Is it head and shoulders above the competition, or just another big name flop?
I’ll find out for you, in my official MAN Sports Game Day review.
This explosive pre workout supplement came to my attention earlier this month thanks to a rather eye-catching commercial, in which it claims to be vastly superior to every other pre workout on the market, due to its ‘no expense spared’ formula.
If you’re a regular reader then we know I usually plan my reviews well in advance, and this supplement was on my radar for a summer review, but the ad in question ticked me off so much I decided to do this impromptu breakdown on Game Day immediately.
So, does it live up to its own hype? Let’s find out…
MAN Sports Game Day – The Good
As always, I begin with a quick round-up of the main talking points.
We’re off to a good start, with a full clinical dose of 6g citrulline included in Game Day. This will provide you with some great pumps, and faster recovery between sets while you smash the s**t out of the iron.
We also get a whopping 3.2g beta-alanine.
That’s another full clinical dose, and although research indicates a slightly higher absorption rate by splitting it across two separate servings of 1.6g, taking all 3.2g in one serving will guarantee you feel “the tingles” like a kid who’s just washed his face with a nettle.
Although creatine doesn’t need to be included in a pre workout (there’s no benefit to having it before training versus any other time of day), it often gets thrown into the mix because it allows manufacturers to make claims about improved strength on the packaging. The fact that MAN included creatine HCL is a good thing. I’m a fan of HCL as an alternative to monohydrate, because it allows us to draw the benefits of creatine with a smaller dose.
Finally, we get a large serving of caffeine and l-theanine. At 358mg, this puts Game Day near the top end of the pre workout market in terms of caffeine dosage, and it will certainly give you a kick up the behind if you’re dragging a** before you hit the gym.
The inclusion of l-theanine should nullify (or at least try to) the comedown which is commonly associated with a large dose of caffeine.
All in all, not too bad!
MAN Sports Game Day – The Bad
No product is perfect.
Especially one that claims to be.
There are a few areas where Game Day comes up short. Most notably is the inclusion of l-citrulline instead of industry standard citrulline malate.
The awful ad video I mentioned earlier (more on this soon) tries to put a positive spin on l-citrulline. In reality, CitMal carries all of the benefits of pure l-citrulline and the malic acid compound also impacts the Krebs cycle to convert more food into usable energy, providing us with more bang for our buck.
This is not the first time we’ve seen Game Day, by the way.
It has been around for a few years and has undergone a number of updates to its formula to keep up with the trends in the supplement industry. I like this approach, because it keeps a product fresh and means MAN Sports don’t have an endless line of new pre workout supplements on the market, but the downside in keeping up with the latest trends is that it falls victim to the conveyor belt of bulls**t the fitness industry is always pushing.
A couple of years ago this product hid its formula behind a proprietary blend. Thankfully, that’s now a thing of the past. Then we had an iteration of the product which included the now-banned exotic stimulant DMHA. This makes all their talk of ‘clean energy’ with the new product seem rather meaningless, as it appears they’re simply following trends as opposed to setting them.
The brand new version has the inclusion of juniperus communis and coffee fruit extract as the primary stimulant drivers.
This has been the popular choice of most pre workouts which were previously based around DMHA (Total War went down the same route). However, no research exists to show that juniperus communis can perform the energy-boosting tasks it is being associated with, so to throw all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, is another example of a company just following what every other major supplement manufacturer who got caught in the crossfire of the DMHA ban started doing.
It would have made sense to base the product around ingredients which have stacks of research documenting their effectiveness, if that’s how the company planned to market the product against its competitors…
That Awful Advert…
I’ll link to the ad in question below. If it’s still online, you’ll see it.
My problem with this ad is the arrogance towards “the other guys”, a so-called leading competitor, which has been handpicked to make Game Day look like a God.
It also features a few plays on words which are downright misleading.
“Pure” l-citrulline being one such instance, giving the impression that the l-citrulline in Game Day is superior to citrulline malate, which we know is not the case.
They claim that citrulline malate is “a less pure, less usable form, and you’re basically only able to use half of that.”
This is a flat out lie.
Also, someone may want to inform MAN Sports that they include citrulline malate in their own intra-workout formula, called Pump Powder, and they sing its praises on the packaging.
But the suck gets harder as the video continues…
“Next up we have 1000mg of “science backed” agmatine sulfate, versus the competitors’ 500mg or maybe even less.”
Agmatine sulfate is not science backed in the slightest. In fact, the most well-conducted study on long-term agmatine supplementation was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food back in 2014 by Dr. Gad Gillad. He had this to say:
“That agmatine is touted for bodybuilding purposes is completely unsubstantiated and is backed by outright false claims.”– Dr. Gad Gillad
1000mg, 500mg, maybe less, it doesn’t matter; agmatine sulfate is useless!
Next up they claim that creatine monohydrate is “a lower quality, lower absorbing form of creatine” than creatine hydrochloride. I’m a big fan of creatine HCL, and it does have a better rate of absorption which allows us to use a smaller dosage, but it has never been shown to be of higher quality. No form of creatine has ever outperformed monohydrate.
They claim that the inclusion of juniperus communis is designed to increase the mind/muscle connection. This is something it has never been shown to do.
Finally, MAN Sports hype their caffeine and l-theanine blend as being superior to the “synthetic, lab-made, bulls**t caffeine” being used by other companies.
Again, this is completely misleading.
“Natural” caffeine? Again, this is a health buzzword used with the intention of misleading the customer into believing it’s superior or in some way ‘not processed.’ But all supplements are processed. Blue raspberry pre workout powder doesn’t grow in a field.
The caffeine in Game Day may well be derived from natural sources (it’s been done in many other pre workouts before), but natural caffeine and synthetic caffeine are both chemically identical and perform the exact same stimulating effects on the body. We’ve known this information for almost 100 years. (1, 2)
At the end of my official Game Day review, I’m going to re-do this blatantly misleading comparison, by putting it against some real leading competitors, to see how it does. But first, let’s break down the entire formula with a little guide to each ingredient inside Game Day.
Make no bones about it, this is a huge serving of caffeine!
358mg puts Game Day way ahead of most pre workouts, which hover between 200-250mg caffeine per serving.
I’ve already shown you that there are no advantages to it being ‘natural’ caffeine or not, but caffeine is caffeine, it’s the world’s most proven stimulant for good reason; it works!
Caffeine will improve everything from focus, to energy, and even a slight improvement in calorie burn (if you’re caffeine naive). (3, 4, 5)
Interestingly, it can also be used to boost power output, but we would need a dose of 400mg to see these benefits. (6, 7, 8)
A 2012 study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal looked at over 70 clinical trials on caffeine supplementation during sports performance and found that 400mg is the optimal dose for strength and power improvements. They also found that anything under 168mg isn’t sufficient enough to yield any of caffeine’s training benefits. (9)
(I’m looking at you, Monster, Red Bull, etc.)
There are supplements out there which go with a full 400mg dose, so if you’re looking to get those strength training benefits (and if you can handle it), go with something like AML Pre Workout for that.
The inclusion of l-theanine should offset the crash which usually accompanies a large serving of caffeine.
It creates a calming effect, and can prolong the effects of caffeine by making it less ‘in-your-face’. (13)
However, the research which showed these benefits used a 1:1 ratio of caffeine to l-theanine (200mg each), whereas Game Day goes with a top heavy split of 385mg caffeine and 200mg l-theanine.
Citrulline is the real driving force behind a good pre workout.
It will improve your recovery between each set, increase your endurance, and even give you a better pump, thanks to its ability to open up nitric oxide pathways and create a better delivery of nutrients and water to muscles as they work. (8, 9)
A 2010 study found that participants were able to force out an average of one more rep every set when they used citrulline. Those kind of results are potentially very useful indeed, so it’s great to see a pre workout deliver a full clinical dose of 6 grams.
The top end of citrulline dosage is 8 grams, after which there are no additional training benefits to be reaped by going higher. Again, there are supplements which go all the way up to that dose to give the absolute maximum results citrulline can offer, such as the aforementioned AML Pre Workout.
By using l-citrulline instead of citrulline malate, MAN Sports have handicapped themselves purely so they could make bulls**t claims of “pure” citrulline being better than CitMal.
While l-citrulline may work well as a performance enhancer during aerobic activity, research on it during anaerobic exercise (i.e. weight training) is not so great. (10, 11, 12)
Beta-alanine is well-known as the pre workout ingredient which causes “the tingles.”
But parasthesia (its science name) is just a temporary side effect and should not be confused with whether the beta-alanine is ‘working’. Once you become used to supplementing with it, even a high dose will no longer cause parasthesia.
At 3.2g per serving, Game Day delivers a full clinical dose of beta-alanine.
That’s a great thing, because continued supplementation of this powerful amino acid will improve your ability to push through the build-up of lactic acid during intense exercise. (14)
New research suggests that consuming two smaller servings of beta-alanine leads to slightly greater uptake into the muscle cells versus one giant serving (also, most people cannot handle a full 3.2g because it makes them want to tear their own face off), but these improvements are only slight. (15)
2g Creatine HCL
Creatine is the best-selling bodybuilding supplement of all time.
Exploding onto the scene in the early 1990’s, it has remained at the forefront of the bodybuilding landscape ever since. It is also one of the most well-researched substances, and when we dive into that research it’s easy to see why creatine is so popular.
A 2003 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that supplementation caused an 8% increase in explosive strength, and a 14% increase in the number of reps performed to failure! (16)
When taken into context of long-term training and supplementation, that is f**king huge!
MAN Sports opt to use creatine HCL instead of creatine monohydrate, and I explained above how they pedal some myths by stating HCL is better. The only real difference between the two forms is that creatine HCL requires a smaller dose. (17)
Two grams is enough to get the job done.
Of course, we could argue here that creatine is an unnecessary ingredient in a pre workout supplement. There are no benefits to using it immediately prior to training versus at any other time of day, it’s included so that the manufacturer can make claims of improved strength output on the tub.
This is where things get a little sketchy for Game Day.
Taurine is the darling ingredient of the energy drink industry because it is cheap and can improve focus, but this requires a daily dosage of around 2 grams. (18)
But the downside is that taurine counteracts the effects of caffeine. In a supplement so reliant on its huge caffeine serving, it makes no sense to include taurine. (19)
1g Agmatine Sulfate
As mentioned earlier in the article, agmatine sulfate is often used in bodybuilding supplements with claims of benefits as a “pump enhancer.”
These benefits are completely fabricated and have never been shown in any research.
The lead researcher of a 5 year study on agmatine supplementaion concluded that it serves no purpose as an active ingredient in bodybuilding supplements. The fact that MAN Sports highlight the 1 gram of agmatine in Game Day versus the 500mg or less in other companies products just shows they don’t seem to know about their own ingredients. (20)
1g Choline Bitartrate
Choline is useful for its focus enhancing qualities.
If I want to nitpick (and you know I always do), I’ll point out that the premium form of choline is Alpha-GPC. Despite MAN Sports making such a big deal about including ‘only the best ingredients’ in their advertising, we get the cheapest and most basic form of choline right here.
150mg Juniperus Communis
Juniperus communis appears to be supplement manufacturers’ answer to USADA bringing down the ban hammer on DMHA.
It is said to work alongside caffeine to boost energy output, but no research exists (yet) to show it has any effect at all.
Many pre workouts which were previously heavy on DMHA have jumped ship to JC, allowing their products to be sold worldwide (because juniperus communis is totally safe and legal, unlike DMHA), even though the reputation of those products as ‘strong as f**k pre workouts’ were built on a different original ingredient entirely…
NeuroFactor, a.k.a. coffee fruit extract, rounds out the list of ingredients in the Game Day pre workout formula.
This is an experimental nootropic ingredient which may enhance mood (not quite as much as the eurphoric aspect of DMHA, but that’s what they’re trying to replace here), and a dose of 100mg has been shown to yield some positive results, but the research is in its very early stages and must be built upon before NeuroFactor can be considered a major player. (21,22)
MAN Sports Game Day Review – Final Thoughts
This is a solid pre workout, held back by a few rookie mistakes.
The transparent formula is a step forward, and the inclusion of a large serving of caffeine as well as a full dose of beta-alanine will definitely get you charging into the weights room.
But these benefits are offset by the unnecessary inclusion of l-citrulline over citrulline malate, as well as taurine and agmatine sulfate.
Further still, for a pre workout which has supposedly been designed with athletes in mind, they appear to have completely overlooked the benefits of betaine. It does not feature here at all.
That said, I have seen far (farrrrrr) worse pre workouts hit the market in recent years, so I don’t want to be too harsh on MAN Sports because the product is fairly decent.
Now back to that advert…
I can probably best illustrate the fact that it won’t trouble any of the industry’s top products, despite it’s own arrogance and hype, by reshaping their silly advert. Let’s compare it to AML Pre Workout.
The current undisputed champion of pre workouts for athletes is AML Pre Workout. By sticking to proven, safe, and legal ingredients (no experimental nootropics), Advanced Molecular Labs have nailed the dosages and created a product which currently has no rivals.
Even with less servings per tub, it’s a straight KO. You get what you pay for.
That’s why it got 4.5 stars in my review here, becoming the first product (ever) to get more than 4 stars from my deliberately harsh supplement rating system.
It’s as close to perfect as we can get, and as you can see, it trounces Game Day in a direct comparison.
That being said, Game Day is a decent pre workout, albeit one with some minor formula issues and an unjustified sense of superiority. So my MAN Sports Game Day review concludes with the awarding of 3.5 stars.
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- Scott, C., et al. Synthetic Caffeine. Science. (1947)
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- Suzuki T, Morita M, Kobayashi Y, Kamimura A. Oral L-citrulline supplementation enhances cycling time trial performance in healthy trained men: Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled 2-way crossover study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2016;13:6. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0117-z.
- Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., Lord, T., Vanhatalo, A., Winyard, P. G., & Jones, A. M. (2015). l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 119(4), 385–395.
- Cutrufello, P. T., Gadomski, S. J., & Zavorsky, G. S. (2015). The effect of l-citrulline and watermelon juice supplementation on anaerobic and aerobic exercise performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 33(14), 1459–1466
- Haskell, CF, et al The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. (2008)
- 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)
- Miller, D. Oral bioavailability of creatine supplements: Is there room for improvement? Annual Meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2009)
- 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)
- Gilad, G. M., et al. Long-term (5 years), high daily dosage of dietary agmatine – evidence of safety: a case report. J Med Food. (2014)
- Reyes-Izquierdo, T., et al. Modulatory effects of coffee fruit extract on plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. (2013)
- Futureceuticals. “NeuroFactor Increases Plasma Levels of BDNF in Humans. (2012)