Ghost’s “Year of the V2” is still underway, with 2021 bringing several upgraded formulas to the family including a more powerful Ghost Legend and Ghost Pump. But what about the brand’s flagship muscle builder? Ghost SIZE V2 is next:
Being truly groundbreaking in the creatine / natural muscle-building supplement space isn’t the easiest feat to accomplish. Simple creatine monohydrate is the most well-studied and successful form of creatine, so it takes far more to get excited. However, if there’s one thing Ghost is great at, it’s generating excitement.
Ghost SIZE is a novel spin on the traditional creatine supplement that furthers the ergogenic benefits of the delicious-tasting Legend Pre Workout. It provides clinical dosages of several muscle-building and performance-enhancing ingredients including creatine, betaine, beta alanine (tingle-reduced!), and more.
Size can be used any time of the day — before, during, or after workout, but we argue pre workout if you have a choice. Consider it a once-daily multivitamin for your muscle gains – get it in every day!
This article goes deep into the science behind Ghost Size V2, the differences from the original version, and the flavors available. Before we get to that, check our coupon-based deals and sign up for Ghost news alerts from PricePlow:
If you’re familiar with Ghost, you know they’re anything but ordinary. For Size, they shoot for 5g yield of creatine in their rather innovative natty muscle builder. But, there’s plenty more to Size than just creatine… and they’re of course bringing some insane flavor:
CreaPure Creatine Monohydrate – 5g
Mainly naturally found in meat, creatine is the most well-studied sports supplement ingredient out there.
It has well beyond demonstrated its ability to increase power, weight, hydration, sprint speed, lean mass, and subjective well-being while reducing fatigue. There’s even some research showing slightly improved testosterone levels in men, improved bone mineral density, and better cognition in those who don’t eat meat – and these benefits come with very few side effects (despite what Aunt Nancy may have heard on CNN in 1997).
Creatine’s mechanism in semi-plain English
Creatine yields so many benefits because it donates a phosphate group — which is used for cellular energy production — to the adenosine diphosphate (ADP) molecule, and their combination is able to be turned back into adenosine triphosphate (ATP),[1-4] our cells’ “energy currency”.
When we’re depleted of ATP, our performance and energy deteriorates. But when we have creatine to help us create more ATP, we can go longer and stronger (yielding the benefits listed above in bold) while building more lean mass than we otherwise would have. By supplementing it, your body doesn’t need to generate as much, and this is beneficial because creating it is a biologically costly process in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
With the mechanism briefly covered, let’s cover the actual research areas in terms of results, since we know most Ghost fans want to see effects in the gym and in the mirror, not just in the lab.
Enough research for several meta analyses
There have been countless studies on creatine, so we’ll focus most on the meta-analyses that pool them together and analyze them in their totality:
Muscle growth and preservation
Several meta-analyses come to the conclusion that men and women both young and old get moderate lean mass gains from daily creatine supplementation. The gains aren’t on the order of illegal anabolic substances (like some may claim), but they are significant:
The first meta-analysis on successful hypertrophy (muscle growth) was conducted in 2003, having already covered 100 studies.
Older adults can build muscle with it too (22 studies 721 men and women) as well as an earlier review on 357 older adults.
On the note of the elderly, bone mineral density is incredibly important, and there’s a small amount of evidence for improvements there as well, especially when combined with weight/resistance training.
Creatine supplementation also prevents sarcopenia, or muscle-wasting, which is critically important to quality and quantity of life as we age.
Along with this research comes consistent weight gain — for those who are attempting to bulk.
There are several more recent studies on the matter, but the point is that the research community has known creatine has positive lean mass benefits for two decades. If you’re not getting enough creatine through heavy meat eating in your diet, then it’s a good idea to take it.
There have been dozens of studies covering creatine’s ability to increase power output. Of those, we have two meta-analyses that sum things up:
A 2003 analysis of 22 studies showed that 1-, 3-, and 10-rep maxes were increased by 20% as opposed to 12% when using creatine vs. control – 8% better improvement. It further showed that max number of reps increased 26% instead of 12% – 14% better than placebo!
Similarly, the body composition analysis referenced above (on 100 different studies) showed improved power in isometric / isokinetic / isotonic / exercises as well as upper body lifts, but less effects for swimming and running.
There’s clearly something to having more ATP generation at hand — and that leads us to the next benefit:
Improved sprinting and sprint recovery
Better sprint speed goes hand-in-hand with the ability to easily create more ATP, and it’s known that recovery between races / sprint sets is better if you have better phosphocreatine regeneration.[12,13]
There’s so much research on creatine that we even have a meta analysis just on soccer players, where we don’t see so much endurance increase, but we do see beneficial anaerobic performance effects, and it’s “large and significant” when looking at Wingate tests. Creatine is absolutely perfect for stop-and-go sprint sports like soccer, water polo, hockey, football, and lacrosse, all of which benefit from the ability to recover from repeated sprint bouts.
The mental aspect of creatine
Creatine and phosphate deficiency (which we believe mainly stems from not eating enough meat) is associated with deterioration of mood states.[15-17] The good news is that several studies show creatine improving general wellbeing,[18-20] so this is something to keep in mind if you haven’t been eating much meat and slowly are feeling a bit run down.
It’s worth noting that there could be several other deficiencies leading to negative cognitive effects (such as lack of B vitamins, EPA/DHA, essential amino acids like tryptophan and methionine, and more), so blood work and professional assistance are paramount if seeking to recover from a severe mental condition. Regardless, ensuring high enough creatine levels is often overlooked in any cognitive supplement stack, but users of Ghost Size shouldn’t need to worry about that.
Above, we mentioned that creatine can promote a minor increase in testosterone in men. While the effect isn’t large, it is relatively consistent, as it’s been found by at least five studies that measured the critical biomarker.[21-25]
All in all, creatine may no longer be the “sexy” or “controversial” ingredient it once was, but it works and should not be ignored. Much of the research cited above is two decades old at this point – it’s long been used safely.
Far too often, we aren’t seeing brands selling 5g worth of creatine in their overall stacks, and that’s a mistake. Ghost gives you plenty of ways to get it in with Size, and one of the easiest is to take the unflavored (“Natty”) version and mix it in with your Legend, Pump, Amino, or even your Whey!
The original Ghost Size had 2g of the popular pre workout endurance aid, but Ghost has stepped it up to a full 3.2g dose. How’d they do it? By adding BetaPrime, a mixture of plant extracts to reduce the tingling sensation!
Beta Alanine – 3.2g
Given its prevalence, we’ve covered beta alanine in depth countless times, including in our Ghost Legend article. Like creatine, it has been studied so intensely that we now have well-performed meta-analyses that can guide us in its use.
Beta alanine works by combining with the essential amino acid L-histidine, generating more carnosine.[27,28] This molecule then goes on to keep fatigue at bay by buffering lactic acid, especially in muscle tissue.
Indirect muscle gains from increased volume
This lets you go longer, and with more volume, you can then make more gains. So beta alanine isn’t a direct muscle builder (like we can claim for creatine above and likely betaine below), but an indirect one. You’ll need to earn any gains from beta alanine through increased volume — and eating enough to compensate for it.
The major meta analyses
There are two well-performed meta analyses on beta alanine’s performance, and another on safety:
In 2012, researchers looked at the available studies and determined that exercise from 1-4 minutes long was significantly improved across the research. They analyzed 360 participants across 15 studies in that analysis.
However, a newer 2016 analysis on 1461 participants in 40 different studies using 65 different exercise regimens (and 70 exercise measures) found significant success in exercises ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. The combined results were best in terms of exercise capacity, but not as significant in terms of performance.
The studies above cover several sports and exercises, ranging from rowing to running to cycling to swimming to weight lifting, all in various durations. It’s well accepted that using beta alanine to increase carnosine stores will lead to better muscular endurance.
Safety and the tingle factor
A more recent meta analysis was conducted on safety in 2019, showing that beta alanine “does not adversely affect those consuming it”. This is important, because some new users get concerned regarding the tingling sensation (known as paresthesia) that beta alanine can cause.
But even though beta alanine is safe and non-toxic, Ghost wants to make the experience as positive as possible — especially if you’re combining this with Legend, which also has beta alanine.
To reduce those tingles, they’ve introduced BetaPrime:
BetaPrime (Jujube [Ziziphus jujuba] Seed extract, L-Theanine, Celastrus [Celastrus paniculatus] Seed extract) – 400mg
BetaPrime was originally introduced in the now-sold-out limited-edition Christian Guzman Legend V3 as CarnoPrime, when Ghost paired it with a whopping 6.4g beta alanine. Anecdotally – it worked, and made the huge dosage of beta alanine feel more like a 1-2g dose. Now it’s back as BetaPrime, but with the same constituents inside.
The claim is that this ingredient, which contains extracts known for skin care and focused calming effects, helps reduce beta alanine tingling! While there’s no current research on its ability to do this, and we only have our anecdotal experience above, we can discuss the parts inside and why they may work to this effect.
Jujube extract: soothing the skin
Jujube is a jewel-shaped fruit found in Asia with a unique nutritional profile, loaded with antioxidants. The primary effect is that jujube has a skin-soothing effect, and research shows that it has been successfully used to treat skin irritations, inflammations, and scarring. We theorize that this may also help subdue those beta alanine tingles as well!
L-theanine for relaxation and focus
We often see L-theanine in several focus-minded supplements (such as nootropics and pre workouts) as well as sleep and mood-boosting supplements due to its calming and relaxing cognitive effects. It comes from green tea leaves and acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain.
What we like is that science shows the amino acid to be relaxing yet isn’t sedative, so it calms us down a bit but doesn’t put us to sleep.
This provides a synergistic effect with caffeine that’s been backed by science, where theanine delivers a “quiet focus” that takes the jitter out of the caffeine, and, we theorize, perhaps takes some edge off of the nerves in the skin as well.
Celastrus extract: another nootropic doubling as a skin-soother?!
The above two extracts have more specific functions, while celastrus seems to be a blend of both. Studies have shown that the Ayurvedic root has both a calming cognitive effect (like L-theanine) but can also reduce skin irritation like jujube!
Given this combination, it may be able to amplify each of their effects, and the trio should feel good on the skin regardless of your effects from beta alanine.
Ultimately, we’ve seen this ingredient work, albeit in higher doses when paired against even higher doses of beta alanine, but we don’t have any specific research to back it up in its totality. Ghost is doing something quite novel here, and if it comfortably gets folks to a clinical dose of beta alanine (perhaps even a 6.4g dose per day depending on your pre workout), it’s worth trying.
Only one way to find out… Ghost stays on-brand by being a major industry trendsetter, once again.
Back to beta alanine – what if we stack with a full dose of legend and get 6.4g?!
We almost always mention that 3.2g/day is the clinical dosage of beta alanine. It’s often spread in four different doses throughout the day – the goal is to reach carnosine saturation levels. Here in Size, we of course get it all in one shot.
But what if we’re stacking with Ghost Legend, the famous pre workout supplement that now has 3.2g as well? Is there any research on 6.4g beta alanine?
The answer is yes. A few studies have been conducted showing that increasing beta-alanine intake to 179 grams over the course of 28 days (i.e. 6.4 grams per day) can significantly amplify muscle performance,[38,39] with claims of increased work capacity by 16.9% and endurance by 14.9%.
Betaine (Trimethylglycine) 2.5g
Also known as trimethylglycine (TMG), betaine is a choline metabolite that’s another well-studied muscle-building ingredient in Size. Betaine functions similarly to creatine, but has a few additional beneficial effects as well. The clinically studied dose is 2.5g, so Size is bringing you what successful gym-based research has shown.
We cover the mechanisms real quickly, and then see the real world research:
Methyl donor, homocysteine reducer
While creatine provides phosphate, betaine is a methyl donor that doubles as an osmolyte, meaning it helps regulate fluid levels across cells, keeping them more resilient[40,41] and protecting them from thermal shock. As a methyl donor, betaine is able to reduce homocysteine levels, which is important since homocysteine is a biomarker for several negative effects health consequences.
Added pumps to your workout
On top of the muscle-growth benefits detailed below, many users claim a better workout pump when it’s taken with enough water, thanks to its osmolyte function. What most don’t discuss is that there may be some nitric oxide elevation as well!
This means betaine makes for an incredible all-around ingredient, and we argue that if you had the choice, taking Size with your pre workout would be the most enjoyable way to use it.
If interested in the history and use of betaine to protect heart health and increase patient strength, a great review was published in 2004. The research goes as far back as 1951, where doctors were calling it “the most valuable and most effective lipotropic agent tested for treatment in the human subject”.
Gym based studies: skipping to the increase in SIZE
It’s after that 2004 review where we start getting into athletic-based studies. So with the general mechanisms covered, let’s get into the actual field (gym) research, but let’s skip to the important one: size gains. After that, we’ll backtrack to see how we got there.
After years of successful performance-based research, a team wanted to see how betaine fared in terms of body composition. The six-week study tested 23 trained athletes (4.8 years of training experience on average) and gave them either 2.5g betaine per day or placebo.
After a training program, they gained 5.3lbs lean muscle mass and lost 6.4lb fat mass, yielding a 3% reduction in body fat! Even better, there were significant increases in arm size, which every Ghost user should love!
The same team was so impressed with the results that they dug deeper into the mechanisms, finding several hormonal pathways that are stimulated by betaine.
Fat loss in females!
That same team wasn’t done. The same researcher came back in 2018 with a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on college-aged women showing that betaine users lost 3.3% body fat and 2.0kg overall body weight on average, significantly more than the 1.7% bodyfat and 0.8kg body weight lost in the placebo group! These results were 2.5 times greater for weight loss and just under 50% greater body fat reduction for women using betaine.
To further back fat loss data, a 2019 systematic review of six studies with 195 participants found that betaine supplementation significantly reduced total body fat mass and body fat percentage.
This research didn’t come out of nowhere, of course. Researchers got to the point of testing body composition after several successful performance based studies, which are worth covering as well:
Athletic performance studies
Before the studies on muscle growth, betaine was first studied for performance and thermal protection – with new research published basically every year:
The first athletic-based study on betaine supplementation was conducted in 2003, where runners were dehydrated and given morning exercise, then given betaine or placebos and put on a 75 minute performance run. They found that the betaine groups had lower homocysteine levels, showing attenuation from the systemic damage caused by the experiment.
In 2008, researchers testing betaine against placebo on runners found better VO2 consumption and plasma lactate in a sprint, as well as improved sprint time to exhaustion and thermal protection.
In 2009, it was shown that two weeks of betaine at 2.5g/day improved squat repetitions to fatigue and overall training volume, which can lead to more gains.
A 2010 double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study found similar gains in force production during isometric back squat and bench press exercises.
In 2011, we again saw increased VO2 consumption, leading to a moderate increase in bench press repetitions and volume load.
2012 brought us a study on cyclists, where betaine increased peak power (average, mean, and maximum) for all subjects combined.
This brought us to 2013 and 2014, where one of the above teams finally tested body composition, with successful results![40,47]
Ultimately, betaine is a phenomenal ergogenic aid with a great story that developed this century. At 2.5g/day, we expect training volume and size benefits – but you’ll have to work to achieve them.
Epicatechin 90% (200mg)
Next is the secret weapon that most of the creatine users will not have as much experience with. Thankfully, we do, and it’s a powerful ingredient that we believe natural supplement users need to try:
Found prevalently in dark chocolate, (-)-epicatechin is a potent flavonol that’s gained popularity for its ability to enhance lean mass gains and performance. Most notably, epicatechin has the ability to
Enhance strength and muscle growth[55,56]
Improve glucose tolerance
Elevate nitric oxide production
Part of what makes (-)-epicatechin a prime-time muscle builder is that it’s a rather powerful inhibitor of myostatin by way of increasing levels of follistatin, Myostatin’s “archenemy”. Myostatin inhibits muscle growth, and follistatin inhibits myostatin signaling. By increasing follistatin, which ultimately results in less myostatin and more muscle growth, epicatechin deserves more attention in the sports nutrition space!
One issue is that epicatechin is pricey and has been difficult to source, so we’ve seen some underdosing occur over the years. Not going to happen with Ghost, whose founder Dan Lourenco originally stated over epicatechin’s inclusion in Size in 2017:
“EPI has solid leading edge research of course for myostatin inhibition and muscular endurance (and a host of other more holistic health benefits). Most brands sell EPI standalone for $60+ which truly shows either how insane I am/how big of a deal GHOST Size is going to be at our price point ($39.99)! “
— Dan Lourenco
Years later, that statement is still true.
Senactiv (Panax notoginseng [root] & Rosa roxburghii [fruit] extracts) – 50mg
What we consider to be the most major upgrade to Ghost Size is NuLiv Science‘s fascinating senolytic ingredient, Senactiv. Formerly known as ActiGin, this patented blend of Panax notoginseng and Rosa roxburghii root extracts is one of the most fascinating new ingredients on the market.
Out with the old, in with the new
Senactiv is what’s known as a senolytic, which is a compound that can induce cellular death in old, deteriorating cells (known as senescent cells) — thus promoting growth and health by encouraging new cell regeneration. The process may sound scary, but it’s natural, and senolytics speed it up. Senactiv is one such senolytic that actually functions in the endothelial lining of skeletal muscle cells!
NuLiv Science has conducted a lot of research on the ginsenosides inside of ginseng. In one such placebo-controlled study, they found that muscle tissue exposed to the ginseng extract used in Senactiv prior to exercise enhanced glycogen replenishment and led to fewer markers of inflammation compared to placebo.
In addition to the reduction of pro-inflammatory state, the ginseng also improved VO2 max by 20% against control. Mechanistically, this seems to stack very well with betaine, which works on different pathways to provide similar benefits.
Muscle biopsies also show that Senactiv’s ginseng extract led to 47% more citrate synthase, which is critical for ATP production – so now we’re synergistic with creatine too! Further research has shown better markers in terms of lipid peroxidation, free radical damage, inflammation, and muscle damage.[61-64]
Regenerate new cells with Senactiv
By getting glycogen back into muscle tissues (2.7 times more in the same time period), Senactiv can help you grow and recover faster, while clearing out useless “elderly” cells and bringing upon new growth.
While speaking of new growth, Senactiv boosted a protein named Pax-7 and the MYf5 gene by 81% in one study, which indicates muscular satellite cell generation.
The research is intense, so we suggest reading our in-depth article titled Senactiv from NuLiv Science: Regenerate Senescent Cells and Perform Better to learn more.
AstraGin (Astragalus membranaceus and Panax notoginseng) Root extracts – 50mg
Another NuLiv Science ingredient, and a keeper from the original Ghost Size formula, AstraGin is an all-natural absorption-boosting ingredient derived from different parts of Astragalus membranaceus and panax notoginseng, both staples of traditional Chinese medicine. AstraGin enhances the rate at which certain compounds and nutrients are absorbed within the intestinal wall.
NuLiv Science has conducted several research trials showing that the novel compound effectively improves uptake of creatine and beta alanine (found here in Size) as well as citrulline (found in Ghost Legend) along with amino acids, and several other compounds.
How does it work? Transporter upregulation
In terms of the mechanism, the research indicates that AstraGinⓇ upregulates mRNA and its key transporters such as:
Sodium-glucose cotransport 1 (SLGT1), which controls sodium-dependent glucose uptake across cells,
Glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4), a key glucose transporter that helps maintain proper glucose levels,
Cationic amino acid transporter 1 (CAT1), which moves amino acids throughout the body.
In addition, AstraGin may improve gut operation as well, which supports its beneficial effects. It has been shown to reduce intestinal wall inflammation by 73% in animal models. This means that we have both upregulated nutrient transport once the ingredients are in your bloodstream and AstraGin helps them get there more effectively as well.
Size contains the full research-backed 50mg dose of AstraGin to increase the effectiveness of all its ergogenics even further, and may even help enhance your pre workout as well!
In 2017, Dan had a few other tidbits about Ghost Size and specifically in regards to the brand’s pre workout, Legend, that we felt would behoove our readers to see:
If you happened to catch our Ghost Size unveiling video on YouTube, you saw that they’re launching in four flavors, including a neutral (“Natty”) one that can (should be!) stacked with Ghost Legend:
To see that unveiling, see Season 7, Episode 16 of Ghost’s Building the Brand YouTube Series in Season 7, titled “The HQ Showdown”:
Leave it to Ghost to go and completely one-up the traditional creatine supplement. We originally expected as much, given their beta-test release that was sent as “Ghost’s Secret Stuff“, with our tub pictured to the right.
Make no mistake – Ghost is “mainstream” and extraordinarily popular, selling a ton both online and in retail. They’re catchy, flashy, and the cool kids in the space. But inside the tub, they’re just as innovative as ever. We love how they’re pushing ingredients like epicatechin and Senactiv to the masses, and tingle-reduced beta alanine is a unique novelty many will love.
While Size can be used any time of the day, we believe there are enough benefits to take it pre workout, especially with what betaine can bring to the table at that time. But all in all, it doesn’t matter when you take it, so long as you get your basics in each and every day, and train and eat for Size.
Note: This article was originally published May 24, 2017, but was upgraded to V2 on May 14, 2021.