Today I'm going to introduce you to the best pre-workout supplement of the year - AML Pre Workout.
The name doesn't sound too impressive, right?
Couldn't they have called it Nuclear Pump? Or perhaps Squat Mountain?
Hang on... I've got it..
Maybe AML stands for Atomic Muscle Landslide..?
Oh, it stands for Advanced Molecular Labs.
But in a fitness world populated by hyped up products delivering poor ingredient formulas, anyone who knows their stuff knows that it's the ones which stay away from the hype that tend to be the ones to really watch out for. So when this red and white tub titled simply "Pre Workout" dropped through the door, you can bet your bottom dollar I was f**king terrified of it.
I can hear some of your questions already:
"It it a proprietary blend?"... "What are the main ingredients?"... "Is it better than Pre Jym 2.0?"... "Is it really just called Pre Workout?"...
So strap yourself in, and grab a protein shake while I put this product through my deliberately harsh supplement rating system (nothing has ever earned over 4 stars) to see how it compares to other industry-leading supplements.
Every product comes with good points and bad points, so before I breakdown the entire formula below let's take a look at some quick good points.
First up, AML should be commended for their straightforward approach in building this product.
Somewhere along the way, the pre-workout sector of the fitness industry lost it's message and became about supplements whose goal was to "blow your head off" by loading you up on exotic stimulants, then leaving you face down in a dumpster three hours later when the crash hits.
In truth, a good pre-workout supplement has only one goal and that is to make you train harder.
So you won't find any exotic or experimental stimulants here, and if you're a real stim-junkie then you'd be better off picking up something like Sidewalk Kraka.
What you will find, though, is a rock solid formula which uses only the most proven ingredients (all of which are safe and fully researched).
These are clinical dosages, and it's rare to see them let alone all together in one single product.
Citrulline malate is the real powerhouse in AML Pre Workout, providing the foundation for some killer pumps, increasing your recovery speed between sets and boosting your endurance levels. Staying away from exotic stimulants and experimental ingredients, AML have chosen caffeine as the product's main stimulant. That's great, as caffeine is perhaps the most well-researched stimulant of all time, but (at at 400mg caffeine per serving) this is one of the strongest supplements on the entire market.
Of course, a massive 400mg serving could also be a bad thing (I'll get to that).
Nothing is perfect, and AML Pre Workout is no different.
The first thing I noticed is that they hide some of the ingredients behind a proprietary blend.
It's always a bad thing, here's why.
Fair play, they do disclose the dosages of all the key ingredients (citrulline malate, caffeine, betaine, etc) but using a proprietary blend is a thing of the past and for a product which claims to be designed with athletes in mind, I was disappointed to see the doses of certain ingredients remain undisclosed.
We also have the inclusion of some ingredients which don't necessarily need to be in your pre-workout - creatine, for instance.
Creatine is outstanding for boosting explosive strength but there aren't any additional benefits to consuming it as part of a pre versus any other time of day.
The company was originally very vocal in calling out other supplement companies for including ingredients which showed no additional benefits to having them pre-workout as opposed to just having them at any other time of day (meaning they didn't add anything to the session, so why include them?), one example of this being Jim Stoppani's Pre Jym, for including leucine
But as far as bad points go, and the way I usually pick a product apart in this section, AML Pre Workout made it out without too much damage, don't you think?
Let's break down the nutrition information to see exactly how AML Pre Workout is built to improve your workout performance, and whether it actually does the job.
We may as well start with the number everybody's talking about...
Caffeine is your workout's best friend.
Research has shown it to improve a range of different training aspects including focus, energy levels and even a slight improvement in calorie burn (although that last one is subjective to the individual's tolerance levels). (1, 2, 3)
But what most people don't know is that it's also been shown to boost explosive power output during weight training. (4, 5, 6)
But isn't 400mg way too high?
The increased strength output mentioned in the studies above was only achieved with supplementation of 400mg. Also, when AML researchers were questioned as to why they chose to include such a high dosage of caffeine per serving, they cited the results of a great 2012 meta-analysis from the Strength and Conditioning Journal which looked at the results of over 70 clinical studies on caffeine supplementation and concluded that a dosage of 400mg is optimal for an increase in strength performance. (7)
The researchers broke this down to 5mg per kg of bodyweight, which equates to 400mg for a 175lb guy.
Interestingly, they also found that a dosage of less than 2.1mg per kg of bodyweight (so that's 168mg or less for a 175lb guy) doesn't provide any training benefits at all. Another reason to put down those awful supermarket energy drinks!
The good news here is that Pre Workout contains other ingredients which work alongside this one, so it won't "feel" like you've taken on 400mg caffeine.
The bad news is that if you cannot handle the full dose the company advises you to take a half serving. This means you're also half-scooping every other ingredient in the tub, and therefore losing a lot of the training benefits.
Okay, so the huge dosage of caffeine is the one which takes all the headlines, but the real MVP is citrulline malate.
If you've been reading my website for some time, you'll already know I'm a big fan of using this substance in your pre-workout.
Heck, I even included it as the #1 ingredient in my handy guide on how to make your own pre-workout!
Because citrulline malate has been shown to improve everything from your recovery between sets, to the number of reps to muscle failure, to an incredible pump. (8, 9)
During a 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was concluded that supplementing with citrulline enabled subjects to achieve an average of 1 more rep on every single set of their workout. Those kind of improvements in training endurance are fantastic in the big picture of building muscle.
It does this by accessing the body's nitric oxide pathways, allowing for greater blood flow and nutrient delivery to working muscles. This rose to popularity in the early 2000's via arginine supplementation.
Citrulline is a superior way of supplementing with arginine, as it is broken down into arginine once inside the body yet has a much higher absorption ratio than it's older cousin. One study from the British Journal of Pharmacology discovered citrulline to be 50% more effective for raising blood levels of arginine than using arginine itself! (10)
Again, though, the benefits only arrive when citrulline malate is fully dosed.
The size of that dose should be 6-8g, but the vast majority of the pre-workout supplements on the shelves are way under this mark (like this one, this one or even this one), meaning the "skin-splitting pumps!!" they talk about on the packaging are nothing more than hype.
Want to know more about citrulline malate? Read my article here.
At 8 grams per serving, AML Pre Workout is right at the top of the market in terms of dosage size.
Betaine is one of the most under-rated pre-workout ingredients.
But thanks to newer research on it's effectiveness when taken before training, it is slowly building a worthy reputation as an important aspect of a solid performance boosting agent.
Like citrulline, betaine has been shown to boost training endurance, muscle recovery, and even explosive strength, so it's definitely something to look out for when buying a new pre. (11, 12, 13)
In fact, a 2012 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition even discovered that just one week of betaine supplementation improved performance in cycling sprint-based workouts by a crazy 5%. (14)
Effective clinical dosage is deemed to be 2.5 grams, which is exactly what Advanced Molecular Labs provide.
Ever experienced a tingling sensation when trying a new pre-workout supplement?
But although it's probably best-known for making you want to rip your own face off, there are greater rewards underneath the surface waiting to be had if you can keep your supplementation of beta-alanine going for long enough to reap them.
One such benefit is an increased capacity to push through lactic acid build-up during exercise ("the burn"), and that's something which is incredibly useful when it comes to building lean muscle.
During an interesting 2008 trial at the College of New Jersey, researchers set out to compare the effects of beta-alanine during a 4 week heavy squat program. Remarkably, they found that using beta-alanine improved the number of reps to failure by as much as 22%! (15)
There is one red flag here.
A clinical dose of beta-alanine is 3.2 grams.
Don't be alarmed that AML Pre Workout only includes 2 grams, though. That's not the red flag. New research shows that splitting beta-alanine supplementation into two segments throughout the day leads to greater absorption, so 2g before training is perfectly fine. (16)
In fact, that's also the way Pre Jym works.
Here's the thing..
AML have followed most savvy supplement manufacturers by releasing an all-in-one post-workout formula (the creatively titled AML Post Workout). One would think they'd include a second serving of beta-alanine here, but they do not.
Meaning you'd have to get a second serving of beta-alanine from elsewhere.
(Although it is very cheap.)
Creatine is the biggest-selling bodybuilding supplement of all time, and it's also the most well-researched.
A dose of 5 grams daily has been shown to yield the full strength benefits creatine offers, and while many supplement manufacturers like to include experimental, unproven creatine formulas in a bid to stand out from their competitors, the true sign of a good product is one which realizes that no formula has outperformed the original (creatine monohydrate) since it's arrival on the bodybuilding scene in the very early 1990's.
A great review study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research back in 2012 looked at the available body of research on creatine supplementation and determined that it causes on average an 8% strength increase in trainees.
Also, the number of repetitions they could perform until "failure" rose by 14%. (21)
The odd thing here is, as mentioned earlier, there are no additional benefits to consuming your creatine before training versus any other time of the day, so it didn't need to be in the product. Also, the new AML Post Workout supplement contains another 5 grams of creatine monohydrate, which is unnecessary because studies show that 5g is enough. (22)
So it's nice, and it's certainly not going to cause any harm to your performance, but it's not necessary.
Included in most pre-workouts nowadays, bioperine is black pepper extract.
Despite being in so many products, it's one of those less flashy substances which rarely has it's benefits discussed because it doesn't take center stage.
(Like Omega-3 supplements, or a holding midfield player at Manchester United.)
Bioperine can cause a slight increase in adrenaline, which is definitely useful when it comes to hard training, but that's not the main reason behind it's popularity. It's main job is bring out the best in all of the other key ingredients by increasing their bioavailability and absorption ratio. (17, 18)
This amino acid is a dopamine precursor.
Alongside the massive serving of caffeine, it's responsible for much of the energy kick you'll get from AML Pre Workout.
By increasing dopamine availability to the brain, we can boost our own training capacity. In fact, this was shown during a 2011 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, where trainees exercising in the heat showed a greater exercise tolerance while supplementing with n-acetyl l-tyrosine. (19)
This is velvet bean extract which, like n-acetyl l-tyrosine, serves the primary purpose of increasing dopamine production.
And that's something which it has indeed been found to do. (20)
This is one of the ingredients which is going to take the edge off the huge 400mg caffeine in each serving because, as shown in the study above, supplementing with mucuna pruriens to increase dopamine levels will then promote better moods and lower stress levels.
If you are a regular pre-workout user, you may be spinning the tub around looking for a few ingredients which appear to be missing.
I'm going to cover them now.
These are some big players, and you'll see them in almost every other pre-workout (albeit usually under-dosed anyway!), but AML chose to leave them out for the reasons below.
That's right, no BCAA's.
The reason AML picked a fight with Jim Stoppani was due to the Dr.'s insistence on the importance of branched chain amino acids (mainly leucine) before a workout, something which the guys at AML heavily disagreed with, citing the fact that while leucine consumption after exercise has been shown to promote muscle growth, but taking it pre-training can inhibit dopamine production by preventing tyrosine from reaching the brain, making the trainee feel sluggish during exercise and leading to CNS fatigue. (23, 24)
Another popular pre-workout ingredient which has been shelved by AML is agmatine sulfate.
The Bodybuilding.com store claims that "Agmatine can promote greater nitric oxide production, enhance recovery, and improve metabolic function!", so it's easy to see why it's such a popular ingredient.
But AML are quick to point out that there is zero scientific literature to support claims that it does any of the above.
In fact, there are studies which show it can actually inhibit nitric oxide production, despite the fact that many supplement companies include it in their products claiming it does the opposite. (25)
In 2014, Dr. Gad Gillad conducted a study looking at the potential benefits of agmatine supplementation on nerve health, which was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. (26)
Dr. Gillad concluded:
"That agmatine is touted for bodybuilding, is completely unsubstantiated and is backed by outright false claims."
Taurine is another pre-workout heavy hitter which has been excluded by AML for very specific reasons.
Taurine is used in a pre because of it's effectiveness at improving mental focus and blood flow. (27, 28)
But you'd need a dose of upto 2g per day to see any of the potential benefits, and this is way higher than that found in most pre-workouts (as well as energy drinks, where its inclusion is commonplace).
And here's the thing; taurine and caffeine do not play nicely.
In fact, a study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior found that taurine actually opposes some of caffeine's effects, concluding that when we take both ingredients together we increase the likelihood of headaches and decreased training performance. (29)
You'd think that supplement manufactures would stay up to date on developments in the world of nutrition and sports supplementation.
Thankfully, AML did.
Given that caffeine offers us far greater training benefits than taurine, it makes sense to choose caffeine.
You can see why arginine is excluded in the nutritional breakdown, where we talk about citrulline malate.
Basically, citrulline malate gives you a superior method of supplementing with arginine than using arginine directly, because citrulline malate has a significantly better absorption ratio.
This has been shown in studies dating back 10 years, but it's alarming to see how many top-selling pre-workout formulas still pack arginine into their product.
One of the reasons this is such a solid pre-workout is the team behind it.
Advanced Molecular Labs was founded by Steve Blechman in 2014.
You're probably a fan of his work, maybe without realizing it, because this guy is the real deal and one of the main reasons I was looking forward to checking out AML.
When most people think of supplement industry "gurus", they think of Jim Stoppani and his quest for science-based supplementation. Well, Steve Blechman has been every bit as instrumental, with his work dating all the way back to his time at the helm of TwinLab in the 1970's, overseeing the introduction of several household name supplements to the marketplace, including whey protein (yes), creatine, and Omega-3.
Since 2001, he's been in the fitness magazine business as is currently the man behind one of the world's best-selling publications, Fitness RX.
Steve is joined by former NFL athlete and fitness model Joe Donnelly.
Joe is someone I've long followed and respected, thanks to his beastly training mindset and candid social media personality.
It's going to be very interesting to see what Advanced Molecular Labs can put together in the future, and in an over-saturated marketplace filled with products that fail to stand out in their own right, it's good to have another science-based, forward-thinking manufacturer out there who are always looking to raise the game to a higher level.
Time to put AML Pre Workout through my supplement rating system and determine whether it is one step ahead of it's competitors.
The clinical dosages of all key ingredients is a big factor here. while the partial proprietary blend puts an unnecessary blemish on the scorecard, but this is a product which I am happy to recommend to my clients and followers for good reason - it works!
Is it better than Pre Jym (the product it appeared to be picking a fight with upon release)?
Yes it is.
But that's more to do with the ingredients it chooses to leave out, rather than those it puts in.
As you can see below, I've awarded AML Pre Workout 4 stars.
That's the joint-maximum I've ever given a product to date, and I hope this company continues to build upon the product with more great releases further down the line.
Want to try it? Order some AML Pre Workout here.