Review: BSN’s NO-Xplode PreWorkout Matrix
Note: the original NO-Xplode has been reformulated and is now known as “NO-Xplode 2.0.” Although the two versions share ingredients, the updated version will be covered in another review.
“N.O.-XPLODE™ is BSN’s #1 selling extreme pre-training energy and performance igniter. From the very first serving you will experience elevated physical and mental energy, muscle-expanding pumps, unparalleled strength and stamina; not to mention tunnel-vision like mental focus…you will experience a level of training intensity that you never thought was imaginable, getting you physically and mentally dialed in for the training session that lies before you…”
BSN’s NO-Xplode is one of the most popular pre-workout supplements on the market. NO-Xplode is an an “all-in-one” product: it’s formulated to provide nitric oxide, creatine, electrolyte replenishment/hydration, and—most importantly—a workout boost, simultaneously.
According to the ads, with NO-Xplode, you’ll get:
- Training energy, motivation and intensity
- Mental alertness and focus
- Muscle fullness, vascularity and pumps
- Strength, power, endurance and work capacity
- Resistance to muscular fatigue
- Healthy nitric oxide (NO) levels; blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue
Can a single product fulfill all of those promises? A look at the ingredients will tell us more…
NO-Xplode Proprietary Blend: 18,000 mg:
N.O. Meta-Fusion™: L-Arginine AKG, L-Citrulline Malate, RC-NOS™ (Rutacarpine 95%), L-Citrulline AKG, L-Histidine AKG, NAD (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide),Gynostemma Pentaphyllum (Leaves & Stem) (Gypenosides 95%)
AVPT (Advanced Volumizing & Performance Technology): Modified Glucose Polymers (Maltodextrin), Di-Creatine Malate, Trimethylglycine, Creatine Ethyl Ester-Beta-Alanine Dual Action Composite (CarnoSyn®), Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Creatine Phosphate Matrix, Creatinol-O-Phosphate-Malic Acid Interfusion, Glycocyamine, Guanidino Proplonic Acid, Cinnulin PF® (Aqueous Cinnamon Extract) (Bark), Ketoisocaproate Potassium, Creatine ABB (Creatine Alpha-Amino-N-Butyrate)
Ener-Tropic Xplosion™: L-Tyrosine, Taurine, Glucuronolactone, Methylxanthine (Caffeine), L-Tyrosine AKG, MCT’s (Medium Chain Triglycerides) [Coconut], Common Periwinkle Vinpocetine 99%, Vincamine 99%, Vinburnine 99% (Whole Plant)
Phospho-Electrolyte Replacements™: Di-Calcium Phosphate, Di-Potassium Phosphate, Di-Sodium Phosphate
Glycerol Hydrating Polymers™: Potassium Glycerophosphate, Magnesium Glycerophosphate, Glycerol Stearate
The formula in NO-Xplode is a proprietary blend, made up of 5 individual sub-blends…with a lot of different ingredients. So bear with me, as we dissect them, one by one:
1. N.O. Meta-Fusion: Arginine AKG (alpha ketoglutarate) is a standard ingredient in nitric oxide supplements. As noted by Paul in his reviews of nitric oxide and NO supplements, nitric oxide (NO) is synthesized from arginine. NO relaxes blood vessels (vasodilation) and increases blood flow—which is felt as a “pump” in the muscles being worked. According to recent research, it’s doubtful that this makes any real contribution to lean mass gains, but it does feel good (which counts for a lot in the gym) and may contribute to strength gains. Citrulline is also used by the body to produce arginine, and may promote aerobic energy production during exercise.
The remaining compounds in the N.O. Meta-Fusion blend are “iffy”—that is, there is some abstract, theoretical support for their inclusion, but no genuine human data to show that they will do anything to improve nitric oxide synthesis when taken orally.
2. AVPT (Advanced Volumizing & Performance Technology): Although maltodextrin is the first ingredient, it’s the array of creatines and creatine metabolites/analogs that forms the core of this blend. These are: di-creatine malate, creatine ethyl ester (CEE), sodium creatine phosphate, creatinol-o-phosphate, glycocyamine, guanidino propionic acid and “Creatine ABB.”
Di-creatine malate is an alternative creatine that’s used in a number of supplements, such as iSatori Morph and Controlled Labs’ Green Magnitude. There are no published studies on it, although—based on user feedback—it appears to be a viable substitute for creatine monohydrate.
Creatine ethyl ester (CEE) is a topic that deserves a review of its own. Suffice it to say, that CEE has never been compared to creatine monohydrate in any human or animal test.
It’s paired with beta-alanine, which is one-half of the dipeptide carnosine (beta-alanyl-l-histidine).
Carnosine is a naturally-occurring metabolite which—among other functions—helps to buffer hydrogen ions produced during intense muscular contractions.
Sodium creatine phosphate is simply the sodium salt of “phosphocreatine.” It’s been used experimentally as an alternative to creatine monohydrate, but once again—there’s no real indication that it’s a superior form.
Creatinol-o-phosphate was covered extensively in the Aplodan review. Briefly, it’s a creatine analog that can serve as a) a source of creatine; b) a source of phosphate for regenerating phosphocreatine; and/or c) an alternate phosphogen for ATP production.
Glycocyamine is, in fact, a precursor to creatine; however, there is no data supporting its use in a supplement already containing creatine. While BSN claims it supports natural creatine production, it’s highly unlikely that there will be any additive effects, or any overall benefit from utilizing this particular pathway. Glycocyamine also increases homocysteine, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The trimethylglycine conceivably counters this, but there would be little need for it if the glycocyamine wasn’t included.
Ditto the guanidinopropionic acid. BSN states, correctly, that it’s an analog of creatine and increases insulin sensitivity… in animal experiments, that is. What they don’t state is that it also inhibits creatine uptake—which makes it an odd ingredient to add to a creatine blend.
Creatine alpha-amino-n-butyrate is a combination of creatine + a leucine analog. According to one patent application, alpha-amino-n-butyrate possesses anticatabolic properties, but this is purely theoretical, and has never been tested in animals, let alone humans. It may be a moot point, however, as it’s the last ingredient in the blend…so is likely to be “label decoration” (i.e., present in an amount too small to be useful).
Cinnulin PF® is a cinnamon extract made by Integrity Nutraceuticals International. In a recent clinical study, subjects with prediabetes who took 500 mg/day for 12 weeks experienced modest, but statistically significant improvements in fasting blood glucose, blood pressure, and lean body mass. The dose included in NO-Xplode, however, is unknown—so it’s difficult to speculate on potential effects.
Ketoisocaproate (KIC) is a breakdown product of leucine, and has anticatabolic activity. Once again, however, dose is all important—and this is information that BSN does not provide. In general, multi-gram doses would be needed for it to be effective, assuming that it’s effective at all.
3. Ener-Tropic Xplosion: With the exception of the MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), the ingredients in this blend are all known to have some effects on mood, energy, and cognition. Taurine, glucuronolactone and caffeine are familar ingredients to “Red Bull” drinkers. Tyrosine is a precursor to stimulatory neurotransmitters (epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine). Vinpocetine, vincamine, and vinburnine are alkaloids derived from periwinkle that affect cerebral blood flow, memory and learning.
4. Phospho-Electrolyte Replacements: There’s not too much to say about these ingredients…sodium, potassium, phosphate and calcium are electrolytes, and anyone who works out hard and sweats a lot needs to replenish these.
5. Glycerol Hydrating Polymers: Glycerol has legitimate uses in sports nutrition for “hyperhydration,” but a typical dose is approx. 1 g/kg. It is highly unlikely that there is a sufficient amount of glycerol in NO-Xplode to provide any meaningful effects.
Looking at the ingredients, it basically comes down to two components: the N.O. Meta-Fusion and Ener-Tropic Xplosion blends…and when you look at the user comments, this is exactly what leaps out. To put it plainly, people use this supplement for a) the pump; and b) the increase in focus and concentration they get with it.
This is exactly what I got from NO-Xplode when I trialed it too. The “Orange” flavor I bought was slightly effervescent and “chemically” tasting, but wasn’t too hard to get down (I used two scoops). The effects were comparable to some other combined NO/stimulant products I’ve tried—which is a good thing.
The one thing I like about this class of supplements, is that I can take a pounding in the gym, yet not feel particularly fatigued as the workout progresses, nor wiped out afterwards. The stimulant effects were “smooth,” with no crashing as the effects wore off. Pumps were noticeable, especially after bi/tri exercises. I certainly felt as if my workouts were “dialed in” and could feel—and even see—the additional muscle hardness, which was very reinforcing.
Thus, I’d say NO-Xplode does a pretty good job of meeting its promises…although there are a few negatives too. I feel it’s unnecessarily complicated: it contains some ingredients that are obviously irrelevant (such as the MCTs and guanidinopropionic acid) and/or redundant (multiple forms of creatine).
In addition, the fact that it’s a proprietary blend leaves open the possibility that certain ingredients are underdosed and are merely “label decoration.” It’s not a cheap supplement, and for someone on a budget, every ingredient should count.
Nonetheless, I liked NO-Xplode and generally agree with Paul’s assessment that supplements of this type are a worthwhile addition to a supplement regime.