Stimulants and Cycling

Posted: April 7, 2012 in Guides, Supplements
Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you are one of many users of coffee, energy drinks, pre-workout drinks, caffeinated soda, or all of the above, you probably consume your fair share of stimulants on a daily basis.  If you have ever wondered why your first dose of your favorite pre-workout got you pumped up but now does nothing, this is for you.  If you wonder why you feel like shit without your morning cup of coffee, this is for you.  If you would like to optimize your performance in the gym, at work, in the classroom, or otherwise via the use of stimulants, read on.

What is a stimulant?

I’m not going to get real technical here, but stimulants, generally speaking, boost energy via central nervous system stimulation.  In addition to energy boost, you can also expect mood and focus enhancement.  This isn’t hocus pocus or painfully subtle like most supplements, this is a real in your face feeling.  Anyone that’s had an inordinate amount of stimulants at once knows this (think about your first Red Bull, coffee, Mountain Dew, pre-workout mix, etc.).

I suggest using stimulants to your advantage for these effects.  For optimal effects, take stimulants on an empty stomach 30 minutes prior to the event you desire to have your performance enhanced in (workout, study session, etc).  However, there are several caveats about responsible use.

How to use?

A lot of folks just use them constantly via coffee/energy drink/soda intake and become so dependent that they are necessary just to keep up normal energy levels.  While this has no safety effects to speak of, this isn’t the most efficient use of stimulants, in my opinion.  For one, stimulants will work better each use if you use them as little as possible.  Every use induces tolerance and you cannot just keep upping the dose, you can reach a point of danger at extremely high doses and eventually you will just be wasting your money.

Long term use also induces tolerance.  Even if you are judicious with your use, over time they just won’t work as well.  This is where cycling comes into play.  Basically, you will take time off completely from stimulants periodically to lose your tolerance.   Here’s a quick breakdown on my suggestions for optimal cycling:

Daily stimulant use: Cycle every two months.  Two months on, 3-4 weeks off.  Don’t use for more than three straight months.  Plan for life events like final exams accordingly.

3-4 times/weekly use: Either take 3-4 weeks off every 4 months, or take two weeks off every 2 months.  I think the longer time off works better but you have some flexibility.

Sporadic use: You don’t really need to cycle, but if you feel you aren’t getting desired effects go ahead and take more time off than normal.

Cycling off can kind of stink.  Stimulants are addictive.  Ever seen someone try to go off cigarettes and they get withdrawals?  The same thing, albeit in a smaller scale, is likely here.  Those first few days cycling off may make you feel sluggish, grouchy, and you may even get some headaches.  This will go away with time and you will soon feel much better.  Don’t give in and just take caffeine to mask the headache!  If you are having a lot of trouble with this, try tapering down doses.  Spend a week at half your normal intake, then take half of that the next week, then go off completely after that. After those few weeks off, you will love how stimulants work for you again and you will see why cycling off was worth it.

Remember, there is no problem being off of stimulants more often than I’ve suggested.  Not being reliant on them is great.  I have given suggestions assuming that the reader wants to use them as much as possible and with the greatest effects possible.

Which stimulants to use?

To quickly name and summarize the distinguishing characteristics of popular stimulants, here we go:

Caffeine – By far the most common.  Naturally occurring in coffee, chocolate, others.  Often found in soda, energy drinks, preworkout drinks.  Effects are mild and include energy boost, focus boost, small mood boost, small appetite suppression, and a slight diuretic effect.  Dosing: Assess tolerance at 100mg.  200-400mg for acute effects, keep daily intake under 1000mg.

Ephedrine – Once found in popular ephedra supplements, ephedrine is now banned as a dietary supplement and can only be obtained through OTC asthma meds like Bronkaid and Primatene.  Works in synergy with caffeine and should always be taken with caffeine for fat burning effects.  While users report energy and focus boost, this is a fat burning stimulant and there is clinical backing for this.  When used with caffeine, appetite suppression and diuretic effects are very notable.  More dangerous than other stimulants to those with heart problems.  Other negative side effects include raised heart rate, sweating, crash, and “stim dick.” Dosing: 12.5 mg to assess tolerance.  25mg is upper limit per dose, do not dose more than three times daily.

DMAA– Also known as 1,3-dimethylamylamine, geranium extract, etc.  This is to be banned soon based mostly upon the fact that it is not in fact found in geranium plants as advertised.  Popularized by USPLabs Jack3d, DMAA is a staple in any “high-stim” cocktail nowadays.  It is a powerful stimulant that can cause euphoria, exceptional energy, and some appetite suppression.  Side effects include crash, quick tolerance, and “stim dick.” If you take a DMAA containing product and instantly feel sleepy, you have dosed it far too high.  Some people just will not respond well to this.  UPDATE: DMAA has been banned.  It is legal to purchase and use for now, but manufacturers may not produce any more of it.  What is for sale now is all there is.  Companies are scrambling for alternatives and if anything truly interesting comes up I’ll continue updating this post.  Dosing: 25mg to assess tolerance.  25-100mg in single use, 100mg daily limit.

Yohimbine – Usually comes in one of two forms (Yohimbine HCl or Alpha-Yohimbine/Rauwolscine).  Oftentimes not felt, this is a fat burning stimulant.  Works differently than ephedrine and is particularly effective at mobilizing stubborn fat.  Effects are lessened or completely diminished in the presence of insulin so may be best for ketogenic dieters and definitely must be taken on completely empty stomach (fasted).  A variety of negative side effects are associated with Yohimbine HCl, so if you do not respond well turn to Alpha-Yohimbine.  I would feel comfortable using Alpha-Yohimbine during a stimulant break.  Dosing: 25mg per use.  No more than 3 uses per day.

NMT – I felt a subtler-than-DMAA but decent feeling with NMT (N-Methyl-Tyramine).  It seems to enhance mood fairly well over anything else, in my experience.  I’ve found that responses can vary quite a bit on this stimulant, some with no felt effect, others getting headaches, and others like myself feeling a mild stimulant sensation that adds well to caffeine.  Worth a shot in the post-DMAA world.  Dosage: 35-70mg per use.

PEA – Chemically related to amphetamine, this has poor oral bioavailability.  While chemistry struggles to explain it, PEA and its analogues (b-PEA, etc) are known to produce a strong euphoric feeling at proper doses.  It has a short half-life of 15 minutes so do not expect effects to last long.  May be useful for acute focus needs.  Dosing: Too user dependent and unresearched to say definitively.  Often a part of stimulant formulas that do not disclose dosing.

The takeaway?

Well, every prospective stimulant user should start with caffeine.  This is readily available and there is probably a drink you like the taste of that has it in it.  Once you think you’ve mastered the art of caffeine, you can try adding things in based on your needs.  For fat burning, ephedrine is tops and yohimbine is great as well.  For focus or further energy boost, you may look for DMAA and PEA containing products.  Things can be user dependent so you just have to experiment.

Note: There is more to preworkout drinks than just stimulants/energy/focus boosters.  I have now begun a series on Pre-Workouts that Work, starting like this article by pointing out the useful ingredients.

  1. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly loved browsing your weblog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing for your feed and I’m hoping you write again soon!

  2. Johan Engelbrecht says:

    Please send me mail what to use.

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