Is nooLVL a Scam?

Scam
Scam 
nooLVL

SUMMARY: It is our opinion that nooLVL by Nutrition 21 is a scam. The public data substantiating its claims, efficacy or safety are minimal and raise serious doubts about this product in our mind. More worryingly, it seems that nearly every product using nooLVL is using less then the targeted and designed 1600mg dose in a single serving, sometimes as low as 750mg in a single scoop serving size. If you do use the product, be sure to take a clinical dose which may require multiple scoops or drinks. 

What is nooLVL by Nutrition 21?

nooLVL by Nutrition 21 is a sports nutrition ingredient designed by Nutrition 21. It has just recently launched and is tailored to the rapidly growing eSports and gaming market. The ingredient takes Arginine and bonds it to silica. This is then combined with inositol. Supposedly this combination helps improve processing speed, executive function and energy. They claim this is the first ingredient specifically studied in eSports athletes. However, their own human clinical trial does not paint such a clear picture.

The Study

We can find one public study funded by Nutrition 21 substantiating nooLVL (it looks like some brands might be using the claims from Nitrosigine which is a similar but not identical to nooLVL, we are unsure). The research was funded by an unrestricted research grant to QPS-Missouri, by Nutrition 21, LLC. It looks like the research was conducted by Nova Southeastern University. Based on this study, nooLVL claims to help improve processing speed, executive function and energy. However, the final paragraph of the discussion section states:

The effects of the study product on video game performance were mixed, with only some participants showing improvement. It is not certain, therefore, whether the study product had an impact on actual performance.

That is a pretty horrible final sentence. Let that sink in, a test of nooLVL compared to a placebo (taking nothing at all) got that result. They paid for this study and I genuinely feel bad for Nutrition 21.

We would have liked to see a much more robust study. The study itself compared nooLVL to a control group but our biggest issue with this study is it failed to demonstrate how the components of nooLVL are better than their constituent parts or why the addition of silica improves the formulation? Arginine is a popular supplement for athletes as it is touted to increase nitric oxide activity in the body which is the method of action that nooLVL claims to make its improvement. But is nooLVL better then just taking arginine and saving your money? A typical sports nutrition pre-workout dose of arginine is 3-6g, while the exact formula of nooLVL isn’t public, it would have to contain less then 1600mg of arginine since that is the total dosage of the ingredient and it must leave room for silica and inositol. Maybe a normal arginine supplement which naturally has a higher dose would be better then nooLVL anyway? An even-better question: is Citrulline better then nooLVL? Citrulline is another supplement option because it is converted into arginine in the kidneys. It also has the advantage of a better absorption rate. Citrulline is able to increase levels of plasma arginine much more effective than arginine itself.

We would like to see a study that shows not just why nooLVL could be better then taking absolutely nothing at all but how its better than the numerous alternatives and most interestingly if it would be better at all then Citrulline which has a far higher bioavability then arginine.

Currently, nooLVL is like saying Monster or Bang energy makes you more awake when compared to water...sure, but it’s a false comparison, how does it compare to Redbull or coffee e.g. the things people are already taking? On a non serious note, since they are targeting gamers maybe they should study how it compare to the typical fuel of choice...

Mountain Dew and Cheetos
Is nooLVL safe?

The safety of nooLVL is unknown. We can find no public information backing up safety claims. Each of the three ingredients in nooLVL (bonded arginine silicate combined with inositol) can sometimes have concerning and somewhat serious side effects which we have listed below. Nutrition 21’s own study concluded that “adverse events were minimal”, however they did not expand on what minimal was or how exactly minimal is defined. They notably did not say there were no adverse effects. Please consult your doctor before using!

What are the side effects of nooLVL?

A study conducted by Nutrition 21 concluded that “adverse effects were minimal” but did not expand on what adverse effects were experienced or what exactly "minimal" was. nooLVL is made of three ingredients, and we have listed the common side effects:

Arginine – SAFE for most adults. The observed safety limit, the highest dose in which one can be relatively assured that no side effects will occur over a lifetime, has been suggested at being 20g of arginine a day in supplemental. Higher doses have been tested and well tolerated, but no evidence exists to suggest their safety in all populations across a lifetime.

Inositol – POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken orally by mouth. Side effects include nausea, gas, difficulty sleeping, headache, dizziness and tiredness. In addition, it’s unclear whether inositol supplements are safe for long-term use. In most studies, inositol supplements were only taken for a year or less.

Silica – POSSIBLY SAFE in small amounts. Can cause allergic reactions, for example rash and swelling of the face, upset stomach. It should be avoided by children and people pregnant or planning on being pregnant. It should also be avoided by people with kidney disease – they may accumulate silica in their bloodstream. Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen, and can cause serious lung disease and lung cancer. It only takes a very small amount of respirable silica dust to create a health hazard. Although it’s now known to be an important trace element, historically silica’s actually been considered more harmful than helpful to our health.

What is nooLVL made of?

nooLVL is a proprietary blend made of bonded arginine silicate combined with inositol. Arganine is a conditionally essential amino acid found in the diet. It is a dietary supplement used mostly by athletic people because it is the amino acid that directly produces nitric oxide via the nitric oxide synthase enzymes. Silica is more commonly known as silicon. Inositol is a word that collectively refers to molecules with a similar structure, a collection of nine stereoisomers. While the term 'inositol' is used commonly with dietary supplements, it usually refers to a specific stereoisomer called myo-inositol. Inositols are pseudovitamin compounds that are falsely said to belong to the B-complex family.

Claims Test

One of the best tests to gauge substantiation and research is how comfortable do the sports nutrition brands using this ingredient feel making the claims themselves. When buying a branded ingredient, typically a sports nutrition brand will sign a non-disclosure as well as indemnify the ingredient manufacturer, this means the brands hold the branded ingredient manufacturer harmless for any claims they make. With a non-disclosure agreement, the sports nutrition brands “know how the sausage is made” and ultimately they will be responsible and potentially sued for the claims the ingredient allows. If the data substantiating a claim isn’t strong, many wont risk it, although some often will to get ahead in this market. We took and did a break down of the claims of the four nooLVL launch partners from Stack3d linked here. According to the publicly quoted and recently public nooLVL study, Nutrition 21 tested with a dosage of 1600mg (1.6g). We will also compare the formulations and see who is dosing nooLVL correctly and what brands are using a lower, non-clinically substantiated dose. 

one group was given a placebo, while the other was given 1500mg of inositol stabilized arginine silicate along with an extra 100mg of pure inositol (collectively known as nooLVL).

Make sure you take the clinically studied amount of nooLVL!

ProductnooLVL in 1 servingClinically Studied Dosage?
Ghost Gamer800mg
ProSupps Dr. Jekyll Stim-Free800mg
Neurohacker Collective Qualia Nootropic Energy800mg
Force Element Fight Through750mg
XP Sports Boost800mg
Advanced GG Focus800mg
Olympus Lyfestyle Grind Energy800mg
Outbreak Nutrition F.P.S800mg

Ghost Gamer

Ghost Gamer
UPDATE: I am changing my review of Ghost Gamer after speaking with Daniel Lourenco, the CEO and Founder of Ghost. We both agreed on the need for increased transparency and improved science in the sports nutrition industry. The website for Ghost Gamer now clearly tells people that the benefits of nooLVL are "at a full 1600MG (per two scoops)". To the best of my knowledge, not a single other brand even attempts to educate their users on the correct dosing for this ingredient. If you want to take a gamer product, this one is the most transparent. I am leaving my original review below so you can see where I was wrong.

One of the largest and fastest growing lifestyle supplement brands on the market, Ghost Nutrition recently launched their Ghost Gamer targeting the esports category and includes the nooLVL ingredient. On its label, Ghost Gamer highlights how the product improves focus and energy. It would seem that Cognizin (focus and energy) as well as the 75mg of caffeine (energy) seem to be primarily driving these claims with no added benefit by including nooLVL in their formulation. Worryingly, a single scoop of Ghost Gamer only contains 800mg of nooLVL, a shocking 50% less then what was studied as a clinical dose. Given how the energy and focus claims with Ghost Gamer can remain completely unchanged if they remove nooLVL entirely from the formulation, its seems to us pretty clear Ghost does not have a lot of faith in the substantiation behind the nooLVL ingredient yet. 

ProSupps Dr. Jekyll Stim-Free

ProSupps Dr. Jekyll Stim-Free
ProSupps is one of the larger and most well-known brands in the pre-workout space. We are pretty big fans of the ProSupps Dr.Jekyll pre workout which has been used by a few members of the Nutrition Scam team. However, we have never tried the recently launched Dr. Jekyll Stim-Free pre-workout. Interestingly and worryingly, ProSupps seems to be using nooLVL for an unintended and unstudied purpose, not to target esports or gaming enthusiasts, but to enhance pumps? Unless this is just a pre render or something? Above, we have copied a picture of the label from their website should they take it down. To the best of our knowledge, there is no publicly know substantiation for nooLVL to increase pumps in athletes during a workout, even Nutrition 21’s own site doesn’t advertise that as a benefit? Additionally, not that it matters, since the claim was never studied but one scoop of Dr. Jekyll only contains 800mg of nooLVL which is half of the clinical dose.

Neurohacker Collective Qualia Nootropic Energy

Neurohacker Collective Qualia Nootropic Energy
Neurohacker Collective is a fairly large newcomer to the nootropic space. They recently launched Qualia Nootropic Energy as a ready to drink shot featuring 800mg of nooLVL. This means you would need to drink two entire energy drinks to hit the clinically tested dosage which to us seems unrealistic and misleading to consumers. Perhaps because of this the Qualia Nootropic Energy only features the vague claims: “Focused, Alert and Driven”. We are unsure if these are even claims or a slogan since its weird they alternate between the past (focused) and present (alert) tense. Given how vague the claims are we are also unsure what ingredients they are derived from. Is energy coming from nooLVL or from the 90mg of caffeine in the formulation? Given the inclusion of caffeine and vague benefits, it would seem that Neurohacker Collective is unsure about the science behind nooLVL as well.

Force Element Fight Through

Force Element Fight Through
Force Element is a brand we are unfamiliar with. They are apparently a quickly growing brand based out of Australia. They are using nooLVL in the stimulant free version of their Flight Through pre-workout. Based on their nutrition label, one scoop only provides 750mg which means you would need two scoops to, nearly, hit the clinical dose. Based on their product label, they seem unsure of the science as they are making NO CLAIMS whatsoever based on nooLVL.

XP Sports Boost

XP Sports Boost
XP Sports is the new gaming focused brand by legacy supplement maker Iovate, the creators of brands like Hydroxycut, Six Star, and Muscletech. Much like the other brands here, we can find no claims tied to the use of nooLVL. Also disappointingly, one scoop only provides 800mg of nooLVL.

Advanced GG Focus

Advanced GG
We have never heard of the brand Advanced GG before but it looks like a new brand dedicated to the gaming market. Its disappointing to see a new player on the bock only put in 800mg of nooLVL in a single scoop.

The Name…

nooLVL Meme

Who named this product? nooLVL sounds like a bunch of old men thought it would be cool to spin “new” and “level” to be hip and appeal to kids. Did no one decide to run this name past their own kids or anyone who actually plays games? Normally we wouldn’t touch on something as superficial as the name of a product but we think this helps reinforce and demonstrate how this product could have been rushed to market to capitalize on the growing esports trend without consideration for substantiation.

Update: It looks like someone at Nutrition 21 reads this blog or one of their brands like Ghost or ProSupps informed them about it. Since this post went live, their site now says more information coming soon. We will see…

nooLVL Update