Hello and Welcome. This is The Barbarian Bro who only knows one way to bodybuilding. Barbarism.
The principles of barbarism when applied to bodybuilding might not sound obvious. But in modern lifetime it all boils down to this – being as brutally effective as possible with your endeavors.
The thing with ancient barbarians was that they were skilled hunters and/or brutally effective killers. They learnt their techniques, were good at it and made it all effortless.
Looking at the bodybuilding scene now, and how all these broscientists like to give their advice full of fluff or advice that is wrong and yet is promoted as if it’s the undeniable truth , just makes me feel like throwing up. It’s not just about getting your basics right or learning from the pros.
The thing most people refuse to understand is that everyone is different and what holds for one might not hold for another, so bodybuilding is not exactly a science. Every man’s body and endocrine system is different. How can the other person really coach you effectively, without getting to know how your entire body systems work?
So, always take broscience with a grain of salt, even the article you are reading right now here.
When I started into bodybuilding, I took advice only from two people on some minor issues. The rest, I just figured out myself.
Your body is a machine and you don’t know the manual.
You have to try to know what works best for your body, you have to make trials and errors, like the grooming of a barbarian. And when you know yourself fully, you are ready to kill.
You'll read in this article
What are preworkout supplements and why the hell you need them?
Ok, so let’s begin.There are many ways people define or perceive what a preworkout supplement is or what it’s supposed to do. Some call it pump supplements, some call it energy giving stuff , veins popping and so on. Some people also take it because they feel good taking it in and then going to the gym.
Let’s get to the most basic definition of a preworkout supplement.
A pre workout is something that will help you lift more weights in the gym and/or for longer times(sets/reps), than what you otherwise could not have or would not have easily.
It’s simple. The idea is to make your muscles work beyond their potential. And in the process, help them grow.
When you lift weights beyond your potential, you are sending a strong signal to your body. And your body responds in lot of ways. However, for our purpose and modern research in bodybuilding brings out the 3 main ways your body responds with increased strain caused by lifting weights.
- – Response to mechanical tension
- – IGF-1 response
- – More comprehensive endocrine response
- – Response to mechanical tension
When your muscles contract under “mechanical tension” of any sort, depending on the size and time duration of the tension, your body has to respond via increases in lactate, hydrogen ions, creatine and inorganic phosphate resulting from glycolitic ATP production. If the “mechanical tension” is significant, the accumulation of lactate from glycolysis within the muscle cell results in cell swelling through increased water up take.
This in turn will also increase protein synthesis and cause a decrease in protein degradation. This is an anaerobic response and causes muscle growth.
That’s why when you stop going to the gym, the lactate accumulation decreases and your muscles start decreasing because of increased protein degradation.
So, if your preworkout supplement can enhance this “response” then you can obviously lift more weights.
- – IGF-1 response
Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) is considered the primary anabolic response to increased mechanical tension and metabolic stress (Hameed et al., 2004). During resistance exercise IGF-1 is released from surrounding muscle and fat tissues (Kraemer, 2000) in the isoform often referred to as mechano growth factor (MGF).
IGF-1 has a huge role in bodybuilding , like the growth hormone. And both of them are connected as well.
So, a supplement that can enhance your IGF-1 response is going to be a great preworkout. That’s why I list Dopaminergic based HGH supplements and Deer antler velvet in the list of top 7 preworkout supplements.
- – More comprehensive endocrine response
This is the response your body makes while you are not working out or resting or sleeping. The body shifts the endocrine/hormonal balance naturally towards something that would help you gain weight and get big. This is usually done by enhancing more growth hormone production during the night and other processes.
Top 7 Preworkout supplements
So, lets take a look at those preworkout supplements that will help you get to the best of your physique and help you do more efficient workouts.
I bet you are surprised seeing this on the top of the list. But, truth is nothing is more natural preworkout than your own bodily hormone – Testosterone, the one that makes you a man.
Even if you take T injections, in esterified form like Testoviron depot, Enanthanate or Cypionate, they do converted to “natural” Testosterone in the body. They are in esterified form in injections so as not to release all of the testosterone instantly to your system that can make you incredibly horny or raging bull.
So, even if some less knowledgeable bodybuilders would go on to call Testosterone injections the same as steroids, truth is it’s as natural as it can be. Ask Sylvester Stallone , he knows.
Now, let me explain how well the Testosterone works as a preworkout.
One incredible health benefit of Testosterone is to increase red blood cell count, provide more energy by increasing ATP production and oxygen and nutrients transport.
While most preworkout supplements on the market focus on adding more energy giving nutrients to the body, Testosterone on the other hand can single handedly make the entire transfer of already existing nutrients more fast and effective to those parts of body you are working out.
So, while other supplements are creating more supply, Testosterone is enhancing the logistics or transport system.
So, without providing more nutrients to the body and working with the already existing ones, you can simply enhance your workout by improving the transport of those nutrients to the far out portions of muscle cells.
There is another reason why Testosterone works so well. As we read in “mechanical tension” response, when your body goes into the anaerobic mode, lactate accumulation occurs and the muscles cell swell.
This Cell swelling also facilitates an enhanced transport of amino acids such as glutamine into the cell which are essential to protein synthesis and thus plays a significant role in the response to bodybuilding type hypertrophy.
However, how much ‘lactate accumulation’ will happen, how much muscle cells swelling will happen, and how much amino acids will be transported are all dependent on 2 things.
i). When does your body cross the threshold and goes from aerobic to anaerobic mode/anabolic mode completely? The higher the threshold, the better for your muscle growth.
ii). How higher you go while lifting the weights?
Testosterone will increase the threshold when your body goes from anaerobic to anabolic mode, because it increases oxygen transport so effectively.
The body just thinks it’s in the aerobic mode until you haven’t lifted a high enough weight and the body can not provide the energy aerobically and have to rely totally on lactate accumulation. And that is when you are actually becoming competent to lift higher weights.
The higher your threshold, the more weight you are likely to lift. And the lower your threshold, the less weight you are likely to lift.
The catch with Testosterone
There is an obvious catch that using T injections without prescription is illegal. But you can get an endocrinologist or anti aging doctor to prescribe one. In my country, it is fairly easy. In the US, however, finding a friendly endocrinologist is an uphill task.
Another thing is since it’s in an esterified injectable form, it is slow to act. So, you have to take it one day prior to your big workout. 50 mg or 100 mg one day prior has worked best for me, with total dosages never exceeding beyond 300 mg. per week.
2. Dopaminergic HGH supplements
There is something about Dopamine. We just can’t seem to have enough of it when we want it the most.
If you don’t know already, dopamine is one of the most crucial hormone that provides energy and motivation and is required for the very existence in “mental and physical terms”. Elderly people have less of this hormone and thereby their motivation and ease of movement gets hurt. Read more about dopamine.
Over the counter dopamine supplements like L-dopa or herbal ones like Mucuna Pruriens don’t just give you the physical push you need for hitting the gym, they also provide you the mental push, mental energy and confidence.
If used regularly over extended periods of time, they can enhance GH levels in the body as well which is required for the muscle growth.
The mental strength and energy that comes with dopamine is amazing.
And a lot of fitness pros and elite bodybuilders tell you that working out hard has a lot to do with your “mind”.
Dopamine gives you that needed mental push to go for the sky, to keep taking risks, to keep torturing your muscles, to keep lifting weights until you reach failure.
I’ve tried several dopamine boosters and I really like natural L-dopa or Mucuna Pruriens and L-tyrosine.
There is one supplement HyperGH 14X that I really like because it has L-tyrosine and Alpha GPC both. They together increase dopamine dramatically. And it has other ingredients like Deer antler velvet(that targets the IGF-1) and DHEA(that converts to Testosterone) and in my opinion, it’s a comprehensive overall perfect preworkout supplement.
This supplement also enhances your growth hormone and optimizes the third kind of response ie. endocrine response to help you build more muscles.
3. Deer antler velvet
There have been many reports of athletes using deer antler velvet before a tournament. Deer antler velvet has its haters and fans too.
However, the science why it works seems solid and is backed by several reports from athletes and bodybuilders that use it. It contains IGF-1 and several other amino acids and peptides that can improve your performance in the gym dramatically. It’s also great for muscle healing and recovery.
When combined with an HGH supplement, this can have a highly effective synergistic result to provide the best benefits and you are definitely going to love the muscle pump, you are going to get with this.
It is an over the counter supplement and although it has been banned by some professional sports authorities, the average gym goer can make use of it just fine.
4. Beta alanine
Beta-Alanine is technically a non-essential beta-amino acid. However, it has quickly become anything but non-essential in the world of performance nutrition and bodybuilding. Popularly known by its trademarked name CarnoSyn, it has become a leader based on claims that it raises muscle carnosine levels and increases the amount of work you can perform at high intensities.
Beta-Alanine is also famous for producing a certain “tingle” you probably feel—and may freak out about—the first time you try a pre-workout supplement containing Beta-Alanine.
So, what’s special about the carnosine levels that are raised inside the muscles because of Beta alanine?
First off it’s a great and very potent antioxidant, and has anti-stress and anti fatigue properties.
Secondly, as we know the buildup of more lactate and hydrogen ions (H+) during high-intensity exercise lowers the pH levels and this causes decrease in the efficiency of enzyme function and muscle excitation-contraction coupling events.
When you need a kickass workout, you definitely need more efficient enzymatic functions so your body keeps giving a high-intensity output. So, we don’t want muscle pH levels to decrease and Beta alaninie’s carnosine helps in that.
Muscle carnosine concentration is also linked with having a high percentage of Type II fast-twitch muscle fibers. For this reason, you’ll find higher levels of muscle carnosine among sprinters and natural muscle fanatics.
Overall, Beta alanine increases the efficiency of your muscles to workout beyond their natural potential.
5. Nitric oxide
This is perhaps the most expected entry in this list. The majority of preworkout supplements sold on the marketplace nowadays make use of nitric oxide and literally there are hundreds of different products and brands of nitric oxide boosters.
These kinds of supplements are also more in number as they are fairly cheap to manufacture and bring huge profits to the supplement companies.
However, I don’t consider nitric oxide supplements the hallmark of preworkout supplements.
While they are effective because they dilate the veins allowing more nutrients to pass through and sort of increase the efficiency of logistics, like testosterone. The truth is it’s just a gas afterall.
The body can respond either by providing more nutrients or making itself more strong hormonally.
That is why “mechanical tension” response and “endocrine response” are slightly conflicting in nature.
If you focus too much on enhancing the “mechanical tension” response, the body won’t feel the need of enhancing the endocrine response.
That’s why I believe long term use of preworkout supplements that are based only on nitric oxide is quite detrimental. A good preworkout product will also have some ingredients that also target the “hormonal response” of the body.
While Nitric oxide functions as a signaling molecule to the muscles, it is just one part of the puzzle and the “hormonal response” and the “IGF-1 response” of the body are the boss.
Regulating the life span of cells, immune system response, neurotransmission, and nutrient transport are some of the other important functions that are enhanced by Nitric oxide.
I prefer L-Arginine supplement that increases nitric oxide in the body but not too much. And the preworkout supplement that I like ie. HyperGH 14x has L-Arginine as its primary ingredient. But it’s not just a nitric oxide booster. It’s more than that.
Choline is a very interesting substance. When you supplement with choline boosting supplements, the body uses it to manufacture acetylcholine, a very important neurotransmitter that plays a huge role in nerve cells signaling across the entire body.
Acetylcholine allows nerve cells to talk to each other; and every important body movement like walking, running or even working out has something to do with this chemical. This chemical is involved in signaling the body parts to do the required movement.
The crucial point to keep in mind about acetylcholine is that no leg-muscle cell in our bodies could be a part of the action of jogging unless it was ‘told’ to do this by acetylcholine.
So, what happens when you increase the levels of Acetylcholine by enhancing choline in the body. It makes that signal strong and the body cells won’t feel “tired” or “fatigued” when they keep getting that cell-signals.
In the past, I have predominantly used Citicholine, a choline supplement as preworkout. This is available as an over the counter pill and my workouts have been insanely powerful on this, even when I didn’t take anything else.
There is another choline supplement called Alpha GPC, which is a relatively new entrant in the field, but several reports and user reviews do suggest it is even more powerful than Alpha GPC.
According to the HyperGH 14x’s site (product that contains Alpha GPC )
Supplementing with Alpha GPC offers two significant benefits to bodybuilders:
First, as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, Alpha GPC is thought to help activate fast-twitch fibers within your muscles, for harder, stronger muscle contractions and greater muscle endurance.
And second, it has been proven in clinical trials to…increase HGH Release By Up To 4,100% During Workouts (Compared To A 2.6% Increase *Without* Alpha-GPC)
Plus, supplementing with Alpha-GPC prior to workouts has been shown to improve overall bench press power while reducing post-workout respiratory rate!
Source: Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition: 2008, 5 (Suppl 1):P15
So, choline supplements especially Alpha GPC is something you just can’t ignore if you are serious about taking something to enhance your workouts.
7. Electrolytes and Vitamins
A lot of supplements to be taken prior to workouts are now including electrolytes. However, I put them last on this list. They do help hydration levels, help you to retain water and necessary vitamins and minerals, help you avoid dehydration, and also support muscular contraction.
However, relying too much on electrolytes is just a bad idea for bodybuilding. When I started training , my kickass trainer told me to never drink more than half of a small tumbler of water during the entire training session.
This seems to be old school advice, but for a lot of newbie bodybuilders out there, it might well be a piece of gold.
It’s because the body tries to control and improve water retention by “hormonal response” by releasing more HGH, IGF-1 and testosterone. Growth hormone’s hydration effects are well documented, as side effects.
So, if you use too much of electrolytes for hydration, the body won’t feel the need to increase HGH on its own as its hydration needs during the workout is already met. This will dampen the “hormonal response” and thereby hurt your gains.
Overall the supplements I discussed in this article can be summarized as follows.
Testosterone, Beta alanine, Nitric oxide, Electrolytes work by enhancing those processes in the body which help the body respond to the “mechanical tension” by going into the anaerobic mode, providing more nutrients to the muscle cells, enhancing muscles contraction, and improving fast-twitch muscle fibers.
HGH, Dopamine and Deer antler velvet’s IGF-1 help the body enhance its hormonal response.
Choline supplements work by increasing the cell-signals, improving the body’s potential to keep working out without feeling fatigued and also by enhancing growth hormone response.
I consider HyperGH 14X as the best pre workout supplement (which takes care of all these except Beta alanine and Electrolytes) and combine it with another supplement containing Beta alanine and Electrolytes.