotgun is VPX’s entry in the competition.
Does it work? Let’s have a look at the label…
What’s in NO Shotgun?
As is typical of the genre, VPX divides the list of ingredients into multiple proprietary blends.
Amount Per Serving:
Proprietary BCAAEX-NV (Branched Chain Ethyl Ester Amino Acid Matrix) 5,350 mg
L-2-Aminopentanoic Acid (L-nor-Valine)
L-Leucine Ethyl Ester HCl
L-Valine Ethyl Ester HCl
L-Isoleucine Ethyl Ester HCl
RedLine Energy Technology 220mg
L-TEX (L-Tyrosine Ethyl Ester HCl)
Evoburn (Pure Evodiamine)
Folate (as Folic Acid)~100%
Proprietary Muscle Volumizing, NO2, Insulinotropic and Glutamine Matrix 10,952 mg
Methyl Hydroxy Chalcone Polymer (MHCP 80%)
CEX (Creatine Ethyl Ester HCl)
AEX (Arginine Ethyl Ester HCl)
GEX (L-Glutamine Ethyl Ester HCl)
BPOV (Bis Picolinato Oxo Vanadium)
Power, Speed, Strength and Endurance Matrix
KIC (Ketoisocaproic Acid Calcium)
Guanidiopropionic Acid (GPA)
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
BAEX (Beta-Alanine Ethyl Ester HCl)
As you can see, many of the basic ingredients, such as arginine/citrulline, creatine, BCAAs and caffeine, are common to other supplements of this kind. Instead of using free form amino acids and “regular” creatine, however, VPX employs what the company calls “EX™ technology.”
“Compounds such as Creatine (CEX™), Arginine (AEX™), Glutamine (GEX™), Beta-Alanine (BAEX™) and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAEX™) that are each combined with Ethyl Ester (EX™) technology to insure maximum absorption and uptake! The Ethyl Ester Compounds used in NO-SHOTGUN™ help these potent muscle building ingredients enter the bloodstream nearly 100% intact, as opposed to the same ingredients without EX™ technology that might only be absorbed at 15% to 40%. This highly advanced EX™ technology shuttles these NO-SHOTGUN™ compounds across the muscle cell membrane where they can cause explosive muscle growth!”
Izzat so? Do ethyl ester derivatives really provide maximum absorption and utilization?
To be honest with you: I have no idea. Neither does VPX, for that matter. Despite the claims made for increased bioavailability of esterified derivatives, I have yet to see ONE SINGLE study – in house, pilot, peer-reviewed, whatever – to prove that this is so.
The case of creatine ethyl ester is instructive. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are a large number of studies validating the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate for gaining mass and improving performance. Creatine monohydrate, however, is not very soluble and can occasionally cause some (minor) side effects.
In addition, there’s a sizable minority of users who are non-responders. Over the years, a number of alternative creatine products have been introduced, although none of them really caught fire…until creatine ethyl ester (CEE).
When CEE hit the market, it was immediately hailed as the latest and greatest creatine ever, thanks to its alleged stability, higher solubility and improved absorption.
As it turned out, the claims for CEE were more substantial than the reality. For example, a comparative test performed by the Ohio Research Group found CEE was less effective than a different creatine product (Gaspari Size On, which contains a creatine blend). This result was confirmed by a study conducted at Baylor University.
To make a long story short, CEE isn’t completely worthless – but there is zero evidence that it works better than creatine monohydrate.
Likewise, there is no evidence that leucine ethyl ester, arginine ethyl ester, etc. work any better – or worse – than their non-esterified counterparts. I’ll assume that they’re comparable, however, for the purpose of this review.
The Science Behind the Ingredients
Now, let’s take a closer look at those proprietary blends:
BCAAEX-NV (Branched Chain Ethyl Ester Amino Acid Matrix): This is pretty self-explanatory. As noted in the BCAA review, branched chain amino acids play important roles in stimulating protein synthesis, reducing catabolism and delaying fatigue.
In addition to leucine and the BCAA derivatives, the blend also contains L-norvaline. L-norvaline is an analog of the amino acid valine, and an inhibitor of the arginase enzyme. Arginase breaks arginine down to ornithine and urea, so inhibiting it potentially leaves more arginine available for NO synthesis. L-Norvalline is included in several NO supps as a “nitric oxide amplifier.”
Muscle Volumizing, NO2, Insulinotropic and Glutamine Matrix: This blend uses arginine ethyl ester HCl, di-l-arginine malate and citrulline malate for NO production. Arginine, of course, is the precursor to nitric oxide, and citrulline is a precursor to arginine.
Glutamine (as glutamine-ethyl-ester HCl) is another frequent addition to bodybuilding supplements. Although it isn’t much of a performance enhancer, this conditionally essential amino acid plays a variety of useful roles, such as assisting with glucose regulation, immune function and protein synthesis.
CEE is another addition to the blend. As discussed above, CEE is a source of creatine, although it may be a less-than-optimal one, in light of the existing data.
Finally, this blend includes two compounds that assist with insulin sensitivity and glucose control: methyl hydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP) and BPOV (bis picolinato oxo vanadium).
MHCP is one of the active compounds in cinnamon. It’s been shown to enhance glucose uptake and glycogen production in-vitro. Bis(picolinato)oxovanadium is a vanadium compound that’s been used experimentally as an insulin mimetic.
Power, Speed, Strength and Endurance Matrix: This is a blend of 8 different ingredients. These are:
- Creatine – in the form of creatine monohydrate and creatine magnesium chelate.
- Beta Alanine Ethyl Ester HCl – a derivative of beta-alanine, a precursor to the dipeptide carnosine. Carnosine is thought to improve athletic performance by buffering hydrogen ions that build up in exercising muscle. As noted above, there’s exactly zero data on the efficacy of the ethyl ester derivative.
- KIC (Ketoisocaproic Acid Calcium) – Ketoisocaproate (KIC) is a breakdown product of leucine, and has anticatabolic activity.
- Guanidiopropionic Acid (GPA) – GPA is a creatine analog that can reduce experimental hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in animal models, although it’s also an inhibitor of cellular creatine uptake. This makes it an odd choice for a creatine supplement, although I doubt there’s enough of it in the formula to matter.
- Orotic Acid (OA) – OA is an intermediate in the synthesis of pyrimidine nucleotides that—similarly to ATP—can act as sources of energy to drive specific metabolic reactions. Supplemental OA has been used experimentally to treat heart disease in humans and animals. There is one study showing OA (as magnesium orotate) improved glucose utilization and reduced stress in triathletes, but the benefits for strength performance are still somewhat speculative.
- Glycine: Glycine is a non-essential amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
- Phosphates: Phosphate is the “currency” of cellular energy metabolism. Short term phosphate supplementation has been shown to improve endurance performance in a number of studies (although not all).
RedLine Energy Technology: This is a blend containing several of the same ingredients found in VPX’s Redline energy drinks/caps: caffeine, evodiamine, tyrosine and vinpocetine. Folic acid has also been added.
Caffeine, of course, is always good for some energy in the gym. Vinpocetine is an alkaloid derived from periwinkle that affects cerebral blood flow, memory and learning. Tyrosine is a precursor to stimulatory neurotransmitters (epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine), although it’s underdosed here.
Evodiamine is a bioactive compound isolated from the fruit of Evodia rutaecarpa (used in Chinese traditional medicine as an anti-inflammatory). It’s similar to capsaicin in action and can cause fat reduction in rats, but there is no definite fat loss data in humans. Folic acid is a B-vitamin.
The Bottom Line
Taking everything into account, NO Shotgun contains all the major players (arginine, creatine, caffeine/nootropics) in blends that are large enough to provide useful doses. Thus, I had no qualms about ordering a container to try out. I had every expectation that NO Shotgun would get the job done in the gym—just as a good NO/pre-workout combination supplement should.
And it does…despite my initial misgivings about the appearance and taste. I’m of two minds here: I have to give VPX credit for not loading NO Shotgun up with a bunch of artificial flavors and food dyes, but without them, the stuff looks like muddy water from a puddle, and tastes even worse—like rancid bubble gum. It was fine, past that point, though. My arms felt hard, and looked appropriately swollen after the first few sets of my workout. I felt pretty good too: strong, alert and focused.
Overall, NO Shotgun strikes me as a pretty decent product. The “ethyl ester technology” is gimmicky, and it’s likely that certain ingredients are underdosed, but that’s the nature of proprietary blends, as Paul frequently points out. It delivers where it should, however, and is certainly worth a look if you’re interested in this type of product.