Muscletech Aplodan Review: Is It Really A “Dormant Muscle Fiber Activator?
Note: Aplodan has been discontinued.
Several weeks back, my order from Bodybuilding.com arrived. It was complete, right down to the steel-colored bottle of the next supplement I was planning to try: Muscletech’s Aplodan. I’ll say one thing for Muscletech: they know how to design an eyecatching container. I loved the bold, edgy font and dramatic, light-on-dark banner proclaiming Aplodan to be “The World’s First Dormant Muscle Fiber Activator.”
What was inside was even better …the bottle was filled with large, shiny, metallic silver tablets—very cool. Now, I love silver. I have a cache of dangly silver earrings, ear cuffs and arm bracelets. So taking silver tablets was très chic, mon ami.
For all the glitz, however, the label was pretty simple. Unlike some of their recent offerings, which contain more chemicals than a Sigma-Aldrich catalog, Aplodan lists only two ingredients: 1,2-Dithiolane-3-Pentanoic Acid and 2-(Carbamimidoyl-Methyl-Amino)ethoxyphosphonic Acid. The first is a familar nutrient by an unfamiliar name: alpha-lipoic acid. The second is…well, aplodan.
Yes Virginia, there really is an aplodan. Fortunately, the aplodan in Aplodan is also known as creatinol-o-phosphate (COP). To avoid confusion, I’ll use this term for it in the rest of the review.
Muscletech makes two specific claims for Aplodan:
- It “targets specific muscle energy pathways facilitating muscle fiber activation,” including, presumably, those “dormant muscle fibers” noted on the container.
- It’s been proven that the “key ingredient” in Aplodan was able to “force an increase in muscle tension threshold” in 7 days (1.74 vs. 3.18 mins.)—as shown in a “human clinical study at the University of Milan.”
Presumably, the “key ingredient,” referred to above is COP—alpha lipoic acid is a useful antioxidant, but it’s not known for building muscle or strength. Of course, this was impossible to verify, as there’s no citation for the study, and there were no obvious candidates in the PubMed database.
So what’s the story with Aplodan? Can it really cause “…an overflow of new explosive power to flood your muscle fibers, allowing for previously unattainable strength gains?”
To try and get at the truth behind the hype, it will help to clarify both what Aplodan is…and what it isn’t. As far as the latter is concerned, I’ll be blunt: it isn’t a “dormant muscle fiber activator.”
Now, concepts like “muscle fiber activation” and measurements of muscle tension are over my head—my degrees are in Food Science, not Exercise Physiology. As they say, however, there’s no such thing as a dumb question, so I e-mailed mine to an expert in the field: Dr. Travis Beck. Dr. Beck is an Assistant Professor in the University of Oklahoma Department of Health and Exercise Science, and the author/co-author of a number of studies involving the electromyographic measurement of muscle activity. Dr. Beck was kind enough to respond to my questions in considerable detail.
“In my opinion, the problem with Muscletech’s claims is that they are not completely clear regarding exactly what the “muscle tension threshold” is. If they were truly committed to backing up their product with science, they would have explained this dependent variable and how it is related to strength. It is also important to point out that Muscletech claims that Aplodan works by helping to activate “several clusters of muscle fibers that are dormant”. However, I do not understand how the muscle tension threshold can be used to come to this conclusion. The traditional gold standard for measuring % muscle activation is the twitch interpolation technique, which involves imposing a maximal electrical stimulation to the muscle while it is contracting maximally, and then measuring the increment (if any) in force production that occurs due to the stimulation. Most researchers in the area of muscle activation will tell you that normal, untrained humans can achieve at least 90% muscle activation in every muscle in their body, and most trained individuals achieve nearly 100% activation. Thus, the claim that there are “untapped” muscle fibers is simply a fallacy.”
As Dr. Beck explained further:
“Muscletech claimed that Aplodan helped to increase muscle activation by penetrating deep inside muscle fibers. However, muscle activation is a neural phenomenon. There is absolutely nothing that can be done to a muscle fiber to change whether or not it is activated. The muscle fibers of one motor unit are linked to a single alpha motor neuron. Whether or not those fibers get activated during a contraction is dependent on the alpha motor neuron’s threshold. If the threshold for the neuron is reached, then an action potential is generated, and the fibers are stimulated to contract with a twitch.”
Thanks to Dr. Beck, we know what Aplodan (definitely!) ISN’T, so now let’s cover what it is.
If you’re still with me at this point, you may have noticed something. “Creatinol” looks a lot like creatine…doesn’t it? And—in fact—creatinol-o-phosphate is a close structural analog of creatine. It’s never been used as a sports supplement, however, so there’s very little research on how well it might work for improving athletic performance. All we have available are some European studies from the 1970s/1980s on COP’s potential for treating cardiac (heart) dysfunctions.
European studies on animals demonstrated COP can prevent chemically-induced cardionecrosis (cell/tissue death); protect against chemically-induced arrythmias and ventricular fibrillation; reduce creatine phosphokinase activity (a marker of heart/muscle cell damage) and accelerate the recovery of heart contractility following hypoxia (reduction of oxygen) and ischemia (restriction of blood supply).
Experiments in humans demonstrated it was safe and well-tolerated, as well as effective for reducing ventricular premature heart beats and general rhythm disturbances and chest pain. These effects may be due to a protective effect on cell membranes.
These studies make it clear that COP is biologically active, but tell us next to nothing about its potential for improving strength and/or performance.
On the other hand, Muscletech’s patent is a little more illuminating.
“The detection of increased creatinine resulting from 2-(carbamimidoyl-methyl-amino)ethoxyphosphonic acid administration indicates that 2-(carbamimidoyl-methyl-amino)ethoxyphosphonic acid may serve as a source of physiological creatine, which provides well-established benefits to muscle metabolism and athletic performance mainly through the regeneration of phosphocreatine…
Advantageously, 2-(carbamimidoyl-methyl-amino)ethoxyphosphonic acid contains within it both creatine and phosphate to necessitate the regeneration of phosphocreatine.
As discussed above, it is recognized that 2-(carbamimidoyl-methyl-amino)ethoxyphosphonic acid acts as a vehicle to transport phosphate into the cells where it can then dissociate to form the high-energy molecule ATP or to phosphorylate creatine to phosphocreatine, which can then donate the phosphate to ADP to form ATP to be used in muscular contractions.”
According to Muscletech, then, COP serves two functions: 1) as a source of creatine; and 2) as a source of phosphate for the regeneration of ATP directly, or indirectly, via the regeneration of phosphocreatine. On the surface, it seems like a plausible mechanism. Phosphate supplementation in conjunction with creatine has not been extensively studied, although there’s enough data to conclude the combo is just as good, if not better, than creatine alone for increasing strength and anaerobic work capacity.
Thus, COP ideally functions as a “value added” creatine supplement. This isn’t nearly as sexy as “dormant muscle fiber activator,” I suppose, but it seems to be a more accurate assessment. This also explains the presence of the alpha lipoic acid in the formula, as it’s known to contribute to creatine uptake by muscle cells.
Does it actually work, though? In the patent, Muscletech cites two older studies, one showing COP increased hand grip strength, the other showing “improved muscular performance” in “elderly subjects.”
Needless to state, I’m not interested in therapeutic effects on older people or patients with heart disease—I’m interested in ME. I’m an experienced, trained gym rat who’d like nothing better than to add another 10 pounds to my bench. So, after all the digging, the question still remained: would Aplodan do anything for me?
To make a long story short: no.
I got exactly nothing out of my 30-day trial, despite following the loading/dosing protocol to a “T.” Unfortunately, my experience also seems to be fairly common—looking around, I found a number of other “non-responders” too. In fairness, there were also a few positive reviews and logs, but this is not unusual. As noted elsewhere on the site, what you expect is sometimes what you get.
So whither Aplodan?
Personally, I think it’s an interesting supplement in theory, although more ingenious than effective. On the plus side, it’s safe and non-toxic…probably even healthful. That’s not what I’m looking for in a supplement promising “explosive” gains in strength and power, however. It’s a pity to be sure, but silver earrings suit me better than silver pills.