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Is Jack3d (or any other Pre-Workout Supplement) Safe?– UPDATED

** Updated with DOD (Department of Defense) warning below.

As Grandpa’s old saying  goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire”. In this case, we’re talking about pre-workout Supplements like Jack3d and C4, which because of their stimulant and chemical properties tend to come with their own built-in controversy. While there’s various ingredient combinations found in Pre-Workout Supplements and we know they definitely work– one of the most controversial is Methylhexaneamine, which is considered a banned substance in most professional sports circles because of its status as a stimulant. In fact many major brands are already removing it from their formulations in prep for a looming ban. So does its inclusion make Pre-Sups unsafe? Is any Pre-Supp with this ingredient (or its variations) listed on the package something you should avoid, take cautiously or happily take your daily dose? Well, there’s two sides of the argument here, so hold on– this one is hefty :

What IS Methylhexaneamine?

Derived from a chemical found in Geraniums and used in China, drug giant Eli Lilly and Company trademarked the compound methylhexanamine to be used as a nasal decongestant back in the early ’70’s. The trademark expired and the compound sat in relative anonymity until reintroduced as a dietary supplement in 2006 through the trademarked name Geranamine (aka- 1,3-dimethylamylamine, DMAA and/or Geranium oil/stem), where it’s since been reintroduced in thermogenic (fat burning) supplements and more recently Pre-Workout Supplements as lead by Jack3d. The compound goes by many, many names including Geranium oil extract, Geranium oil, DMAA, 2-amino-4-methylhexane, 1,3-dimethylpentylamine, Floradrene, Forthane and   4-Methylhexan-2-amine to name a few.

PRO–“Drink Up… As Suggested”

Judging by sales alone, there’s plenty who subscribe to the “It’s Safe” line of thought. In fact, Jack3d (which lists the controversial Methylhexaneamine –Geranium [Stem], Shizandrol A–as an ingredient) is one of the top selling supplements across the board. There’s plenty of people who’ve been using and cycling the stuff for years with no immediately perceived ill effects.

Patrick Arnold, an organic chemist famous for his introduction and jail time for designer steroids in the Major League Baseball scandal– and who’s now back in the supplement game–, laid the groundwork for the re-introduction of Methylhexaneamine as a sports supplement. As the guy who helped bring the trademarked rename “Geranamine” to market, he definitely has some skin in the game but he’s also familiar with the ingredient. Responding to pharmacologist/drug testing provider Don Catlin’s charge that “The chemical structure [of  Methylhexaneamine] is similar to amphetamines and ephedrine. This stuff ought not be out there… it’s dangerous material”, Patrick Arnold notes:

It does not take a chemist to see that the methylhexanamine differs substantially from the other two compounds [See Image Here]. Perhaps [Mr. Catlin] saw that they all contained carbon atoms and nitrogen atoms. In that case the compound is similar to amino acids and cyanide as well. Or a million other chemicals… A pharmacologist does not call a material dangerous when there is no known evidence that suggests it is dangerous, and there simply is not evidence out there that methylhexaneamine is dangerous.  I could make a statement and say “methylhexaneamine is completely safe” and I would be just as wrong.

In other words, it’s an unknown– just as ephedra was unknown until it was banned after related deaths and creatine supplements were unknown before they were deemed safe and effective. Still, the fact Arnold won’t commit to any statement of safety speaks volumes.

CON–“Don’t Do It”

First, since Methylhexaneamine is considered a stimulant, it’s banned by most sports body governing organizations– which isn’t to say it’s inherently dangerous– it just gives unfair advantage to those using it over those who may not. Still, if you’re in regulated sports that test for doping, you could get nailed as Tennis player Robert Kendrick was a few months ago. That said, Methylhexaneamine’s safety profile is rated closely to that of caffeine but dosage amounts aren’t required to be listed (ie- who knows how much is being introduced and how it reacts with other compounds) and long term effects of the Methylhexaneamine use are unknown and unstudied.

There’s been some red flags raised in New Zealand for Methylhexaneamine’s inclusion in “party pills” which have resulted in headaches, nausea and strokes but nothing explicitly points to Methylhexaneamine as the causation.

So, basically, you’re the guinea pig… which seems pretty common for many sports supplements (they’re unregulated by the FDA, after all) after lab testing working the numbers/dosages. That’s not to say they don’t research the products– they do. But efficacy doesn’t always mean “safety”. With formulation changes going down all over the place, I think its obvious companies are making moves to avoid legislation, potentail litigation and lost profitability.  I mean, we obviously know these supplements works…. but at what potential cost?

DOD WARNING- UPDATE

As a precaution, the US Department Of Defense recently sent out this official warning to all military members:

The EMEDS (Expeditionary Medical Support) has advised that anyone using these products to stop immediately. They have requested that untilthey receive disposal instructions, please hold onto the product and do not throw in the trash.

BACKGROUND: There is an ongoing review by the Department of Defense regarding potentially serious adverse health effects associated with DMAA. As a precaution, all activities are required to physically check the ingredients on all dietary supplements, weight gain, and muscle building products. All products containing DMAA are to be pulled, and placed on medical hold. On hand inventories of products containing DMAA must be reported to accountable officers.

A list of products includes :

  • USPlabs Jack 3D (Tropical Fruit and Lemon Lime)
  • USPlabs Oxy Elite Pro
  • Nutrex Lipo 6 Black Caps (his and hers)
  • Nutrex Lipo 6 Black Ultra Concentrated (his and hers)
  • Nutrex Hemo Rage Black Powder, Punch, Berry
  • Isatori PWR
  • Muscletech Neurocore
  • Muscletech Hydroxystim
  • Fahrenheit Nutrition Lean EFX
  • Muscle Warfare Napalm
  • All American Efx K-Otic
  • SNI Nitric Blast
  • BIORhythm SSIN Juice
  • Muscle Meds Code Red
  • SEI MethhlHex 4, 2
  • Grenade (universal) Grenade
  • M.A.P. (iovate) Arson
  • Gaspari Nutrition Spirodex

So… What’s The Verdict?

All in all, Methylhexaneamine is a big fat unknown right now and may be more mole hill than mountain. It may also be more mountain than mole hill and seems to be leaning that way. So IS Jack3d or any other Pre-Workout Supplement safe? I always recommend caution when dealing with stimulant-loaded Pre-Workout Supplement. Anything “artificially” increasing heart rate and blood flow through consumption should always be approached with care and a close tab on how your body reacts. All makers recommend cycling (taking a month off) so in and of itself you’re being warned of overuse, just like anything else including protein, sugars and listening to Lady Gaga.

So here it isIn short– if you have any adverse reaction, dump it. If you’re worried, read the label. Beyond that, with the use of artificial flavors to avoid sugars– which are a necessary transport pathway for many pre-supp ingredients– are you drinking the equivalent of a super-caffeinated stimulant as opposed to something with solid properties? Again… short terms gains… Personally, I haven’t run into any short-term ill effects in my conservative use of these products but I’ve stopped using these formulations as they’re known now in the market. In the mean time, the safety and long term effects of these products will be played out to “you’re worrying about nothing” to “we were right to worry” in the coming years. 

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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. Sean says:

    Great Comprehensive post Dan! Great read

  2. Simo says:

    I can totally relate to the inclusion in “party pills”, I feel like hitting a party every time I take jack3d =) Great article by the way!

  3. ROG says:

    Just wanted to say great article! Helped me a lot thanks!

  4. Jordan S says:

    maybe i skimmed to quickly, but i am interested in the possibility of non-stim pre-workout. Many times i go into local shops and after hearing that i am pro-natural, salesmen will try to turm me on to the “non-stims”. I have been looking for pro and con research on these as well, but have came up empty handed so far… any help?

    • Coach Dan V. says:

      Hey Jordan- thanks for checking in. I don’t have a lot of experience with “non-stim” pre-workout so I may not be much help here. I have used dextrose loaded pre-workouts which simply supply glucose energy at the ready. I don’t have any pro con information on the subject in general, however. What’s your goal with taking a pre-workout?

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