Home Behind The Scenes 516 Experiment Update

516 Experiment Update

December 18, 2018

Hello friends! As promised, here’s an update to the GW501516 experiment I did. Disclaimer: this isn’t a good experiment. I’m an n of one. Don’t buy drugs online and take them. Don’t sue me. Thanks!

If you missed the episode that spawned this experiment, listen here first:

If you want to hear the update by itself in audio form, including a lot of me panting and complaining, here you go:

Essentially here’s what I did: I had my boyfriend, Robert, taste the 516 and go buy something he thought could reasonably approximate a control substance. He put them into these two bottles, with a purple cap and a blue cap. Then I ran a control mile (very slowly, 7:48). We flipped a coin, and I took the green cap stuff first, 1 ml every day for 10 days. (I came up with that dose based on reading what body builders generally take, and dividing by weight.) Then I ran a second mile (slightly faster, but still slow, 7:18) and started taking the purple cap stuff in the same dosage for another 10 days. Then I ran a third mile (much slower, 8:00). Here is photographic evidence.








So, to sum up:

Baseline mile — 7:48

Green cap — 7:18

Purple cap — 8:00

You might guess, based on this, that the 516 was the green cap stuff. But it was not! It was actually the purple cap stuff! (The green cap was Fleischmann’s vodka which Robert apparently got by walking into our local liquor store and asking the man what the worst tasting stuff he had was.) So, this doesn’t really mean much, but the miracle effects of 516 that I read about definitely didn’t happen to me. Maybe I didn’t take enough, or for long enough, but I was kind of disappointed! Which made me wonder if what I had was even 516 in the first place. So I sent the rest of the bottle to my dad, who had a friend run it through his lab to test whether or not there was any GW501516 in the bottle at all. Again, if you want to feel some suspense, you can listen to the audio above where my dad reveals the answer.

There is indeed GW501516 in the stuff I bought! Here’s the lab writeup, for those who are interested.


I analyzed a commercial sample from nootropicsource.com of compound ID GW-501516, whose chemical structure is shown below:

First, I should point out certain limitations of my analysis. The nature of the instrument and the settings used means I am detecting only compounds that ionize using electrospray ionization in positive mode, with mass between 300-500 atomic mass units. This means that I would not detect, for instance, contamination with things like harmful metal salts, organic compounds with lower or higher molecular weights, or organic compounds that do not have any ionizable functional groups or whom only take on negative charge in solution. Additionally, while I’ve detected multiple organic compounds, I can’t say for sure what their identities or relative amounts are. Finally mass spectrometry does not give much, or often any, structural information, so while I did detect the expected mass for the advertised compound, it is not definitive that the mass detected is the chemical structure shown above. It could simply be a compound with identical chemical formula, but with the atoms arranged quite differently. It takes a lot more work and a variety of instruments I don’t have access to to positively identify unknown compounds starting from scratch.

I do detect the mass expected for the above structure, and a fragment ion at 396.3, which is probably the structure below:

Fragment ions are formed when the parent molecule breaks apart in the mass spec. Typically, the weakest bonds fragment first, and fragmentation patterns are predictable. The fragment mass is one of the tiny pieces of structural information mass spec does give me, and the fact that it conforms to what I expected tells me that this is probably the compound advertised. If this compound had been made in my lab I wouldn’t doubt its identity for this reason.

I also detected at least 4 other unique compounds, here is a list of detected masses and retention times:

RT = 5.20 min, m/z = 346.3 and 470.3
RT = 5.96 min, m/z = 498.4
RT = 6.26 min, m/z = 454.4 and 396.3 (Your compound of interest)
RT= 6.834 min, m/z = 346.3,
RT = 7.09 min, m/z = 482.4

Integrating the peaks of the other compounds versus the advertised compound would suggest that it is only about 50% pure. That is not a very accurate way to measure purity in this case, but serves to illustrate the greater point that this mixture is definitely contaminated with a number of other organic compounds that are not advertised on the packaging.
Unfortunately I can’t definitively state what the other compounds are. They would most likely be impurities introduced in the synthesis of the target compound that weren’t removed effectively in final purification.

For reference, when we synthesize compounds in our lab, the unpurified mixture would look a lot like the spectrum I see for GW-501516. The purified mixture, however, only shows a single peak corresponding to the product of interest.
Purification is usually the most time consuming and expensive part of synthesizing a compound for human consumption, and for that reason is the first thing less scrupulous manufacturers would skimp on or skip altogether.

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William Eveleth January 30, 2019 at 12:20 am

hi – connecting just for the heck of it. fun to connect with other Eveleths

Sarah May 21, 2020 at 7:01 pm

I feel so self conscious that you said a 7:48 mile is very slow when I think I did a good job on a 9 minute mile lol

Rose May 22, 2020 at 4:26 pm

I used to be a competitive runner and the mile was my event! This is totally just my own personal history and anxiety around this particular distance.

Chelsey Steinman July 6, 2020 at 4:53 pm

I second Sarah’s comment! I did a triple take on the word “slow” next to your mile times.

I’ve been running for exercise/recreation my entire life and I don’t think I’ve ever run a mile less than 10 minutes. Maybe even more! I’m not in bad shape either — I’m a baller dancer.

Don’t get down on yourself about it if you don’t want to get down on all your listeners!


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