Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category


Driven Sports Craze has attracted a lot of attention since it was released, devastating users with both amazing results and, rarely, terrible side effects.  Rumors swirled about what the new ingredient “Dendrobex” was and wasn’t was, going to the point of speculating that it contained unlisted drugs.  Driven Sports has provided several drug tests in informal settings on’s forums to dispute these claims.  A new topic that has been lingering for a while has been whether there has been some change in Craze since it was first released.  I have linked my previous coverage of these issues above.

The claim is users that bought the initial production run are now experiencing different effects with more recently produced batches.  Many have noted that it is still a good product for them, but that it does not seem to affect them the same way.  Many have noted tolerance as a potential cause, which makes sense of course.  The persistence of these claims makes one wonder if it is more than that, though.  Fueling the fire of speculation was a labeling change — not long after release, Driven Sports listed Creatine Monohydrate as the first ingredient instead of Betaine Anhydrous.  DS states that the two ingredients occur in exactly the same amount, meaning the choice of which is listed first (ingredients in a proprietary blend must be listed from most prevalent to least prevalent) is arbitrary.  They say they moved Creatine Monohydrate to that first position since it is a far more recognized ingredient.  Beyond that, several new flavors of Craze have been released and some users have claimed those do not affect them the same way their old grape did.

An enormous thread on the forums on this topic can be found here:

After nearly two months of discussion about placebo, tolerance, dishonesty, and a myriad of other speculations about why these reports were surfacing, Driven Sports owner/founder Matt Cahill posted that he had discovered counterfeit products on the market, at least in Europe.  You can find more information at their blog: here and here.  This does not necessarily address the complaints of domestic customers, however.

So what’s the deal?

I’m not sure.  If the likes of Pat Arnold are to be believed (bear in mind that he has backed off his allegations at the request of DS), then the recent complaints from customers are because Driven Sports removed this mythical additive.  On the other hand,  this could be an issue of tolerance, as mentioned earlier.  People keep using the product and eventually it does not work as well without proper stimulant cycling.  Also, the initial reviews were a bit out of this world.  Perhaps the effects were overstated and the subsequent high expectations simply could not be met.  DS has also made mentions that the product was susceptible to settling, so some users would be getting inconsistent amounts of the active ingredients in each scoop unless they “shook the tub.”

Regardless, the product continues to sell fabulously well online.  The fever pitch of interest seems to have died down, but it still has legions of loyal users and remains a common recommendation and even more common request.  Other companies like MAN and Gaspari have recently released products claiming a Dendrobium extract, so we’ll see if those work the same as DS’s proprietary extract.


With the recent burst of news about Ray Lewis and other professional athletes and the actually banned substance called deer antler velvet, I thought it would be useful to inform the masses not to waste their money.  Just because someone deceived a professional athlete into using it, this does not mean it works.  If the news coverage of it makes it seem like it works…well that’s what supplement companies do — they present their product in such a way that it seems like it MUST work.

What’s in it?

Deer antler velvet is being taken and they are extracting the substance IGF-1 from it.  IGF-1 is a growth hormone and something that is actually found in your body and actually does good things for you.  Sounds good, right?  Great.  Is it found in deer antler velvet?  Possibly.

IGF-1 has been studied for medical uses and has been used in treatments for diabetes, cancer, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  There is some debate as to its efficacy for these various things.  Typically, growth hormones are injected when used for medicinal or even performance enhancement purposes.

Deer antler velvet products are usually available in sprays, under tongue lozenges, or capsule form.  They are not illegal, but they are banned by most sporting organizations.

Does it work?

No.  There is no evidence that it works and with the right knowledge, it would not even make sense that it could work.  First of all, people are either eating it or applying it topically to the skin.  Growth hormones are injected.  It is also unclear whether there is even enough of IGF-1 in the product that someone could buy it, inject it, not die, and get results.  Furthermore, as indicated previously, IGF-1 is very likely not useful for athletes to supplement anyway.

Let’s look at the research:

1. N Z Med J. 2012 Dec 14;125(1367):80-6.

Health benefits of deer and elk velvet antler supplements: a systematic review of
randomised controlled studies.

Gilbey A, Perezgonzalez JD.

College of Business, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, New

AIMS: The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence from RCTs of
velvet antler supplements for any condition, using the QUOROM statement as a
guiding framework.
METHODS: Four electronic databases (PubMed, Medline, Web of Science and Academic
search premier, via the bibliographical platform, Endnote) and two review
articles were searched for all randomised clinical trials of velvet antler
supplements. Retrieved trials were evaluated according to standardised criteria.
RESULTS: Seven RCTs were identified as satisfying all inclusion criteria and
examined the effectiveness of velvet antler for rheumatoid arthritis (2),
osteoarthritis (1), sexual function (1), and sporting performance enhancement
(3). Their methodological quality ranged from 3-5, as measured on the Jadad
scale. Two RCTs reported some positive effects of velvet antler supplements, but
neither were convincing while the remaining five RCTs found no effect of velvet
antler supplements.
CONCLUSIONS: Claims made for velvet antler supplements do not appear to be based
upon rigorous research from human trials, although for osteoarthritis the
findings may have some promise.

PMID: 23321886 [PubMed – in process]

This is a research review looking at all the deer antler velvet research in humans.  They found no proof for usefulness for ANY REASON, and for sports supplementation they see that it was so conclusively useless that it does not even merit further research.

Why would Ray Lewis take it?

Ray Lewis is a consumer just like anyone else.  Like it probably did for you, deer antler velvet sounded really good and it was clearly not a steroid.  Likewise, even if it worked like injectable HGH, the NFL does not do blood testing for heightened levels of growth hormones.  There was not much to lose.

The question was asked to me, “well if it isn’t very bioavailable orally and/or there isn’t enough of the stuff per bottle, isn’t he rich enough to just buy a lot?”  Sure, he’s rich enough.  At this point, though, why wouldn’t he just buy the real HGH?  It would attract less attention and be far more certain to work.  Neither could be tested for by the NFL.  I would guess that he was either sold it by a personal trainer or perhaps he did not buy it at all, and the person leaking this information is just trying to make money on deer antler velvet.

To summarize,

don’t buy this stuff.  No Excuses will take care of you if you want to invest in supplements.  If you want HGH gains, buy HGH…but I won’t help you with that.

Yes, this is something I have dealt with and it IS doable.  There are tons of variables for this particular situation and I will try to give options for a variety of circumstances.  I write college in the title because I think this is the most common type of person searching for this information, but I hope I can help anyone operating on a budget.

1. Use what is given to you — campus dining

You probably have access to on campus dining in some capacity.  This may be complete shit or it might be pretty good.  Either way, take advantage of this as much as possible.  My experience is that while sometimes there are tasty choices available, finding a meal with a decent protein content is rather difficult.  I do not necessarily blame the schools, protein-containing foods (aka meats) are just more expensive.  Many schools are now providing nutrition information for campus dining establishments and if yours doesn’t you should push and prod them for information.  Either way, you should be able to come up with decent estimates for what you’re taking in from there.  If you’re counting calories, my suggestion is to just keep your estimate consistent.

Eat whatever wholesome foods are afforded to you in this context.  My school had a nice selection of fruits and vegetables.   We even had a “to go” program that allowed me to do some stocking up.  You should have red lights flashing in your head when you see a meat-based meal…eat it.  Whether you’re going to use it or not, most colleges are going to make you buy a meal plan.  You may as well maximize your value and keep money in your pocket.  This isn’t free license to load up on the pizza every day, though.

2. Real food is cheap

Fruits and vegetables, yes.  Think about how little some of these basic foods cost.  A weeks worth of bananas would be less than a couple bucks, more than  a week of apples for a five-spot, 2.5 pounds of oatmeal for three dollars, etc.  These are low cost foods and you have to make the most of them, especially since you know deep down that they are good for you.  More importantly for a student, anyone can prepare these foods.  Maybe grab some cinnamon or something of the like to make your oatmeal taste better, I usually do that and add sucralose (a big bag of generic is fairly cheap and lasts forever).  Based on your personal tastes and selection, you can kind of take it from here.  The gist of this is to stock up on these whole foods that need little preserving and little preparation.

If you have any access to conventional kitchenware, like a common room oven, you’ve hit the jackpot.  If you’re like me, you have probably bought some pre-cooked chicken or other meat (frozen or refrigerated) and paid an arm and a leg for it.  However, this allowed you to microwave it as an easy prep that kept you from leaving your room.  And if you can’t access an oven, you may have to consider this as an option.  Most campuses I’ve been to, however, have at least limited common access to a kitchen.  Buy regular, refrigerated, uncooked chicken breast (or another meat if you’re feeling cheeky) as this is the cheapest “preparation” due to its unpreparedness.  Acquire a pan that many ovens actually have inside them already and broil that chicken.  Broil more than you can eat at once, you can refrigerate it and reheat for future meals!  This is cheaper than buying pre-cooked and you’re not dealing with preservatives or whatever else may be dumbing down the quality of those pre-cooked options.

3. “Shortcut” options

Some people actually have a hard time getting enough calories.  Others, even with considerable effort, struggle to meet the protein demands of a proper resistance training diet.  Of course there are some that just have a hard time feeling satiated or at least satisfying the sweet tooth.  I have options for everyone.

Calorie dense foods that won’t make you feel too guilty

-Don’t buy “weight gainers” in this situation unless you really just despise eating food

-Peanut butter


-Whole milk/chocolate milk (in moderation)


These are just some that come to mind that aren’t devoid of nutritional value but can pack a calorie punch without making you feel overfull.  Many will find that these are good to eat just because they’re yummy.

Protein options

Whole foods are preferred, there’s no way around it.  Don’t use the following option as a primary protein source, only use it to help you AFTER you’ve maximized your protein intake via food.  Do not make the new dieter/trainee’s mistake of consuming protein powder as your main dietary source of protein.  Yes, protein powder is my suggestion here.  My experience is that buying online will allow you the best selection and by far the best selection of flavors that you might even look forward to drinking, but that can be up to you.  There will be another post one day describing some of the better tasting protein products.   The source of protein in this case doesn’t matter much, can be whey, egg, casein, soy, a blend of all of them.  Just don’t get something with a ton of added sugar or fats, you don’t need that unless perhaps you fall into the above category and hate eating peanut butter.

Low-cal, no-cal options for satiation

The old school way is to slam a good deal of water upon the first twinge of hunger.  This is in fact rather effective due to the weight in your stomach and the waiting game before eating can often make you reconsider your initial impulse to stuff your face.  There are other options though.

For something solid(ish), you can go after some sugar-free yogurt.  A cup of this stuff is 5-15 calories, so you’d have to eat a lot for it to be an issue.  Don’t spoil it by putting whip cream on there, though.  This is very cheap also.

Diet soda.  If you’re an alarmist about artificial sweeteners, you can ignore this and wait for some posts on this very subject coming through my pipeline.   If you’re sensible, you should think about having some diet soda.  I strongly advise against the needless abuse of stimulants when you could be saving your tolerance for selective ergogenic use, so my weapon of choice is diet root beer.  There are some other options though.  Flavoring systems have drastically improved and even if you don’t care for it at first, you get used to it rather quickly.  I now find “regular” soda to be kind of yucky.  These drinks are zero cal, taste good, and you can drink quite a bit of it and never know the difference.  A big liter of something like this is very inexpensive and if you buy a store’s generic, it can be very cheap in cans as well.

4.  No variety? No problem!  Seasonings save the day

One of the easiest things you can do to save some cash is not bend over backwards trying to have different foods everyday.  To this day it is rare that I do not eat some chicken, oatmeal, an apple, and a banana every single day.   I typically will have at least 1 serving of protein powder in skim milk as well.  The rest of your nutritional needs can be varied as well with some of those other low-cost options or your campus dining (if applicable).

To keep your meats less boring, you should start experimenting with seasonings, marinades, rubs, etc.  My favorite preparation of any meat is with lemon juice and pepper, sometimes even lemon pepper.  If you’re watching sodium (which is unnecessary unless you have high blood pressure), Mrs. Dash has a decent lemon pepper available.  Lemon juice also has zero calories.  I also love Lawry’s seasoning salt as well as Steak n Shake’s house seasoning.

Other options include a variety of marinades, just be mindful of the fact that most of these have some caloric value.  BBQ naked chicken can be awesome.  You can also check out Walden Farms products, they have an entire line of things that are zero calorie like BBQ sauce, pancake syrup, etc.  I haven’t tried all of their stuff though, so don’t hold me accountable if you don’t like something.   There is also a “fat burning” hot sauce out there called Thermogenesauce, might be worth a look if you want a no-cal option that has some good fat burning ingredients as well.

You can do it

You may find my suggestions not entirely useful or you may end up with a completely different routine in the same situation.  That’s great.  The end goal here is to let you know that just because you have budget restrictions, you need not end or hurt your quest to change your physique.  Eating out and buying a variety of expensive foods is great, but you can do it on a budget as well.  Don’t let your circumstances stand in the way of your gains!

What better way to start my series on the safety of the various sweeteners out there than with aspartame, the most debated of them all.  Before we dig into that, we have to resolve a few issues though.

Why isn’t this called artificial sweetener safety? This is because the terms artificial and natural are just silly.  I understand the motivation to think of anything that is “artificial” must be bad, but we now live in the 21st century and we have the means to actually evaluate what is and is not safe in a scientific, methodological manner.  Relying on our impulse to think this or that thing must cause cancer is silly at this point when we can pinpoint the troublesome compounds and test them.  In the case of this series of articles, we will examine sweeteners; I will start with aspartame and we’ll work to sugar and beyond.  The main thing to take away here is that artificial doesn’t mean bad, it just means that it isn’t found in nature.  I can tell you that I would be happy if arsenic wasn’t found in nature, but unfortunately it is.  I won’t label it natural and therefore good, I’ll just try to avoid it.

History of aspartame

A brief history of the introduction of aspartame to the American food supply will probably let you know why it is that the additive has a such a bad reputation.           A company called Searle (much later was bought out by another shady character, Monsanto) introduces aspartame as the zero calorie sweetener to replace the repulsive saccharin, AKA Sweet n Low.  They fund many peer-reviewed studies to prove its safety and it is unceremoniously approved.  Later, the validity of the studies is called into question.  Much review by the FDA concludes that while there were a few “inconsistencies” in the studies, the results were not significantly affected in any of the studies.  Similar investigations were carried out more than once, always ending with the same conclusion that aspartame is safe for humans at normal consumption levels.  The shadiness here is that twice, top FDA officials left their posts to work by companies owned by Searle.  This above all else has fed into the theories about aspartame’s supposed lack of safety.

If you are troubled by this, keep this in mind: this kind of job switching occurs in every industry that is regulated by the government.  It is hard to tell what is corrupt when the simple truth is that excellent regulators make excellent employees and vice versa.

Aspartame today

Fast forward to the present, where aspartame is approved for consumption in virtually every country that is industrialized enough to regulate food.  One scientist has declared aspartame the most researched food ingredient, ever.  The threshold for safe consumption equates to about 20 cans of diet soda daily for the rest of your life.  If you plan to drink more diet soda than that or just slam powdered aspartame, perhaps consider other options.  If not, don’t stress about it.

What’s in it, how do you digest it?

Now…I don’t expect you to just take my word for it.  Let’s talk about aspartame in the body.  Before it reaches the bloodstream, it hydrolyzes to three components: aspartate, phenylalanine, and methanol.

Aspartate: aspartate is an amino acid that is one of the most common in a human diet.   Nonetheless, it receives blame for neurotoxicity and other supposed side effects.  You’d have to just about cease being a human in order to cut aspartate out of your diet and a single bite of chicken will provide more aspartate than a can of diet soda.   No worries with this component.

Phenylalanine: If phenylalanine can harm you, then you’ve already heard of it.  Phenylketonuria is a condition that involves terrible responses to phenylalanine.  It is rare and you have surely consumed much of it with no problems by now if you don’t have that condition.  Otherwise, phenylalanine is yet another harmless amino acid that will be present everywhere in your food supply.

Methanol: this is the most troubling of the aspartame components.  Methanol toxicity is a real thing and too much methanol can “mess you up.”  As often is the case with the health crowd though, no attention is paid to the significance of anything.  Methanol WOULD be bad if it were present in a high amount.  Studies have shown that the methanol components do not even reach the bloodstream in measurable levels (the other components do not either).  A useful comparison would be natural fruit juices, which are more dense in methanol than your aspartame-sweetened drinks.  Your body has no problem dealing with these kinds of levels of methanol since we evolved eating a lot of fruit.

That’s it!  Aspartame isn’t some crazy chemical with countless components, it is in fact just those three things.

State of research

Research almost always finds aspartame safe.  A common problem with rodent research (the most common research being done) is that rodents develop tumors, both benign and malignant, at an alarming rate regardless of their diet.  It is just part of being genetically inferior.  Finding tumors in rats when studying aspartame does not necessarily indicate carcinogenicity because of this.  Several have taken issue with a couple recent studies due to this confounding factor.

Some have problems with the fact that much of the research, especially early on, was funded by the company that put out aspartame.  Well…this is how it works.  What motivates you to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to study something if not the fact that you NEED it to be studied to sell it?  This just par for the course in the industry and the reason we still have peer review.  Moreover, researchers are putting their reputation on the line when they sign off on a study.  These are usually college professors that don’t want to be shamed for lying.  Do not  think that safety studies that are not funded by aspartame makers are “independent” either — powerful people in the sugar industry, for example, have as much reason to find it unsafe as their competitors need to find it to be safe.  In the end, the pharmacology speaks volumes and that is why I covered it first.  There is no debate as to how we digest aspartame and what it is made of — we know enough about the separate components that corrupt studies wouldn’t matter if they existed.

If you are looking for information on aspartame research, please avoid Dr. Mercola.  That guy has spent much of his adult life trying to take down aspartame despite the lack of evidence for it…and don’t worry, he has an alternate sweetener to sell you too! :hmm:

Side effects?

So why do people complain of “side effects?”  Well, there are a couple reasons.  First of all, aspartame is a known trigger of migraines in those that are susceptible.  This puts it in the category of “well…everything” as a potential migraine trigger.  People are much quicker to call the FDA when they believe aspartame gave them a headache, though, because they were already told that aspartame is bad.  It also goes without saying that people are apt to blame aspartame for anything unusual that happens to them when they have ingested it.  Many of the complaints I see attributed to aspartame are consistent with caffeine intake as well (hmm…).  It goes without saying though, if it gives you problems you should just discontinue use.  There are plenty of other options nowadays, which I will get to in the following articles in this series.

I use it

I do not buy aspartame in bulk to sweeten things but I have no qualms ingesting it via diet sodas or other items.  I would call it the “least” safe of the artificial sweeteners, but they’re really all basically completely safe.  I choose another sweetener because I think that one tastes better.  More on that later!

It is in vogue to simply recommend products to people.  However, this is inherently biased for a number of reasons and to begin with, I’m going to avoid it.  It is also time sensitive and I don’t wish to have this entire concept become outdated in short order.   So for Part 1, I’m going to equip you with the tools to evaluate products yourself.  If you want to try your mettle, you can argue with my product recommendations in Part 2.

There are several ingredients that may appear in pre-workouts you’ll first want to consider that I don’t categorize as “pre-workout ingredients” since they do not need to be dosed pre-workout.   The ones that I expect you to see that I have already covered in my Your Guide to Supplements – Part 2 article are:

Creatine and Beta-Alanine

With no further ado, ingredient recommendations along with dosage suggestions:

Nitrates:  These are surprisingly well-studied and have benefits for just about any kind of athlete.  This is the one ingredient that is actually an exogenous source of nitric oxide.  Yeah, that buzzword from the 1990s…finally, nitrates are the ingredient that deliver it.  Benefits include maximal strength gain, endurance increase, and sometimes intense pumps.  Depending on what kind of workout you follow, you should notice at least one if not all of these effects.  Too high of a dose Word to the wise: you cannot buy something that is simply nitrates.  It is not stable in powder form, so it is typically bonded with an amino acid or creatine.  1 gram of creatine nitrate yields a roughly ideal dose of nitrates (be aware that it does not yield enough creatine, so you will need to purchase extra creatine from somewhere).   There are also a few products that bind it to leucine, beta-alanine and others.  Look for something ending in nitrate.  Finally, don’t buy a product that has a plant extract for nitrates.  The most popular extract is beet root and it takes 100s of grams of beet root to yield an effective nitrate dose.   Nobody can possibly dose it properly in a preworkout powder.

Citrulline Malate (or just L-Citrulline) : Citrulline malate is not abundantly researched in humans but does have one study in particular that showed very nice results and there is enough animal study, common sense, and anecdote to recommend it.  This works through nitric oxide as well, though it is endogenous and therefore has a theoretical limitation compared to nitrates.  Using them both in conjunction seems ideal.  Malic acid (the malate) has its own endurance benefits as well.  The sourcing of this is more straightforward than nitrates, but the ratio of citrulline to malic acid is a worthy question to ask.  What we’re beginning to see is companies selling citrulline malate products that are almost all malate, the cheaper ingredient.  You want a 1:1 ratio preferably.  If you’re looking to buy in bulk, buy from SNS and no one else. Dosing: 2-8 grams of 1:1 citrulline malate

L-Carnitine-L-Tartate (LCLT): This is a form of the famed carnitine that actually works.  L-carnitine in its normal form doesn’t do much of anything, but some of its altered forms like LCLT do in fact do something.  LCLT, when taken pre-workout (preferably hours pre-workout, but normal timing is okay) can increase both intra-workout and post workout recovery.  I don’t think these benefits need any extra explanation, you want those benefits if you can get them. Dosing: 1-2 grams 

Creatinol-O-Phosphate:  First of all, no, this is not a form of creatine.  The naming similarity is just coincidence.  Not all of the methods of action are currently known, but there is good research backing this supplement.  This shares some similarities in effect to nitric oxide supplements like the aforementioned, but has a different method of action.  It increases the amount of ATP (the basic unit of cellular energy) in the muscles which allows for greater strength, greater endurance, and even better intra-workout recovery.  Sounds great, right?  Well, to date there is no pre-workout product that doses it effectively.  Why?  Well, it is fairly expensive.  If you see it near the end of a proprietary blend, you can rest assured it is underdosed and just there to catch your eye.  Moreover, Patrick Arnold has tested almost every mainstream supplier and found that most are selling a bunk product.  If yours reacts with baking soda by fizzing, it is okay.  If not, you have a problem.  The only legitimate brand I know of is SNS at this point.  Dosing: 2-3 grams

Nootropics: Some of these work, but they are incredibly user dependent and there are just too many to name.  Some to look for include: glucuronolactone, DMAE, rhodiola rosea, l-theanine, ginkgo biloba, ALCAR, and countless others.   These are different than stimulants and are usually added to a caffeine-based focus blend to help enhance the effects of caffeine, especially to remove the jittery effect of caffeine and oftentimes to add to a more focused and/or euphoric feeling.   It will likely take some experimenting to figure these out if you want to know which you like and which you don’t.   These can be used in non-stimulant formulas, but the chances of a felt effect are drastically reduced. Dosing varies greatly

Ingredients with less clinical backing, but strong user feedback and may reflect well on the formulator of a product

AgmatineThis is an ingredient that is unresearched in humans for exercise but has some intriguing physiological effects that may extend beyond the scope of exercise.  User reports usually note the pump effect along with some other ergogenic benefits and a few users note better overall well-being or nutrient partitioning.  These claims are hard to verify anecdotally.  It is not a terribly expensive ingredient, however, and may be worth a shot to see how it works for you.  Dosing: 500mg-1 gram

L-Leucine: A quick dosing of leucine preworkout while in a fasted state follows the protocol of the studies that led to mass use of BCAA supplements.   I do not suggest BCAA supplements but if you are fasted (like training first thing in the morning), the correct dose of leucine before you work out can trigger MPS (muscle protein synthesis).  You want that.  Dosing: roughly 4 grams

That’s it for now.  I may expand this list at a later time if research and innovative formulations come about.  If you think I can’t possibly have gotten them all, well, I probably haven’t.  However, there really just aren’t many ingredients that work.  Beware of products with a million ingredients.

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.

EDIT:  This story has undergone further developments, which I have attempted to summarize at this link.

Truth is, I don’t know.

I can tell you, however, who his lawyer is.  His name is Scott J Ferrell and he has been involved in lawsuits like the Craze lawsuit before.

I see that he has a lawsuit in progress against USPLabs over their use of DMAA. Info here.  The thing of interest in that suit is you’re hearing similar “amphetamine-like” kind of language in regards to a generally safe ingredient, DMAA.

He has also sued ThermoLife, accusing them of false advertising in their Dicana product.  This is mainly concerning their claims to have a patent pending.  I don’t know just yet how that panned out.  Read the legal docs in this PDF.

He successfully sued BSN over false advertisement of their Cheaters Relief product, resulting in refund payouts coming from BSN.  Legal doc here.  He made similar claims in a lawsuit here about several BSN products but I don’t have info on the outcome of that lawsuit.

According to this link, he was actually counter-sued or perhaps pre-emptively sued by a supplement company after he sent a “warning letter” which has been common in his lawsuits.  Apparently they are trying to get him for extortion.

There are actually several other lawsuits open that I have not mentioned here because it was beginning to get tedious.  You get the point.

The lawyer “is an avid runner and swimmer and rarely sleeps.”   Perhaps a fan of supplements as well?

I don’t know what to glean from all of this, but this certainly isn’t the lawyer’s first rodeo.  He has sued supplement companies and won.  I should also mention that if his case against USPLabs is based on relating DMAA to amphetamine, I’d think that he knows little about pharmacology.