Bang Super Creatine is Useless
Bang RTD has been one of the top-selling energy drinks, alongside Red Bull and Monster, for several years. Originally launched in 2012 as “Bang 357” (due to it containing 357mg of caffeine) by Vital Pharmaceutical, Inc. (aka VPX), Jack Owoc, founder & CEO of VPX, created the beverage in response to his displeasure with the options available at the time.
Initially, Bang was slow to catch on with the general population, but persistence paid off and Bang experienced 80% growth from 2019 to 2020, resulting in sales over $780 million. The brand’s success even thrived during the global hysteria of 2020 with Bang sales totaling $1.2 billion between June 2020-June 2021. Bang’s success can be attributed to a combination of its branding, advertising, and expansive number of flavors (Note: At present, Bang Energy has over 30 flavors!).
Aside from higher caffeine content, Bang also brought several previously-unused ingredients to the energy drink sphere, namely “Super Creatine.”
Chemical structure of creatyl-l-leucine ("Super Creatine") (A) and creatine (B).
In fact, Jack Owoc was granted a patent by the USPTO for his creatine-amino acid peptides, including creatyl-l-leucine, a creatine-amino acid peptide (AKA “Super Creatine”). The proposed benefits of this “Super Creatine” were that it was:
- Stable in solution (meaning it wouldn’t degrade into creatinine like other creatine forms do, such as creatine monohydrate)
- Able to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB)
The massive marketing hype that propelled Bang to the forefront of the increasingly competitive energy drink market is admirable, so much so that when having conversations with average Bang imbibers, I have been told (on multiple occasions) that he/she “feels” the BCAAs and/or Super Creatine “working”.
Now, you and I know (as well as other well-informed supplement enthusiasts) that the amounts of these buzzword ingredients in Bang (as well as most other energy drinks) is so pitifully low amount that to even approach an efficacious dosage would entail ingesting an amount of caffeine which many individuals will not respond well to.
To further deflate any potential enthusiasm around “Super Creatine,” consider the following:
- Creatine monohydrate is water-soluble
- Creatine already crosses the blood-brain barrier. it does NOT need to be bound to leucine.
- There are only 25mg of Super Creatine in a can of Bang RTD (fyi, the collectively agreed upon, and research-backed dose of creatine is 3,000-5,000mg per day...which is several orders of magnitude greater than what a can of Bang RTD contains)
- There are NO human studies on “Super Creatine” noting improvements in body creatine stores, let alone physical or cognitive performance
Therefore, the only real upside to Super Creatine is that it remains stable in solution. However, as I just mentioned, Bang energy drinks contain such a paltry amount of Super Creatine (25mg/16oz can), you’re better off not even factoring it into your daily creatine supplementation.
Now, this isn’t to dissuade you from enjoying Bang or any other energy drink, as they do offer a number of delicious flavors, but to assume that you can meet the dosage recommendations for most supplements from drinking an energy drink or two (bearing a few exceptions) is a futile endeavor.
All of this background underscores the recent story published by Stack3D which stated that VPX has to pay $293 million to Monster after losing a false advertising lawsuit. This comes after VPX was ordered to pay $175 million to Monster and Orange Bang, a California juice maker, for breach of contract and trademark infringement in April 2022. The ruling also required VPX to pay a 5% royalty on all future US sales of Bang Energy to Monster and Orange Bang. Previously, ThermoLife International, LLC (providers of NO3-T amino-bound nitrates, including creatine nitrate) filed suit against VPX in Arizona for false advertising.
ThermoLife’s founder, Ron Kramer, also said in a statement to PR Newswire:
"ThermoLife cannot stand by while VPX and Jack Owoc falsely tout 'Super Creatine' as superior to all other forms of creatine. First, as detailed in the complaint Super Creatine is NOT creatine, nor is it a source of creatine, and despite their intentional false advertising, VPX and Owoc know this. Second, ThermoLife has the exclusive rights to the 'Super Creatine' compounds in the USA and we already had the USPTO cancel ALL of Jack Owoc's patent claims to the 'Super Creatine' compounds, because contrary to what Owoc tells people, Jack Owoc is NOT the inventor of the 'Super Creatine' compounds. Now, in filing this lawsuit, we seek to have the court hold VPX and Owoc responsible, and punish them for the lies they are intentionally telling to consumers."
Two other factors to keep in mind:
- Bang ending their distribution agreement with PepsiCo. prematurely, costing VPX $115 million.
- Bang’s share of the energy-drink market has also started to decline. Not too long ago, it accounted for nearly 10% market share. Now, it sits just above 6%.
Despite this grim reality, Jack Owoc has asserted VPX will endure and emerge stronger. Time will tell if this actually transpires. In the interim, we can discuss some of the contributing factors that led to VPX paying Monster $293 million.
It just so happens that Monster funded a pair of studies to be conducted on “Super Creatine.”[7,8] The manuscripts have recently been published, which is where I’ll now shift the focus of this article.
Bang Super Creatine Does Nothing to Enhance Muscle Creatine Stores
Appearing in Nutrients, the first study we’ll review is an animal study which investigated if creatyl-l-leucine (“super creatine”) is a bioavailable compound, and if it can supply creatine if efficacious amounts to the brain, plasma, or skeletal muscle tissue.
24 rats were given a creatine-free diet for 14 days at which point they were divided into one of three groups and fed a 7-day diet containing:
- No added created (control)
- 4.0 g/kg/day of creatine monohydrate
- 6.56 g/kg/day of Super Creatine
Note: In terms of a human equivalent dose, the above dosages for a 70kg (154lb) individual would equate to a dose of 17.6 g/day of creatine monohydrate and 28.9 g/day of Super Creatine (based on the molecular weight of creatine if Super Creatine degraded into creatine). You don’t need me to tell you that you’re not getting anywhere near this amount of Super Creatine in a single can (let alone two, five, or TEN cans of BANG).
Creatine content of quadricep muscle. The open bar represents rats fed creatine-free diet, light gray bar represents rats fed 0.4% w/w creatine monohydrate-supplemented diet, dark gray bar represents rats fed 0.656% CLL supplemented diet.
As you would expect, rats given creatine monohydrate-enriched diets experienced significant increases in creatine concentrations in plasma, brain, and muscle tissue. However, rats given Super Creatine did NOT increase blood, muscle, and brain creatine content above and beyond rats fed the control diet.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that creatyl-l-leucine does NOT increase creatine bioaccumulation, meaning it is not a bioavailable source of creatine.
The second study (conducted in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design) investigated the effects of 2 weeks of dietary supplementation with creatine monohydrate, Super Creatine or placebo on muscle creatine content in 29 healthy men and women (the authors did not stipulate if participants had to be resistance-trained or not). Despite the much-ballyhooed Super Creatine, this was the first human study conducted to see if Super Creatine actually increased body stores of creatine.
Participants completed baseline strength testing. At least 72 hours post-preliminary testing, test subjects had a muscle biopsy where researchers harvested a plug of muscle tissue from the quads. Following the baseline test, individuals began their 14-day supplementation of either:
During the 2 week supplementation period, subjects completed three supervised resistance exercise sessions per week following an A/B split which included:
- 5-min warm-up on treadmill
- One warm-up set of 10 repetitions at 60% of 10RM of leg extensions
- 4 x 10 leg extensions @ 80% of 10RM with 1–2 min of rest between sets.
- 4 x 10 leg curls @ 80% of 10RM
- 4 x 10 seated row @ 80% of 10RM
- 5-min warm-up on treadmill
- One warm-up set of 10 repetitions at 60% of 10RM of leg press
- 4 x 10 leg press @ 80% of 10RM with 1–2 min of rest between sets.
- 4 x 10 chest press @ 80% of 10RM
- 4 x 10 shoulder press @ 80% of 10RM
Note: While this training program is far from comprehensive, at least there was a decent amount of lower body work (though they skipped calf training). There also wasn’t much work for the back muscles and NO direct arm work (curls, pushdowns, etc.)…the gym bros would be up-in-arms (pun intended).
If participants were unable to complete 10 repetitions at the given intensity, the load was reduced by 2.5%–5% until 10 repetitions were completed. Exercise sessions were separated by at least 48 hours.
After the 14-day supplementation & training period, subjects underwent another muscle biopsy. If you’ve ever had a biopsy, it’s certainly not the most pleasant experience (especially if it’s in your hip and they “miss” the bone marrow on the first two attempts!)
Mean ± SD muscle creatine content before and after 14 days of supplementation. Cr = creatine; WW = wet weight; CLL = creatyl-L-leucine; CrM = creatine monohydrate; PLA = placebo. *Significantly greater than the presupplementation time point within group. †Significantly greater than PLA and CLL post-supplementation.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers documented a 24% average increase in muscle creatine content for the creatine monohydrate group. There was NO increase in muscle creatine content for the Super Creatine group.
Based on these findings, researchers stated:
“As such, this work does not support the use of CLL (“super creatine”) as an alternative dietary supplementation strategy to CrM (creatine monohydrate) to increase muscle Cr content in healthy males and females.”
Suffice it to say that relying on Super Creatine to fulfill your daily creatine requirements, let alone improve any aspect of physical or cognitive performance is a no-go. In fact, Dr. Richard Kreider, professor and director of the Exercise & Sport Nutrition Lab at Texas A&M University as well as an expert witness for Monster Energy Co., testified in court that:
Therefore, if you want to gain the benefits of creatine supplementation, then opt for plain, ol’ creatine monohydrate. It’s stood the test of time and has been shown (repeatedly) to not only be effective and safe, but affordable.
Again the above two studies were funded by Monster Energy Company, but they did not participate in the execution, analysis, or documentation of the trials.
So, if you want to drink Bang or any other energy drinks for the taste, caffeine content, or as a replacement for sodas or other sugar-containing beverages, go ahead. I enjoy the occasional energy drink, and at the same time realize I’m not consuming it to satisfy any of my daily supplement protocols (creatine, ALCAR, CDP-Choline, NAC, etc.).
While Jack Owoc publicly states that VPX and Bang are going to emerge stronger, only time will tell as they have to deal with considerable payments (over half a billion dollars and counting) and an increasingly crowded and competitive market.
What do you think the final outcome of Bang energy will be?
Will they recover, persevere, and grow going forward? Will they “survive” as just another energy drink offering, or is this the sign of a slow decline of a once-strong brand?
Leave a comment below along with your favorite energy drink!
- Dechent, P., Pouwels, P.J., Wilken, B., Hanefeld, F., Frahm, J. (1999) Increase of total creatine in human brain after oral supplementation of creatine-monohydrate. American Journal of Physiology. 277(3 Pt 2): R698-R704. PMID:10484486
- da Silva RP. The Dietary Supplement Creatyl-l-Leucine Does Not Bioaccumulate in Muscle, Brain or Plasma and Is Not a Significant Bioavailable Source of Creatine. Nutrients. 2022 Feb 8;14(3):701. doi: 10.3390/nu14030701. PMID: 35277060; PMCID: PMC8840086.
- Askow, A. T., Paulussen, K. J., McKenna, C. F., Salvador, A. F., Scaroni, S. E., Hamann, J. S., Ulanov, A. V., Li, Z., Paluska, S. A., Beaudry, K. M., De Lisio, M., & Burd, N. A. (2022). Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation, but not Creatyl-L-Leucine, Increased Muscle Creatine Content in Healthy Young Adults: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (published online ahead of print 2022). Retrieved Oct 17, 2022, from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/aop/article-10.1123-ijsnem.2022-0074/article-10.1123-ijsnem.2022-0074.xml