Bodybuilders and supplement users beware: Scientists have found that the widely available pre-workout supplement, Craze, may contain significant amounts of a methamphetamine-like chemical.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence that dendrobium, a substance derived from an orchid, has stimulant-like properties, a lot of amateurs have been turning to it to get fired up. After several athletes failed drug tests, claiming they'd only taken dendrobium, researchers decided to dig deeper. "There was a lot of buzz saying, 'This really helped me in the gym; this really gets me fired up,' " says Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the study. "There was a disconnect between what was on the label and how people were describing it."
It turns out they may have been ingesting more than an orchid. The chemical analysis suggests that Craze, the most popular purveyor of dendrobium, also contained a meth-like substance. When the researchers analyzed samples from three batches of Craze, ordered from three different sources, they found it had, per serving, 21mg to 35mg of a methamphetamine analog (meaning a compound with a chemical structure a whole lot like that of meth). No published research had ever found this compound in dendrobium or any other plant.
There are only a handful of papers out there on the compound Cohen, and his team found and all of them focus on its chemical structure rather than its biological effects. "There's zero information about what happens when it's in the human body," says Cohen. Driven Sports, the maker of Craze, has suspended production and sales of the supplement until further notice.
If you find any Craze left on the shelves, for now, you might want to pass it over to find another pre-gym boost. Cohen offers an easy-to-find alternative: caffeine. "It works, to a small degree, and it's completely safe," he says. Drink a small cup or two of coffee or take a 100mg caffeine pill before working out.