Update 6/3/20. Optygen is a stimulant-free endurance supplement that's touted to optimize aerobic exercise performance (Vo2max) in cyclists, marathon runners, and triathletes. The Optygen formula is said to be revolutionary and based on human clinical research. There IS clinical research on increasing endurance for this supplement. That got my attention. In this review, you'll learn the research Optygen and the research on its ingredients. Let's see what we can discover.
The Optygen website (FirstEndurance.com) mentions that the Optygen formula is:
- “based on human clinical research
- latest research
One problem with these statements is that the website does not list any published peer-reviewed evidence for Optygen itself.
On the “Research” page of the product website, there is a mention of a 2007 study done by Dr. Andrew Creer at South Dakota State University. The website also mentions another study, also done in 2007 by Dr. Karlton Larson of Luther University.
However, no mention of where these two studies were published can be found. Therefore, I conclude that neither study mentioned on the Optygen website is published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
That doesn’t necessarily mean these studies were not good. They may be great —but, lack of peer review reduces the significance of these studies in my mind.
All that aside, let's now look at the published clinical research and see what can be discovered.
According to the product website (FirstEndurance.com), Optygen is composed of the following ingredients:
Amount per serving
|Cordyceps CS-4 (Cordyceps Sinensis)||
|Rhodiola Extract (Rhodiola Rosea)||
mcg = micrograms
Let's look briefly at each ingredient.
The type of chromium used by Optygen is called Chelavite®. This is an invented word used to refer to a proprietary type of chromium called ” chromium dinicotinate glycinate.” That's fancy talk meaning that this supplement contains chromium, niacin (a vitamin), and glycine (an amino acid). Glycine is probably added to increase the absorption of chromium.
It’s the chromium (and maybe the niacin also) in this mixture that is the main thing to focus on. Does chromium help exercise endurance? If it does, I can't find any published peer-reviewed proof for it. Aerobic exercise can lead to losses in chromium and this in theory might alter blood sugar control and “might” hinder exercise performance. I'm speculating here of course. That said, research seems to show less chromium excretion in those who exercise regularly.
The niacin in this mixture might also help regulate blood sugar levels by helping insulin work better. The big “if” here is whether this type of chromium (Chelavite) helps benefits blood sugar levels in aerobic athletes. At this point, I'm not sure.
Cordyceps has been popular with aerobic exercise athletes for several years. Is there any evidence it really works? In a study, cordyceps helped improve endurance in rats who exercised more so than those who did not exercise. That's interesting. The amount of cordyceps given to these rats was 200 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.
So much for rat studies. But what do human clinical studies say about Cordyceps and exercise?
In a study, Cordyceps CS4 (the same type as is in Optygen) did not help aerobic endurance in 22 male cyclists who took cordyceps for 5 weeks. The number of cordyceps used in this study was 3 grams per day (triple the amount in Optygen).
In another study,20 older adults (age 50 – 75 years) were given a placebo or 333 mg of Cordyceps CS4, three times per day for 12 weeks. In other words, the people in the study received 333 mg X 3 = 999 mg per day of Cordyceps CS4.
Researchers noted that cordyceps helped increase the point at which lactic acid starts to significantly accumulate in the blood (this is called lactate threshold).
But, the research did not see any change in VO2max (maximum aerobic ability).
Optygen Clinical Research
The Optygen supplement does have some clinical research. Here's a summary of those studies
In one investigation, 8 men (aged 18-50) were given either Optygen or a placebo. They performed two exercise tests to fatigue. The goal was to see if the supplement helped the men exercise longer before fatigue occurred.
The Optygen group first received a “loading phase” dose of 2000 mg (6 capsules) with water in the morning for 6 days. Then, they were given a maintenance dose of 3 capsules (1000 mg) with water, in the morning for the next 7 days, as was recommended by the manufacturer.
Results: Optygen did not cause any improvements in tissue oxygen saturation or any other parameters the investigators looked at.
In another study, 17 amateur cyclists were given the supplement for 2 weeks. Results: No improvement in VO2 max (max aerobic ability) was seen. Furthermore, no improvement was seen in how blood lactate or how long it took the cyclists to become fatigued occurred either.
The name ATPro is a catchy name and is an obvious reference to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main energy molecule of our body. When we burn fat or burn carbs, we “burn” it to make ATP. The ATP, in turn, breaks apart and gives us the energy that we need.
Tip. ATPro contains no ATP. That's good because even if it did, it would be destroyed in the stomach when ingested.
As far as I can tell, ATPpro is composed of several ingredients. They are:
- Calcium Pyruvate
- Sodium Phosphate
- Potassium Phosphate
They don't tell us how much of each ingredient is in ATPro. They only tell us that all of the ingredients add up to 500 mg (it used to be 800 mg). Sodium and potassium are basically just electrolytes so I won't bother with them. Instead, let’s look at the big three players:
I was one of the first people in the US to review the research on pyruvate in the mid-1990s. Back then, people used pyruvate for a LOT of things—including weight loss. Let's just look at the endurance research on pyruvate here.
In a study from 1990, pyruvate improved muscle endurance (more than placebo) in 8 male cyclists who exercised on a cycle ergometer (a stationary bike). This same effect has been seen in lab animals as well.
In another investigation, pyruvate and creatine improved hand grip exercises more so than a placebo when it was given to 49 males. The amount of pyruvate used in this study was 5 grams per day (for 28 days).
Tip: handgrip endurance may or may not translate into being better cycling endurance.
Another point is that this study used 5 grams per day. That's more pyruvate than is in Optygen. Most pyruvate studies I have seen have used between 5-7 grams of pyruvate. Not all studies show Pyruvate works.
As an aside, when I first investigated pyruvate, I tried it for a month, using 7 grams per day. I did not notice any improvement in my exercise ability.
Ribose is a type of sugar. With respect to exercise, ribose is popular among endurance athletes because of research —primarily conducted on sick people with heart disease —showing that it might help improve oxygen delivery to the heart muscle. But, does ribose help healthy people exercise better?
It's difficult to say for sure. Most of research appears to show ribose doesn’t help. For example, in a study from 2006, ribose (10 grams per day) didn’t help rowing performance in women. In another study, ribose didn’t help regenerate ATP after exercise.
I do see research on ribose helping fibromyalgia but as for exercise, for the moment, I'm skeptical.
This is one of the building blocks of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). I'm wondering if they added adenosine to Optygen in the hopes that this might help replenish ATP reserves during exercise and recovery. Adenosine is a vasodilator. In other words, it expands blood vessels. Opening up blood vessels would allow more oxygen and nutrients to get to muscles during exercise.
The scientific name is Rhodiola rosea. We pronounce this herb as “row-dee-ola”. In one study 3 grams of Rhodiola appeared to reduce heart rate during exercise and reduce how hard exercise felt when people rode a stationary bike. This is more than Optygen has.
In another study, 200 mg of rhodiola improved the time until exhaustion set in during exercise. Conversely, rhodiola didn’t work in another small study.
There is another type of Optygen, called OptygenHP (where, the “HP” in the name, stands for “high performance”).
So how are these supplements different from each other?
Here are the ingredients in Optygen HP:
|Amount per serving||% DV|
|Cordyceps CS-4 (Cordyceps Sinensis)||1000 mg||N/A|
|ATProTM Matrix||800 mg||N/A|
|Rhodiola Extract (Rhodiola Rosea)||300 mg||N/A|
So what is the difference between regular Optygen and OptygenHP? The Optygen website says that the HP version is “Twice as strong” but, for the most part, I don't see a big difference. Let's look at each product side by side:
|Chromium||2000 mcg||2000 mcg|
|Cordyceps||1000 mg||1000 mcg|
|ATPro Matrix||800 mg||800 mg|
|Rhodiola||300 mg||300 mg|
As I see it, the only difference between Optygen and Optygen HP is that the latter has beta-alanine. Let's look at that ingredient now…
Its scientific name is 3-aminopropionic Acid. Beta alanine is actually a “sexy supplement” in the world of exercise because of research noting that might help those who workout.
Let's look at some of that research.
In a study published in 2012 in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2000 mg (2 grams) of beta-alanine was randomly given to 39 male students for 6 weeks. Compared to placebo, beta-alanine improved VO2max (maximum aerobic capacity) and time until exhaustion set in when compared to placebo.
In another 2012 study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, beta-alanine improved punching force in amateur boxers. The amount used was 6 grams per day for 4 weeks.
In an 8-week-long study published in 2009 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise beta-alanine supplements were shown to significantly improve cycle sprint performance (by 11.4%) after an exhaustive bout of exercise. This study used 17 “well-trained” cyclists.
In a 2004 study that lasted 28 days, beta-alanine was shown to delay fatigue in women during sub-maximal bicycling tests compared to placebo. Interestingly, in this study, beta-alanine did not improve VO2max.
How Does Beta-Alanine Work?
The prevailing theory is that beta-alanine increases levels of a compound called carnosine. Carnosine helps reduce lactic acid levels inside muscles. In theory, this means less muscle fatigue and better/ faster recovery. Beta-alanine does not seem to raise testosterone levels.
How Much Beta-Alanine Works?
For improving aerobic exercise performance as well as sprinting researchers usually use between 2400 mg (2.4 grams) to as much as 4800 mg (4.8 grams) of beta-alanine in trained individuals. This is more than is in Optygen HP (1000 mg per serving). Here is a brand of Beta-Alanine powder that appears to have some high marks from consumers on Amazon.
Based on the research I think the main active ingredients are beta alanine and Rhodiola.
Optygen Side Effects?
The supplement has been around for several years and is likely ok to use in most healthy people. Here are some things to consider if you str not healthy or have any medical issues
- start with less than recommended for the first week
- speak to your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding
- stop taking Optygen at least 2 weeks before surgery
- If you take any medication, ask your doctor
Adenosine might have a blood pressure-lowering effect that may be a problem in those who take blood pressure medications. The blood sugar-lowering effects of chromium and niacin might —in theory —be a problem for diabetics taking diabetes medications.
How To Contact First Endurance?
On the website they give this address First Endurance:
P.O. Box 71661 Salt Lake City, UT 84171. A contact # of 1-866-FIRST11 (866-347-7811) is also given.
To return a product to the company, they give this address: 6077 West Wells Park Rd.
West Jordan, UT 84081 where the link shows what the location looks like from Google Street View.
Does Optygen Work?
The website for the product makes it sound like Optygen is great, but I keep coming back to the fact that only unpublished studies show it works —while published, peer-reviewed studies (which I listed above) indicate it does not work. While I could be wrong, I think the best evidence is for beta-alanine and Rhodiola.
Here it is on Amazon if you want to see what others are saying
I’ve noticed that after prolonged usage of Optygen I get a weird shortness of breath feeling and increased heart rate along with the tingling feeling in my extremities that others have noticed. This happens after about 4-6 weeks of use.
This happened to me last year while using optygen. I stopped using it only to try it again this year as I believe it does work. I’m currently experiencing the same symptoms and am going to stop using it again – and never use it again!
Hi Jimmy, I wonder if that could be due to the Beta Alanine in Optygen? Ive read tingling can be a side effect. Im not sure of the shortness of breath though.
Anyone else have thoughts on this?
I found this to be an extremely negative review, almost to the point that I’m starting to question whether you may have some sort of personal vendetta against the First Endurance company. Surely there was SOMETHING postive to arise out of testing this product?
Hi Joe, I can assure you, I have no ax to grind. What is so negative about showing you the research on the product /ingredients to help you decide if its right for you? I didn’t try myself and if it worked for you, I’m glad.
Joe, thanks for the review. I’ve wondered about this product. Have you ever looked into the Ultragen recovery shake product by First Endurance? I looked around your website and saw reviews to somewhat similar products like Muscle Milk and the Met-Rx RTD 51, so it may be within your wheelhouse, too.
Krull, thanks. so far I have not looked at Ultragen but I just did add it to my list of things to eventually get to. Thanks for letting me know about it.
When is the best time of the day to take optygen hp
Mirna, as far as I was able to tell there is no best time of the day to take it.
Carmen Diaz says
Hello! I am runner and cyclist! woman can use optygen or have a side effects?
Hi Carmen, if you are healthy, I doubt it. I’d also compare the price to the cost of the ingredients that I thought were the active ingredients that I mentioned in my review.
I am concerned over the ingredient Adenosine. Especially the statement “Adenosine is a vasodilator. In other words, it expands blood vessels.” I recently had a bike related injury to my lateral lower leg resulting in a nasty hematoma (about the size of a large grapefruit lateral to my shin bone). It has been 1 month and it has not improved. I am wondering if the expanded blood vessels has anything to do with the extent of the vascular damage and slow repair process. I had been training and taking this supplement for 2 months prior to the bike crash. What are your thoughts?
Elizabeth, have you been to your doctor yet? Were you taking Optygen when you had your accident? I doubt that Adenosine in Optygen played a role. I think that its just because you had a bad accident. If you have not yet been to the doctor about it, I recommend you do that.
I find that a lack of comment to this site, from First Endurance, is telling enough.
Dennis, most supplement companies don’t comment on my reviews. It’s a big internet and I’d imagine that most dont even know I’m out there. I do always welcome any diverging points of view or updates on research or clarifications on where I may be wrong.
I’ve used it for 3 weeks and I did notice a spike on my watts and exercise recovery.
Mac, thanks. I hope it continues to help you.
chris aarhus says
dang , very thorough Joe. I have used this off and on for years with noticeable shifts in HR vs Watts…though I never really record it for ‘proof’ lol. But I did find that when I would just buy the Rhodiola by itself to save some money, I get the same a.m. HR drops. I also heard that if the Rhodiola isn’t from Russia, then it isn’t quality. I know the last reply/post to this is 2013 but hey, it popped up in the particular Google search I did 🙂
Chris, thanks I appreciate that. You might also want to take a look at my review the following things as well
As these are also sometimes marketed to athletes
I noticed the new formula for Optygen HP has dropped the Cordyceps. I find this highly suspicious that either (a) too costly of an ingredient, (b) it didn’t really work (and they know it), or (c) increase profits. OR ALL OF THOSE!
Noel, thanks for letting me know about this. I wasn’t aware they took cordycepts out of Optygen.
I think you did a great job of reviewing the literature. Sounds like some unsubstantiated claims and nothing more to me.
Thanks Jill. That’s a pretty neat website you have. I didn’t know all that about Pittsburgh either!