Hi-Tech Krank3D: Is It Any Good?
Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals (“Hi-Tech”) has been around for over 25 years (longer than many of you reading this, as well as yours truly, have been using sports nutrition products). When I first started writing in the industry, Hi-Tech was one of the biggest ad-buyers/sponsors for the website, and I got to try quite a bit of different product offerings from “Papa Jared” (Jared Wheat, President & CEO of Hi-Tech), including their DMAA-laden pre workout behemoth…MESOMORPH!
My first encounter with Mesomorph was other-wordly. Until that first magical, PR-shattering scoop, I had only ever used low-to-moderate stim pre workouts, of which caffeine was the only stimulant included in it. Gains were made with the “entry-level” pre workouts, but holy mother of Edison, my first scoop of Mesomorph was an experience I have not had since then (that may have to do with the fact that DMAA is an amphetamine-like compound, not found in nature…)
Truth be told, DMAA was a beast, and Hi-Tech/Papa Jared championed the fight against the FDA that DMAA was a “naturally occurring constituent” of various botanicals, including geranium. Despite some salacious reporting and poorly-executed research, DMAA (consumed is a responsible amount by an otherwise healthy individual) doesn’t present any life-threatening risks (unless you perceive tunnel-vision focus and run-through-the-wall intensity as a “risk”). For better or worse, DMAA has been excluded from pre workouts for several years.
Nevertheless, Hi-Tech has evolved past DMAA (as have many other brands), using other aggressive stimulants, including DMHA (2-aminoisoheptane), acacia rigidula extract, Senegalia Berlandieri extract (contains various PEA-relatives), theophylline, and isoproplynorsynephrine (isopropyloctopamine).[1,2,3]
As of July 16, 2023, Mesomorph is no longer offered on Hi-Tech’s website, but a new(ish) pre-workout has been unveiled…Krank3D.
Upon seeing the newsletter blast land in my inbox announcing the arrival of Krank3D, my curiosity was piqued, and I decided to check it out.
As you’ll see, I was vastly underwhelmed by the ingredients panel, but let’s start with the “good.”
The “Heavy Hitters”
Beta Alanine (3,200mg)
Beta alanine is the preeminent tingle-inducing endurance supplement that’s been a staple inclusion in pre workouts for well over a decade. It binds with the amino acid histidine to form carnosine -- a powerful intracellular buffer that helps clear acidic (H+ ions) which delays the onset of fatigue.
Beta alanine has been studied across various daily dosages from 3.2-6.4 grams per day, usually consumed in multiple 1.6 gram dosages. Something to keep in mind is that beta alanine doesn’t offer any acute performance benefit, unless you consider your lips and ears tingling ergogenic.
Depending on your daily dose and consistency of consuming beta alanine, you’ll generally reach saturation between 4-8 weeks, at which point your muscles will benefit from increased buffering capacity.
More often than not though, beta alanine is included to lead uninformed consumers to believe the product is hitting “harder.”
L-Citrulline (2,000mg) & Citrulline Silicate (2,000mg)
Make no mistake, this is where the actual nitric oxide amplification resides in Krank3D…not the following “N.O. Amplification Matrix.”
Citrulline is well-known to you all -- it is more effective at raising plasma arginine levels than L-arginine. It improves nitric oxide production, boosts athletic performance, delays the onset of fatigue, and supports cardiovascular health.
Citrulline has been studied across a range of dosages, from as low as 2.4 grams up to 10 grams.
Citrulline silicate is a “novel” form of citrulline, that Hi-Tech is likely including to “riff” on Nitrosigine (inositol-stabilized arginine silicate). While arginine suffers from poor bioavailability, citrulline does not. So, I can’t really see the point of including citrulline silicate other than window dressing and to dupe consumers into thinking there is some other benefit to be had from the silicate component (which there isn’t).
N.O. Amplification Matrix
I swear we must be back in the 1990s if L-Arginine HCL (or AAKG) is leading off your pump blend. Arginine HCl has terrible bioavailability (as you well know), which is why most reputable sports nutrition companies have switched over to Citrulline/Citrulline Malate or Nitrosigine for boosting plasma arginine levels.
Yes, there are a couple of studies showing that a combination of citrulline + arginine (1.2 grams of each) is effective, but those studies were funded by Kyowa Hakko -- a provider of amino acids and patent holder of Setria L-glutathione. But, a March 2023 narrative review concluded that:
“both recreational and trained athletes did not see improved physical performance or increased nitric oxide (NO) synthesis with 0.075 g or 6 g doses of Arg [arginine] supplement per body weight. However, 2.4 to 6 g of Cit per day for 7 to 16 days of various NSs had a positive impact, increasing NO synthesis, enhancing athletic performance indicators, and reducing feelings of exertion.”
Given that Krank3D already has a quality dose of citrulline (from Citrulline silicate and L-Citrulline), the additional L-Arginine, at worst, offers no benefit. At best, it may further support NO production.
Given the 1,525mg prop blend, and that Arginine HCL is first, I’d guess there’s between 750-1000mg of L-Arginine HCL.
(S)-(2-boronethyl)-L-cysteine HCl (BEC)
Well, well, well.
We finally have something interesting to sink our teeth into!
Viewing the Krank3D product label as well as reading the product write-up, you’ll see that it’s very heavily emphasizing arginase inhibition. Arginase is the enzyme that breaks down arginine (the “fuel” for NO production). By limiting arginase activity, arginine levels will remain higher for longer, which supports greater nitric oxide production, blood flow, nutrient delivery, exercise performance, and pumps.
Conventional arginase inhibitors found in pre workouts supplements include the likes of norvaline and agmatine. Norvaline is seen infrequently these days thanks to a cell study that was published a few years back finding it was toxic to brain cells. I’ve covered that study before on the SuppEngr.com blog. Suffice it to say that the headlines greatly exaggerated the actual study and its findings.
But, when you dig into the literature on norvaline, you’ll see that it’s really not a very effective arginase inhibitor.
Krank3D brings something new to the table…(S)-(2-boronethyl)-L-cysteine HCl (BEC).
I was unfamiliar with this ingredient…it’s been years since I’ve used a Hi-Tech pre workout, and while it may have been included in other formulations, including Plasmagen (which was renamed after Gaspari separated from Hi-Tech and took PlasmaJet, their capsule pump pre workout, with them).
While there isn’t much human research on BEC, various animal and cell culture studies have shown it to be an effective arginase inhibitor.[7,8,9]
The human equivalent dose reported in the study that investigated BEC administered via inhalation was 8mg.
A major limitation of effective arginase inhibitors, though, is the cost. A 2009 study stated that based on catalog prices at the time that a mere 50mg of BEC costs $1300!
Checking a few other suppliers, the current day cost for 50mg of BEC is between $924-2800![10,11]
Using current day prices, that means the cost of including 8mg of BEC in a single serving of Krank3D is between $148-448. Again, that’s per serving…never mind the other ingredients that are included in the product.
Given that an entire tub of Krank3D costs $70 (likely less with a discount code), Krank3D either has such a trivial amount of BEC that it offers no real world effects or doesn’t include any BEC at all. Personally, I’d be very curious to have this product tested by a 3rd party…
Furthermore, on the product page of Krank3D, Hi-Tech states, “no other supplement company has figured out how to tackle the arginase problem head-on... to take arginase out of the NO equation!”
Hi-Tech may have “figured out how to tackle the arginase problem head-on…” but they have actually solved it since they don’t put an efficacious dose of BEC in Krank3D, in my opinion.
Red Wine Extract (Standardized to 30% Glycerol)
No, that’s not a typo…Krank3D (as well as other previous pre workouts from Hi-Tech) include a red wine extract standardized for 30% glycerol.
An immediate thought that jumped to mind as well as an industry colleague who I reached out to was, “Why would you extract glycerol from red wine grapes?!”
To put things into perspective, research notes that the average concentrations of the major constituents of red wine are:
- Water, 86%
- Ethanol, 12%
- Glycerol, polysaccharides or other trace elements, 1%
- Various acids and volatile compounds, 0.5%
Typically, grape skins or grape seeds are standardized for polyphenols, not glycerol…just imagine how expensive (and unnecessary) that process would. A more cost-effective and beneficial solution would be to just use a high-yield glycerol supplement (HydroMax, GlycerPump, 3DPump-Breakthrough, etc.) + red wine (grape skin) extract for your polyphenols.
Anabolic Cell Volumizer
Taurine is a versatile amino acid that is part cell-hydrator (osmolyte), part antioxidant, and part ergogenic. It’s stored, primarily, in the heart, brain, and skeletal muscle tissue, and has been the subject of previous Patreon articles.
When included in pre workouts, taurine is usually dosed between 500-2,000mg (though there are outliers). A 2021 systematic review concluded that “taurine supplementation (2 g three times daily) with exercise can decrease DNA damage…1 g of acute taurine administration before or after exercise can decrease lactate levels.”
Personally, I like taurine, not only for its ergogenic and hydrating potential but also its antioxidant and organ support qualities (namely for the heart and liver). I’d guess that Krank3D includes 1,000mg of L-Taurine, which is one of the few appropriately-dosed ingredients in the product.
Creatine is awesome. It’s the most studied, consistently demonstrated effective supplement in the history of sports nutrition. As I’ve said in other articles, creatine is the standard against which all other sports nutrition supplements are compared.
In combination with proper nutrition and training, creatine offers numerous benefits, including increased performance, improved energy production, greater lean mass gains, enhanced recovery, and better hydration. Creatine has even been found to offer cognitive benefits.
To get these benefits, creatine needs to be taken consistently between a dose of 3-5 grams.
In Krank3D, creatine is the second of four ingredients in a 2,980mg prop blend, which means you’re not getting anywhere close to 3g of creatine monohydrate. My guess is that you’re getting about 1g of creatine here.
Having an extra gram of creatine in a pre workout certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also misleading to consumers to advertise the benefits of creatine in your pre workout when it doesn’t offer a clinically-backed amount.
Agmatine is a fascinating compound, and I’ve discussed at length the nootropic/neuroprotective potential of this multi-faceted supplement. Pre workout veterans will recognize agmatine as a popular component of the pump matrix. Typically, it’s included for its ability to stimulate eNOS and possibly limit arginase activity.
The usual form of agmatine found in supplements is agmatine sulfate. Hi-Tech includes agmatine silicate.
Now, you may be wondering why you use the silicate form. Well, there are no studies that I can find (cell cultures, rats, humans, etc.) using the silicate form of agmatine. Scouring the internet for any reference to this ingredient, I came upon an older Bodybuilding.com thread, and apparently this variation of agmatine surfaced shortly after the first several studies on Nitrosigine (inositol arginine silicate) were published, demonstrating improved bioavailability.
The thinking (I’m assuming) is that “bonding arginine to silicate yielded better results, so we should do the same with agmatine” and instead of actually performing studies on this particular form of agmatine, the creators/marketers of agmatine silicate will use “borrowed” science.
Here’s the issue though…
Arginine has terrible bioavailability. Agmatine does not…neither does citrulline, for that matter (citrulline silicate, as discussed above is included in Krank3D).
Until some actual research is carried out using silicate-bonded forms of agmatine and/or citrulline, I can’t see any reason to include these other than to try to differentiate your product and dupe customers into thinking they’re getting something “superior” to the actual supplement forms more commonly used in pre workouts (as well as studied and shown to be beneficial in humans).
There’s also this gem from the Wicked Pre Workout product page explaining the benefits of agmatine silicate:
“Supplementing with agmatine silicate will yield a metabolic cascade that provides the benefits above and importantly promotes leanness and muscle building. Agmatine Silicate increases appetite even when full, making it easier for underweight individuals to gain weight and muscle.”
No, no, no…
There is no study in humans to confirm increased appetite. There is a rat study from 1996 which found that acute agmatine administration increased caloric intake and dietary carbohydrate preference in satiated rats. “However, agmatine does not modulate caloric intake in hungry rats. Furthermore, repeated administration of high doses of agmatine does not decrease its ability to stimulate appetite.”
A separate 2011 rat study found that injections of agmatine increased appetite via the supplement’s effects on neuropeptide Y. However, researchers found that combining agmatine with yohimbine reduced the appetite-stimulating potency of agmatine. Krank3D includes both agmatine and yohimbine…which pretty much negates the product page hype stating “Agmatine Silicate increases appetite even when full, making it easier for underweight individuals to gain weight and muscle.”
Suffice it to say that, this is hardly a ringing endorsement for agmatine as an appetite stimulator and/or mass-gaining aid.
As discussed in my other article about agmatine. It’s typically dosed in pre workouts between 500-1,500mg. Human studies investigating its effects on pain-relief use doses over 2,000mg.
Given that agmatine silicate is the third ingredient out of four included in a prop blend totaling 2,980mg, you might be lucky to have 500-750mg agmatine silicate.
Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)
ATP is the cellular currency of energy production. Muscle cells have a very small supply of ATP, after which it turns to creatine-phosphate stores, glucose, and then fatty acids to sustain performance.
Oral ATP supplements, by and large, have been shown to be ineffective, even when using doses up to 5,000mg. You’re not getting anywhere near that amount here.
While including ATP on the supplement facts panel looks good, it’s not offering any tangible or performative benefits here. Superior options would be elevATP, Peak ATP, or even Senactiv (which upregulates an enzyme that boosts endogenous ATP production).
Yet again we have another prop blend. This time it’s a cocktail of various stimulants, including:
- Caffeine anhydrous
- 2-aminoisoheptane HCl (DMHA)
- Theobromine anhydrous
- Phenethylamine (PEA) HCl
- Yohimbine extract
No doubt this will provide a formidable kick in the ass to crank through your workout. The blend is 590mg. I’d venture a guess you’re getting 250-275mg caffeine, 75-100mg DMHA, 75-100mg theobromine, and a touch of PEA + yohimbine.
Speaking of yohimbine, there’s a typo on the label…yohimbine is what you standardize yohimbe extract for…you don’t have a yohimbine extract. The label should read yohimbe extract (standardized for X% yohimbine).
Like most other Hi-Tech stimulant-inclusive supplements, there’s a high probability that Krank3D will ignite your senses and make you feel upbeat, energetic, and highly motivated to train. For a lot of people, that’s all they’ll ever want or need.
But, when spending $70 on a pre workout, I expect a hell of a lot more to be included, such as an open label, every ingredient being dosed in a research-backed range, etc. Also, don’t be surprised if there’s a “crash” a few hours after taking this pre workout as there are no sources of neurotransmitter precursors (tyrosine, mucuna pruriens, cdp-choline, etc.) to support the added biosynthesis demands of the various stimulants included in Krank3D.
In my opinion, this could be interesting to try as a one-off (e.g. your friend buys a tub, and you want to try it), but I can’t endorse or recommend this product for purchase.
What do you think?
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