Remember the early 2000s?
Limp Bizkit were top of the charts. Baggy jeans were always soaking wet at the bottom.
The word WAP had a very different meaning.
But if there’s one thing that’s still remembered fondly from this time, it’s pre workout supplements.
Seriously, go speak any of the seasoned lifters in your gym. They’ll happily recount hilarious tales of snorting nuclear-coloured powder in the gym toilets and being unable to feel their face until the next day.
But how would one of the standout pre workouts from that era stack up against today’s big-hitters?
Well, today we are going to find out because the legendary BSN NO-Xplode is going under the microscope!
I was initially surprised to discover that this product is still bring sold, given that most of its contemporaries have long been retired, so imagine my amazement when I saw that not only is it still alive, it’s f**king thriving! Yep, No-Xplode still consistently ranks among the biggest sellers for most supplement retailers.
So let’s see if it can recapture the glory years under the scrutiny of my deliberately harsh supplement rating system in this comprehensive review!
(Remember, no pre workout has EVER received a full 5 star review from me – this one got close, though.)
Table of Contents
BSN NO-Xplode – The Return Of The King…?
BSN NO-Xplode was everywhere when it first hit the market in the early 2000s.
However, if I’m going to answer the question:
“Is NO-Xplode still the best pre workout?”
I first have to ask the question:
“Was it ever?”
The clue is in the name (NO).
You see, back in those days the supplement industry was like the Wild West, and you essentially had 2 choices with regards to the type of pre workout you bought.
I’ll illustrate it with my patented “as f**k” scale:
At one end of the “as f**k” scale there were brands like iSatori, who were releasing cutting edge products. Their 2004 pre-workout H-Blocker (above) was the first in the world to discover the awesome training benefits of beta-alanine. Imagine that! Bta-alanine is now in everything, and they did it first! This company was awesome as f**k (see how it works?).
On the other end of the scale you had brands like USP Labs (famous for Jack3d) who would experiment with untested stimulants like DMAA, which was later deemed dangerous and banned worldwide. These guys were dangerous as f**k.
BSN No-Xplode sat somewhere in the middle of the two.
Their products never really pushed the boundaries in terms of scientific research, and they also never included anything illegal. Instead their popularity came down to securing a genius sponsorship deal with the UFC when public interest was spiking in the mid-00s.
NO-Xplode 3.0 Review – The Good & The Bad
As you can se from the name above, this is the third iteration of NO-Xplode.
It contains several great ingredients (beta-alanine, citrulline malate, caffeine, l-tyrosine and creatine monohydrate) which are proven to enhance training performance from mental focus, to power, and endurance.
Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends.
BSN have chosen to hide the doses of each key ingredient behind a f**king proprietary blend, so the user has no idea whether the product contains a high enough dose to produce any of the results it boasts about on the tub.
(From my experience working in the fitness world for the last two decades, that means it doesn’t!)
When we dig deeper into the formula we uncover even more missteps, such as the combination of caffeine and taurine (ingredients which are known to counteract each other and leave the trainee feeling sluggish) and the inclusion of an unproven creatine blend (creatine anhydrous) as opposed to the standard creatine monohydrate. It also contains less than 1 gram of citrulline malate which, considering a clinical dose is 6-8 grams, is as useful as air conditioning on a motorbike.
Unfortunately, BSN rely more on hype than anything else!
Heck, even the sales pitch on the company website reads:
BSN NO-Xplode – Ingredient Breakdown
Now let’s run through each of the main ingredients contained within BSN NO-Xplode 3.0.
I’ll reveal what each of them is capable of doing, and discuss the dose.
Starting with the good stuff:
Caffeine is awesome.
BSN have included 275mg in their so-called “thermic energy blend” and that’s enough to unlock most of its training beneifts (increased mental focus, calorie output, and work rate), although it’s short of the full 400mg dose needed to unlock caffeine’s often forgotten strength benefits. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Dose: Look for between 168mg (minimum) and 400mg (maximum). BSN NO-Xplode contains 275mg which is great.
Here’s another amazing ingredient.
Perhaps best known for the tingly, skin-crawling sensation it creates (parasthesia), there’s a lot going on under the hood with this one.
Most notably you’ll see a dramatic increase in your body’s ability to fight against the build-up of waste product around working muscles (“the burn”), resulting in more reps per set and greater muscle growth. One study from researchers at the College of New Jersey showed a 22% increase in the number of repetitions trainees could perform to failure on a heavy squat program! (7)
Soe people find that a full clinical dose of beta-alanine (3.2 grams) is hard to handle in one sitting, so it’s useful to know that you an actually spread your daily intake across two servings if you wish – in fact, it might even lead to a better muscle uptake. (8)
Dose: You can either get 3.2g at once, or shoot for 1.6g twice daily. NO-Xplode contains 1.8g.
3g Creatine Blend
This one could’ve been great, but it falls just short of the mark.
You see creatine is the best-selling bodybuilding supplement of all time (seriously), and it’s proven to create new muscle growth via increase reps per set, greater power output, and faster recovery speed. (9)
It can even force water into your muscle cells to give you a fuller, harder look.
Unfortunately, BSN follow the trend of using bulls**t creatine blends rather than sticking to the basic formula. No modern blend of creatine has ever outperformed the original, but that doesn’t stop supplement brands from unnecessarily shaking things up, so instead of providing you with a clinical 5 grams of creatine monohydrate you get the unproven combination of creatine anhydrous & creatine monohydrate.
Dose: 5 grams of creatine monohydrate is enough to unlock all training benefits. NO-Xplode contains a 3 gram combination of creatine anhydrous and creatine monohydrate.
Less Than 1g Citrulline Malate
This is where things go from bad to worse.
You see, BSN have used a supplement industry techniue known as “fairy dusting” – which means they’ve included ingredients in order to be able to make bold claims on the packaging but haven’t provided a sufficient dose to achieve those results.
CitMal is a key example of this because BSN’s sales page is littered with comments about how you’ll experience increased blood flow, faster recovery between sets, and better endurance levels thanks to the citrulline malate found in NO-Xplode, but what they haven’t told you is that a full clinical dose is 6-8 grams and this product contains less than 1 gram! (10, 11)
Simply put, you ain’t gonna see those results!
It’s frustrating to see this, because BSN made forward strides by replacing the arginine from the original NO-Xplode formula with citrulline (citrulline is much more effective), but they’ve used such a small dose it’s pretty much useless. (12)
Dose: A full dose of CitMal is 6-8 grams, but BSN NO-Xplode 3.0 contains less than 1 gram.
And now the suck gets harder.
We don’t know how much taurine is included (cuz proprietary blend), but it’s probably around the 1 gram mark given that most other pre workouts which use it shoot for that number.
Taurine is often touted for its ability to increase mental focus – and it works – but there’s a huge caveat:
Taurine and caffeine do not work well together!
Ever felt sluggish after drinking a pre workout? That’s likely down to this combo! Or how about your energy levels suddenly drop halfway through training? Yup, also this! These two ingredients hate each other. In fact, studies show that taurine actually opposes many of the effects of caffeine. That means we should choose one, not both, and it makes sense to prioritize caffeine because it’s way more useful. (13, 14)
Dose: A clinical dose of taurine is 2 grams, but most pre workouts contain about 1 gram. It appears NO-Xplode has 1 gram.
1g Tyrosine Blend
Dopamine is good. It makes us feel happy, energetic, and like we wanna smash the holy mother of f**k outta some dumbbells.
Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, which makes it a very useful pre workout ingredient (especially when used alongside caffeine which has many of the same benefits).
BSN hide the dose behind their proprietary blend (argh!), but it looks to be around 1 gram, and they’ve used a combination of n-acetyl-tyrosine and l-tyrosine.
This dose here is actually okay, but the combination is a dumb idea. Supplement companies often brag that n-acetyl-tyrosine is a superior version of this ingredient because it offers greater solubility, but standard l-tyrosine has much more research to support it. We have years of studies showing it can significantly elevate blood levels of tyrosine for a long time (130-270% increase), but research is on n-acetyl-tyrosine is very sketchy indeed (0-25% increase), with some studies questioning whether it works AT ALL! (15, 16, 17, 18)
Dose: We need about 1.5 grams to unlock all of the benefits of this ingredient, but NO-Xplode only contains 1 gram.
BSN NO-Xplode 3.0 Review – Russ’ Final Verdict!
Some things are better left in the past.
I find it crazy that this product continues to shift so many units, as it fails to deliver on almost every front, but what’s most perplexing about NO-Xplode is that we aren’t reviewing an 20-odd year old supplement here because BSN have actively continued to develop the formula in the years since it was first released (version 2 arrived in 2011 and version 3.0 in 2018) yet it’s still so weak!
The only saving grace for NO-Xplode 3.0 is that it comes in a chunky 60 serving tub, but for the price you pay I say you’d be better off grabbing something like RedCon1 Total War instead.
It gets one star from me.
You can try BSN NO-Xplode 3.0 by clicking here.
- Duncan M. J., et al. The effect of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance to failure. J Strength Cond Res (2011).
- Childs E., et al. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (2006).
- Cook C., et al. Acute caffeine ingestion increases voluntarily chosen resistance training load following limited sleep. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab (2012).
- Del Coso J., et al. Dose response effects of a caffeine-containing energy drink on muscle performance: a repeated measures design. J Int Soc Sports Nutr (2012).
- Mora-Rodríguez R., et al. Caffeine ingestion reverses the circadian rhythm effects on neuromuscular performance in highly resistance-trained men. PLoS One (2012).
- McCormack W. P., et al. Caffeine, Energy Drinks, and Strength-Power Performance. Str Con J (2012).
- Hoffman J., et al. Beta-alanine and the hormonal response to exercise. Int J Sports Med (2008).
- Artioli G. G., et al. Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2010).
- Rawson E. S., et al. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res (2003).
- Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res (2010).
- Alvares T. S., et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab (2012).
- Schwedhelm E., et al. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of oral L-citrulline and L-arginine: impact on nitric oxide metabolism. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (2008).
- Kim S., et al. Taurine Induces Anti-Anxiety by Activating Strychnine-Sensitive Glycine Receptor in Vivo. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (2009).
- Giles G. E., et al. Differential cognitive effects of energy drink ingredients: caffeine, taurine, and glucose. Pharmacol Biochem Behav (2012).
- Glaeser B. S., et al., Elevation of plasma tyrosine after a single oral dose of L-tyrosine. Life Sci (1979).
- Pietz J., et al. Effect of high-dose tyrosine supplementation on brain function in adults with phenylketonuria. J Pediatr (1995).
- Magnusson I., et al. N-acetyl-L-tyrosine and N-acetyl-L-cysteine as tyrosine and cysteine precursors during intravenous infusion in humans. Metabolism (1989).
- Druml W., et al., Utilization of tyrosine dipeptides and acetyltyrosine in normal and uremic humans. Am J Physiol (1991).
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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own russhowepti.com.
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