On this blog, we’ll be exploring the fascinating world of a very special purple pigment called cyanidin 3-glucoside, which also bears the much catchier name, C3G. C3G is a compound all of us have likely consumed already at some point in our lives. It is one of the primary purple pigments in berries such as blueberries and blackberries. It is also abundantly present in red wine and by extension, in red grapes. Even red onions contain C3G! Another very rich source of C3G, is a very interesting and fairly rare cultivar of rice which is commonly referred to as black rice, or forbidden rice. Black rice is difficult to cultivate, and produces fairly low yields when compared to other rice cultivars. Due to this, black rice is quite rare, and this was especially the case in ancient China. Our C3G is extracted from black rice, which was highly valued by ancient Chinese emperors for its health benefits. Chemically, C3G is a cyanidin glycoside, with cyanidin linked to a sugar molecule called glucose. When consumed, enzymes in our bodies break down C3G into cyanidin, which has various health effects.
The emperors in ancient China quickly learned that black rice had some very positive health benefits, and due to its scarcity, they were quick to reserve the rice for themselves. This essentially banned common people from consuming black rice, and due to this, black rice is also often referred to as forbidden rice. With this in mind, and the advanced knowledge of botanicals in ancient China, it is clear that we have been well aware of the positive health effects of C3G for a very long time!
In the modern world, C3G rose to fame in the bodybuilding world. It was eventually discovered that consuming particularly high levels of C3G could help shuttle nutrients towards muscles and away from fat stores. In essence, this means that C3G can help us utilize the food we eat better, allowing us to gain more muscle mass, while gaining less fat. Better yet, C3G even seems to burn fat!
This means that C3G can help bodybuilders enhance the efficacy of their cutting phase, allowing them to get much leaner while maintaining the muscle mass they have been working so hard at achieving. Of course, this effects profile is pretty much every bodybuilders dream! It is then no surprise that C3G took the bodybuilding world by storm, and nowadays it is regarded as one of, if not the best, natural body recomposition tools!
That brings us to present day C3G, which led to an interesting discovery. When we first started beta-testing C3G, we all immediately noticed a prominent acute nootropic effect. This really took us by surprise because we weren’t expecting C3G to be nootropic, we were simply expecting it to be a great body recomposition tool. Digging into the research a bit, we quickly realized that C3G hits lots of unique nootropic targets.
For example C3G can inhibit monoamine oxidase enzymes which boosts dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels, while simultaneously working hand in hand with brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to dial in neuroplasticity. Combine this with the cerebral blood flow enhancement effects of C3G, and you are looking at a very serious nootropic! Overall, it is clear that C3G is a purple force to be reckoned with!
What Is An Anthocyanin?
C3G belongs to a class of compounds called the anthocyanins. These are a class of purple and red pigments, which exist in a wide variety of foods and beverages. The anthocyanins are all glycosides, which means that they have a core structure that is then linked to a particular type of sugar. For example, with cyanidin 3-glucoside, as the name already reveals, cyanidin is bound to glucose. Another example would be the primary anthocyanin present in our tart cherry extract, which is cyanidin 3-rutinoside. There are also anthocyanins which have a different core compound to which sugar groups are bound. For example, malvidin glycosides are also a common group of anthocyanins.
A very fascinating aspect of anthocyanins is that they also change color in response to changes in pH! This means that anthocyanins basically act as environmentally friendly pH meters, and in fact, they are even used in this manner sometimes.
When we first received our tart cherry extract, we were confused why the extract looked purple, rather than the bright red color we are familiar with from fresh tart cherries. This is when we realized that during the extraction process the acidity of the tart cherries had been lost, and at neutral pH levels, the anthocyanins in tart cherry are purple. We then dissolved some tart cherry extract in water, and added a splash of vinegar. Almost instantly the deep purple color turned into a bright red cherry color! The same is true for our C3G, if you mix a very small amount of it with water, the water will turn a brilliant amethyst purple.
When you add some vinegar, this color quickly transitions into a bright red color! When the anthocyanins lose their sugar groups, we refer to them as anthocyanidins. When we consume anthocyanins, enzymes in our bodies, such as beta-glucosidase, rip off the sugar groups, and turn anthocyanins into anthocyanidins. This means that when we are investigating the effects of cyanidin 3-glucoside, the majority of the benefits are coming from cyanidin, the anthocyanidin, rather than cyanidin 3-glucoside, the anthocyanin. However, the sugar groups in these anthocyanins allow them to be absorbed by various different processes that the anthocyanidins cannot be transported by. This gives anthocyanins vastly better bioavailability than their anthocyanidin counterparts. For example, C3G can be actively transported by bilitranslocase, which cyanidin itself cannot be transported by.
It’s quite fascinating that in natural sources, practically only anthocyanins exist, which greatly helps improve bioavailability. However, when it comes to the actual effects, we are much more reliant on the ability of enzymes in our bodies to turn anthocyanins into the more active anthocyanidins. With this in mind, it is almost like our bodies were optimized for the consumption of anthocyanin rich food sources. This is not particularly surprising if we consider that foods that are high in anthocyanins, usually are very visually appealing and highly nutritious!
Speaking of nutrients, this is the main attraction with C3G, so let’s dive into the nutrient partitioning effects!
Nutrient Partitioning Effect For Body Recomposition
The main attraction with C3G is its ability to act as a nutrient partitioning agent. This is a concept that became very popular in the bodybuilding world more than a decade ago. Bodybuilders are constantly tweaking their diets and exercise regiments in order to optimize muscle gain, while minimizing fat gain. This process becomes especially precise prior to competitions where bodybuilders enter a phase of caloric restriction which is commonly referred to as a “cutting phase”. During a cutting phase, the main goal is to preserve as much muscle mass as possible, while minimizing fat mass.
During a cutting phase, one of the primary concerns is not to lose too much muscle mass. However, due to being in a caloric deficit it is almost unavoidable to lose some amount of muscle mass since muscles are very nutrient-demanding. Thus, an ideal companion during a cutting phase, would be a compound which delivers as much nutrients as possible to our muscles, whilst storing as little of those nutrients as possible in fat stores. This is exactly what C3G does, and thus it is quite clear why C3G is such a popular compound amongst bodybuilders!
By acting on a variety of different pathways in our body, C3G can shuttle more nutrients into our muscles, whilst ensuring that a limited amount of those nutrients are stored as fat. Furthermore, C3G also works on a variety of pathways which help burn fat, and turn white adipose tissue into the highly metabolically active brown adipose tissue. Two of the main pathways that C3G interacts with to pull off these effects are the PPAR-α and PGC-1α, pathways. By activating these two pathways, glucose uptake into our muscles, and glycogen storage is enhanced. This helps fuel our muscles, and shuttles energy away from fat storage. Furthermore, by activating these two pathways, fat utilization is increased, allowing us to burn fat and turn it into usable energy. C3G also upregulates the activity of UCP1 which is also referred to by the name thermogenin. UCP1 allows us to burn fat in brown adipose tissue by turning it into heat. This is primarily what drives the concept commonly referred to as “thermogenesis”. Combine this with the ability of C3G to convert white adipose tissue into metabolically active brown adipose tissue, and you’ve got an excellent thermogenic effect!
Another very interesting aspect of C3G, is that by activating the PGC-1α pathway, it can significantly upregulate mitochondrial biogenesis. This is a process by which new mitochondria can be generated, and if you paid attention in biology, you’ll know that mitochondria are the “powerhouse of the cell”! Our mitochondria house the machinery necessary for turning the food we eat into usable energy in the form of ATP.
This means that by enhancing the generation of new mitochondria, C3G can help turn more of the food we eat into energy.
If we now zoom out and look at the full picture, it is clear that C3G is quite effectively “remodeling” our metabolic function. After supplementing with C3G for a while, our body will be much more adept at taking the calories we consume and shuttling them to our muscles, and away from fat stores. It is thus no surprise reading all of the very positive anecdotal reports of individuals who have tried to shed some weight, but were always somewhat unsuccessful until starting to supplement with C3G!
Of course, these nutrient partitioning effects really come in handy during a cutting phase, because even with drastically reduced caloric intake, we can maintain plenty of muscle mass whilst being more effective at reducing fat mass. However, this does not mean C3G is only useful during a cutting phase. In fact, during normal caloric intake, or even during a “bulking phase”, where caloric intake drastically increases, C3G can be very useful. Of course, when we eat an excessive amount of calories, it will be inevitable to gain fat mass. However, with C3G in the mix, and a heavy workout regiment, we can help enhance muscle growth whilst reducing the amount of fat mass gained. For those of us who are not hardcore bodybuilders, taking C3G on a daily basis will also help keep us leaner and more physically energized! This is especially nice in combination with the mentally energizing effects, so let’s dive into the previously unexplored nootropic potential of C3G!
A Nootropic Heavy Hitter
When we first started beta-testing C3G, we were not at all prepared for the nootropic benefits. I (Emiel, author of this blog) first took C3G before going on a bike ride to test its physical performance enhancing effects. When I got on my bike, the first thing I noticed was that my field of vision was significantly enhanced. This is an effect I sometimes get with nootropic compounds, but haven’t experienced in quite some time, so this immediately stood out to me. The field of vision expanding effect then transitioned into a gradual sharpening of my vision and mind. About 45 minutes into dosing C3G, I started noticing a prominent mental energizing and mood lifting effect. Combined with the physically energizing effect of C3G, this really optimized my bike ride. I felt faster, and much more coordinated, allowing me to take faster and more challenging turns, and pushing myself to reach higher and higher speeds. At the end of the bike ride, I felt mentally charged with my mood significantly boosted. Subsequent dosing experiments yielded similar results. In fact, I’m now three weeks into dosing C3G on a daily basis, and the acute mood and focus enhancing effects are still there, and overtime it appears to have a more palpable mood and memory enhancing effect.
Digging into the neurological effects of C3G, we immediately figured out why it had this very unique nootropic effect. First of all, cyanidin, which C3G turns into, mildly inhibits both MAO-A & B. These enzymes normally degrade neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, and thus inhibiting them, allows for dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels to be enhanced.
This is likely what forms the main basis for the acute energizing and mood boosting effects. The field of vision expanding effect is normally an effect I get from nootropics that can boost cerebral blood flow. Doing some research into C3G, it quickly became apparent that C3G can enhance cerebral blood flow, likely by upregulating the eNOS enzyme, which produces nitric oxide in our blood vessels and leads to a vasodilating effect.
After doing some more digging into the PGC-1α pathway, we discovered something very surprising! One of the main drivers of C3G’s effect on nutrient partitioning, is its ability to activate the PGC-1α pathway, with one of the main outcomes of PGC-1α activation being significantly enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis. It turns out that BDNF also activates the PGC-1α pathway, and the resulting increase in mitochondrial biogenesis is essential for driving the process of neuroplasticity!
This means that by enhancing PGC-1α activity with C3G, it should have a highly synergistic effect with BDNF to enhance neuroplasticity. This is likely why over time, we have noticed the nootropic and mood boosting effects of C3G getting more pronounced. This makes C3G an ideal candidate for stacking with BDNF focused nootropics such as 7,8-DHF and Polygala tenuifolia!
While not as exciting of a topic as enhancing neuroplasticity, the ability of C3G to mitigate both neuro-oxidation and neuroinflammation, will also have a nootropic and neuroprotective effect. In fact, elevated levels of neuroinflammation are often linked to the experience of “brain fog”, and thus being able to mitigate this to an extent with C3G, could help enhance mental clarity. Overall, given C3G and cyanidins ability to readily pass the blood brain barrier, it appears to be an excellent natural nootropic!
A Surprising Ally For Pain Management
One of the main appeals of tart cherry, which also sports a hefty cyanidin content via the anthocyanin, cyanidin 3-rutinoside, was its effects on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). C3G will have a very similar effect on DOMS and thus is a great supplement to include in a recovery stack. That being said, C3G also has something else going for it, which makes it an ideal candidate for general pain management. It acts on the same PPAR-α pathway which palmitoylethanolamide acts on! Tart cherry will also produce this effect, however, due to the much higher dose of anthocyanin with our C3G, the effect on PPAR-α will be much more pronounced, and thus closer to the magnitude of effect palmitoylethanolamide has at this target.
When I first started taking C3G, I had been struggling with a sore neck for a couple of days which was stiff and uncomfortable. This had been going on with no signs of improvement, but after taking C3G for two days, my neck was completely limber and not sore anymore. I didn’t put two and two together, until I was doing research for the C3G podcast, and realized that it hits one of the same primary targets of palmitoylethanolamide.
Considering the other effects C3G has, it would make an ideal candidate for a daily pain management supplement, and it would stack well with palmitoylethanolamide in order to bolster its pain management effects even further!
When To Dose For Best Effects?
One question we have been getting a lot since releasing C3G, is what the best time to take it is. When C3G first became popular, it was recommended to take C3G 30 minutes prior to your biggest meal of the day. This makes a lot of sense, because having C3G floating around in serum at the moment calories start hitting our system, should lead to the most pronounced nutrient partitioning effects. Afterall, we need nutrients, in order to partition them! However, as we have discussed in the blog, part of the effects profile of C3G also relies on less acute, and more long term remodeling of our metabolic function. With this in mind, regular daily dosing of C3G is likely a lot more critical than taking C3G prior to a meal. Thus, we can perhaps be more flexible with dosing.
That all being said, C3G does appear to have an acute effect on blood glucose levels, and with this in mind, we do still believe that to get the absolute most out of C3G, it would be best to take it before a meal. We have also noticed that C3G can make us feel more hungry when taken away from a meal, but that this effect is not as pronounced when C3G is taken 30 minutes prior to a meal, or right before eating. The energizing effects of C3G also appear to be more pronounced when it is taken prior to a meal.
With all of this in mind, the early adopters of C3G really seemed to be onto something, and we would also recommend taking C3G close to a meal!
Now in terms of time of day, this gets a little tricky. Since C3G is a little bit stimulating, taking it later in the day can negatively impact sleep for some people. So even though dinner is the biggest meal of the day for most of us, it is perhaps smarter not to take C3G with dinner as it may keep us up. If you eat breakfast, we have found that taking C3G with a carbohydrate heavy breakfast and some caffeine really supercharges the energizing effects, and gets the day off to a great start. Similarly, when C3G is taken before lunch it can help mitigate that “afternoon slump” many of us experience after eating a large lunch. Overall, the time of day is clearly quite flexible, but again, be careful with taking it too late in the day as it may keep you up at night!
Another thing to keep in mind with C3G, is that it has significant oxidation regulating effects. In theory, this could then get in the way of exercise adaptation, as this process is fairly dependent on oxidative stress. Thus, the general advice is to take oxidation regulating compounds away from exercise in order not to interfere with the process of exercise adaptation. It may seem like taking C3G as a pre-workout is ideal due to its energizing effects, but due to the prominent oxidation regulating effects this may in fact not be totally optimal. That being said, knocking down oxidation can significantly help enhance physical endurance. Thus, if you are gearing up for a high endurance type of activity, where you need to squeeze out every last drop of performance, then it would be good to take C3G prior to this endurance event.
A Stackers Dream
One aspect of C3G that we are particularly fond of, is its ability to synergize with a wide variety of other supplements. This is due to the fact that C3G has both unique cognitive, metabolic and pain management effects that allow us to go in lots of different directions with stacks!
Since one of the highlight effects of C3G is its nutrient partitioning and bodybuilding effects profile, let’s focus on some physical performance stacks first. Two other nutrient partitioning agents that are popular in the bodybuilding world are alpha lipoic acid and agmatine. These all have overlapping effects on nutrient partitioning, however, they also have unique effects that should synergize quite nicely with each other. With this in mind, if you wish to enhance the nutrient partitioning effects of C3G even more, you could consider stacking it with alpha lipoic acid and/or agmatine for the most comprehensive effect.
Another aspect of C3G that is very beneficial to physical performance, is C3G’s ability to speed up recovery. Another famous compound for this purpose is epicatechin which has a potent effect on reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Epicatechin also acts as a myostatin inhibitor which can enhance muscle growth. Stacked together, C3G and epicatechin make for a powerful combination to enhance lean muscle mass! C3G can also be stacked together with our tart cherry extract, in order to take advantage of some of the other anthocyanins and bioactive in tart cherry which are beneficial for recovery. We also find that C3G stacks nicely with rephyll for DOMS and overall recovery. Of course, C3G would also make for a fantastic stack with creatine monohydrate for recovery and strength. Another supplement that would synergize well with C3G for its DOMS reducing and strength promoting effects, would be beta-ecdysterone. C3G would also go well with testosterone boosters like tongkat ali, Cistanche tubulosa and pregnenolone to help enhance lean muscle mass gain. Clearly, C3G has a lot of stacking potential in the bodybuilding realm! To sum it all up, here would be our ultimate C3G bodybuilding stack