Many people believe that a pre-workout supplement could be the best tool to accelerate strength in the gym, yet many health experts agree that the stimulants in pre-workouts could actually be holding you back. What we must consider is, do stimulants like caffeine and pre-workout really help you push your physical limits – or are they holding you back and disrupting your natural cycles of strength and recovery.
What are Stimulants
Stimulants are substances or chemicals that alter your state of homeostasis. This could be a cup of coffee, taurine, L-Citrulline – and many more. They are the ingredients in your pre-workout that make you feel jittery and give you a heightened feeling.
Stimulants are not necessary and in fact tend to diminish returns, disrupt fine motor control, lower breath retention ability, and increase stress levels. For more information read about Catecholamines here.
The Problem with Stimulants
Often I see people using stimulants (coffee, pre-workout, ephedrine) to fuel them or prepare them for a workout. For most people this can be harmful and mask poor recovery factors. Not only does it force your body into a difficult cycle of constantly taking pre-workout, but many of the ingredients (such as caffeine) are actually addictive.
Let’s look at why you might be taking stimulants in the first place
You are sleeping poorly, diet and nutrition is sub-optimal, you’re training too frequently, and the stimulants you’re taking (often in higher doses) may help you push through your current workout yet mask the reason you aren’t making clear strength progressions – because your recovery (sleep, nutrition and training frequency) factors are not dialled in.
Many people fall into the routine of taking more stimulants to progress and eventually end up with some major health issues, adrenal issues, heart issues and even hormone issues.
The most important factor to consider when discussing the role of stimulants on overall recovery is they don’t provide real energy. Stimulants can help you to push through a workout, but not recover – they don’t provide any actual energy to muscles or internal system since they do not have a caloric value.
Let us not forget that all whole-foods contain calories from our main macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) and provide the body with true energy to recover and fuel us for the coming workouts.
Lay off the stimulants. You will have to remove the daily doses of caffeine, pre-workout and any other stimulant for at least two weeks. Do your best to drink as much water as possible and eat a balanced diet that incorporates all aspects of health.
As for pre-workout you can save your money and order L-Arginine and Beta Alanine. These amino acids work to buffer lactic acid, delay the onset of fatigue and increase blood flow. For best results, mix with a complete BCAA that contains high doses of L-Leucine, as this has been shown to be the most anabolic amino acid.
Whilst you wean off the stimulants embrace wholesome food, restful sleep, monitor your training output and embrace a daily practice of meditation to ground your body and promote strength and recovery.