It’s been well over a year since our coverage of the storied STIM LORD pre-workout supplement – which was quite a fun one – but this means it’s time for Anabolic Warfare to hit us with another high-stimulant pre-workout.
This month, we’re taking a break from our ongoing Project Muscle coverage to talk about Anabolic Warfare’s Black Series MANIAC pre-workout supplement.
Black Series Maniac is a high-stimulant pre-workout supplement that operates a bit differently. We’ve been seeing a ton of kitchen sink high-stim pre workouts that use an abundance of nitric oxide boosters to add to the pump. The only problem with that is that those added pump ingredients reduce the stim hit!
Instead, Anabolic Warfare here chases a huge stim rush (from a 380 milligram caffeine blend and more) with some pump, but not so much that it levels out the stim. What you get here is a serious pop, and it’s only amplified by the memory-supporting lion’s mane extract inside – a unique and welcome addition.
But it’s not too aggressive, because it’s leveled out by a solid amount of L-theanine to keep things in check.
We cover Maniac Black in depth below: first, let’s check availability to see if it’s out there, because the first run sold out very quickly on Anabolic Warfare’s site:
In a single 1-scoop (15.6 gram) serving of Black Series Maniac from Anabolic Warfare, you get the following:
L-Citrulline – 3,000 mg
Ingested citrulline gets converted into the amino acid, arginine, which in turn gets converted into nitric oxide (NO) by your body. So if arginine is just an amino acid, why not cut out the middleman and supplement with arginine instead?
Weirdly enough, supplementing with citrulline actually works better at raising NO levels,[2-4] and the reason has to do with a peculiarity of human digestion. Basically, there are enzymes in your stomach that specialize in breaking down arginine, but there are no such enzymes for citrulline.
Thus, citrulline makes it through your stomach mostly undigested, whereas arginine largely gets broken down in the stomach before it can be absorbed into your bloodstream. We like getting more NO before a workout because NO causes a phenomenon called vasodilation, where blood vessels dilate and expand in diameter.
Larger blood vessels means better circulation, and since your blood is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells, better circulation means better athletic performance.
Owing to its ability to increase NO production, citrulline has been shown to do the following in peer-reviewed research:
- Facilitate oxygen uptake and increase muscular power
- Increase athletic endurance
- Reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), by up to 40%
Beta-Alanine – 3,000 mg
Beta-alanine is another ingredient that’s great for aiding athletic performance and, specifically, increasing endurance.
It’s one of the oldest ingredients in the history of the modern supplement industry, and it probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon for the simple reason that it works.
When beta-alanine is joined to L-histidine, an essential amino acid, the resulting molecule is carnosine.
Carnosine is concentrated in your muscles, where it works to buffer lactic acid. This lactic-acid-buffering effect of carnosine is key to beta-alanine’s effectiveness, because lactic acid buildup is a huge factor in the fatigue that gradually comes on during intense exercise.
So why not just supplement with carnosine instead?
The story is more or less similar to citrulline and arginine: carnosine itself is not very bioavailable when taken orally, but the carnosine precursor beta-alanine is.
Since your body’s supply of beta-alanine is actually the rate limiting factor in your body’s carnosine production,[8,9] supplementing beta-alanine is the point of maximum leverage for increasing carnosine levels.
Two big meta-reviews, analyzing 40 different peer-reviewed studies on beta-alanine supplementation and athletic performance, have concluded that beta-alanine is most effective at increasing endurance during workout sessions between 30 seconds and 10 minutes in duration.[10,11]
This 3-gram dose is pretty much the clinically-validated dose of 3,200 mg, so we’re confident that it can be effective.
With big doses of beta-alanine, you’ll probably notice a tingling sensation in your upper body.
Although this can be a little alarming if you’ve never experienced it before, research on beta-alanine currently indicates that the “beta-alanine tingles” are totally harmless.
Betaine Anhydrous – 2,500 mg
Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine (TMG), resembles creatine in its effects, even though it has a very different mechanism of action.
So if you’re coming to the subject of betaine for the first time, it can help to take your mental starting point as a “creatine-like supplement.”
The similarity lies in the fact that both betaine and creatine work to increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production.
The difference is that creatine donates phosphate groups to this metabolic process, whereas betaine donates methyl groups.
In fact, betaine is something of a super-methylator.
That’s important because methylation is one of those fundamental metabolic processes that winds up directly or indirectly affecting everything that goes on in your body.
One of the most important functions of methylation is to control levels of homocysteine in your blood.
High homocysteine levels have been associated with arterial calcification, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular maladies. So betaine’s anti-homocysteine effect represents a great investment in your long-term health and athletic performance.
Betaine also has some cool benefits on short-term athletic performance as well.
It’s an osmolyte, meaning that it promotes cellular hyperhydration, forcing a greater than usual volume of water into your cells by raising osmotic pressure around your cells.
The additional water comes with more nutrients and fuel, which can make your cells stronger[16,17] and more resilient to heat stress.
There’s plenty of research showing betaine’s ability to improve strength, power, and body composition.[19-24] But we want to highlight one study that we find particularly impressive.
This study, published in 2013, showed that subjects taking 2,500 milligrams of betaine daily – the same dose used in Black Series Maniac – gained 5.3 pounds of muscle and lost 6.4 pounds of fat over the 1.5-month study period. That’s a 3% decrease in body fat percentage.[17,25]
Another study, this one from 2018, partially replicated that result in collegiate women.
These women did a weight training program in conjunction with betaine supplementation and ultimately lost 4.4 pounds more body fat than the placebo group.
L-Tyrosine & N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine – 1,000 mg & 250 mg
Tyrosine is what’s called an essential amino acid because your body can’t make them on its own – you must consume them in their whole forms, from food or supplements.
And you should definitely give your body all the tyrosine you can because it’s the precursor to several important neurotransmitters, including adrenaline and dopamine, which both enhance focus, increase alertness, and give us more mental energy.
Supplementing with a big dose of tyrosine can flood our brains with neurotransmitters, helping initiate the famous fight or flight response that can actually improve athletic performance.
Tyrosine’s ability to increase focus and motivation is especially acute in people who are sleep deprived. In this population, tyrosine can measurably improve cognition.[28,29]
Inositol-Stabilized Arginine Silicate (Nitrosigine) – 750 mg
Remember how in the citrulline section of this article, we talked about how orally-ingested arginine gets prematurely broken down in the stomach? Nitrosigine is a special form of arginine designed to solve this problem.
It’s a chemical complex of arginine, inositol, and potassium silicate (ASI for short).
The combination of these three ingredients consistently outperforms each ingredient taken individually, mostly because Nitrosigine has proven to be much more bioavailable than ordinary arginine.
The reason is basically that the other two molecules buffer arginine, protecting it from the arginase enzyme long enough for the arginine part of the ASI molecule to pass through your stomach and into your intestines.
Unlike pure arginine, Nitrosigine is a reliable NO booster and confers all the usual benefits of increased NO production. It acts fast and lasts for a long time, with NO levels significantly elevating just 30 minutes after ingestion. After that, they remain elevated for up to six hours.[33,34]
Nitric oxide works in the brain, too
Boosting NO usually benefits the brain, which, like any organ, is dependent on good circulation. But even for a NO booster, Nitrosigine appears to be especially good at enhancing cognition in multiple domains – at least at higher doses.
For one thing, it has been shown to prevent the temporary cognitive decline that’s typically caused by intense exercise. But even in young, healthy men who had not recently exercised, Nitrosigine was able to speed up their task switching, also known as multitasking. And new research published at the end of 2021 showed that healthy young adults had a short-term memory score boost when taking a full 1500 milligram dose compared to placebo.
The issue here is that much of the research cited above used double the dose of Nitrosigine – it’s most frequently studied at 1500 milligrams, not the 750 in Black Series Maniac. However, Anabolic Warfare is working the stim-angle harder than the pump angle, as mentioned in the intro.
L-Theanine – 350 mg
The amino acid, theanine, occurs naturally in tea leaves – by which we mean true tea, the Camellia sinensis plant. Theanine actually has neurotransmitter-like properties in the human brain, on which it has calming, anxiolytic, inhibitory (anti-excitatory) effects.[39-41]
Importantly, theanine does not cause sedation, which marks it out as different among supplements with similar effects.
This really gives you the best of both worlds. Combined with the fact that theanine is ultra-safe and dirt cheap explains why it was such an insanely popular ingredient in the 2010s nootropic craze.
Another big factor in the widespread enthusiasm for theanine is its synergistic effect with caffeine:
When it comes to improving cognitive and emotional states, theanine, taken in combination with caffeine, seems to outperform either ingredient alone. Caffeine, as we all know, is one of the most widely used (and abused) psychoactive drugs in existence, so there’s a huge consumer market out there – possibly including you, dear reader – that could benefit from the synergistic effects of creatine and theanine.
Despite not technically being a depressant, theanine supplementation seems to have pretty awesome effects on sleep. A 200-milligram dose – just over half of what we have in Black Series Maniac – has been shown to significantly lower resting heart rate, which is an indication that it’s taking the edge off and blunting your body’s physiological response to stress.
This is undoubtedly in part because theanine upregulates GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps us access a state of deep relaxation.
Caffeine Anhydrous – 325 mg (of 380mg total caffeine yield)
Caffeine is a pre-workout mainstay, and there are tons of good reasons for this.
Caffeine raises your energy levels – in more ways than one
Almost every adult has used caffeine to fight fatigue at one point or another, and knows that caffeine is pretty good at it.
Caffeine’s anti-fatigue mechanism of action is adenosine inhibition, adenosine being a metabolic byproduct that accumulates in your brain during the waking state. The more adenosine builds up, the more tired you feel.[45,46] Caffeine inhibits adenosine, not by decreasing the amount of adenosine in your brain, but by blocking the adenosine receptor.
So by inhibiting adenosine, caffeine can figuratively give you more energy, by decreasing fatigue.
But it can also literally increase your body’s energy production – i.e., actual cellular energy – by inhibiting phosphodiesterase, an enzyme that’s responsible for degrading cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).[45,46]
cAMP actually controls the rate at which your body turns sugars and fats into usable energy, so more cAMP means faster energy production and greater energy availability for pretty much every cell in your body.
Put simply, higher cAMP levels speed up your metabolism. Caffeine is particularly good at increasing fat burning, with studies showing that fat metabolism can increase by as much as 50% after you’ve taken caffeine.
Faster fat burning means you’ll have an easier time reaching your body composition goals, but it also means more fuel for your workouts.
More cellular energy = better mental and physical performance
The faster metabolism from increased cellular energy production is the basic explanation behind caffeine’s performance-enhancing effects.
After all, caffeine is one of the best-known and best-studied ergogenic aids – defined as substances intended to enhance physical performance, stamina, or recovery.
Caffeine’s ability to increase energy production can ultimately increase (if only slightly) the strength, endurance, and power of those who take it.
But physical performance isn’t all that’s increased by caffeine – it can boost mental performance as well.
Caffeine use has been shown to speed up reaction times, improve attention,[50,51] and increase alertness.
Caffeine can also increase working memory, which is where your brain holds memories until they can be consolidated into long-term memories.
Working memory is a key factor in fluid intelligence, which is known to decline with old age.
Careful with the dose
We love caffeine, but it’s not for everybody, especially not in big doses. If you aren’t sure of your caffeine tolerance, don’t start with the full 380 milligram yield serving (we have more caffeine coming up from dicaffeine malate). Start with partial scoops and work up to a full one.
Lion’s Mane (hericium erinaceus) Fruiting Body Powder – 300 mg
Lion’s mane, also known as Hericium erinaceus, has been used as a folk remedy for millennia all over the continent of Asia, as both a medicinal aid and food.
This ancient wisdom has been validated by the latest scientific research on nerve growth factor (NGF), which we’ll get into below.
Because of the incredible benefits lion’s mane can have for brain health, via NGF upregulation, it has become a popular supplement in recent years, which in our opinion is a great trend.
Beta-glucans Upregulate Acetylcholine
There are a ton of bioactive compounds in lion’s mane, so there’s no way we can discuss them all in this article.
The big one, though, is the beta-glucans in lion’s mane.
Beta-glucans are psychoactive polysaccharides that inhibit acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is special because it’s centrally involved in the brain’s process of memory consolidation. Acetylcholine boosters are often used as “smart drugs” because increasing acetylcholine levels makes retention of new knowledge much easier.
But acetylcholine doesn’t just affect mental cognitive skills – it’s also important for physical cognitive skills like balance and coordination.[55,56]
Beta-glucans upregulate Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)
The beta-glucans have another, arguably more important effect on brain chemistry, though: they also increase the expression of a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF), which actually stimulates the growth of new neurons and dendrites, the connections between neurons.
This physical remodeling of the brain caused by NGF is, to some extent, permanent, marks lion’s mane out as different from most other nootropics, which generally have temporary effects by inducing a particular neurochemical state.
Theobromine – 150 mg
Caffeine and theobromine go great together, as these molecules are both categorized as methylxanthines and have synergistic effects when taken in combination.
Theobromine decreases hunger and raises the metabolic rate, just like caffeine does,[59,60] and also inhibits phosphodiesterase and adenosine, also just like caffeine.
Where it differs from caffeine is its longer half-life, which smooths out the stimulant energy curve compared to caffeine. This means you’ll get less of a crash or withdrawal as it wears off.
Infinergy (di-caffeine Malate) – 75 mg (yields 55 of 380 mg total caffeine)
Di-caffeine malate is a special form of caffeine that’s buffered by malic acid (malate).
The chemical bond between the caffeine and malate slows the rate of caffeine absorption, making it longer-acting.
Much like theobromine, this form of caffeine has a flatter energy curve. The caffeine concentrations in your blood won’t spike as high, but they will stay elevated longer.
It’s increasingly more common in the supplement industry to stack fast-acting anhydrous caffeine with long-lasting di-caffeine malate, which basically gives you the best of both worlds: a big initial jolt coupled with a gradual tapering off, in order to minimize the risk of crashing.
Besides that, you’ll get all the usual benefits of caffeine from this ingredient.[61-64]
This brings us to a whopping total of 380 milligrams of caffeine (since dicaffeine malate is ~73% caffeine yield) – not a small amount. Yes, we’ve seen bigger, but this is well above average.
Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) Leaf Extract (50% Polyphenols, 25% Catechins, 15% EGCG) – 30 mg
Green tea extract might strike you as a curious ingredient to put in a pre-workout, but as you’ll see, it actually makes a lot of sense.
First of all, it increases fat oxidation, which not only supports weight loss and body composition goals, but also generates more energy for your workouts, in the same manner as caffeine and theobromine.
It can also improve circulation, which is obviously a great thing to have for workouts, as is the reduction in blood pressure that green tea seems to cause.
Other benefits include better insulin sensitivity,[68,69] and a higher sense of overall well-being.
Bottom line is green tea and green tea extracts can help you feel better – and when you feel better, you’ll perform better.
Rauwolfia vomitoria Root Extract (std. to 90% Rauwolscine) – 1 mg
Rauwolfia extracts are standardized for rauwolscine, and sometimes called “alpha yohimbine” or “alpha yo” because they’re similar to, but stronger than, an ingredient called yohimbine.
In fact, rauwolscine has the same mechanism of action as yohimbine – both ingredients have been shown to inhibit fat deposition and increase the body’s energy availability.
Yohimbine, an alpha-2 antagonist, and rauwolscine, a beta-agonist, work by stimulating adrenaline and noradrenaline receptors, which ultimately suppresses appetite, aids weight loss, and improves focus, besides giving your system a massive jolt of energy by initiating the fight or flight response.
Yohimbine HCl – 1 mg
As mentioned in the previous section, yohimbine HCl, the main bioactive constituent of yohimbe extracts, is a potent alpha-2 antagonist that helps kick off the infamous fight or flight response.
It’s a bit less intense than rauwolscine, but similar – the combination of these two ingredients is nothing to sneeze at.
Toothed Clubmoss (Huperzia serrata) Aerial Extract – 100 mcg
Huperzia serrata extracts are standardized for huperzine A, a bioactive constituent we briefly touched on in the lion’s mane section of this article.
Much like the beta-glucans in lion’s mane, huperzine A improves learning, memory, balance, and coordination by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, thus raising the acetylcholine levels in your brain.
It’s a compliant yet hard hitting pre-workout. Lots of caffeine, but not too much. The yohimbine / alpha-yohimbine blend, but not too much. Theobromine added to the mix — but, once again… you get the picture.
We’ve always appreciated finding ways to get more mushrooms like lion’s mane into someone’s daily regimen. It doesn’t need to be pre-workout, but that’s a great time to sneak in some of these beneficial nootropic ingredients.
We’ll get back to our coverage of Project Muscle (stack this with some Project Hulk for real fun times) next time… but until then, prepare for a good month of Maniac.