CNS Labgrade: Low-Caffeine Yet ULTRA-High-Octane Pre Workout

Many users have asked for a low-caffeine, high “bonus stim” pre-workout; and a new company named CNS Supplements has delivered. CNS Labgrade is a fully loaded pre-workout but with a twist – it has less caffeine than other offerings on the market… but still brings plenty of the fun “extras” we’ve come to know and love, so anyone out there who’s half-scooping those higher-stim products doesn’t get half-scooped on the pump supplements too!

CNS Labgrade

All those high-caffeine pre workouts wigging you out? Then get ready for something different with CNS Labgrade!

With 17 ingredients and a monster 22.2g serving size, it is also one of the most unique pre workout supplements we’ve stumbled across. In this post, we’ll quickly dive into every ingredient and show that you don’t always need tons of caffeine if you can back it up with some of our favorite “alternative energy” ingredients.

The Labgrade Premise

Get ready for a full-on ingredient assault — CNS isn’t playing around with Labgrade. While most of the ingredients jump out at us as ergogenic / performance enhancers, they also included ingredients for general health as well! Have you ever seen a pre workout with a full 300mg dose of CoQ10, one of the most underrated heart health ingredients out there? You have now.

To us, Labgrade is trying to take the throne from other “one-scoop wonder” products available on the market — but for those of us who don’t want 300 or even 200mg caffeine. We’re looking for it to fill a few expectations we have: fully clinical doses, high-grade ingredients, and the ability to fuel effective workouts… yet not have you up and down from caffeine.

Before we get into this 17-ingredient behemoth, CNS is sponsoring a coupon:

Click here to see Labgrade at CNSSupplements.com, and use coupon code PRICEPLOW5 to save $5.00!

Our Labgrade Review

Mike and Matt taste-tested Labgrade, go through part of this massive ingredient label, and Mike gives his review after a few uses below:

Subscribe to PricePlow on YouTube!

Long story short — low-caffeine users finally have something to be excited about!

CNS Labgrade Ingredients

17 of ’em, let’s go! (Note: We re-ordered the ingredient label for our convenience)

  • Caffeine Anhydrous (180mg)

    https://www.instagram.com/cnssupplements/?hl=en

    The CNS Labgrade Ingredients – all 17 of them. In this blog post, we’ve put them in order with caffeine on top for our convenience.

    Yes, 180mg is practically a tiny dose in 2018’s pre workout market! And this is the biggest differentiator right off the bat, so we bring it first.

    Those amongst us that prefer lighter-stim pre-workouts are celebrating, especially if you don’t want to go light on the pump ingredients. Caffeine is the ingredient we all know and love — it’ll power you through your workouts while helping you put weight on the bar and onto your frame.[1-2]

    If you’re just a standard caffeine consumer, 180mg is right around the dose to feel caffeine. Note that this product wasn’t really meant to be two-scooped, as that’d be quite expensive. This is really the ingredient to set the tone for the rest of the product.

  • Citrulline Malate (6g)

    The starting end of the clinical nitric oxide enhancing dose (and plenty more pump ingredients to go), now we see where CNS is headed with Labgrade – the one scooper done differently.

    Citrulline converts into arginine, the precursor to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps your blood flow more voluminously, which means you can get more nutrients to your muscles and joints. Citrulline is well known for improving athletic recovery, boosting performance, and for providing bulging muscle pumps.[19] 6g is right where we start to love it, and that’s not the only NO booster inside.

  • Creatinol-O-Phosphate (COP) (2g)

    The Citrulline Pathway

    The Citrulline Pathway – This is how you get more arginine and then more nitric oxide

    Creatinol-O-Phosphate is what we consider to be a vastly-underrated endurance booster. Also known as COP, it should help your muscles stay in an optimal PH range. It does this by acting as a buffer that prevents the muscular environment from becoming too acidic. This helps lower the “burning” sensation we all get from longer-duration exercise. This means you can go harder for longer![21]

    Certain brands love this ingredient more than others, and that’s often based on anecdotal testing since there’s not a ton of clinical evidence. 2g is a large dose of it, showing that CNS particularly enjoys the COP and is betting you will too!

  • Betaine Anhydrous (1.5mg)

    Betaine is in here to provide cell hydration / pumps, and to assist in boosting your endurance and power output.[17-18] While 1.5g is just below our preferred total daily clinical dose of 2.5g, it’s still enough to get some water into cells for some “cellular swelling”, ie pumps. Any amount of betaine is welcome in a pump product, and for whatever reason, we see 1.5g more often than not. Hope for some good gains from it, even if they’re not “clinically-dosed”!

  • Beta Alanine (1.6g)

    1.6g – the OG — and still perfect — beta alanine dose?! We think so!

    Beta Alanine Boosts Exercise Performance

    Beta Alanine Boosts Exercise Performance when taken 3.2g per day (but that was split amongst four separate doses)

    This dose outs CNS as secret PricePlow fans. 1.6g is our preferred dose as it mitigates the annoying “tingles” that comes with a full clinical dose of beta-alanine, but still gets you very well on your way to a clinical 3.2g per day.

    The ingredient works by increasing your body’s carnosine stores, and this then helps your muscles buffer acid so that you don’t get as exhausted in the 1-4 minute performance exercise ranges.

    Even at 1.6g, beta alanine should help improve your athletic performance in longer-bout sessions like cardio or HIIT,[20] but if you’re truly serious about endurance, you’ll have to find another 1.6g (or even more?!) elsewhere in the day to get a more full saturation.

  • GlycerPump (1000mg)

    GlycerPump Logo

    GlycerPump is a new, stable from of 65% glycerol powder made by Pinnacle Ingredients.

    Glycerpump is here to deliver the insane water pumps that glycerol is famous for. GlycerPump itself is a stable form of 65% glycerol powder, and it’s been working out a lot better than other forms of glycerol thanks to its ability to stay more stable in your tub. Other forms of glyceral clump a product up way too much.

    When taken with enough fluids, GlycerPump can drastically increase osmotic pressure. In other words, it can “hyper-hydrate” you. Expect massive pumps if you’re properly hydrated – so drink your Labgrade with plenty of water![23]

  • Taurine (1000mg)

    Taurine Benefits

    Taurine’s Benefits (endurance-wise) can be seen after a single use!

    Betaine and GlycerPump need their third amigo to complete the “water pump” series.

    Taurine has staged a huge comeback lately, and is currently our favorite endurance ingredient on the market. It works acutely (right from the first dose) and is non-dose dependent. 1000mg is a perfect dose to experience the aerobic and high-intensity-interval-training benefits associated with taurine supplementation.[11]

    With added cell hydration from the power trio of taurine, betaine, and glycerol, we’re going to suggest drinking a lot of water with this workout, and get ready to add a swole-factor to your game.

  • Acetyl L-Carnitine (500mg)

    ALCAR is our preferred form of carnitine, especially if looking for the focus component from it. Due to the acetyl group, ALCAR can pass the blood-brain barrier and provide more carnitine to the brain than other forms. Expect potentially-enhanced focus, improved memory recall, and neuroprotective effects from this dose.[4-6]

  • Tyrosine (500mg)

    Types of Carnitine

    The L-Carnitine Family. We love the ALCAR that crosses the blood-brain barrier!

    Continuing with the cognitive gains, Tyrosine is the building block of the catecholamines: dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.[7] By providing more catecholamine building material, the body can produce more catecholamines in theory. This catecholamine dose will translate to an enjoyable focus-boost and motivation enhancement from slight sympathetic activation. Fear not, as tyrosine is well known for reducing stress despite its primary mechanism being sympathetic system-based.

    We’ve written a lot that L-tyrosine is our favorite form of tyrosine, and 500mg is where we typically start feeling it, so this is another great add-on for Labgrade.

  • VASO-6 (300mg)

    VASO-6 Vasodilation

    Charts like this always make us put our skeptical hat on, but CJ is now a believer!

    Yes! You thought all the pumps were done after citrulline malate and the three hydration ingredients? Not so fast!

    VASO-6 is a patented nitric oxide booster sold by Compound Solutions. It’s is a big time nitric oxide booster and may achieve its effects via endothelial-dependent relaxation activity modulation. It’ll help your blood flow, glucose uptake, and muscle protein synthesis.[22]

    It’s called VASO-6 because there’s six components they’ve pulled out of it, which include components of the nitric oxide boosting, myostatin-inhibiting epicatechin.

    Small learning note: the patent was made using grape seed extract, but the ingredient uses green tea extract to get those same compounds.

  • CoQ10 (300mg)

    Now this is a new one, and something we think sets Labgrade apart.

    Formally known as Coenzyme Q10, CoQ10 is an ingredient in the pre workout for “general health,” and one you’re likely not getting enough of without serious help like we have here. CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant used by almost every cell type in your body that also assists with energy production. This here for the ATP Synthesis, as ATP is the energy currency of your cells.

    Mitochondrial health is paramount for quality performance/energy and general health, yet too many health advocates still don’t understand that you need to give those mitochondria every edge they can get in order to be the “powerhouse cells” they are.

    CoQ10 is a supplement we truly believe everyone should be taking, but doesn’t get discussed enough in the sports nutrition world — usually only in the heart health world. Yet it’s well known for its positive cardiovascular and athletic effects,[8-10] so kudos to CNS for “thinking bigger” for us.

    CNS Labgrade Pre Workout Label

    A larger label of Labgrade

  • Magnesium Malate (300mg)

    The ATP generated above doesn’t become biologically active unless there’s a Magnesium ion to bind to, yet so many athletes are far too magnesium deficient! Hopefully not after your dose of Labgrade!

    So Magnesium is here to make sure you’re not deficient, as we need it for the aforementioned ATP activity. Magnesium deficiency is attached to all sorts of nasty anti-gains effects, so we’ll take it!

    Since magnesium malate is 15.54% magnesium by weight, 300mg magnesium malate provides ~46.62mg actual magnesium, or ~12% USRDA for an adult male. Meanwhile, the malic acid it’s attached to may also help with the Krebs cycle that’s producing the ATP too!

  • Hordenine (65mg)

    L-Theanine Tea

    L-Theanine comes from tea leaves, and pairs very well with caffeine offset any potential anxiety.

    Hordenine is a dual-purpose stimulant that acts similarly to MAO inhibitors.[15] Since MAO is the enzyme associated with PEA metabolism, hordenine is thrown into Labgrade to help the PEA last longer (yes, there’s some PEA in here we haven’t covered yet!)…

    It may also help you free up some fatty acids since it acts as a beta-2 agonist. 65mg is a big dose that’ll really help you feel the PEA longer – we normally see this at 50mg, so this is one of those bonus stims on top of the caffeine.

  • Theanine(60mg)

    L-Theanine is present to round out the stimulant ride from caffeine, Dynamine, and the other ‘exotic’ stimulants present in Labgrade. 60mg is right under our preferred 2:1 ratio of theanine to caffeine, so we expect it to take some edge off, but not too much, which is a good thing since this isn’t a blowout dose of caffeine to assist with anyway. Either way, it’ll still help by reducing the jitters that result from these potent stimulants,[13] and it has nootropic benefits when combined with caffeine.

  • Phenethyl Dimethylamine (60mg)

    Phenethyl Dimethylamine, also known as our favorite form of PEA, is a superb stimulant that’s been around for a few years now, and still seems to be going strong. PEA gives a nice blast of dopamine, but it doesn’t always last long because MAO enzymes cleave it.

    Good news though – we have hordenine above to slow those MAO enzymes down, and this specific version of PEA has some added alkyl groups to the molecule so that they last longer on the receptor site (literally blocking MAO from cleaving it off too quickly). We have an article about it here if you’d like to learn more. For this product, just know it’s a stimulant that will have many of us feeling like Thor in the middle of your workout.[14]

    N-Phenethyldimethylamine 2D Receptor with Protection Highlighted

    N-Phenethyldimethylamine is like a PEA molecule, but with an N,N’ Alkyl section that also prevents MAO from cleaving it… meaning a longer-lasting euphoric ‘buzz’ than regular PEA

  • Higenamine (60mg)

    CNS isn’t done with the stimulants yet!

    You can think of Higenamine as “baby ephedrine”. It’s a beta-2 adrenergic agonist that’ll help you free up fatty acids for energy expenditure. Beta-2’s also make breathing easy with some of its  vasodilation effects.[16] However, WADA bans higenamine during competition, so keep that in mind… given this stimulant profile, this is clearly not a supplement for a drug-tested athlete!

  • Dynamine (40%) (50mg)

    Dynamine

    Dynamine (methylliberine) is a caffeine derivative developed by Compound Solutions that’s touted to be a faster-acting theacrine (TeaCrine).

    More formally known as methylliberine, Dynamine is the fast-acting “version” of theacrine we’ve hyped up in various other products. Expect Dynamine to enhance the lower caffeine dose by providing additional energy. Better yet, it’s less likely to interfere with your baseline cardiovascular function – this is more of a “neuromodulator” than it really is a “stimulant”.

    Similar to theacrine, it is less subject to tolerance build-up than caffeine as well.[3] While the dose is lower at 50mg and a 40% standardization, yielding 20mg of actual Dynamine, this is likely to protect the taste of Labgrade. Hopefully it’s still enough to feel it… but there’s a lot of other things to feel as well.

  • Bioperine(5mg)

    Bioperine is in here to help every other ingredient hit your body better.[12] It’s standardized for piperine, the bioactive alkaloid in those peppers that gives it the pungent taste. Since ingredients like COQ10 are notorious for poor bioavailability, this is a welcome addition! 5mg is our go-to dose too. Any more than that and things get a bit “peppery”.

Wow. Now that was a mouthful. Long story short? If you want < 200mg caffeine, full pumps, and some fun exotics... you are the intended demographic for Labgrade!

Flavor – Blueberry Lemonade

Labgrade Pre Workout

Some of the purported benefits of Labgrade, many thanks to the wonderful dose of CoQ10

Labgrade comes in blueberry lemonade, which makes sense as the lemonades do well with products with several stimulants. Stay tuned to the PricePlow YouTube channel to see how it tastes!

Meanwhile, look no further than rjdarcy on the PricePlow forums to see what the founder has been – we love when companies are active in our forums!

Conclusion

We’re simply floored by this product. We review so many pre workout supplements with 300mg caffeine, but we also get a lot of questions asking what can the caffeine-sensitive person take to get in on the fun. This is one very strong option, and it follows in the vein of that first version of Kraken.

Every ingredient here barring betaine is present in a very favorable dose, and we can even forgive the betaine on the pump front thanks to GlycerPump and taurine. There isn’t a facet of exercise that was left out by CNS.

When people ask us for a lower-caffeine product, this will be our new go-to for the foreseeable future. Once it’s back in stock, save up and give it a give this bad boy a try! Do note that Labgrade contains substances prohibited by WADA! But if you’re a drug tested athlete, you’re probably not reading this far anyway. As for the rest of us, we can see why these guys are named CNS – they’re about to light yours up if you take a scoop to the dome!

Click here to see Labgrade live at CNSSupplements.com, and use coupon code PRICEPLOW5 to save $5.00!
CNS Labgrade Pre Workout Label

A larger label of Labgrade

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References

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  2. McCormack, William P, and Hoffman, Jay R; “Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance”; Strength and Conditioning Journal; August 2012; Volume 34, Issue 4, 11–16; https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fulltext/2012/08000/Caffeine,_Energy_Drinks,_and_Strength_Power.3.aspx,%20full-text%20at
  3. Lopez HL, Wells S, Ziegenfuss TN. Theacrine-based supplement and method of use thereof. Google Patents; 2014; http://www.google.com/patents/US20150132280
  4. Goo, M, et al; “Protective effects of acetyl-L-carnitine on neurodegenarative changes in chronic cerebral ischemia models and learning-memory impairment in aged rats”; Arch Pharm Res; 2012 Jan; 35(1):145-54; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22297753
  5. Carta A, Calvani M, Bravi D, Bhuachalla SN; “Acetyl-L-carnitine and Alzheimer’s disease: pharmacological considerations beyond the cholinergic sphere”; Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993; 695:324-326; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8239306
  6. Gomez L.A., Heath S.D., Hagen T.M. “Acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation reverses the age-related decline in carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) activity in interfibrillar mitochondria without changing the L-carnitine content in the rat heart”; Mechanics of Aging Development; 2012 Feb-Mar; 133(0): 99–106; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4147858/
  7. Pietz J, Landwehr R, Kutscha A, Schmidt H, de Sonneville L, Trefz FK. Effect of high-dose tyrosine supplementation on brain function in adults with phenylketonuria. J Pediatr. 1995;127(6):936-943; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8523192
  8. Rosenfeldt F, et al; “Coenzyme Q10 therapy before cardiac surgery improves mitochondrial function and in vitro contractility of myocardial tissue”; J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg; 2005; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15632821
  9. Watts GF, et al; “Coenzyme Q(10) improves endothelial dysfunction of the brachial artery in Type II diabetes mellitus”; Diabetologia; 2002; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11914748
  10. Mabuchi H, et al; “Effects of CoQ10 supplementation on plasma lipoprotein lipid, CoQ10 and liver and muscle enzyme levels in hypercholesterolemic patients treated with atorvastatin: a randomized double-blind study”; Atherosclerosis; 2007; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17681347
  11. Waldron, M., Patterson, S. D., Tallent, J., & Jeffries, O; 2018; “The Effects of an Oral Taurine Dose and Supplementation Period on Endurance Exercise Performance in Humans: A Meta-Analysis”; Sports Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29546641
  12. Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R., and Srinivas, P.S.S.R; “Influence of Piperine on the pharamacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers” Planta Med;  64(4); 353-356; 1998; https://www.thieme-connect.com/DOI/DOI?10.1055/s-2006-957450
  13. Kelly, S. P., Gomez-Ramirez, M., Montesi, J. L., & Foxe, J. J. (2008). L-Theanine and Caffeine in Combination Affect Human Cognition as Evidenced by Oscillatory alpha-Band Activity and Attention Task Performance. The Journal of Nutrition, 138(8); https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18641209
  14. Mesfioui, A., Math, F., Jmari, K., Hessni, A. E., Choulli, M. K., & Davrainville, J. (1998). Effects of Amphetamine and Phenylethylamine on Catecholamine Release in the Glomerular Layer of the Rat Olfactory Bulb. Neurosignals, 7(4), 235-243; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9730583
  15. Hapke, H, et al; “Pharmacological effects of hordenine”; Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 1995 Jun; 102(6):228-32; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8582256
  16. Zhang, N, et al; “Applications of Higenamine in pharmacology and medicine”; Journal of Ethnopharmacology; 2017 Jan 20; 196:242-252; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28007527
  17. Lee EC, et al; “Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance”; J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2010); https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-7-27
  18. Cholewa, J; “Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone”; Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, Coastal Carolina University; 2013; https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-10-39
  19. Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM; “Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. Journal of strength and conditioning research”; 2010; 24(5):1215-22; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20386132
  20. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012); “Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: A meta-analysis”; Amino Acids; 43(1), 25-37; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22270875
  21. Gaggino R, Delfino C, Menichetti G, Odaglia G; “Metabolic aspects of anaerobic lactaid maximal sport performances. Effect of treatment with Creatinol O-Phosphate”; Medicina dello sport. 1984
  22. Nogueira L, Ramirez-Sanchez I, Perkins GA, et al. (-)-Epicatechin enhances fatigue resistance and oxidative capacity in mouse muscle. J Physiol. 2011;589(Pt 18):4615-4631; https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.209924
  23. Patlar S, Yalçin H, Boyali E. “The Effect of Glycerol Supplements on Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance of Athletes and Sedentary Subjects”; Journal of Human Kinetics; 34:69-79; 2012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3590833/
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