Optimum Nutrition – Essential Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen Review

The best pre-workout drink?

Optimum Nutrition has set the gold standard for sports nutrition by creating innovative products that supplement a healthy lifestyle.

And they have been doing so for over 30 years. One of their newest offerings is the Essential Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen drink, which has been creating a lot of buzz in the fitness community.

It’s not hard to see why. People who regularly do intense workouts experience the drawbacks of putting too much strain on their joints. Their recovery period also seems to be getting longer.

We wanted to find out if ON’s solution is all it’s cracked up to be. Read on to discover whether it’s worth being your next pre-workout booster.

Note: Despite containing ingredients from natural sources, Amino Energy Plus UC-II is not meant to treat or prevent any diseases.


  • Naturally sourced ingredients
  • Great for endurance workouts
  • Comes in four flavors
  • Affordable


  • Not vegan

Click here for the lowest price on Amazon

Ingredients and Nutritional Information

ON’s Essential Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen drink has a combination of naturally sourced ingredients, formulated to aid users during heavy workouts sessions.

Here are the ingredients in Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen

100mg Caffeine

5g Amino Acids

10g UC-II Collagen

Vitamin C (100% DV)

Other Ingredients:

10mg sodium

Natural and artificial flavor

Tartaric Acid

Silicon Dioxide

Calcium Silicate

Gum Blend (Cellulose Gum, Xantham Gum, Carrageenan)

Contains soy

Essential Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen Benefits

In this section, we’ll expound on the benefits of each of these ingredients and why they complement an active lifestyle.

Note: Consuming the ingredients below poses no harm to the body.

However, it’s always best to consult your doctor before taking any nutritional supplements, especially if you have existing conditions.


Caffeine is a stimulant compound found in plant-based food and beverages like coffee, chocolate, and tea. In this case, the caffeine is extracted from coffee beans and green tea leaves. The consumption of caffeine has been proven to have profound effects on exercise like improved endurance, mood, and alertness. (1)

By stimulating your nervous system, regulated doses of caffeine can give you more focus during workouts. Caffeine is also a common ingredient in pain relievers as it can help reduce inflammation.

Since athletes and regular active folk have been consuming caffeine for many years, numerous studies on its effects have been conducted since the 70s. This 2019 study done on two groups of healthy active participants shows that those who were given caffeine performed better in cycling sessions than those who were given placebo treatments. (2)

Amino Acids

We cannot naturally produce nine of the 20 essential amino acids that can be found in our bodies. That’s why these specific ones must be obtained through a healthy diet.

By supplying the body with these amino acids, we can help promote muscle growth, lessen soreness, reduce fatigue from exercise, and prevent muscle deterioration.

This study shows that amino acids play a vital role in exercise and sports nutrition as it safely stimulates muscle protein synthesis. (3) 

The study noted that consuming amino acids through supplements poses no dangers to the body and that it is highly effective in building muscle.

The three most important amino acids for athletes are Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine, (4) all of which can be found in Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen. These three in particular can help you burn more fat and help your muscles recover faster from grueling workouts.

Amino acids are found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy, nuts, and lentils. However, we have to admit that it’s difficult to create and stick to meal plans containing all these items.

The good news is, with at least two scoops of Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen, you’ll get all the amino acids you need without the added stress of meal planning and preparation.

We definitely started getting bigger gains at the gym by fortifying our muscles with this pre-workout drink.

UC-II Collagen

Getting on with age means having to deal with new aches and pains. Working out can do a number on your joints and it may be harder to work out as consistently.

Luckily, a steady intake of collagen can help protect and rebuild joint cartilages and help reduce pains with its anti-inflammatory properties. Other upsides include a boost in muscle mass, a reduced risk of heart-related diseases, and prevention of bone loss.

These two placebo-controlled studies show that both healthy subjects and those who have suffered from previous joint pains show an improvement in knee extension and pains with consistent UC-II Collagen supplementation. (5,6)

The UC-Collagen found in Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen comes from chicken cartilage.

Vitamin C 100% DV 

The DV stands for “daily value,” which means you’d be getting your full Vitamin C requirement for the day with one dose of Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen.

The benefits of Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid are, of course, widespread. Such benefits we can get from this nutrient are:

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Battles high blood pressure
  • Lowers your risk for heart diseases
  • Improves iron absorption
  • Boost your mental capacity with antioxidant properties

Aside from the added health kick, is this related to exercise at all? Here’s a study that shows that a 30-minute workout following the ingestion of 1000mg of ascorbic acid proves that the physical activity boosts its antioxidant properties. (7)

We think that the added Vitamin C takes another supplement off our plate, which any fitness buff will appreciate.

How Much Should I Take?

If you’re just starting out with pre-workout drinks, it’s better to start with a mild dose. Simply mix 2 scoops of the powder with 10-12 oz. of water and you’re good to go.

Eventually, you may want to up your dosage as you progress with your workouts. You can double or triple the serving or consume two to three servings if you work out multiple times a day.

Best Time To Take Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen

Since this is meant to be a pre-workout drink, you’re supposed to take it as early as 45 minutes before intense physical activity. Its initial effects (from the caffeine) will start to kick in after 10 minutes, but the peak concentration hits around 45 minutes in.

It is safe to take up to three servings a day. You could either space these out or make a moderate to intense drink depending on how your body is currently reacting to the formula.

Why Optimum Nutrition?

Optimum Nutrition is a well-known US-based company that locally produces their products in their own facilities. They go through truckloads of raw materials that undergo rigorous testing to ensure the quality of their sports nutrition supplements. They have garnered many awards for their strict practices.

For this reason, we thought it best to test their Essential Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen drink to see if it truly lives up to the hype. We’re happy to say that it does.

Keep in mind that this particular pre-workout powder is meant specifically for joint support. They offer other powders for hydration and all-day pick-me-ups.


The UC-II Collagen in this product comes from chicken cartilage, which makes the product not vegan-friendly. There are also numerous dupes littering the market, so make sure you’re getting it from either Optimum Nutrition or a trustworthy seller.

How Much Does It Cost?

On their official website, Optimum Nutrition offers the Essential Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen powder for $29.99. For that amount, you get 30 servings, which makes it reasonably-priced. You can get a few dollars off the original price on Amazon.

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  • Effectiveness – 8/10 Stars
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  • Price – 9/10 Stars

Final Thoughts

Optimum Nutrition has become a giant in the sports nutrition industry by delivering quality products for many decades. It shows in our highlighted product, Essential Amino Energy Plus UC-II Collagen.

It will fortify and repair your connective tissues after intense workout sessions all while giving you simultaneous extra focus and energy boosts. We love that each serving has only 5 calories and no sugar at all. It’s definitely worth a try if you’re looking to reach loftier athletic heights.



1-Lawrence L. Spriet (2014; 44(Suppl 2): 175-184) Exercise and Sport Performance with Low Doses of Caffeine. Sports Medicine (Auckland, NZ). doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0257-8. PMCID: PMC4213371. PMID: 25355191

2-Beatriz Lara, Carlos Ruiz-Moreno, Juan Jose Salinero, Juan Del Costo (2019; 14(1): e0210275) Time course of tolerance to the performance benefits of caffeine. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210275. PMCID: PMC6343867. PMID: 30673725.

3-Chad M. Kerksick, Colin D. Wilborn, Micahel D. Roberts, Abbie Smith-Ryan, Susan M. Kleiner, Ralf Jäger, Rick Collins, Mathew Cooke, Jaci N. Davis, Elfego Galvan, Mike Greenwood, Lonnie M. Lowery, Robert Wildman, Jose Antionio, Richard B. Kreider (2018; 15: 38). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0242-y. PMCID: PMC6090881. PMID: 30068354.

4-8 Benefits of Amino Acid Supplements (2018). Metabolic Maintenance.

5-James P. Lugo, Zainulabedin M. Saiyed, Francis C. Lau, Jhanna Pamela L. Molina, Michael N. Pakdaman, Arya Nick Shamie, Jay K. Udani (2013; 10: 48). Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-48. PMCID: PMC4015808. PMID: 24153020.

6-James P. Lugo, Zainulabedin M. Saiyed, Nancy E. Lane (2016; 15: 14) Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutritional Journal. doi: 10.1186/s12937-016-0130-8. PMCID: PMC4731911. PMID: 26822714.

7-Manita Yimcharoen, Suwatsin Kittikunnathum, Chuwannut Suknikorn, Wichuda Nak-on, Petcharee Yeethong, Tracy G. Anthony, Piyawan Bunpo (2019; 16: 2). Effects of ascorbic acid supplementation on oxidative stress markers in healthy women following single bout of exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. doi: 10.1186/s12970-019-0269-8. PMCID: PMC6341721. PMID: 30665439.


Jacob Ladon
Jacob Ladon is a staff writer and former amateur bodybuilder. He has been passionate about bodybuilding since he was 15 years old and discovered the joys of training in the gym. He reports and comments on all bodybuilding related matters.