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!
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.
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:
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)
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. 6g is right where we start to love it, and that’s not the only NO booster inside.
Creatinol-O-Phosphate (COP) (2g)
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!
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!
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, 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 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!
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.
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]
Continuing with the cognitive gains, Tyrosine is the building block of the catecholamines: dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a dual-purpose stimulant that acts similarly to MAO inhibitors. 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.
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, 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.
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. 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)
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. 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 is in here to help every other ingredient hit your body better. 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 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!
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!