Over the last years I’ve tried numerous supplements. Some runners scorn these completely in favour of a puritan view and a natural life-style while others embrace them along with every other presumably fitness-enhancing garment or gadget (ranging from the interesting such as Skinz to the bizarre such as Adidas weird “duct-tape” base layer).
I’ve always had a bit of a background with supplements as my first real encounter with “serious” training was through weight training in a gym. From the lads there I quickly learned about creatine loading and protein powder and all those sort of things.
In fact, Creatine and protein powder survive today as two supplements I would trust to do a good job for me, while many others (ZMA, anti-oxidants, multi-vitamins) are no either used sparingly or not at all. The fact unfortunately remains that supplementation is big business and the science behind it must be scrutinised to the extreme. Also a balanced diet will outweigh the benefits of many (but not all) supplements and other supplements have to be taken basically on faith.
Glucosamine, MSM and Chondroitin are excellent examples of such products not because the science behind them is sketchy (indeed logically these products should support joint health) but because the effects are seen over a very long term (20-30 years). We simply have not had this form of supplementation long enough to be test its true effectiveness.
The Latest Revolution
From this background a healthy dose of scepticism towards any bold claims made by supplements manufacturers must be recommended. So when I read about a product called ARX created and distributed by the company FasterTomorrow I was wondering how genuine it could be. Along with another product called “Seanol”, FasterTomorrow make very bold claims about their products such as:
- Greatly reduce muscle soreness
- Speed muscle recovery
- Improve training
- Improve performance
- Increase endurance and stamina
- Clear lactic acid buildup in muscle cells
- Recycle lactic acid for highly-efficient energy
Two things made me instantly curious about these two products though: Matt Fitzgerald mentioned using them on his blog and FasterTomorrow use the latest theories in Exercise Physiology as a basis for the product development (i.e. the Central Governor Theory).
Matt Fitzgerald also answered a query I posted on his website confirming that the tests performed adhered to what can be currently considered the “Gold Standard” within such scientific experiments. This is a long way of saying the findings look genuine and are not based on spurious experiments like some other supplements.
ARX – What does it Do?
In a nutshell ARX improves the workings of a system in the body known as the “lactate shuttle”. It is now known that far from being harmful, lactate is one of the body’s preferred fuels. This means that the more effectively it can be cleared from your bloodstream and to where it’s needed for fuel, the slower you’ll fatigue and the quicker you’ll recover.
The reason for these benefits is that the brain will initiate fatigue signals slower if it does not get signals that the body is running out of fuel. Secondly, by providing plenty of lactate as fuel, your body does not start cannibalising other resources such as muscle protein. Loss of muscle protein is a key reason for slow recovery. These benefits are gained from a special extract of three types of mushroom.
In addition ARX includes two other ingredients: eleuthero (an adaptogen helping the body overcome stress) and tangerine (an agent reducing the stagnation of the digestive system that can cause stomach cramps).
So in very brief terms the supplements increases micro-circulation in your muscles and enhance your immune system. The promise of this, according to FasterTomorrow, is that you’ll recover faster and be less sore, meaning you can train harder, better, and faster.
In tests conducted, test subjects taking 1g per day of ARX showed an 157% greater increase in their lactate clearance ability than a placebo group (they showed 50% greater increase than a group taking half 500mg of ARX per day).
Matt Fitzgerald confirmed on his Blog, when I posed the question that the tests seem to have been conducted according to what is considered the “gold standard” for testing (double-blind, placebo-controlled). It’ll be interesting to see more independent research on this, but the initial tests are very promising. In fact, I find them so promising that I believe I must give them a try. Why? Well, because if the improvements are anything like the statistics suggest, it’s simply too large a competitive advantage to miss out on.
The second product that caught my interest on the FasterTomorrow website was Seanol which is a powerful antioxidant based on seaweed. It claims to increase blood flow to the brain and thus delay fatigue. This is a critical factor for believers of the new Central Governor Paradigm (and no test has yet disproved this new paradigm, rather the opposite) as it means overall fatigue is also delayed. This leads to improvement of VO2 max increase and max HR increase (both are natural consequences, if the brain does not fatigue as quickly it will allow you to exercise harder. When you exercise harder VO2 max and heart rate also increase beyond their previous limits).
The product also claims to have an effect on joint discomfort and mental health. Joint discomfort after exercise is largely caused by the inflammatory response caused by muscle damage. Strong antioxidants are noted to have a soothing effect on this process, so if Seanol contains such a thing it’s bound to be effective. You can argue a very healthy diet may very well have the same effect (and this is probably true). The increased blood flow to the brain seems the more interesting effect and I’d like to read more about how this effect is generated. Certainly caffeine is known to also increase mental alertness during races and this has proven to be beneficial to performance. Seanol may be worth looking into although the asking price seems a bit steep especially compared to ARX.
It would have been nice to see some precise improvement figures for Seanol, however.
To read more on these products go here: http://www.fastertomorrow.com/