There’s a pandemic racing around the fitness industry (no, not that one). It’s called Adrenal fatigue, and it is perhaps the most prominent reason why a person stops feeling their pre-workout after a while.
The only other reason would be that your pre-workout is junk, but I’ll go ahead and assume that if you’re reading this then you take our (Bucked Up) pre-workout, in which case the quality of your pre-workout is obviously not the problem.
Here’s a secret (other) supplement companies don’t want you to know…
Listen very closely. This is of critical importance. I’m risking my livelihood for you. Seriously, what I’m about to teach you could cost me my job. I could very well end up homeless, begging for money. But it’s worth it, because I care.
If your body is worn out, exhausted, beat down etc., it does not matter how high quality a pre-workout is, you cannot perform to your full potential.
Most of us resort to increasing the amount of pre-workout we take. Bucked Up’s clinically dosed pre-workout stops doing it. In an ideal world, the perfectly blended formula of pump, energy, focus, and endurance should always do the trick. But for some reason it stops.
Some might blame the pre-workout. The rest of us do the smart thing.
We switch to BAMF, because it has 333mg of caffeine, and is formulated with nootropics to kick the brain into hyperfocus mode.* The balance of benefits works for a couple months, but then that same effect occurs. We stop feeling it.
Naturally, we switch over to WOKE AF, the highest stim pre-workout Bucked Up Supplements offers (and realistically the highest stim any company should offer if they care about your health). The same thing happens.
So, what’s next? Duh. Enter the dry scoop method (totally a myth by the way). That’s not enough. We double scoop. Now we’re intaking 666mg of caffeine.
I hate to break it to you, but guess what. At some point that won’t work either. Not just because your heart might stop, but for another less pansy reason (if your heart stops beating from too much caffeine, then Darwinian philosophy dictates that you weren’t meant for life in the first place, duh).
MYTH: “You Gotta Switch Up Pre-Workouts”
Your local fit bro will tell you it’s because you gotta cycle through different pre-workouts. You know by now not to trust every fitstagram model, so you ask an authority. I could make a joke here about what would happen if you ask the 18 year old part-timer at the local commercial supplement shop, who gets paid a commission based on what the shop is pushing that month. But I won’t.
Instead, you seek a real authority. The friendly personal trainer at your gym seems like a good option. All it takes is one glance at their credentials:
- They have a certification!
- They’ve trained for one whole year!
- Their clients lose weight!
- But most impressively, they can do single leg split squats on a bosu ball with a barbell that’s been loaded up with two plates as well as resistance bands, and wow…check out how well they hide their lower back problems!
Aside from any trainer who specializes in that last bullet point, most trainers are a great option for advice when it comes to exercise, and fairly often for diet. That does not mean they’re well-versed in every area though — specifically, supplements.
So what do they tell you? The same thing pretty much everyone says.
“You have to switch up your pre-workouts.”
Caffeine, Adenosine, and Me: A Dance Party
Caffeine: works like a dam, temporarily blocking a neurotransmitter known as adenosine to make you feel alert and energized.
Adenosine: a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the sleep-wake cycle. When it builds up, it binds to adenosine receptors. This binding causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity.
Bring in caffeine: To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine: Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor. Unlike adenosine, caffeine doesn’t slow down the cell’s activity. As a result, the cell can no longer identify adenosine because caffeine is taking up all the receptors that adenosine would normally bind to. Instead of slowing down because of the adenosine’s effect, the nerve cells speed up.
This makes you feel energized (keyword, feel). However, the body doesn’t work the same way an avatar in an rpg does. Caffeine isn’t a mana potion; you can’t just drink a caffeine potion (coffee, energy drink, etc) and replenish your stores again and again.
The process is more like a cellular-level dance party. Adenosine comes in as the adults responsible enough to know when it’s time to quiet the party. They bind to the receptors, asking them to please keep the noise. Cells get bummed out and switch tracks — one more call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer.
You — the host — have things to do, and know that once the party stops, you’ll be left alone with your thoughts, making it impossible to workout effectively. You quickly invite caffeine. Each milligram, a new and more lively party goer. Disguised as adenosine, they join the party, lock adenosine in the storage closet, bind to the receptors. Then convince the cells to try out their sick new dubstep playlist.
Meanwhile, adenosine is growing, crowding the storage closet, and getting angry.
So, when the body metabolizes the caffeine, adenosine breaks down the door and with greater numbers, crashes the party. Sleepiness ensues.
Stim Tolerance Build-Up
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Adenosine isn’t all that different. With each confrontation it gains more strength and agility, finds new gear to loot off the caffeine corpses, and gets better at fending off the dubstep-loving partiers. After all, adenosine is just trying to be responsible — someone in this household has to be, and it sure as hell won’t be me.
Each day requires more caffeine. Then more. Until you find yourself inviting a thousand milligrammers into your system on the reg. But it’s futile. Your nerve cells can recognize them from a mile away. The receptors have grown to like their dull but kind adenosine. Worst of all, adenosine has reached level 100, maxed out their stats, equipped legendary gear. Your 1000 level 1 Caffeine Milligrammers stand no chance.
A lot of this also has to do with the adrenal glands.
For those of you who don’t know, the adrenal glands are located above the kidneys. An adrenal gland is made up of two parts; cortex and medulla. Both components play different, specific roles.
- Adrenal cortex: Releases Cortisol in response to stress, like when you procrastinate work and have to rush to get it done by deadline. It has some important roles in the body.
- Control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates; suppresses inflammation; regulates blood pressure; increases blood sugar.
- Also controls the sleep/wake cycle.
- Adrenal medulla: produces Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline), also in response to stress. The biggest difference here is that A&N are activated in physically and emotionally stressful situations where the stakes are urgent and high. Like that time you were the last one left on your Dodgeball team against four college athletes.
- Among other things, these hormones are capable of increasing heart rate and force of heart contractions, increasing blood flow to the muscles and brain, relaxing the airway, and assisting in glucose (sugar) metabolism.
Caffeine and Adrenal Glands
There are several things that can stress the adrenals (see above). But, let’s be honest, you’re not going to address your negative attitudes/beliefs anytime soon, you will continue sacrificing sleep for streaming, and…ice cream.
So, we’ll focus on what’s (kind of) realistic.
Caffeine has a tendency to stress the adrenal glands, as well as spike adrenaline and (perhaps more importantly) cortisol. Can this be useful? Absolutely. Helps us get work done, lift harder, and so forth.
Problems ensue when the adrenal glands become overworked, pumping out more and more stress hormones. We don’t have to outrun lions like our ancestors, we don’t have to fight for territory — incline benches excluded. And yet, we’re always stressed.
But, this isn’t an article about a broken system or about how social media has successfully allowed us to feel more socially isolated than ever; it’s about how caffeine can be hindering training and daily life. And, like all those other (often unnecessary) stressors in our lives…
Caffeine has some interesting (negative) effects on our adrenal glands.
Our adrenals are considered to be a bank for stored inherited energy to be used when needed. Crazy, right? There’s actually something in our body that produces energy. And here I always thought energy was some esoteric, external force, that for such a magic to exist within myself was the stuff of fantasy. (I legitimately referred to energy drinks as Mana up until, well, writing this article.)
With that philosophy, it’s no wonder that I’ve experienced adrenal fatigue so frequently in my life. Because when excessive amounts of energy are overdrawn from the adrenals, we end up with a negative energy balance. Cue exhaustion.
Naturally, we turn to stimulants. Stimulants then turn to adrenals, hold them hostage, and force them to meet our demands. This works. Sort of. Except for the fact that in doing so, the adrenals also surge our system with cortisol and adrenaline.
Adrenaline in itself can be a problem, for obvious reasons, but it does have the inconvenient courtesy to leave the scene after a short while. Cortisol, on the other hand, is like that friend who stays even after the party has ended, and all you want to do is go to bed.
It leads to irritation, anxiety, extra stress — which produces even more cortisol — and a whole host of other problems, including adrenal fatigue (after all, they’re the party responsible for producing the unwelcome guest).
And, the downward spiral begins. Adrenals stop producing their own energy — since they know they’ll be forced to anyway– leaving us with issues such as:
- Mild depression or anxiety
- Weight gain
- Increased effort to perform daily tasks
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Dry and thin skin
- Low blood sugar
- Low body temperature
- Unexplained hair loss
(Don’t worry, I feel attacked too)
And worst of all, we stop responding to stimulants. I think we can all agree that life without attaining that wonderful stim-junkie high isn’t much of a life at all.
There’s only one answer. And you won’t like it.
Cut out your caffeine. All of it.
I know that sounds crazy. As a fellow stim junkie, the very idea of cutting out my stimulants makes me tremble in fear (thank you cortisol). After all, if I allow that adenosine in, then it won’t just flood me with sleepiness, it very well might drown me in despair and force me to (Gainz forbid) do some self-reflection…terrifying. We lift so that we’ll look so good that we can evade actually being good.
Trust me, in the long run it will be worth it.
How Caffeine Can Negatively Impact Goals
Aside from the obvious; that caffeine doesn’t play any majorly positive role in the actual process of building lean muscle (tear, repair, recovery), there are several reasons why you could make even more gainz without caffeine.
- Negatively Impacts PUMP: Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor. Most pre-workouts (Bucked Up included, duh) utilize vasodilation ingredients to relax blood vessels, in turn allowing more blood to flow through.* That’s one of the ways the pump works. Vasoconstriction does the opposite, making it more difficult for blood to flow to its destination — working muscles.
- Caffeine can impair sleep: In order to recover properly, you need quality sleep. Caffeine crosses the blood brain barrier and antagonizes adenosine, hindering sleep. Also, overtaxed adrenals = poor sleep quality.
- Stress and anxiety: As a reminder, caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline triggers a boost in energy and alertness for a short period of time, before leveling off. Cortisol, not so much. If adrenaline is our fight or flight response to dodging a car that’s swerved into our lane, cortisol is the paranoia that makes us wonder which driver will be the next invasive asshole.
- May Slow Muscle Recovery: Cortisol is considered a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks muscle tissue down. Since caffeine can indirectly trigger cortisol, having too much too often can lead to muscle loss.
- Can cause unwanted weight gain: Although it can boost metabolism and energy for a short period of time, due to its spike of cortisol, caffeine can also lead to weight gain. Cortisol has been shown to affect insulin resistance, blood sugar regulation, and fat storage.
- Will without a doubt cause dehydration: caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates you. Dehydration can impair all sorts of functions, one of which being your PUMP. Also, strength and performance.
- May impair focus: I’m a pro when it comes to learning things the hard way. Typically multiple times. So when I feel so groggy I doubt one scoop will be enough, I take two. The results: I go into hyper-stim Barry Allen (Flash) mode. My brain takes in more stimuli than it can process, I can’t stick to one thing or exercise, and my anxiety skyrockets. Sometimes this has proven excellent. I can use that anxiety to destroy a workout using Giant Sets, Drop Sets, little to no rest, etc — all to keep myself from freaking out. Other times, however…I’m a paranoid mess, paralyzed by all that stimuli while still feeling too tired to accomplish anything. #balance
Caffeine-Free Pre-Workouts To Build More Muscle
Bucked Up Non-Stim is the answer.
Everything you know and love from the classic Bucked Up formula, but without the caffeine. It provides benefits like, pump,* focus,* endurance,* and, believe it or not, even (stim-free) energy.* This is possible thanks to its stellar ingredient panel.
- Vitamin B12: Well known for its ability to provide a feeling of boosted energy.* It works by effectively converting the food you eat into glucose,* which is our body’s preferred source of energy.
- Citrulline Malate: Master of nitric oxide boosters, improves blood flow by relaxing vessels thereby delivering potent pumps.* Bonus: citrulline may also enhance energy.*
- AstraGin: Shown to improve citrulline absorption, leading to even better pumps.*
- Beta-Alanine: The tingles and therefore the call to action,* this amino acid promotes endurance,* strength,* and hypertrophy.*
- AlphaSize® Alpha GPC: Clinically shown to sharpen mental focus.*
- ActiGin: Increase VO2 Max and boost athletic performance*
- Taurine: Muscular hydration — leading to better workouts, stronger muscle contractions, and pumps*
- Himalayan Rock Salt: Rich in trace minerals, critical for electrolyte balance*
- Deer Antler Spray: Supports accelerated muscle recovery*
With ingredients like that, who needs caffeine?
NEW CAFFEINE FREE PRE-WORKOUT FLAVORS
Good news! Bucked Up Non-Stim has a wide variety of flavors to choose from; Grape Gainz, Raspberry Lime Rickey, Pink Lemonade, and we just added two more to the list!
- Strawberry Kiwi: Picture this; each time you mix your pre-workout you’re strolling to a garden, plucking juicy strawberries. Then you wander into the grove of trees and take kiwis fresh from the vine. Mix them up with some superpowered ingredients, and attack your workout revitalized and ready to build muscle,* shed fat when combined with exercise,* and heal your adrenals.*
- Orange Mango: Throw out the orange juice, Orange Mango tastes like paradise. Better still, if you need a little extra morning boost now that you’ve switched to decaf, our Bucked Up Non-Stim effectively helps start a day off right, optimizing your body’s ability to produce its own energy and therefore, the focus you need to slay your day.* (Maybe do a ½ scoop if not working out)
PUMP-OCALYPSE is the Bonus.
As mentioned earlier, one of the issues with caffeine is how it negatively impacts the pump. Most the time, when any of us are trying to achieve optimal pump, we’re fighting an uphill battle right from the start. PUMP-OCALYPSE helps us monumentally in that battle, but it’s still a fight.
Without caffeine there’s no obstacle. PUMP-OCALYPSE can truly shine. Like an atomic bomb going off to start nuclear war…on anything that dares oppose our quest for maximal blood flow and epic gainz. This unearthly pre-workout enhancer works in three ways, using clinically studied ingredients.
- GlycerPump (Glycerol Powder 65%): GlycerPump is a patented supplement that causes Hyperhydration in the blood and tissues. Hyperhydration = better endurance and better pump*
- Betaine Anhydrous: A compound derived from choline. Choline is a compound that plays several roles including brain and nerve function.* The benefits:
- Can increase power output.*
- Optimal cellular hydration.*
- Increased energy levels:*
- L-Citrulline: See above.*
- Arginine HCL: Arginine is another nitric oxide booster. HCL is hydrochloride, making the arginine more stable, consequently increasing its bioavailability.*
- Agmatine Sulfate:A supplement with extensive scientific studies backing it, Agmatine is a naturally occurring derivative of the amino acid Arginine. It has some added benefits though; may ease aches and pains.*
- Peak O2 Blend: Scientifically developed blend of mushroom strains shown to improve performance and power output.* These mushrooms are powerful adaptogens — a natural substance that help athletes adapt to physical and mental stress.* Contains high levels of what’s called a “master” antioxidant. Helps fight oxidative damage.* A decrease in oxidative damage = faster recovery,* ability to train longer.* Peak O2 can also improve oxygen uptake and oxygen utilization.*
RAW ingredients are the optimization.
Still worried that you might not be able to kick it into gear without the caffeine? I get it. We all have fears in life, but worry not! There’s always more you can do. That’s why Bucked Up has RAW ingredients, so you can play alchemist and transmute your current physique into something incredible — Midas touch style.
Beta-Alanine: You already know many of the benefits, but here’s what might be one of my favorites; the tingles work like a signal. Think of Pavlov’s dogs, how as soon as they heard the bell they’d salivate because they’d been trained as such. The tingles work in a very similar way.
Exogenous Ketones: I could write an entire article about the benefits exogenous ketones…in fact, I have. They can be used to optimize your daily routine, both as a pre-workout and as a daily energy provider.
- For Pre-Workout: This is one of my favorite hacks for training; the body will pull from exogenous ketones for energy even before it pulls from glucose. The reason this is basically cheat codes is that when our bodies run out of glycogen, we start breaking down protein to use its amino acids for energy, which means those amino acids aren’t working to repair (and grow) your muscles. In other words, ketones can help preserve muscle mass, while delivering stim-free energy/focus.*
- Even better, ketones can facilitate extra pump.*
- For Daily Energy: keto folks always boast about how ketosis improves cognitive function and steady stim-free energy.* Thanks to Exogenous Ketones, you can achieve some of those same benefits, without giving up burritos.
Get Non-Stim’d Out — With (New Flavors of) Bucked Up Caffeine Free Pre-Workout
With these incredible new Non-Stimulant pre-workout flavors (Strawberry Kiwi & Orange Mango), and an epic pump enhancer like PUMP-OCALYPSE, there’s never been a better time to overcome stim addiction.
Save your GAINZ, and more importantly, save my job. I told them before publishing this that you wouldn’t stop buying pre-workout, but that you’d appreciate our honesty and instead take our Bucked Up Non-Stimulant pre-workout for your quest to live a stim-free lifestyle while still making gainz…until relapsing because we all know no one can stay away from Bucked Up, Woke AF, Black, or BAMF for long.