Pre workout supplement needs are highly specific to your training objectives. There are three main pathways to consider that can have the greatest impact on your performance:
1) Brain/Nervous system
2) Adrenal/Endocrine system
3) Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)/Circulatory system
Priority, for my athletes, is optimizing performance through brain nutrition. I find this to be the most neglected and underutilized means for optimizing performance. We spend countless hours discussing what happens to our muscles, but remember, the brain dictates everything. Even “the pump” is controlled by the brain.
Caffeine is probably THE most common pre-workout supplement around today. Caffeine can be used to have a great influence on the brain, but by nature, caffeine is going to affect the adrenal pathway. One of the things that makes caffeine so effective is the increase it causes in cortisol. Cortisol is one of your best friends DURING training. However, chronically high cortisol levels can disrupt and degrade the quality of your sleep, which negatively impacts recovery. Cortisol and testosterone have an inverse relationship; if cortisol is high, testosterone is going to be low, or decreasing. The same raw materials used to make cortisol, a hormone called Pregnenolone, are also used to make testosterone. If those raw materials are constantly diverted to make cortisol, there will be nothing left to make testosterone with. Elevated cortisol will improve performance in the gym, but decreased testosterone will impede optimal recovery. Eventually improvements will suffer and stagnate without adequate testosterone, and your strength gains will never reach their full potential.
The solution? The Brain! For a great strength-focused training session you want more neural drive, laser-like focus, and attention span. Dopamine and acetylcholine are the two neurotransmitters responsible for these qualities.
Time of day can play a huge role in whether or not you should use caffeine in your pre-workout. If you are someone who trains after 4pm, taking caffeine pre workout can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. Neurotransmitters, however, we can get them revved up and calmed back down rather easily!! Dopamine and acetylcholine are the two neurotransmitters we want to utilize here. Dopamine, simplistically, is the voltage generated by the brain. It’s related to energy and motivation. Acetyl-Choline is the speed at which the brain processes information. It’s related to memory and attention. The result: Better Focus, more weight, better reps!
Here are a few of the most researched and trusted neurotransmitter boosting supplements in my arsenal:
- Alpha gpc (precursor to and booster of acetylcholine)
- Acetyl l carnitine (precursor to and booster of acetylcholine)
- Tyrosine: supplies the raw materials used to make dopamine and noradrenaline. Also boosts thyroid output, making it ideal for athletes suffering from hypothyroidism.
- Racetams: phenylpiracetam, noopept, oxiracetam (dopamine and acetylcholine boosters)
Enjoy the new gains!