Research Review: 3DPump Equivalent to 8g L-Citrulline
3DPump-Breakthrough emerged as a novel pre workout pump supplement a few years ago. Engineered by seasoned supplement industry veterans, Bruce Kneller, Dr. Hector Lopez, and Dr. Tim Ziegenfuss, 3DPump-Breakthrough garnered considerable attention, and I’ve had the pleasure of discussing the ingredient several times with both Bruce and Dr. Lopez.
In full transparency, I was skeptical. At first glance, every 6 gram serving of 3DPump-Breakthrough appears to be just a collection of three common pre workout supplements, including:
- 3g L-Citrulline
- 1.2g glycerol (from 2g of a high-yield glycerol supplement, such as HydroMax)
- 165mg Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) fruit extract
After several conversations with the creators of 3DPump-Breakthrough and NutraShure (the ingredient house that distributes 3DPump) as well as putting the ingredient through the paces with my own training, my opinion has shifted from skeptical to favorable.
Newly published research (with more in the works) demonstrates that 6g of 3DPump-Breakthrough is as effective as 8g L-Citrulline (not 8g citrulline malate). Before we get to the recently released results, let’s discuss the individual ingredients contained in 3DPUMP-Breakthrough.
More About 3DPump-Breakthrough
L-Citrulline (as well as Citrulline Malate) is a well-known ergogenic and pre workout supplement that increases levels of arginine (the “fuel” for nitric oxide production) more effectively than L-arginine. While L-arginine can boost nitric oxide levels, it has poor bioavailability (~20%), and when consumed in large doses (10-20 grams), it results in considerable GI distress.[2,3]
Citrulline (as well as citrulline malate) is tolerated much better, even up to 10 grams, and has been shown to improve exercise performance with doses as low as 2.4 grams.[4,5] While an “arms race” has been going on in the supplement industry for a few years now with regard to citrulline (and before that it was caffeine amounts and before that it was the size of pre workout scoops), researchers have stated that the upper limit of citrulline that offers benefit is 10 grams. Specifically, “a 10 g dose should be the most appropriate for use in clinical practice.”
The 3g dose of L-Citrulline provided in the full 6 gram serving of 3D Pump is sufficient and within the research-backed range of dosing. As mentioned above, Citrulline is merely the “foundation” of 3DPump-Breakthrough…the next ingredient may offer enhanced hydration and cell volumization (“the pump”) in a different, complementary manner.
Glycerol is an ingredient that I’m personally not a huge proponent of. I usually don’t recommend it for inclusion in pre workout formulas for a variety of reasons, including the facts that it leads to clumping and requires a significantly larger dose (in combination with a high volume of water intake) to create the state of “hyperhydration” and muscle fullness that so many pre workout supplements tout.
The reason that glycerol is typically included in pre-workouts is due to its osmolytic properties. Osmolytes are organic compounds that encourage cells to absorb water, thereby improving hydration, cellular swelling, and muscle fullness (aka “water-based pumps”). In addition to enhancing pumps, the hyper-hydrating potential of glycerol may also boost endurance, fatigue resistance, and thermoregulation (resistance to high temperatures and greater endurance in physical activities).
However, multiple studies have shown that the amount of glycerol required to achieve a state of hyperhydration and improve exercise performance far exceeds what is typically included in powder pre workout supplements. I’ve discussed this at length in the Engineer Insider, but to recap, research demonstrates that in order to obtain the “hyperhydration” effects of glycerol, it should be consumed between 0.5-1.5g/kg bodyweight.[7,8,9] The caveat is that if an individual is hyperhydrated before exercise, THEN they can supplement with an additional 0.125g/kg body weight of glycerol in a volume equal to 5 mL/kg body weight.
A recently published study in Nutrients found that even supplementing with 1.4g/kg glycerol with 30 mL/kg fat-free mass (FFM) of water pre workout did not improve performance in athletes despite the additional body water and plasma volume gains provided by glycerol supplementation.
The latest study published on 3DPump-Breakthrough may shed some new light though…but, before we get to the study…there’s still one component of 3DPump to cover…
Amla (Phyllanthus emblica, Emblica officinalis, or Indian gooseberry) is an Ayurvedic plant that has been used for centuries to improve vitality and cognition as well as promote longevity. The fruit is rife with phytoactive compounds and antioxidants that support cardiovascular, immune, and digestive health, including the ellagitannins -- pedunculagin, puniglucanin, emblicanin A, and emblicanin B) which stimulate endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), combat oxidative stress, and support cardiovascular health.
3DPump-Breakthrough® includes a premium amla fruit extract standardized to >68% low molecular weight tannins.
Animal and human studies indicate that amla extracts may reduce blood pressure and improve endothelial function.[11,12,13] Typically, amla extracts are dosed between 250-500mg[14,15,16], but again there may be more than meets the eye with the select combination contained in 3DPump-Breakthrough.
With the preamble concluded, let’s discuss the new study on 3DPump vs L-Citrulline in regards to pump and performance.
28 healthy, young, recreationally-trained individuals (6 women and 22 men, 29.4 ± 10.1yr, 174.3 ± 9.0cm, 78.7 ± 13.2kg, 25.7 ± 2.8kg/m2) were took part in the randomized, single-blind, positive-controlled study. Individuals were randomized so that half of the subjects started with citrulline first while the other half started with 3D PUMP BREAKTHROUGH®.
Participants underwent 30 min of walking/jogging on a treadmill in a heated room (80-90°F) at a self-selected pace that would elicit 60-70% max heart rate. Participants entered the heated room 35 minutes after consuming their respective supplement so that they would have a 10-min acclimation period where they were fitted with a heart rate monitor and provided instructions for the upcoming exercise bout. Therefore, supplements had been consumed 45 minutes before exercise testing began, which is sufficient time for the ingredients to “load.”
Following the steady-state cardio workout, participants had 5 minutes to provide a urine sample to measure urine specific gravity (one marker of hydration tracked by the researchers).
After a 5-minute rest, participants performed bilateral leg extensions and Smith machine squats for 2 sets of 12 repetitions with 60s of rest in-between sets. Participants were instructed to choose a load they could lift for at least 12, but no more than 15, repetitions on each exercise. On the third set of each exercise participants were instructed to perform as many repetitions as possible (go to failure). Failure was defined as the inability to complete a full repetition.
Following the final set of Smith machine squats, the men and women took a 3-minute rest before having their thigh circumference measured to assess the pump-enhancing effects of 3DPump vs L-Citrulline.
After the measurements, the participants performed an arms superset consisting of dumbbell arm curls and triceps rope pushdowns under the same parameters as the lower body exercises discussed previously.
After the last set of pushdowns, a 3-minute rest break was taken followed by arm circumference measurements.
The Results: 3DPump-Breakthrough vs L-Citrulline
“Muscle girth” in the arms and legs increased after both supplement trials. Keep in mind that this isn’t all that surprising, to be honest, as higher-rep training with relatively short rest periods (30-60 seconds between sets) by itself will generate pretty decent muscle pumps, even in the absence of pre-workout supplements like 3D Pump and L-Citrulline.
What is interesting is that the combination of ingredients in 3DPump (3g Citrulline, 1.2 glycerol, and 165mg amla) delivered similar results in terms of pump and repetitions to failure as a considerably larger dose of pure L-Citrulline (8g).
There was a slight trend to vascular tone improvement with 3DPump Breakthrough as denoted by follow-up post hocs from the interaction trends in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Researchers commented that this is likely due to the “vasoactive effects” of the phytocompounds included in amla fruit.
Any Potential Side Effects?
A common complaint among select individuals is that large scoop pre workouts and/or higher doses of select ingredients (e.g. caffeine, citrulline, creatine, betaine, arginine, etc.) can lead to GI distress.
3D Pump can offer similar benefits to a much larger dose of L-Citrulline with fewer instances of GI-related complication. In this study, individuals reported fewer adverse effects with 3D Pump (5 out of 28) than when they took pure L-Citrulline (10 out of 28). Specifically, when supplementing with pure L-Citrulline those 10 individuals reported feeling “lightheaded, nauseous, had a headache, and even regurgitated during and/or after the workout, whereas during the 3D PUMP condition [subjects] felt lightheaded during and/or after the workout and had diarrhea 2 hours post workout.”
Keep in mind that how an individual reacts to a certain ingredient or pre workout formula is highly individual, meaning what is true for one person isn’t the same for another. If you find a particular ingredient at a certain dose doesn’t jive with your GI, then consider reducing the dose consumed and/or removing the ingredient altogether. You may also want to experiment with different combinations of ingredients to see what provides the greatest benefit in terms of energy, focus, performance, and pumps vs GI distress.
Brandon Sojka, Founder of NutraShure Distribution, LLC had the following to share regarding the new findings:
“We are excited to deliver efficacy outcomes with 3DPump Breakthrough® compared to that of L-citrulline. The outcome of this study shows that over-engineering finished product formulations does not always equate to better results. 3DPump Breakthrough® was developed using proper synergy and provided comparable results at nearly half of the active ingredient dose. To those manufacturers looking to formulate with benefits that include muscle pump while also providing effects on aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance, 3DPump Breakthrough® delivers innovation to the next generation of sports and active nutrition."
It’s encouraging to see on-going research with new ingredients brought to market -- the vast majority of branded, “premium” ingredients have a lone study (or two, at most), after which no further research is conducted. The team behind 3DPump-Breakthrough has stated they have several studies in the works (with more potentially down the line), which is a win for the industry as a whole. Clearly, 3DPump-Breakthrough is effective for enhancing “the pump.” Hopefully, the future studies of 3DPump-Breakthrough delve into other metrics of athletic performance -- time to exhaustion, lean mass gains, vasodilation, etc. -- over a longer period of time (4, 8, or 12 weeks) and compare it to L-Citrulline/Citrulline Malate, Nitrosigine and/or nitrates (beetroot juice or NO3-T).
If you’re looking to experiment with other pump ingredients or pre workout supplements, 3DPump-Breakthrough is certainly worth a try. For supplement companies that are considering adding it to their pre workout formulations, it may come down to a matter of cost vs benefit vs optics (ingredient profile). With bulk L-Citrulline prices coming down ($9-10/kg as of May 2023), it may be more advantageous for those brands to explore a combination of individual ingredients. However, the ingredient supply-chain is in constant flux so formulation decisions will vary depending on the particular brand and consumer demands.
Nevertheless, I’m excited to see what lies ahead for 3DPump-Breakthrough and the other ingredients that NutraShure has to offer.
- La Monica, M., Raub, B., Sandrock, J., Cyvas, J., Hartshorn, S., & Gustat, A. (2023). A Randomized, Single-Blind, Crossover Study to Evaluate the Efficacy of a Novel Dietary Supplement Blend with L-Citrulline on Biomarkers of Hydration, Muscle Size, Affect, Inflammation, and Muscular Endurance: Original Research. Journal of Exercise and Nutrition, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.53520/jen2023.103144
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