Friday, January 17, 2014


So I was browsing some exercise-related articles and noticed two in a row were promoting this supplement. From there I was already convinced. We already know, if TWO internet articles both say it’s good, it must be good. It doesn’t matter if they’re both on a website that is featuring the supplement that month.

So I went to their online store, and wanted to learn more about this awesome stuff that guys with big arms swore they used:

1. It reduces fatigue and prevents soreness – these are actually unrelated concepts, but they were pitched together since they assume most buyers won’t be well-informed.

2. Reduces body fat and build muscle simultaneously, now we’re getting’ serious! Stories of body builders eating French toast and French fries and getting down to 5% body fat or less – I think I built 5 pounds of muscle just thinking about this stuff.

3. One author said he felt “unbreakable” when using Plazma. I might have read a couple books, but I know I’m not qualified to dispute hard data like that.
Regardless, this author is one of the main contributors on the same website featuring the product, so why would he lie about it?

4. At about $70 for 20 servings, this is clearly a supplement for the most serious and “advanced” individuals. My grandmother always said “you get what you pay for” (and that secondhand smoke doesn’t hurt anyone, and that ice cream was good for me), so I have to believe this is the best of the best right here. Oh yeah, it is recommended that you use three servings each day too – so at about $10/day, it’s gotta be good!

So off I went with that silly science. Once again, I looked at every ingredient in Plazma Reactive Pump, and looked up any research that has been done on each one of them. Below are my findings. This time I linked each relevant study I found, just in case you thought I might be making things up or had some special agenda.

Nutrient-partitioning functional carbohydrates (highly branched cyclic dextrin, isomaltulose)

A search for nutrient-partitioning functional carbohydrates showed a study on nutrient partitioning in genetically diverse dairy cows, and looked at hormonal variations in lactating cattle. Definitely relevant to improving my dead lift.

Another study came up about how these can alter the effects of insulin-like growth factor on the placenta during pregnancy in guinea pigs. If you’re pregnant or lactating, whether guinea pig or bovine, this might do something for you - but it may or may not have a positive effect. 

Highly branched cyclic dextrin improved swimming endurance in mice when administered at 500mg/kg of body weight (more than you would get from a dose of the supplement). When timed just right, it was slightly more effective than just ingesting plain sugar, in one of three trials. So if you’re the next rodent Michael Phelps, there is a 33% chance it will help you. 

Perhaps more importantly, highly branched cyclic dextrin improved the stability of the aroma of the European pear at higher temperatures in this study

Interestingly, solutions of highly branched cyclic dextrin led a shorter gastric emptying time compared to other carbohydrate solutions in this study. Do you even know what that means? “nah man, but I bet I’ll get huge!” Yea, something like that. It actually means it moves more quickly from the stomach to the small intestine. This might be useful for hydration - if you didn’t feel like drinking water before you worked out – or if you’re doing continuous endurance exercise for more than an hour at a time – which you’re not.

Isolmaltulose was studied as an ingredient in cookies fed to overweight men before walking for 30 minutes – really, look here. It worked better than other types of sugar in the cookies for improving fat metabolism in a single workout bout. First of all, measuring fat metabolism during exercise does not translate to body fat loss. More importantly, how about just not eating cookies, or anything sugary, before working out? Especially when your goal is losing body fat. For some reason, that condition was not tested…

Another study found that isomaltulose was helpful in improving run performance in type-1 diabetics. In the study, it was equally effective to consuming dextrose – aka corn sugar – which is available for a few cents per serving at several online retailers.

Highly structuralized di-/tripeptides (hydrolyzed from bioactive casein)

I searched “highly structuralized tripeptides,” “highly structuralized dipeptides,” “structuralized tripeptides,” and “structuralized tripeptides,” But found no studies containing those terms.

I dug in a little more and did some research on dipeptides specifically. It has been a few years since I studied protein structure, but I was reminded that there are many types of dipeptides, and this ingredient is not actually a specific substance. My guess is they used glutamine, because it is a cheap dipeptide

While one study found glutamine can “partially prevent lymphocyte apoptosis,” and another showed that it improved recovery from burn injuries in rats, I couldn’t find any that showed that it alone improved exercise performance in healthy humans. Sure, glutamine and whey protein together will make you stronger, but 1+0=1 last I checked.

Tripeptide supplementation, however, is another story! We were off to an awesome start when I found that supplementation with collagen tripeptide can improve skin elasticity in this study! Better yet, supplementing with the tripeptide glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine improved growth of bird embryos! Of course, the manufacturer did not specify which tripeptides were used in Plazma Reactive Pump, so we might just have to settle for being average bird embryos with mediocre skin.

Citrulline Malate

There might actually be some hope for this one! No, I’m serious. I don’t have a punch line here. While I did not see a true “treatment” study in which we saw an improvement in strength or endurance over the course of several weeks, this one was not quite as ridiculous as some of the others. There was some suggestion that it may reduce fatigue and reduce soreness. However, it has also been suggested that nutrients that reduce soreness and inflammation can also reduce gains in strength and muscle mass. The jury is still out on this one, so I’ll have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Betaine Anhydrous

I could not find any study on this substance relating to exercise in any way. Here are my search results, maybe I missed something? You’ll notice, however, that there is a trend toward improved liver function, particularly in mice fed high-fat diets.

Potassium (phosphate dibasic, phosphate dibasic, bicarbonate, succinate)

They listed potassium phosphate dibasic twice, so I figured it must be the cornerstone of Plazma’s power! Unfortunately, the only study relating in any way to health or human function found that this substance can increase toxicity of pesticides.

I could only find one study on potassium bicarbonate in relation to exercise. Unfortunately, it found no effect on bone density when administered to rats running on treadmills.

A search for potassium succinate also yielded only one result relating to human health. Unfortunately, it was not helpful in improving ST segment depression in heart disease patients. And even if it did, are you trying to treat your heart disease? If so, is ST segment depression the specific issue you need to address? (crickets chirping)

If you’re still convinced you need more potassium compounds, eat a banana, add sprinkly some baking soda on it if you really think you need more bicarbonate ions.

Sodium (chloride, citrate, phosphate dibasic)

Sodium chloride = table salt = the same thing every magazine told us last week we need to reduce. I couldn’t insult a reputable database by looking this up. Even if it did have value, I think there’s cheaper ways to find it.

Sodium Citrate was found to have no effect on performance in elite wheelchair racing. On the other hand, it did improve water retention in female runners, but did not improve actual performance. At least when I was in track and field, there no extra points for just being bloated. 
Or maybe it does improve performance? Well trained male collegiate runners reduced their 5k time by 2.5% after consuming sodium citrate in this study - but not in this one

I think I’d want more than 1 out of 4 studies showing that I’d be 2 or 3% faster before I called myself unbreakable.

Sodium phosphate dibasic was used to determine folic acid concentrations in frozen foods! 
I could find no studies in human subjects, but it did increase the size of litters produced by rabbits in this study!

Magnesium Citrate Tribasic

I could not find a single study on this substance. Even a google search just led me to chemistry websites and… supplement ads!

See Also:

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  1. Brilliant article - well written. Although I love T-Nation I hate their thinly veiled sales pitches for Plazma etc.

    1. thanks for reading, and yes, it is unfortunate!

  2. Hi there, I came here looking for a supplement stack for Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 as Plazma was pitched in that and I also found the amounts and two staged preparation a bit fishy. This article is very good at analyzing the shortfalls of the product but gives the reader no alternatives to pick. Any help here ? please Leave a comment somewhere on I'll find it ;)

    1. I think for 99% of us, the real answers were discussed in this article:
      I think it would make more sense for me to leave my comment here than in some random location on some other blog.

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