Preworkouts Blunt your Appetite, and supplement rant

As I talk about in my recent YouTube video, there is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence indicating that caffeine can suppress one’s appetite, maybe not for 100% of everyone but for a lot of people. Hey, here’s a study now:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23671022

When using preworkouts such as Jack3d, 1MR, Hyde, C4, or any other preworkout containing caffeine, it’s important to keep this in mind, since if you are trying to maintain a caloric surplus for the purpose of increasing muscle mass, having a reduced appetite is definitely an annoying and unnecessary disadvantage. Also, the caffeine can mess up your sleep quality, sleep being also sort of important for making gains and overall health. Supplements should be helping us move forward, not acting in a self-defeating way that holds us back.

GET READY FOR A RANT!

The tendency in the supplement industry is to advocate that “more is better,” the obvious reason being that the sooner your scoop hits the bottom of that empty protein tub, it’s time to buy more. The same messaging generally goes for vitamins, antioxidants, fat burners, joint health pills, nootropics, nitric oxide boosters, creatine, glutamine, beta-alanine, arginine, threonine, citrulline, taurine (gosh, there are a lot of “ines” that we supposedly should be taking for that extra edge), etc. Supplement companies would dance a jig and give a 20 to a poor person if every gymrat bought all of these supplements and took them until they were gone, and proceeded to continue to do so. Of course, the marketing of preworkouts also fits this pattern.

“If you’re not taking preworkout, you’re missing out an some serious EDGE! Being totally cracked out on stimulants is the KEY TO SUCCESS BRO!!!”

Now we all know that sometimes pumping some iron or going H.A.M. on the treadmill is not exactly the first thing you’d like to be doing at a given time. Preworkouts can serve as “liquid courage,” to help you overcome however you may be “feeling that day” and “just DO it:” just get up from the couch, or out of your parked car in the gym parking lot, and start hitting those weights, HARD. Especially squats.

And that’s fine. In a perfect world, men and women wouldn’t need drugs to help us force ourselves to do things we don’t want to do; we would “just do it” because we feel motivated, clearheaded, and confident enough to do it, armed with the twin weapons of self-esteem and self-awareness. We would be convinced that liftings hundreds of pounds of weight, just to lose fat and increase muscle size (often mostly for aesthetic reasons), was a self-evidently valuable activity, and that any feelings of being “not good/big enough” are because WE say so, not society.

But this ain’t no perfect world. And we’re not necessarily 100% convinced. If we were, there would be no need for preworkouts or 90% of the other “sports supplements” that we spend our money on even when we know, deep down, that any evidence of their effectiveness largely comes down to belief: if you believe creatine works for you, fantastic. Sure, there are scientific studies that creatine works, but there are also studies that smoking kills, yet there are still a decent number of octogenarian smokers around who, somehow, didn’t die. So science is secondary to how it makes you feel.

When it comes to exercise, nothing produces program adherence as much as seeing concrete results, whether it’s five pounds lost on the scale weight or 5 pounds gained on the bench press. So seeing results while taking supplements can produce the FEELING that the supplement itself caused the results. In a way, it did: if taking the supplement actually got you to work out, in ANY capacity, then indeed it did sort of produce the results. But it doesn’t take a Ph. D to see that that is a correlation, not a causation.

I remember in my early days of fitness, my gym buddies and I had a great pre-workout ritual: pill bottles rattling, shaker bottles sloshing, blenders blending at high speed….it was a symphony of soon-to-be massive gains! And I did see gains, I did see results. But guess what? That routine was not sustainable for a host of reasons: supplements are too expensive, need to be taken too often (for example, Epozine NT02 by BSN: four thick-ass pills FOUR TIMES A DAY ON AN EMPTY STOMACH? I was trying to gain weight, when am I going to have an empty stomach?!), have weird side effects (often digestive in nature), and swallowing all the pills in an Animal Pak is cool the first ten times, and then it’s just annoying and kinda foul.

Eventually, I started to lose momentum in my gym routine. Every so often I’d be all like, “ok NOW I’m going to jump back into my 5-day per week routine, and here’s $150 worth of powders and pills to make sure I do!!!!” But it didn’t take. I later realized it was because I was exercising for the wrong reasons, and hence I was buying supplements for the wrong reasons too. Rather than for health’s sake, I just wanted to “get bigger,” largely because the world was telling me that I wasn’t big enough. In reality, I wasn’t; I didn’t feel capable of defending myself or others in the face of violence or a disaster, and asthma was still a huge physical and psychological obstacle to overcome. But that noble reasoning was soon displaced by images in muscle magazines, Arnold flicks, and supplement labels.

The point is, if your exercise routines and fitness goals aren’t somehow based on knowing what you’re trying to accomplish and why, and are instead based on feelings that you’re just not good enough, not big enough, not fatless enough, not strong enough, then there is a good chance no amount of supplements will get you off your ass indefinitely. I had to cultivate more positive motivators to continue seeing results. There was some period of struggle, and sometimes there still is. Sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t necessarily feel like doing at the moment in order to obtain some greater goal. But it can and should be a goal that WE decide upon, that WE understand to be valuable, like greater endurance, power, or size within the rubric of sustained health. As long as our goals are whatever Optimum Nutrition, USPLabs, BSN, iSatori, or any other supplement company tells us, we’ll need more and more convincing….and they are only too happy to oblige, for 55 dollars a tub.

note: I’m not saying that supplements are totally useless, that the aforementioned companies are evil, or that I don’t use some supplements myself. Just that supplements should remain supplements, not staples, in any fitness lifestyle, and your sense of purpose and motivation should not be dependent on them.

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