Animal Pak - Inside the Legend
Animal Pak - Inside the Legend

For 35 years, one supplement has been the cornerstone of more professional bodybuilders, Mr. Olympia champions, and athletes than any other. It’s not some pre-workout or whey protein powder or even some super-secret Franken-steroid brewed up in a Soviet lab.

This supplement is readily found on store shelves to this day and is one that everyone, young and old, can benefit from taking. The supplement we’re talking about is none other than Animal Pak - the “ultimate training pack.”

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Animal Pak has provided the foundation for some of the world’s most well-known powerlifters and bodybuilders, and if you’ve been in the fitness game any length of time, you’ve almost certainly encountered the multivitamin monster.

While you might be quick to cast aside Animal Pak as just another multivitamin, don’t be so hasty...at least not until you’ve really learned what it contains and why it is the way it is. And with that, we get to the topic of today’s piece -- anything and everything related to Animal Pak.

So, let’s start at the top, with a simple question…

What is Animal Pak?

At its core, Animal Pak is a multivitamin/multimineral supplement used by athletes to supply essential vitamins and minerals depleted by the rigors of training. But, lumping Animal Pak next to every other generic mass-market multi on the store shelf is a grave disservice to the seminal supplement, so let’s dig a little deeper into what goes into an Animal Pak.

Animal Pak supplies over 60 key ingredients in 11 different tablets, including ample amounts of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and ergogenics (performance enhancers) a hard-training athlete needs to address their increased micronutrient requirements. Essentially, Animal Pak delivers everything you need, along with plenty of extras, to support performance, enhance recovery, and promote growth.

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Why Use Animal Pak?

This is a common question most of you have when first encountering and 11 tablet behemoth of a supplement. You’re probably also thinking “why can’t I just use a regular multivitamin?”

Well, consider this - generic supermarket multivitamins are made for the average couch potato, not the person who’s attacking the weights with intensity 4-5 days every week. Sure, the bargain bin multivitamin is better than nothing at all, but training and sports increase the micronutrient needs of active people. Research confirms as much, too. [1][2]

Now, you might contend that a well-rounded diet full of lots of fruits, vegetables, meat, and fats is more than enough to cover your nutritional needs, but how can you be certain? Due to the farming and processing practices of today, the soil the crops are grown in isn’t nearly as nutrient dense as it was decades ago, which means that the foods you’re assuming are supplying all the essential micronutrients you need might not be as abundant in micronutrients as you think. This can create nutrient deficiencies. Add to that the nutrient-depleting effects of intense training and rigorous dieting and you have the perfect recipe for a severe nutrient deficiency.

Over time, these nutrient deficiencies will reduce performance, recovery, and muscle growth. Plus, it also impairs the function of the immune system, increasing the likelihood you’re going to become sick, which prevents you from training, furthering the decrease in performance and gains.

That’s where a mega-dosed performance vitamin like Animal Pak becomes essential.

Backed by Research!

How many multivitamins can you think of that have undergone the rigors of clinical testing?

Not too many.

That’s another area where Animal Pak stands out from the rest. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition compared the effects of taking Animal Pak against a placebo.

Twelve resistance-trained men were divided into two groups of six, with one group receiving the “PAKs” and the other receiving a placebo. All 12 men performed the same training routine for four weeks that consisted of four days of lifting, and like most guys these men only trained legs one time per week, while the other three days were upper-body focused. [3]

Here’s a look at their training program during the trial:

Animal Pak Workout

The training routines consisted of 4 sets of 8 or more repetitions at 80% one repetition maximal (1RM) with short rest intervals between sets (<60s). Essentially, this is your typical bodybuilder workout - the ideal candidate for Animal Pak. One-repetition maximums (1RM) were determined prior to the start of the supplementation and after 4 weeks of training.

Regarding diet, all men received individual nutritional consultation during the study and had their diets balanced according to their needs. The use of other supplements outside of Animal PAK and whey protein (as prescribed by the nutritionist) was considered as a factor for exclusion from the study. Subjects consumed one PAK 30 minutes before the training session and every morning of non-training days.

Animal PAK Research Results

At the conclusion of the 4-week study, men consuming Animal PAK showed a significant decrease in body fat, whereas the placebo group did not. Additionally, the Animal PAK group also showed better immune system function, as evaluated by a questionnaire that assessed symptoms and infections.

However, there were no significant differences in muscle size or strength between the two groups. Now, this may be due to the fact that the trial only last four weeks, and most hypertrophy studies typically use 12 weeks to assess any increase or decrease in size, although strength gains can be documented in as little as 2-4 weeks. [4][5]

Now, what can you take from this study?

Well, it’s clear from the results that Animal PAK does support immune function and has some body recomposition benefits as well. However, it would have been better if researchers had compared Animal PAK to another multi-vitamin and potentially extended the trial to 12 weeks to see if any hypertrophic changes occurred. That way, we could actually determine if the 11 tablet behemoth that is Animal PAK is truly superior to your mega-market multivitamin.

So, what’s in Animal PAK that might make it jump off the shelf compared to the typical multivitamin/multimineral in your kitchen cabinet right now?

Let’s find out!

Animal PAK Ingredients

To start our discussion of Animal PAK’s ingredients, let’s compare its ingredient’s list to another common leading men’s “one a day” formula.

Here’s the ingredient list for Animal PAK:

Animal Pak ingredients

Now, here’s the ingredients panel for the average mass market multivitamin for men:

For Men

Right off the bat, just by comparing doses of common nutrients between the two such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin C, you can see massive differences in the dosages included. That’s not even mentioning the slew of other complexes included in Animal PAK.

No doubt, you’re wondering if all those mega doses in Animal PAK are necessary or do you just end up excreting all of them. Remember, Animal PAK is designed for the active individual, that trains consistently with intensity. That means they’re burning through vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients like crazy. They’re also exposed to more oxidative stress due to increased physical activity.

So, for the average sedentary person, Animal PAK probably is a bit overkill, but for the hard-charging athlete, their bodies have a significantly greater need for micronutrients, which is why Animal PAK includes such sizeable servings.

But aside from monstrous servings of essential vitamins and minerals, what else does Animal PAK offer that the conventional multivitamin doesn’t?

Let’s find out…

Animal PAK Amino Acid Complex

If you’re a competitive athlete, hardcore bodybuilder or powerlifter, or even a regular guy who trains consistently each and every week, you know the importance of protein and the role amino acids play in repairing and building muscle tissue.

Animal PAK includes a whopping 19 amino acids in its Amino Acid Complex, including the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and all nine essential amino acids (EAA). Outside of those nine amino acids, there are also several non-essential and conditionally essential amino acids, such as glutamine, arginine, tyrosine, glycine, and proline.

Intense training brings greater wear and tear on the body, requiring larger amounts of amino acids to support the slew of growth and repair processes that occur outside of training. Now, you’ll get the majority of your amino acids from whole foods, including whey protein most likely. The addition of the Amino Acid Complex is just added insurance to make sure you’re not lacking in any of the various amino acid the body uses on a minute-by-minute basis.

Performance Complex

Animal PAK is designed for the active individual. As such, it stands to reason that they would include a batch of ingredients to enhance and support athletic performance. Included in Animal PAK Performance Complex is:

Uni-Liver Blend (4230mg). Composed of liver and beef protein isolate, this supports liver health and function.

Carnitine (25mg). Amino acid found in red meat that supports fatty acid oxidation (fat burning) in the body.

Choline (250mg). Essential nutrient that plays a role in neurotransmitter synthesis (acetylcholine) as well liver function, brain development, nerve function, energy production, and muscle coordination.

Eleuthero (1750mg). Adaptogen that helps reduce fatigue, combat stress, improve endurance, and boost immunity.

Hawthorne (250mg). Leaves and berries of the hawthorne plant have long been used to support and improve cardiovascular health and function.

Inositol (125mg). Pseudovitamin similar to glucose in a structure that enhances cellular signaling in the body. At higher doses, it helps combat feelings of anxiety.

Milk Thistle (500mg). Plant frequently used as a natural treatment for liver problems. Some research indicates it may be beneficial for individuals with alcohol-related liver disease. [6]

Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (400mg). Chemical naturally occurring within folic acid (a form of Vitamin B9) that is most commonly found in sunscreen for its ability to protect against ultraviolet light.

Pyroxidine alpha-ketoglutarate (200mg). Form of vitamin B6 commonly supplemented to improve energy production as well as glutamine, since alpha-ketoglutarate is a precursor to glutamine.

Animal PAK Antioxidant Complex

Heavy lifting and intense exercise put quite the toll on the human body. In addition to the muscular breakdown and glycogen depletion that occurs, exercise also generates oxidative stress, and lots of it. While some stress is good (and necessary) for adaptation, chronic stress and inflammation are not good, as it can lead to a host of diseases, including arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

Athletes expose themselves to considerably more stressors on a daily basis than sedentary individuals, which puts them at a greater risk for systemic inflammation as well as chronic aches and pains. To help fortify your body’s natural antioxidant powers and its defense capabilities, Animal PAK includes an arsenal of awesome antioxidants to combat oxidative stress, including:

Alpha Lipoic Acid (100mg). The “universal” antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid is found in virtually every cell of your body and plays an essential in energy metabolism as well as serving as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Citrus Bioflavonoids (1,000mg). The peel of citrus fruits is naturally rich in potent phytonutrients such as hesperidin, naringin, and quercetin that enhance absorption of essential vitamins, including Vitamin C, as well as support cardiovascular health and combat inflammation.

Co-enzyme Q10 (5mg). A compound found in the mitochondria that’s responsible for energy production as well as defending the cell against oxidative damage as well as bacteria or viruses. [7]

Grape Seed Extract (50mg). The seeds and skins of grapes are packed with potent polyphenols that support and enhance cardiovascular function, due to their ability to promote blood flow. These phytonutrients also serve as powerful antioxidants too, as seen with resveratrol.

Lutein (1mg). One of 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids in plants such as carrots or kale, lutein is an antioxidant that protects the eyes, skin, and health from oxidative stress.

Lycopene (1mg). The antioxidant made famous by tomato ketchup, lycopene is naturally occurring phytochemical responsible for the red color in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene serves as a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the eyes and brain. And some research indicates it may also be useful for treating neuropathic pain. [8]

Pine Bark Extract (200mg). Pine bark is loaded with pycnogenol, a unique phytonutrient which demonstrates fairly impressive antioxidant abilities. [9]

Kelp (10mg). This large brown seaweed is rich in iodine, an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in proper thyroid function and metabolism.

Animal PAK Digestive Enzyme Complex

The final batch of ingredients that separates Animal PAK from just about every other multivitamin on the scene is its digestive enzyme complex.

Whether it be food or supplements, what ultimately determines how effective a given item is hinged on how well your body digests, absorbs, and utilizes the nutrients inside of it. In other words, you could have the most anabolic food in the world, but if your body can’t properly digest it and assimilate those nutrients, you’re not going to get any gains from it.

That’s where digestive enzymes come in. These micronutrients enhance your body’s ability to absorb and use all the other powerful ingredients inside Animal PAK. Included in the digestive enzyme complex are:

Bromelain (100mg). Enzyme naturally occurring in pineapple that helps digest protein as well as reduce swelling and inflammation.

Inulin (250mg). A type of water-soluble prebiotic fiber commonly found in chicory.

Lipase (10mg). Enzyme secreted by the pancreas that breaks down fats into fatty acids and glycerol.

Papain (64mg). Digestive enzyme found in papaya that helps break down protein.

Protease (64mg). Protein-splitting enzyme that helps break long chains of proteins into shorter ones. Now that you’ve got a better understanding of all 55+ ingredients in Animal PAK, you might be wondering what led Animal to produce its comprehensive health support supplement and how it evolved over the years.

So, let’s take a second to address the history and philosophy of Animal.

Animal Philosophy

Established in 1983, Animal started as a simple bodybuilding supplement company with the release of Animal Pak, and over the course of 35 years, the brand has created a cult-like following like few brands have ever accomplished. There’s a reason people are always flocking to the Animal Cage at trade shows.

Founded in New Jersey, Animal is a family company committed to developing a true sense of brotherhood and loyalty with its consumer creating supplements and providing free content to educate and inspire the hardcore athlete.

Animal Timeline

1977. The parent company of Animal, Universal Nutrition, is founded in Linden, New Jersey, USA. Shortly thereafter, Universal Nutrition headquarters moves to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where it has remained to this very day.

1983. The legend is born -- Animal Pak debuts as the consummate multi-vitamin for an athlete. This is considered by many the true origin of sports nutrition as we know it today.

1995. Animal Pak label gets a facelift. Universal Nutrition also expands the Animal supplement line adding in the thermogenic fat burner Animal Cuts and the all natural, non-hormonal anabolic agent Animal Stak.

2001. The Animal Pak website debuts featuring articles on nutrition, training, and lifestyle, all revolving around the no-nonsense lifestyle that is Animal.

2008. The iconic Animal imagery is added to the supplement tub and the first of the highly successful yellow Animal t-shirts arrives.

2009. Animal Pak claims its 5th straight Supplement of the Year honor at a major online retailer. It would actually own the category for a total of eight years (2005-2012).

2015. Animal finally launches its own protein powder in Animal Whey. Shortly thereafter, the brand releases its high energy pre-workout Rage XL and its energy amino acid supplement Juiced Aminos to round out the Animal line in terms of supplement powders. The brand’s first mass gainer supplement, Animal Mass, soon follows.

2016. Animal Pak finally gets made into a powder! No longer do you have do choke down 11 tablets to get your daily fix of micronutrients. Animal Pak Powder comes in a variety of flavors allowing you to sip your micros along with a meal. There are slight differences between the pill and powder versions though.

2018. Animal Snak, the brand’s entry into the ever more crowded protein bar market, arrives. After a few delays, Animal Snak debuts in a quartet of flavors including bodybuilding favorites such as Peanut Butter Honey & Oats and Rich Chocolate Peanut Butter. Animal Snak offers 27 grams of protein per bar and 370 calories, making it one of the most nutritionally and calorically dense protein meal replacement bars on the market.

Animal Pak FAQ

Why should I use Animal Pak vs a regular multivitamin?

Well, technically you can probably use a regular multivitamin and be “ok”, but remember, those mass market multivitamin supplements are made for Joe Schmo that doesn’t lift heavy things multiple times per week. Those typical one-a-day multivitamins contain 100% of the RDA for average people.

If you’re training consistently with intensity, you’re anything but average. You require more protein, more carbs, more calories, and yes, more vitamins and minerals than Joe Schmo.

Animal Pak is specifically designed for the athlete training multiple times per week to supply everything they need to ensure no nutrient gaps form.

Do I have to take two packs per day?

Not necessarily.

Most lifters will be fine consuming one pack per day. Elite athletes training multiple times per day or bodybuilders dieting rigorously for a competition most likely should consume both packs daily due to the even greater stress they are subjecting their bodies to.

I eat a well-rounded diet full of fruits and veggies, do I still need Animal Pak?

First off, congratulations for eating better than 90% of the population. Diets rich in fruits and veggies will do wonders for your health and performance, but you’re still probably lacking in one nutrient or another.

You see, due to over farming, mono farming, and soil nutrient depletion, foods aren’t as naturally rich in minerals as they were 50 years ago. On top of that, many athletes, especially bodybuilders, eat the same foods day in and day out. Doing this can set you up for nutrient deficiencies in some form or another. Animal Pak helps address any shortfalls in your diet.

Does Animal Pak contain any stimulants?

No, Animal Pak does not contain any stimulants such as caffeine, synephrine, ephedra, DMAA, DMHA, or yohimbine. Animal Pak only contains natural boosters such as Vitamin B12.

Do I need to cycle Animal Pak?

No, Animal Pak is non-hormonal and does not need to be cycled or accompanied by post cycle therapy (PCT).

Is Animal Pak worth the extra cost?

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Cheap multivitamins usually use cheap ingredients, which means they generally have poor bioavailability. Animal Pak uses highly bioavailable forms of essential nutrients, and it also provides dozens of additional ingredients that support health, performance, and recovery over your standard bargain bin multivitamin.

Why are there so many damn pills in Animal Pak?!

Yeah, choking down 11 tablets doesn’t really sound appealing to anyone, but the reality is, you can only cram so much into a single tablet before you start approaching horse-sized pills. Remember, Animal Pak provides over 55 different nutrients, including antioxidants, ergogenics, amino acids, and digestive enzymes. You can’t cram all of that into one pill, sorry.

What if I don’t like to/can’t swallow pills?

If you’re one of those people who has difficulty swallowing pills or just doesn’t like taking pills, you’re now in luck!

Animal Pak now comes in an easily dissolvable powder. Simply add a serving of Animal Pak Powder to your favorite shaker, fill it with water, shake and drink your vitamins, minerals, and performance enhancers.

Any differences between Animal Pak pill and powder?

Yes, there are subtle differences between the two. For example, the Animal Pak Powder includes a Uni-Pro blend rather than the Uni-Liver Blend of the Animal Pak tablets. The Uni-Pro blend includes the same liver and beef protein isolate as the Uni-Liver Blend, but also includes whey protein isolate, added most likely to combat the “livery” taste of the Animal Pak capsules

Animal Pak - A Supplement for Serious Athletes

Is Animal Pak a “must have” supplement?

Like most things, it depends. If you’re in the midst of a hardcore bodybuilding show prep, dieting and training multiple times per day, it could easily classify as a “must have”. If you’re currently bulking, consuming a calorie surplus (of mostly whole foods), and only training 3-4 times per week, you’re probably ok using a regular multivitamin.

Wherever you fall in the debate of Animal Pak, one thing is clear. This was and continues to be an industry-defining supplement that has stood the test of time. Animal Pak was one of the first supplements to make it “big,” even before the days of social media and the internet. It’s been around forever and will continue to endure based on its reputation as a premium-quality supplement for hardcore athletes.

References
1) Clarkson PM, Haymes EM. Trace Mineral Requirements for Athletes. Int J Sport Nutr. 1994;4(2):104-119. doi:10.1123/ijsn.4.2.104
2) Williams MH. Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance: Minerals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2005;2(1):43-49. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-2-1-43.
3) Romero FG, Lira FS, Marques FA, Muzy PC, Peres RA, Caperuto ÉC. PAKs supplement improves immune status and body composition but not muscle strength in resistance trained individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010;7:36. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-36.
4) Sedliak M, Finni T, Cheng S, Lind M, Häkkinen K. Effect of time-of-day-specific strength training on muscular hypertrophy in men. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(9):2451–7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bb7388
5) Woolstenhulme MT, Conlee RK, Drummond MJ, Stites AW, Parcell AC. Temporal response of desmin and dystrophin proteins to progressive resistance exercise in human skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol. 2006;100(6):1876–82. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01592.2005.
6) Mulrow C, Lawrence V, Jacobs B, et al. Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects: Summary. 2000. In: AHRQ Evidence Report Summaries. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 1998-2005. 21.Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11896/
7) Galluzzi L, Kepp O, Trojel-Hansen C, Kroemer G. Mitochondrial control of cellular life, stress, and death. Circ Res. 2012;111(9):1198-1207. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.112.268946
8) Kuhad A, Sharma S, Chopra K. Lycopene attenuates thermal hyperalgesia in a diabetic mouse model of neuropathic pain. Eur J Pain. 2008;12(5):624-632. doi:10.1016/j.ejpain.2007.10.008
9) Rohdewald P. A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002;40(4):158-168.