March 07, 2022
Welcome back to another supplement comparison! This time we’re looking at creatine and pre-workout, two of the most popular nutritional supplements there are on the market! Both can be extremely effective and can produce gains in strength and hypertrophy. That being said, should you only take one of them or both? Or, if you could only take one, which should it be? This article is going to go over everything you need to know about these two supplements:
To begin, let’s talk about sports supplements as a whole; mainly, what are they? Sports supplements are a branch of exogenous compounds meant to be consumed to improve sports performance to some extent. Every supplement will consist of different combinations of compounds which are to be taken for different goals.
The one important factor to remember is that these are all “supplements''; they are supposed to be taken to supplement a diet. The reason you need to keep this in mind is that neither creatine nor a pre-workout has the ability to outperform a bad diet, poor sleep, or poor programming.
Creatine is the most used sports supplement on the market today. This is because it is also the most studied AND the most effective. Creatine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid that naturally occurs and is vital for basic life functions. It plays a vital role in the resynthesis of a high-energy phosphate known as ATP through the metabolic system known as the phosphagen system, which supplies energy during events of short duration and high intensity such as weightlifting.
Also known as our bodies’ “energy currency”, ATP is the compound that actually provides energy for muscular contractions to occur, meaning that without sufficient supplies of creatine, our workouts will suffer greatly. While we already do have some creatine stores naturally, they are generally only about 60-80% full, depending on your diet. Therefore, creatine supplementation merely fills up these levels so that we operate at 100%.
An analysis of all creatine studies found that the vast majority of users can expect the following benefits:
A “pre-workout” is an umbrella term to describe any supplement that is supposed to be consumed shortly before a workout as a means to enhance performance. While different pre-workouts can contain their own blend and doses of different compounds, a few common ingredients are found. Below are some of the most common ingredients found in pre-workouts:
Note: There are many pre-workouts on the market that also include creatine! Some even at a proper dosage.
Again, any pre-workout on the market may have some of these, all of these, more than these, or different amounts. Therefore, it’s challenging to say if they “work” but as a whole, yes they do. For example, the ISSN stand on energy drinks states that energy drinks generally seem to have a benefit in terms of improving performance. That being said, the primary ingredient responsible for the improvements seen is caffeine.
Regardless, most pre-workouts will work through several different mechanisms:
One of the biggest differences between creatine and pre-workout is how they make you feel during a workout. When you take creatine, you don’t actually “feel” it working. While you may find that you are able to lift a little bit heavier or perform a few more reps, this comes from having more ATP rather than being “psyched up”. On the other hand, you will definitely feel your pre-workout. In fact, that’s why there are so many gym memes talking about taking your pre-workout, being late to the gym or stuck in traffic; you feel like you’re going to freak out. The stimulation may feel a bit different depending on your pre-workout blend, but you’ll feel amped and ready to go. (Check these out if you’re interested in a stim-free pre-workout).
Therefore, if you’re a person who needs that stimulation, a good pre-workout could make your workout much more enjoyable. Or perhaps you had a long day at the office, take a scoop of your pre-workout and you’ll be ready to go. However, if the idea of pushing more weight is enough to get you psyched or maybe you just don’t like stimulation, creatine is the way to go.
As seen in the information above, these two supplements are not exclusive to each other and, in fact, could probably work well when taken together. Think about it like this; you take your creatine so that you are able to fill your muscle’s creatine stores. Now you are primed for the weight room and able to lift more weight. In order to utilize all of that delicious creatine for ATP, you should then probably take your favorite pre-workout so you’re jacked and ready to go in the weight room. What you have now is not only the ability to do more work through your increased creatine stores, you have the drive to get it done with your pre-workout. Therefore, the question in itself is a bit of a trick question as it implies you should only take one!
As mentioned above, creatine and pre-workouts operate very differently from each other on almost all fronts; this includes a proper dosing protocol. Therefore, we will break down what an appropriate protocol of dosing looks like for both of them.
PROPER DOSING FOR CREATINE:
In order for your creatine stores to become fully saturated, you must take what’s known as a “loading” protocol. This is a period of time when you consume large amounts of creatine to fill up your stores faster. Generally speaking, this consists of taking 20-25g of creatine a day for 5-7 days. Keep in mind the 20-25g can be broken down into smaller doses throughout the day, so you are not required to take all 20-25g at once.
To be clear, you don’t need to do this. You could take a regular dose (3-5g) every day from the beginning but keep in mind that it will take much longer to completely fill your creatine stores. At the same time, you could take 10g, or 15g a day. The amount you take during the loading phase is up to you and can depend on how you tolerate creatine (some may experience slight bloating when taking too high a dose). The amount you take will merely dictate the number of days you must take the loading dose. After the loading phase, you can then cut down to a maintenance dose of 3-5g every day.
PROPER DOSING FOR PRE-WORKOUT:
Dosing for pre-workouts is much simpler. For one, pre-workouts elicit acute benefits meaning that there is no need to load like with creatine. You can take a pre-workout whenever you want and get a reaction shortly after that.
That being said, we want to touch on beta-alanine real quick. Since beta-alanine is a common ingredient in pre-workouts, many people assume that it also works acutely. This is not true. While you may get “the tingles” when you take beta-alanine, also known as paresthesia, this is a separate phenomenon and has nothing to do with an increase in performance (but these traditional medicines may be what you’re looking for!). In fact, beta-alanine is taken similarly to creatine and requires a loading protocol. You must then take it chronically to get the desired effects (which is why pre-workout without beta-alanine is just as effective). Anyways…back to the point of this article.
While every pre-workout is slightly different, you likely need to consume it 30-60 minutes before hitting the gym. However, unlike creatine, you can take your pre-workout when you want. Once a day, once a week, or once a month; it doesn’t really matter.
If you’re not careful, you can find yourself spending a lot of money on sports supplements. It’s not uncommon for average gym-goers to spend hundreds of dollars every month on supplements. Remember that above all, the supplement industry is still an industry whose primary goal is to make a lot of money. Therefore, considering the price of a supplement can be a significant factor in deciding if it’s worth it.
Out of creatine and pre-workouts, creatine is almost always going to be cheaper. One of the reasons is because it’s been out for so long. Furthermore, it’s extremely popular, so many brands want to offer their brand. At the same time, creatine is creatine. It’s a single compound supplement which makes it difficult to claim any type of proprietary benefit. In fact, this is one of the reasons there has been an influx of other creatine versions such as HCL. We wrote about this specifically, so check out this article, but in short, it’s basically a money grab. That being said, you can easily go online and find a 500g (100 servings) bottle of good creatine monohydrate for less than $40. That’s about $13 a month.
When it comes to pre-workouts, every brand will have its own special list of ingredients that makes there’s better; and more expensive. Some of these are worth the money, while others are not so much. Regardless, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30-$40 for just a one-month supply of a pre-workout. Again, this might be worth it to some trainees, but it’s still about 3x as much as creatine.
As mentioned above, creatine and pre-workout function by altering different physiological mechanisms. In fact, they are not even exclusive of each other as a pre-workout could actually include creatine. That being said, it’s difficult to say what “works better,” but we would probably have to say creatine.
As mentioned, the pre-workouts primary mechanism of action is to increase energy and mitigate fatigue to allow for a longer and more intense workout. This increased intensity could then theoretically translate into greater gains in the weight room.
On the other hand, creatine works by increasing the body’s natural creatine stores. This allows a more excellent supply of ATP to be produced, allowing more work to be done. In this sense, creatine “works better” as it supplies the body with real fuel it can use to produce more work. A pre-workout can only get you hyped, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can actually do more; it just means you’re going to be really excited to try.
At the same time, some people like to be able to “feel” a supplement working. While this is more of a psychological phenomenon, it’s definitely a real thing that can’t be discounted. If a person needs to feel his supplement to give him that boost, then a pre-workout is definitely the way to go.
So which one should you take? Creatine vs. pre-workout? We went over some of the evidence and caveats and came to a conclusion. If you’re still choosing between creatine and a pre-workout, you should…go back and read what we wrote, as this shouldn’t even be a question!
At the end of the day, creatine and pre-workouts can both be very effective. While they function on different mechanisms, your average person will give positive feedback with both and will likely see noticeable progress. However, some won’t. Some will respond to creatine but not pre-workout and vice-versa. Even further, there are dozens and dozens of pre-workouts on the market with entirely different ingredient lists. This means that you may like one but not another. The bottom line is you will need to experiment yourself and see what you like.
However, our final recommendations are as follows...
Everyone should take a quality creatine monohydrate supplement. Literally everyone. Its benefits have been proven time and time again, and you will almost definitely see improvements. However, it can take some time to see, so get started now. At the same time, we would recommend to start experimenting with some pre-workouts if you feel like you need the extra umph.
More Supplementation Comparisons:
March 04, 2022
For those who are bulking up, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. When you are trying to add muscle, you need to be eating as quality food as you can. Unfortunately, many people struggle to estimate their calorie needs, or their kitchen skills could use their own workout. When it comes to breakfast, the common complaint is lack of time, which is why this meal is the one we often skip or skimp.
If this resonates with you, please read on. In this post, we’ll discuss the concept of bulking and estimating energy requirements; then, we’ll share the 7 best breakfast bulking meals that are delicious and will have you eager to start your day.
There are generally two end goals with resistance training – getting big or getting lean. Both require time and consistency and at least a working knowledge of food. It’s challenging to do both simultaneously, as they require somewhat different strategies and caloric intakes. In any case, they go hand in hand and are often part of a larger wellness approach. Check out this bulking vs cutting article that covers everything you need to know.
In a generic sense, bulking is any routine wherein the focus is putting on size (ideally free fat mass). A more accurate definition would describe bulking as one phase of resistance training that consists of heavy lifting and relatively little cardio and is done in a calorie surplus. In other words, eating more than you expend. Bulking is usually followed or preceded by a cutting and/or a maintenance phase. This is particularly true for athletes or professional bodybuilders.
It’s important to note that the energy surplus of bulking is done to maximize weight gains to generally prevent excess muscle loss when cutting. Therefore, overeating itself does not solely contribute to muscle gains.
Let’s explore a few more components of bulking, then move on to the food!
Bulking isn’t just as simple as eating whatever you want. It almost is, but you can set yourself up for failure if you aren’t taking the proper steps to get big.
There are two “types” of bulking – clean and dirty. This refers to the calorie source: with clean bulking, the goal is to minimize fat gain, while; with dirty bulking, the goal is to maximize total gains. There is no better choice here – it depends on your goals and what you can handle, although dirty bulking is generally easier and takes less time to reach a target weight. Clean bulking is ideal as it can be difficult to cycle between bulking and cutting to achieve “the” physique.
The meals presented here fall in the middle of clean and dirty. They were developed to help provide extra calories but will leave you feeling healthy.
Before you consider bulking (or cutting), you need to have an idea of how much energy you expend in a day or your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Then, you can calculate TDEE using these formulas:
Calculate BMR (basal metabolic rate):
Then multiply by activity level:
Or you can use an online TDEE calculator.
Bulking is very subjective, and there is no formula or rule that will tell you exactly how much to eat to gain weight. Remember that there is 3500 kcal in one pound. So, to gain 1 pound in a week, you’ll need to eat an extra 500 kcal every day.
The source of your calories is critical. You need to eat enough protein to support muscle development, but too much is wasted. You also need to eat the right proportion of carbs and fat for overall energy use. For athletes and bodybuilders, the acceptable macronutrient distribution range is:
With protein, aim to eat at least 1.2 – 1.6g/kg bodyweight.
CALORIES IN YOUR FOOD
If you don’t remember anything else, remember the number of calories per gram of each macronutrient.
Below are meals designed to support your bulking phase but with health in mind. These meals are designed for a male, 156 lbs., 30 years old, who works out ~4-5 days per week.
One thing I’d like to add – don’t neglect fiber. Fiber is calorie-free and can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. The RDA for fiber is 25g and 38g for men and women, respectively. Increasing your fiber intake will also expose you to new foods and ways of cooking, which is excellent for any health outcome.
The meals below will have a brief description, calories, and recipe. The rest is up to you. Enjoy!
If you like eggs, and burritos, then you’ll love this burrito. This should take about 15 minutes to make, more if you’re like me and can’t fold the tortilla.
This is a simple but trusty breakfast companion. Add sweet potatoes for some variety, and try out Kodiak Cakes’ Power Cakes for a bit of extra protein.
A nice little spin on the trendy avocado toast – add some cottage cheese for extra protein and everything bagel for the perfect taste.
Yogurt is an excellent alternative to cereal and milk and has some added benefits. Try this multi-layer yogurt bowl.
This one you’ll have to make the night before, but it’s worth the wait. Plus, you’ll get all that fiber I was talking about!
Smoothies come in all shapes and sizes, but this one packs in about as many nutrients and flavors as you can get. I like mine a little thicker, so I add extra fruit.
Quiche is a hearty and reliable breakfast standard that you can make the night before and enjoy most of the week. Try a couple of slices each morning with a glass of orange juice! The quiche will keep well in the fridge or freezer for about a week.
If you’re a fan of quiche, remember that it is not a frittata with crust. The real difference is in the texture – a frittata is solid, whereas a quiche has a much more custard-like texture.
Nutrition (2 slices):
Before we go, let’s recap everything. Bulking is a piece of a given exercise plan where the goal is weight gain, particularly muscle. A given bulking phase should last anywhere from 8-12 weeks and will generally follow the exercise principles of pure muscle building – hypertrophy – with less emphasis on lean mass. To get the most out of bulking, you need to exercise properly, meaning maximizing the volume of exercises and applying constant tension to the muscles.
When the goal is to add muscle and weight, one needs to eat right. The general advice for gaining weight is to eat more than you expend in a day. You don’t need to eat much more, and you should really focus on high-quality protein and ingredients in general. To facilitate true bulking, you’ll want to eat ~300-500 calories in excess of your energy requirements.
Remember, food does not cause muscle to grow. It merely supports the energy needs to turnover protein. If you eat in excess, you will gain fat. You should expect to gain 0.1 – 0.6 lbs. (possibly more) per week. This is a relatively ‘healthy’ rate of weight gain. This is why you must maintain consistency in the gym and observe your calorie intake and weight gains so you can adjust them as needed.
The meals shared here were designed to help you identify quick, filling meals that will support your bulking journey. Hopefully, you see them and learn how to change the recipes to your liking or transfer ingredients to other recipes.
(1) Slater, G. J.; Dieter, B. P.; Marsh, D. J.; Helms, E. R.; Shaw, G.; Iraki, J. Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated With Resistance Training. Front. Nutr. 2019, 6, 131. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2019.00131.
(2) Lambert, C. P.; Frank, L. L.; Evans, W. J. Macronutrient Considerations for the Sport of Bodybuilding. Sports Med. Auckl. NZ 2004, 34 (5), 317–327. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200434050-00004.
March 03, 2022
There are hundreds if not thousands of pre-workout supplements on the market that all claim to be the best and use only science-backed ingredients. It’s easy to get caught in all the marketing hype, scientific jargon, and bold claims. We wanted to create a simple post that covers some of the common ingredients you’ll find in pre-workouts then let you know which ones work and at what dosages.
A pre-workout is a supplement that usually comes in a powdered form that people use to improve their athletic performance. All pre-workouts should have the same common goal; get the most out of your training session.
Pre-workouts have only been around for about 40 years now but their popularity has continued to rise. As with all supplementation, it’s important to understand what you’re taking and why so we put together some information on the topic of pre-workouts and their ingredients.
An acute ingredient is one that you will take then directly receive the benefit. Caffeine is an excellent example of an acute ingredient that works almost immediately after ingesting it.
A saturation ingredient is one in which your body needs to accumulate a certain amount before you can reap the benefits. Good examples of these types of ingredients are beta-alanine and creatine. While both of those ingredients can provide positive benefits in terms of performance, you must have a certain amount in your body before they work correctly. You can’t take creatine once and expect it to work.
Below we cover two of the most common saturation substances that are found in many pre-workouts on the market. Then we'll go over a list of common acute ingredients that are categorized by the overall benefit they should produce along with the known recommended dosages. Finally, we cover two of the most frequently used absorption ingredients currently used in pre-workouts.
Both beta-alanine and creatine are added to many pre-workouts these days. While they are both can lead to improved performance, they need to be taken daily over a period of time to reap the benefits. We would recommend supplementing with these two ingredients separately if you really want to experience the performance-enhancing benefits of taking them.
Beta-alanine is a substance that’s included in many pre-workout products these days. You’ll know if your pre-workout uses beta-alanine because it will create a tingling/itchy sensation on your skin which isn't a harmful side effect.
The reason why beta-alanine isn’t necessary for a pre-workout is that it is a saturation ingredient that you need to load up on so that it has any performance-enhancing benefits. Some studies like this show that you’d need an average of 179 grams total intake of beta-alanine just to experience a boost in performance.
It’s most likely the case that the popular pre-workouts won’t have more than 3.2 grams per serving, and you probably don’t take it daily, so it would take a long time before you’d start seeing any possible benefits.
Another reason why beta-alanine isn’t an excellent ingredient for pre-workouts is that the benefits it does seem to provide are found in intense activities that last at least 60 seconds. In other words, the majority of your sets at the gym while weight training won’t fall in the range where beta-alanine can offer the best benefits.
Creatine is perhaps the most effective substance you can take to boost your performance apart from PEDs, SARMs, or pro-hormones. But, just like beta-alanine, creatine is a saturation substance that must reach a certain level in your body before you start to reap the benefits of it.
So, once again, we don’t think you should be taking a pre-workout daily, so it doesn’t make much sense to have creatine as an ingredient. However, you SHOULD supplement with creatine daily as it’s safe to consume continuously and has been shown to offer some fantastic benefits, including increased power output and endurance plus reduced recovery times.
To properly supplement creatine, you can either follow a loading protocol where you take an increased amount until you reach saturation levels, then taper down to a daily 3-5 grams afterward.
Here’s a look at the saturation levels of those two common pre-workout ingredients:
Now that we covered both saturation and acute ingredients we can logically discuss whether or not creatine and beta-alanine are necessary for a pre-workout.
Seeing how both of those ingredients are saturation ingredients, it doesn’t make so much sense for them to be included in a pre-workout. Let’s say for example your pre-workout only has 2 grams of creatine, at that dosage you should still be supplementing creatine separately to get your 3-5 grams a day assuming that you’ve passed the loading threshold that we covered above.
Another point to mention is that it isn’t advisable to take a pre-workout every single day without taking some breaks from using it. This means that you would need to supplement both creatine and beta-alanine on the side if you plan on benefitting from taking them.
We should point out there are some exceptions to the facts above. First is the fact some people really enjoy the tingling sensation from beta-alanine so in that case, maybe you might want to consider a pre-workout with it included. The second instance is that if your pre-workout includes the recommended 5 grams of creatine and you’ve already hit your saturation point then the days you take the pre-workout you would have to take extra creatine on the side because your daily dose has been met.
Overall, we believe that creatine and beta-alanine don’t need to be in a pre-workout.
It’s important to understand that many supplement manufacturers will use various ingredients in a pre-workout to trick consumers into thinking that because there are so many ingredients listed, the product is sure to work well.
The truth is that there are substances found in typical pre-workouts that actually produce acute benefits that can improve your workout but these ingredients are often underdosed to cut costs and increase profit margins.
A critical aspect of deciphering pre-workout formulas is looking for which ingredients are being used and what quantities. That being said, most pre-workouts will try to hit five significant points; good pumps, increased energy, improved endurance, enhanced power, and improved focus.
Below is a list of ingredients that you might see in current pre-workouts. There are far too many possible ingredients that are constantly changing, making it difficult to cover. We chose some of the most common and effective ingredients you may come across.
Note: We based some recommended dosages on information gathered from Examine.com. If you’re searching for supplements and want to know what they are, what they do, and if they have been properly researched then Examine is a great resource to check.
The ingredients used in most pre-workouts for enhancing energy are usually found in the form of stimulants. The most common stimulant used in pre-workouts is caffeine. Still, several other ingredients are used these days to boost energy, including theobromine, yohimbine, guarana, synephrine, and more.
Caffeine is one of the most widely used performance-enhancing substances in the world. It acts as a nootropic to improve focus and energy, plus it can also increase physical strength and endurance.
Pre-workouts use a variety of caffeine ingredients, including caffeine anhydrous (dehydrated caffeine), di-caffeine malate AKA Infinergy (caffeine and malic acid for slow release), and natural caffeine (think coffee beans).
Recommended Dosage: Caffeine dosages in pre-workout can range from 200mg -500mg+. Access your tolerance before ingesting doses larger than 100mg. Researchers usually use dosages for 4-6mg/kg of bodyweight.
N-Phenethyl Dimethylamine Citrate is a stimulant often compared to the now-banned DMAA. It isn’t as powerful as DMAA, but it does provide an energy boost and a euphoric sensation.
Recommended Dosage: There is not enough research to give the recommended dosage, but many pre-workouts will contain anywhere from 50mg-350+mg.
This ingredient finds its way into pre-workout as it works in a similar manner to ephedrine but is much less potent. You’ll often see this ingredient marked as bitter orange on labels. It can help with fat burning and improve circulation.
Recommended Dosage: 10-20mg up to 3 times a day.
Note: Isopropylnorsynephrine is related to synephrine but is much more effective as a fat loss agent as it has demonstrated its lipolytic properties. It also improves energy. Dosages range from 5mg-20mg
One common area that modern pre-workouts have is the inclusion of ingredients meant to improve cognition and focus. Ingredients that help you focus when working out can help to improve the mind-muscle connection, leading to a better and more productive workout session. Some common focus ingredients include tyrosine, Alpha-GPC, citocholine, and Huperzine-A, to name a few.
Alpha-glycerophosphocholine is a cholinergic substance that promotes cognition. Alpha-GPC is used in pre-workouts for focus enhancement and also power output improvement.
Recommended Dosage: 600mg
This is a cognition-enhancing substance that’s cholinergic similar to Alpha-GPC. It helps reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine which can help improve focus and enhance the mind-muscle connection.
Recommended Dosage: 50mcg-400mcg
This amino acid is metabolized in the body to produce catecholamines, including dopamine and adrenaline. Tyrosine is usually included in pre-workouts to help improve memory and focus during stressful situations that intense exercise can produce.
Recommended Dosage: From 500mg -2,000 mg 30-60 minutes before exercise. For anti-stress benefits can be 100-150mg/kg bodyweight.
Working out harder and longer can result in bigger gains; this is why many companies include endurance ingredients in their pre-workouts. A few typical endurance ingredients can consist of taurine, theanine, sodium bicarbonate, beta-alanine, and more.
This organic acid acts as a lipid/membrane stabilizer in the body and can help with various anti-oxidant defense systems. Taurine also supports cardiovascular functioning and the brain, skeletal muscle, and retina. It is used in pre-workouts to improve endurance and overall performance.
Recommended Dosage: 500mg-2,000mg
This amino acid that primarily comes from tea is usually paired with caffeine to provide a relaxed but alert sensation, otherwise called “smart caffeine ”. Theanine is often used in pre-workouts to reduce jitters and anxiousness from caffeine.
Recommended Dosage: 50mg-200mg.
A major area that pre-workouts try to address is to boost the pump you get when working out. These pump ingredients help improve blood flow and relax blood vessels so that more blood can flow into the muscles, resulting in skin-splitting pumps. The most common ingredients used for improving the pump include citrulline, GlycerPump, agmatine sulfate, and arginine. These are often found in both stim and stim-free pre-workouts.
A derivative of the amino acid arginine through the process of decarboxylation, this ingredient may help with improving blood flow by relaxing blood vessels which lead to bigger pumps. The mechanisms for how this substance works aren’t fully understood and need further research.
Recommended Dosage: 1-1.5 grams
An amino acid in the urea cycle that increases levels of arginine and ornithine while boosting the ammonia recycling process and nitric oxide metabolism that can lead to bigger, fuller pumps. Watermelon is one of the few food sources that contain citrulline.
Note: Pay attention for brands to hide behind citrulline malate without giving effective doses.
This is a naturally occurring alcohol that is used in pre-workouts in powdered form. When glycerol is in the blood, it helps to attract and retain water which can help create some massive pumps. It can also help athletes exercise for longer periods. Multiple trademarked glycerol ingredients such as GlycerPump and GlycerSize are standardized to 65% glycerol to reduce clumping and improve mixability.
Recommended Dosage: Studied effective dosage is 1.2g per kg of bodyweight
Note: Glycerol isn’t an absolutely necessary ingredient, but it helps with hydration and producing some serious pumps. No pre-workouts will contain the max effective dosage because it would ruin the product in terms of clumping and mixing. You could also supplement this product separately like creatine.
Nitrates in the form of beet extract can be found in some pre-workouts these days. These compounds change into nitric oxide in the body, which may help with blood flow which in turn can produce a pumping effect during resistance training.
Recommended Dosage: 0.1-0.2mmol/kg (6.4-12.8mg/kg) This equates to roughly 436mg for a person weighing 150 lbs.
An integral piece of the puzzle to gain muscle and strength is to use your muscles to generate adequate power to achieve progressive overload. Ingredients used in pre-workouts to improve power include creatine, ElevATP, and betaine.
Betaine or Trimethylglycine is a non-essential amino acid found in foods such as quinoa, sweet potato, beets, and spinach. Some studies have found conflicting benefits, but this ingredient is thought to help with boosting nitric oxide and improving power.
Recommended Dosage: 2.5-6 grams (dosage can be split into two times)
This is a trademarked product that consists of ancient peat and apple polyphenols. The purpose of this product is to increase endogenous ATP, which helps to increase power and strength.
Recommended Dosage: 150mg
Unfortunately many of the top selling pre-workouts on the market are using criminally underdosed amounts of the ingredients that can actually provide benefits. The main reason brands skimp out on ingredients is because the substances that are proven to really deliver benefits such as citrulline are rather expensive. By reducing the amounts of the active ingredients brands will have higher profit margins thus make more money.
One thing to look for is the dosage size per serving, if you see a pre-workout with a full list of ingredients and the serving size is under 8-10 grams then it probably doesn't contain enough of each active compound to actually produce many benefits. Another tell tale sign that a pre-workout is underdosed is when brands use proprietary blends so they don't have to disclose exactly how much of each ingredient is being used.
These ingredients help improve the bioavailability of the other substances in the pre-workout, thus rendering them more effective.
Here are two of the most common absorption ingredients these days.
This patented ingredient is derived from the plants; Astragalus membranaceus and Panax notoginseng. Together these ingredients help the body to absorb nutrients, vitamins, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Recommended Dosage: 25-50mg
This trademarked ingredient is made from piperine extract (Black pepper or long pepper). It improves the bioavailability of many substances, including herbal extracts, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.
Recommended Dosage: 5mg-20mg
It can be hard to separate the good from the bad regarding pre-workouts thanks to marketing tactics, uninformed consumers, and unclear labels. We hope that this post helped you make sure you get the best bang for your buck when shopping for a pre-workout that’s effectively dosed and isn’t formulated with ineffective doses and filler substances that serve no purpose.
If you have any questions about your pre-workout feel free to comment below!
February 26, 2022
Every lifter on the planet knows that they need to be consuming plenty of protein. It’s one of the most essential nutrition variables that can either make or break your gains. As such, protein powder is the most common nutrition supplement on the market. When it comes to protein needs, you want to eat a serving about once every 3-4 hours. This is to ensure you have a continuous steady supply of amino acids so your muscles have what they need to grow. Every lifter knows this and most follow it...except at night. At night, we let our bodies go 7-10 hours without any protein intake and nobody bats an eye. So, that begs the question, “Should I eat protein powder at night?"
That’s what this article is all about. We’re going to explore the time in our lives where nutrition is rarely, if ever, mentioned.
Now, let’s explore the world of nighttime protein feeding…
Before we talk about if we should eat protein before bedtime, we first need to understand what protein is and why we take it in the first place. Proteins are long chains of amino acids which are vital for basic life function. While generally thinking of “protein” as the nutrient protein, we actually consume a variety of different proteins, which all have a specific role.
For example, a non-exhaustive life of proteins functions are:
However, we are worried about the nutrient protein today.
The nutrient protein primarily acts as a structural binding agent for different structures within the body. This includes the muscle, which is what we are discussing today.
If you’ve heard “muscles break down in the gym and grow at home”, you have a basic idea as to why protein is so important.
Protein’s primary function is to assist in the recovery and repair of damaged muscle, making it an intricate part in growing stronger muscles. As the phrase above implies, when we go to the gym, we lift weights, which actually causes damage to our muscles. In fact, this is one of the reasons we are sore after the gym as our muscles have been damaged and are inflamed.
However, breaking down the muscle is vital for muscle hypertrophy, assuming we are eating enough protein. Once we go home, we will eat all of our post-workout nutrition, which our body utilizes to help repair these muscles. However, our bodies will actually repair the muscles so that they’re a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger.
And this is why protein is so important to athletes and lifters, as it’s literally what puts our muscles back together when we kill it in the gym. If we didn’t, we would just be constantly damaging them.
When we look at protein consumption, there are two variables: total protein intake and protein timing. Out of the two of these, total protein intake is the most important. This refers to the total amount of protein that you consume throughout the day. At the end of the day, you need to be hitting your protein intake every day. In fact, your protein intake is the most important out of all your macros. And remember, this is daily! While mixing it up once in a while isn’t huge, you really want to hit your protein numbers consistently.
Now assuming you have your total protein intake under control, the next thing you need to consider is your protein timing. This refers to when and how often you eat your protein throughout the day.
Are you eating all of your protein in one setting? Or are you spreading it out into 5 servings? Are your meals spread out evenly or are they “just whenever?”
This is important because when you eat protein, you cause an acute increase in muscle protein synthesis. This refers to your body’s ability to regenerate muscle tissue and repair your damaged muscles. It’s simply when your body is in a heightened state of muscle building.
However, this elevated state is only transient. The International Society of Sports Nutrition states that while elevated MPS can remain elevated for 24-72 hours, peak elevation occurs within 3 hours. This means that optimal levels of muscle protein synthesis come and go as we consume protein throughout the day.
This is what causes so much confusion when people talk about the existence of the “anabolic” window. There is a difference between states of elevated muscle protein synthesis and states of maximal elevated muscle protein synthesis states (emphasis on maximal). It’s also why we said that total protein intake is most important as again, that will have the largest effect.
However, we want to maximize our muscle protein synthesis, so learning how to maximize muscle protein synthesis with our total intake is crucial.
Since muscle protein synthesis is optimized at 3 hours, we want to eat a serving of protein every 3 or 4 hours. Doing so will keep these levels at their maximal rates for the most consistent period of time throughout the day. When determining how much protein you should eat each serving, it will depend on your total daily protein intake. However, they should be roughly equal servings of at least 20g.
The optimal amount of protein intake will vary depending on the individual. That being said, for the athletic community, which includes weightlifters, you should eat 1.6-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
One of the most significant factors to consider is if you are gaining weight or trying to lose weight. You can actually eat towards the lower end when gaining weight, as your body has plenty of calories to support muscle.
However, when eating in a caloric deficit to lose weight, you want to eat at the higher end to support any type of muscle breakdown for fuel.
First, let’s make the distinction between eating protein “at night” and eating protein “before bed”. Sometimes these can get lost in context.
Eating protein “at night” could just refer to having a protein shake at 8pm. However, eating protein “before bed” refers to purposely consuming a serving of protein before you go to sleep.
An individual may consume protein within 30 minutes of going to sleep; usually, just a protein shake.
So, why would you want to do that?
Remember that we had just talked about how we see optimal protein synthesis for just 3 hours after consuming protein. We often talk about how this is important for optimal growth, yet we entirely neglect the time between dinner and breakfast.
Let’s look at how long this could be:
This means that, at a minimum, most people go for 8.5 hours without eating protein! This can go even longer depending on the person.
Again, this is fine if you’re not an athlete or gym trainee. However, if you’re consistent with the gym and trying to benefit from every hour in the day, having this massive gap in time where your muscles are starving should be a concern! Well, perhaps the word “starving” is a bit dramatic, but you get our point.
Sport researchers also began to notice this same thing. All the research is being done on if you should eat every 3 or 4 hours yet we seem to be okay about that 8-10 hours of no nutrition. It’s kind of silly to ignore as this is our body’s literal time to repair and recharge (sleep!). We often forget that our bodies are still very much working when we sleep, and providing some extra nutrition to work with could benefit.
To be clear, this does not mean we eat a monster shake with oats and peanut butter. It relates to a protein shake as in water (maybe milk) and protein powder only.
Therefore, over the past decade or so, research on bedtime protein began to grow, and results seem promising with multiple studies:
1. One simple study looked at the effect that casein protein had on functional recovery in professional soccer players. 10 players consumed either 40g of casein protein or 40g carbohydrate pre-sleep after a game. Then the next day, various performance variables were re-tested. Measured variables included soreness, counter-jump, and reactive strength. When compared to the carbohydrate group, the casein protein group had significantly better improvements.
2. A study was performed that examined the effect that pre-sleep casein protein has on overnight muscle protein synthesis. The research team had three groups of men and fed each group a different dose of casein protein:
First of all, all groups, regardless of dosing, saw a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis. However, there was also a dose-dependent response. This basically means that groups saw a more significant increase in muscle protein synthesis with the larger doses with 40g of casein eliciting the highest response. This is an excellent study that illustrates your body’s ability to utilize protein while you sleep, AND it can be maximized by eating more significant amounts.
3. One interesting study was conducted to look at the difference in consuming casein protein in the morning or pre-sleep. Two mixed groups of trained men and women performed an identical diet and training program, with the only difference in variables being the timing of their casein consumption. One group consumed casein protein in the AM, and one group consumed casein protein within 90-minutes of sleep; everything else was the same, including training program, total calories (relative to their body weight, and protein intake (relative to their body weight). Both groups improved in performance and composition variables. However, after 8 weeks, the pre-sleep group gained 1.2kg of fat-free mass while the morning group only gained 0.4kg of fat-free mass. This would seem to suggest that the period of time when we sleep plays a major role in muscle growth. Sure, we can still grow without it, but we can raise even more if we use it.
4. While we could keep looking at more studies, let’s just look at perhaps the most recent meta-analysis on pre-sleep protein published in February of 2021. For those unaware, a meta-analysis is an examination of all the available studies on a specific subject. It will analyze detailed studies and compare studies against each other to see if there are common findings. That being said, this meta-analysis concluded that;
“The consumption of 20–40 g of casein approximately 30 min before sleep stimulates whole-body protein synthesis rates over a subsequent overnight period in young and elderly men…In addition, pre-sleep protein consumption can augment the muscle adaptive response (muscle fiber cross-sectional area, strength and muscle mass) during 10–12 weeks of resistance exercise in young (men).”
So yeah, it seems pre-sleep protein is a pretty good practice to follow if you’re looking to optimize your training.
As you probably noticed, the vast majority of studies on pre-sleep protein have turned to a protein source called casein protein. Casein is very similar to whey protein as both are derived from milk. However, the major difference between casein and whey is the rate of absorption. Whey protein is known as a “fast-acting protein” since your body digests it quickly, causing a faster and higher jump in muscle protein synthesis. On the other hand, casein protein is known as a “slow-acting protein” whose absorption is slower.
What this means is that the spike in muscle protein synthesis takes longer and doesn’t reach the same level as whey. However, while the spike may not be as high, it lasts much longer than whey protein. This is precisely what we want when we sleep! After all, we can't take more protein mid-sleep.
While a high spike in muscle protein synthesis can be helpful after we train, it doesn’t need to be high as when we are sleeping. Further, we will not consume any protein for an extended period of time, so a more prolonged response will be more beneficial than a short spike.
Actually, there has been a new trend in sports nutrition where casein is favored as a” general protein” such as in the morning with breakfast. On the other hand, whey protein is used primarily as a post-training protein.
Further, one of the main concerns with pre-sleep protein is the fear that it can alter our metabolism.
So, is this true?
First of all, multiple studies have shown that pre-sleep protein can actually increase your morning resting energy expenditure. This means that assuming you are at maintenance calories or in a caloric deficit, pre-sleep protein will have no effect on fat gain.
Still, studies have shown that compared to consuming whey protein or carbohydrates before sleep, eating casein has zero impact on your fat utilization overnight. Further, hunger has shown to be blunted in the morning, which means that participants would naturally consume less in the morning.
The last piece of the puzzle is figuring out exactly how much protein you should eat. When examining the studies, the vast majority of them use larger amounts in the range of 30-40g. Plus, we can look back at the study, which saw a dose-dependent response in terms of the amount of protein consumed and length of heightened muscle protein synthesis.
Times varied from 30-90 minutes, with 30-minutes being the most common. Again, we need to realize that we take pre-sleep protein to raise muscle protein synthesis before we sleep. Therefore, we should consume it as close to bedtime as possible.
Sleep is single-handedly the most important aspect of workout recovery. At the same time, you’re just lying there doing nothing! It’s time we start taking advantage of this period of time as you’re literally doing nothing else. Utilizing pre-sleep protein and having a shake 30-minutes before your sleep requires zero extra effort and could mean additional gains. Free gains? Count us in!
Still, for bigger guys who need a surplus of protein, this is the perfect chance to add a serving to hit your numbers; and again, you could see more gains! See what we’re getting at? At the very worst, having a pre-sleep protein shake means making it easier to hit your daily protein intake. And at best… we’ll repeat it…it could mean more gains! Free gains! Why wouldn’t you try pre-sleep protein?!
February 22, 2022 1 Comment
The ISSN recently concluded their event where they took position stands on all things supplements and nutrition. One of the beauties of science and sports nutrition is everything is constantly changing. Sports researchers are always spending time and money exploring and learning more about human performance and the role that nutrition plays. Although it is a relatively new field, new findings and information are constantly being discovered.
Today we want to look at several position stands of the International Society of Sports Nutrition or ISSN for short. Sparked by the idea of Susan Kleiner, Ph.D. RD, the ISSN, was then cofounded by Jose Antonio Ph.D., Doug Kalman Ph.D. RD, Richard Kreider Ph.D., and Anthony Almada MSc. Together, they wanted to form an authoritative organization that could monitor research and develops a cohesive system on the effectiveness and use of nutrition and ergogenic aids. Since its inception in 2003, the ISSN has done just that, growing into the premier organization for authoritative information on all things nutrition and human performance.
To act as benchmarks for the most popular topics, the ISSN has developed "stands" that lay out their conclusions on the known body of research. Then, as new research is done, the ISSN reevaluates its stands to perhaps change things they once thought were true (this is an actual scientific model) or add new discoveries.
The ISSN just reevaluated their stands, and we had the privilege of sitting in on their discussions today, and so now, we want to bring you the most up-to-date information on the ISSN's stands! And we'll also cover any other cool info given by these true experts.
On February 12th, 2022, the ISSN held a live conference online where several leading experts in their fields covered their position stands with regards to supplements and nutrition. The conference was moderated by Jose Antonio PhD, Cassandra Evans MS RD CISSN, Veronica Mekhail CISSN. The event's experts covered the topics below:
The use of protein as a dietary supplement was one of ISSN's original focuses. Still today, one of Dr. Jose Antonio's favorite subjects is busting myths regarding protein and dangers to the kidneys. With that said, one of the great things about listening to true experts speak is that they will always teach you something new.
Dispelling Myths Of Protein And Kidney Damage:
Dr. Antonio started the stand on protein by addressing the issue of some making claims that protein will destroy your kidneys. Even after we had read the information on this before, Dr. Antonio brought up a point concerning heavy protein consumption evolution, and it makes a lot of sense.
When we look at the different physiological systems of man, we must realize that they have evolved for two main goals:
In this manner, we are very simple beings. That being said, our systems were built to keep us alive in the environment we found ourselves in. We did not have the luxury to pre-package our meals in little Tupperware containers to store in the fridge until feeding time during our hunting and gathering days. When we killed an animal, we ate it; all of it. This meant that we likely consumed well over the supposed max of "40g per serving," which our bodies supposedly can't digest.
Further, this meant that our organs would be forced to process substantial quantities of protein at given times. In Dr. Anotnios word's "It's stupid to suggest that this behavior would destroy our kidneys or that we would not be able to process this much protein" (Yes, he can be blunt, and we love it!). Our bodies would have adapted to be able to handle these loads as this was common practice among early humans.
An interesting thought, but there are obviously plenty of studies to back this up as well. For example, a 2-year study followed two bodybuilders who consumed a high protein diet (>2.2/g/kg) and monitored their blood work. All levels were acceptable and remained steady the entire study.
That said, assuming your kidneys are in working condition, eating high protein should be of no concern.
Benefits Of Protein On Strength And Performance:
Benefits Of Protein On Body Composition:
RECOMMENDED PROTEIN INTAKE, TIMING, AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:
The ISSN's recommended protein intake is much higher than the standard RDA:
Other than protein, creatine has been another significant focal point of the ISSN due to the many false claims regarding its safety. This misinformation is even more alarming due to the sheer amount of benefits that creatine has been found to give. In fact, the ISSN has even warned that this misinformation can actually be detrimental to athletes involved in high-impact sports due to its role in brain health and recovery from concussions!
In reality, non-athletic benefits have been taking the lead as far as areas of new research. This is mainly because so many studies have been done to affirm creatine's benefits on performance. During that time, researchers have begun to identify a plethora of other benefits that creatine may have. Creatine is the closest we have to a miracle drug in many ways.
Athletic Benefits Of Creatine:
The primary work mechanism is it allows more workload due to the extra ATP production, which results in various performance benefits.
Most worries about renal failure are centered around case studies that examine creatine use in patients with renal failure.
Non-Athletic Benefits Of Creatine:Creatine has been found to be beneficial in a ton of non-athletic endeavors. While we can't go through the exact mechanisms, the areas below are currently being researched.
RECOMMENDED CREATINE DOSING:
Along with protein and creatine, caffeine is one of the most well-researched and effective supplements on the market. Caffeine simply works. While we all know it can get you "hyped," this stimulation can actually improve performance on several variables, which we'll look at. However, what was most interesting about the latest research on caffeine had to do with the different effects people receive depending on their genotype.
The fastest absorption happens through the mouth. Therefore, gum can elicit the most immediate benefits.
Benefits Of Caffeine:
The greatest benefits are seen in endurance training.
RECOMMENDED CAFFEINE DOSING:
Note: Be mindful of the individualistic responses.
The focal point of the discussion on beta-alanine revolved around the common errors found in the dosing and timing of beta-alanine. While beta-alanine is one of the few supplements deemed as "effective" by the ISSN, most people don't consume it properly as they rely on pre-workouts for their dose. This made dosing the main focal point on the discussion of beta-alanine.
Benefits Of Beta-Alanine:
Errors In Dosing:
Mentioned numerous times in the presentation, beta-alanine is one of, if not the most misunderstood supplements on the market. This is mainly due to its association with "pre-workout." We got the chance to specifically ask Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan about this. She confirmed our belief that beta-alanine has nothing to do with a pre-workout and can be taken at any point during the day.
Beta-alanine relies on chronic consumption as it works very similarly to creatine as we are increasing our stores. Therefore, timing has little effect on its effectiveness. However, in reality, consistency does, and this is one reason many people never genuinely benefit. It's because they only take it with their pre-workout.
Secondly, if you rely on pre-workout, you are likely underdosing anyways. Most pre-workouts only offer about 1.6-2.0g of beta-alanine. This is not enough (we'll lay out proper dosing below). This being said, you should get a stand-alone product to better control your dosing.
RECOMMENDED BETA-ALANINE DOSING:
Sodium bicarbonate is similar to beta-alanine in that it acts as a muscle buffer. However, beta-alanine works as an intracellular buffer while sodium bicarbonate works outside the cell.
Regardless, it's most effective at buffering the muscle when glycolysis is the primary metabolic system being used. These are high-intensity bouts with a duration of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. However, even after 2 minutes, glycolysis is still heavily involved, meaning that sodium bicarbonate can provide substantial benefits longer.
Benefits Of Sodium Bicarbonate:
RECOMMENDED SODIUM BICARBONATE DOSING:
Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, or HMB, is a promising compound that has shown benefits in resistance training due to its relationship with leucine. One of the three branched-chain amino acids, leucine, is the primary amino acid responsible for signaling muscle protein synthesis.
Due to the large amounts of leucine required to maximize its effectiveness, it's believed that one of its metabolites may be the primary compound. The one compound that shows the most promise is HMB.
HMB has been found to attenuate muscle damage after workouts resulting in faster recovery. As our progression in resistance training is governed by recovery, HMB can play a pivotal role in resistance training for hypertrophy and strength.
Benefits Of HMB Supplementation:
RECOMMENDED HMB DOSING:
Over the past years, gut health has become an area of interest for performance on athletes. One of the practices which we can all perform is including the consumption of probiotics in our diet. Probiotics literally mean "pro, life." When we consume them, they can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in our gut.
As this is where the absorption of nutrients occurs as well as the jettison of junk, probiotics will have benefits that reach way past the local reaction. For example, benefits can include an improved immune system and better absorption of nutrients.
Facts Of Probiotics:
Benefits Of Probiotics:
Improving our gut health will have a vast array of benefits. Like creatine, the list is far too extensive to detail for each benefit. That said, here is a list of potential benefits.
RECOMMENDED PROBIOTICS DOSING:
There are many strains, and each one has a different function. Further, they are required in optimal amounts. Therefore, a person will need to assess what they require individually.
The purpose of this stand is to simply help clarify and organize different diets by establishing several diet hierarchies. The ISSN has established 6 major hierarchies under which diets fall. By diets, the ISSN gives the definition of "The sum of energy and nutrients consumed from food and bev on a regular basis." This means a protocol that you follow for at least four weeks.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON DIETS:
Nutrient timing is a highly controversial subject (even though it shouldn't be), likely due to the high amount of nuance involved. Simply put, nutrient timing deals with how the timing of our nutrition can affect the outcome. There are so many factors to consider, such as:
With that understanding, this stand will try to lay out the most essential and wide-reaching variables.
Basic Concepts To Understand With Nutrient Timing:
The number one consideration is total calories and macronutrients
BASIC CONSIDERATIONS FOR PROTEIN:
BASIC CONSIDERATIONS FOR CARBOHYDRATES:
This post wasn't only meant for certified personal trainers to implement for their clients. We hope that you can take some of the insights of the ISSN position stands on supplements and nutrition and then put them into practice in your everyday life. As science is continually changing and improving our understanding it's important to leave your preconceived notions at the door.
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February 15, 2022
BCAA and creatine are two of the top supplements on the market today. And by “top” I simply mean that they are two of the most purchased supplements. However, only one of them really deserves all of the hype. In this article, we’re going to talk about creatine and BCAA and which one you should take.
One thing to keep in mind when talking about supplements is that everything is not as it appears. The supplement industry is an “industry” that makes money off of supplements. This simply means that raising their profits is the number one goal and they will sell people anything, with or without evidence to back up their claims. Further, if they can get their hands on some sort of “evidence”, it will be manipulated and twisted to say things that aren’t really true. So, when you see ads in magazines or on TV, keep in mind that just because some jacked guy is selling it, it could still be totally worthless.
Well, the good news is that when it comes to BCAAs and creatine, neither is “totally worthless,” but one is definitely better than the other at improving your performance in the gym. So now, let’s look at what creatine and BCAAs are and how they can improve your performance.
Creatine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid that is naturally found in our bodies at all times. This would be the first major misconception about creatine, as some people seem to think it’s a foreign substance. Again, creatine is 100% natural as we MUST have creatine in our bodies for optimal function. In fact, we already consume creatine as most of our stores come from our diet, while the rest is synthesized within our bodies from other amino acids.
The vast majority of creatine is stored within our muscles as it is used by the metabolic system known as the phosphagen system, which produces adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, during very intense events of short duration. ATP provides the energy required for every muscle contraction; it's the true fuel that keeps us going. Therefore, our creatine stores help to provide energy for activities that are very short in duration and of high intensity, such as weightlifting or sprints. In other words, creatine helps fuel more intense workout sessions.
However, depending on our diet, our creatine stores are only at about 60-80% full at any given moment. Therefore, when we supplement with creatine, we are just topping off these stores and filling them up to 100%. What this does is it gives us a little bit more energy to knock out more work by getting one or two more reps or perhaps adding an extra 2.5lb plate to our bench. This extra work then translates into more gains.
In the past few years, many different versions of creatine have been manufactured with the claims of offering more benefits. Most of these are either exaggerated or entirely false and we would recommend that you go with good ol’ creatine monohydrate.
Protein, EAAs and BCAAs are related as they are all just different combinations of amino acids. It is made up of 21 amino acids when it comes to protein. These amino acids come in various combinations and quantities, depending on the source. Regardless, nine of these amino acids are considered essential amino acids; our EAAs. The “essential” means that we must consume them through our diet as they can not be synthesized in our bodies as the other amino acids can. In other words, if we don’t eat them, we don’t have any.
So then, from these nine essential amino acids, three of them are called the branch chained amino acids, otherwise known as our BCAAs.
The three BCAAs are:
These three amino acids are especially important as they play the most significant role in muscle protein synthesis, especially leucine. In fact, one of the reasons whey protein is often considered the top source of protein is due to its very high levels of leucine. Therefore, their pivotal role in muscle protein synthesis and muscle recovery is the very reason why they have been touted to be such an important supplement to take. While that’s not entirely false, as with everything, there’s a bit of nuance involved.
When it comes to creatine, it 100% without a doubt works. In fact, creatine is the most well-researched supplement and the most effective. Within the fitness industry, creatine is one of few things that “guarantees” success.
There are literal 100’s of studies of creatine that show its effectiveness. However, there’s one catch. You need to put in the work to see the results. In other words, creatine gives you the energy to put in the extra work that will provide you with the results. And if you put in the work, you’ll definitely see your body change.
Taken from the International Society of Sports Nutrition, here are just a few of the benefits trainees receive after taking creatine when on a structured resistance training program:
So, in short, creatine 100% works and it’s one of the few supplements we feel confident enough to recommend for the majority of lifters to buy it. It just works.
As hinted at above, BCAAs may work but not as well as the advertisements would have you believe. And again, there’s nuance. BCAAS are 100% definitely crucial in promoting muscle protein synthesis without a doubt. However, while they are most important, the other 6 essential amino acids also optimize the effect. In other words, BCAAs work awesome, assuming they are in the presence of the remaining amino acids.
While BCAAs were promoted by sports researchers in the past, new studies have shown that EAAs are a better option between the two. While there may be some benefit to BCAAs, the latest research seems to suggest that if you are going to go the amino acid route, your best bet is to snag some EAAS.
Also, keep in mind that there are some other factors that can play a role in determining how effective these are. Perhaps the most critical factor is your overall protein intake. If you are eating a sufficient amount of protein throughout the day, the need for BCAAs or EAAs drastically reduces. If you’re having trouble getting all of your protein in, the easiest solution is to use a protein powder.
Further, the type of training is going to play a large factor. If you are going and performing a basic 45-minute workout class, BCAAs again become less of a factor. However, if you’re going hard for a prolonged period of time, having that extra BCAAs could then become a bona fide benefit.
The third variable to consider would be your food timing. If you workout fasted, or it’s just been more than a few hours before you last ate, having the BCCAs could be beneficial as, again, one advantage BCAAs have is that they’re extremely easy to digest. This means the amino acids get into your bloodstream faster and delivered to your muscles.
Finally, the last variable to consider would be to look at your diet, specifically if you’re a vegan or not. The one issue vegans may find is that it’s harder for them to consume higher amounts of protein, meaning the extra amino acids may be more beneficial. Again, the main reason is that your BCAAs are the primary amino acids responsible for muscle protein synthesis, and if you aren’t getting sufficient amounts, the extra supply could help.
However, at the end of the day, your average trainee probably doesn’t really need BCAAs if they’re eating the required amount of protein and aren’t engaged in excessive training.
As you can see from above, BCAAs and creatine are actually significantly different in their structure, effectiveness, and purpose.
BCAAs might be able to help increase your muscle protein synthesis after a workout while creatine supplies more ATP to allow you to do more work in the gym. Creatine works chronically, meaning that you’re required to take it every day in order to keep your creatine stores high. On the other hand, BCAAs can be taken on the days you need. Last, there are enough studies to back up creatine that we can say you have a 99% chance of seeing an improvement. Not so much with the BCAAs.
So looking at the above information, which one should you take? While BCAAs might be of some advantage, creatine definitely is. So if you are looking at improving your performance in the gym but can only take one supplement, without a doubt, you should be buying creatine. In fact, that goes for any other sports supplement. As mentioned, creatine is the most effective ergogenic aid there is, so you should definitely start there.
As creatine is actually pretty inexpensive, you might find that you have some extra money laying around. If this is you and you know the reality of the effectiveness of BCAAs, then you could go ahead and get a bottle. Again, it’s not going to hurt you, and it might help, especially if you fall under one of the exceptional cases above.
But, at the end of the day, creatine should always be your priority over BCAAs.
The biggest flaw with this question is to assume that you can only take on one or the other. As they work by entirely different mechanisms, it’s perfectly acceptable to take creatine and BCAAs at the same time. In fact, when you take creatine, you should consume plenty of water, so since you’ll be drinking a lot with your BCAAs, you can actually mix creatine with your BCAAS.
It doesn’t really matter when you take your creatine in terms of nutrient timing. Morning, afternoon, post-workout; the timing doesn’t really have an effect on it’s effectiveness. Remember that when you take creatine, you are basically just consistently keeping your stores high, so the timing doesn’t really matter as consistency is the real key (you can read more about creatine timing here). However, when it comes to BCAAs, they are generally taken either as an intra-workout or post-workout drink. Therefore, you can just “kill two birds with one stone” and mix them up together. Plus, BCAAs usually taste great, making you more likely to drink more liquid!
There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t try to major in the minors.” Basically, this is referring to people who neglect to address the significant issues and instead spend their time and energy worrying about the small stuff. In the case of sports nutrition, the minors would supplement. So what should you be majoring in? Well, actually, a few things.
Your Nutrition. Are you hitting your macros? Eating an appropriate amount of calories? Getting enough hydration? If these are out of whack, any supplement will have little effect. Here are some food plans to help you out:
Your Programming. Remember, the supplements only work if you put in the work and put in work correctly. This means using a structured program with progressive overload. Here are programs to help you get started if needed:
Your Sleep And Recovery. Getting adequate amounts of sleep is one of the most effective things you can do to improve your muscle growth and strength gains, and you don’t even have to actually do anything! You just sleep! Even creatine won’t help if you’re only getting 3 hours of sleep every night.
It’s vital that you have the three fundamentals above in check before you start worrying about any type of supplementation. Remember, supplements are there to “supplement” your training; they are not the base of your workout.
While we don’t like the word “better” as these two supplements work completely differently, as mentioned above, we would have to say that creatine is better. Creatine has all of the studies to back up claims, and more importantly, it has very little pushback from anyone. Well, there are always haters out there, but any claim against creatine has been debunked (we’ll save that for another article!). On the other hand, BCAAs has gotten some negative feedback concerning its effectiveness over the past couple of years. While we don’t think that’s entirely fair as it could offer some benefits, it’s enough to make us wary of recommending it to our readers. In other words, creatine for the win!
Related: Best Creatine on the Market
More Supplement Comparisons:
February 09, 2022
Amino acids are one of the best, and probably most under rated, performance supplements. When we think of supplements, we probably think of pre- and post-workouts, creatine, and protein powders. The first three have variable responses on exercise performance, and protein is…well, protein. Enter amino acids, specifically essential amino acids (EAA’s) and branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s).
EAA’s and BCAA’s, while likely not at the top of your list of supplements, share a reputation among bodybuilders as top shelf supplements. Both are known to promote muscle hypertrophy and recovery. BCAA’s are probably the more popular supplement, but EAA’s have gained attention for their superior benefits on exercise performance.
Interestingly, BCAA’s are actually essential which begs the question “Which is better – EAA’s or BCAA’s?”.
In this article, we’ll talk about the difference between supplemental EAA’s and BCAA’s. It will describe what they do, why they’re important, and how much you should take, and, of course, which you should take. Keep reading for more.
Amino acids, as we all (hopefully) know, are the building blocks of all proteins. Amino acids contain nitrogen, which is the critical component that drives protein synthesis. All proteins are made up of a specific number and combination of amino acids. There is a lot of chemistry behind the ‘why’ here, so we’ll skip it, but suffice it to say, amino acids are critical.
Muscles, and many other structural tissues of the body, are made up of protein. Some proteins are purely structural, like the lens of your eye; while others are functional, like actin, which is responsible for muscle contraction.
There are twenty distinct amino acids, and they can separated into three distinct groups:
Essential amino acids are so named as the body cannot make them on its own, so they must be supplied by the diet. Branched-chain amino acids are named for the distinct branch-like structure they share, which sets them apart from other the other essential amino acids. Technically, BCAA’s are essential, so they are usually lumped together.
The EAA vs BCAA distinction is more commonly discussed in the fitness industry...
There are 9 total EAA's, of which 3 are BCAA's.
Below are the 9 EAA’s (which include BCAA’s):
The best sources of EAA’s (and BCAA’s) are fish, red meats, eggs, dairy products, and soy-based products.
Both EAA’s and BCAA’s are revered in the fitness industry because of their role in protein synthesis and boosting performance. In fact, EAA’s regulate how efficiently your body uses and turns over protein.
Let’s explore this concept...
The body is constantly making and degrading proteins – this is called protein turnover – and it is dependent entirely on the type and quantity of amino acids available. The body doesn’t store free amino acids, but it can breakdown tissue, like muscle, to access them. But muscles only provide some of the amino acids needed for protein synthesis; the rest must come from the diet.
Dietary protein is important because it contains all the amino acids you need in the correct proportions, especially EAA’s and BCAA’s. Which is what is needed to really fuel protein synthesis.
This is why supplemental EAA’s and BCAA’s are considered so important: not only do they contribute to the supply of amino acids the body can use, but they directly stimulate protein synthesis, which is especially important when trying to improve athletic performance. When the supply of EAA’s and BCAA’s is limited, protein synthesis is limited. This means the body will struggle to keep up with its protein demands, which contributes to poor, or absent, gains in the gym.
The key takeaway here is that protein synthesis is governed by the types and amounts of amino acids available. If you want to maximize athletic performance (muscle hypertrophy) you need to increase protein synthesis. Dietary protein, or protein supplements, are probably the best way to supply the body with much needed protein. But, not all proteins EAA’s and BCAA’s both can help do this.
Let’s move on and compare EAA’s and BCAA’s, and determine which is actually better for enhancing gains.
All BCAA’s are EAA’s, but not all EAA’s are BCAA’s.
In other words, BCAAs, of which there are 3, are part of the 9 essential amino acids.
Get it? Good.
This is especially true in the world of amino acid supplements. Currently, you can find a tub of either in powder form at virtually health store. If you look at the label on your favorite protein powder, you’ll find all these AA’s named.
So why bother?
Well, it has to do with availability and effects. Amino acids are metabolized at different rates when taken alone or as part of a protein supplement, thus they impact muscle growth differently. Let’s take a look.
Remember, the BCAA’s are valine, isoleucine, and leucine, and they all contain a unique branch structure. If you’re hardcore into working out, especially bodybuilding, no doubt you’ve heard of or used BCAA supplements. In fact, prevailing ‘bro-science’ wisdom would suggest that BCAA’s were as important to gains as say, creatine, or even whey protein. Now, credit where credit is due: BCAA’s were (and still are), a crucial link to extra gains.
Here is how BCAA’s promote muscle development.
Dosage and Timing of BCAA’s:
When you take your BCAA’s may determine how effective they are. The research on the proper dosage varies from 5g to 10g, but higher doses don’t really contribute to extra gains. Stick to the 5g serving, or follow the instructions on your favorite supplement.
As for timing, during and post-workout seem to be the best bet. You can load your muscles with much needed amino acids that will help augment the use of glucose, and prime muscles for recovery.
Food Sources of BCAA’s:
If you don’t want to take BCAA supplements, you can find a sufficient amount in any complete protein – eggs, beef, soy, dairy.
Should I Take BCAA’s With Other Supplements?
Yes. You can take BCAA’s alone before or during a workout, even between meals, but BCAA’s are only part of the equation when it comes to building muscle. When taken with whey protein powders, BCAAs are more effective than when taken alone. While muscles are responsive to BCAA’s, they need a source of whole protein. If you’re into pre-workouts, read this article on BCAA’s and pre-workout supplements.
In summary, BCAA’s provide some of the most important amino acids in terms of muscle development. Their benefits have been shown over and over, and are known intimately in the gym. But, BCAA’s are more effective when taken with or as part of an EAA supplement. While they have a direct effect on muscle metabolism, BCAA’s rely on the other essential aminos to support protein synthesis. This is why EAA supplements have been gaining popularity over BCAA’s.
There are nine essential amino acids, and BCAA’s make up three of them. In terms of their benefits, EAA’s provide all the benefits of BCAA supplements, and then some. Any complete protein will contain the full complement of EAA’s in their proper proportions, meaning their use is not limited by the absence of one or more amino acids, as is the case with BCAA’s.
Here are the major benefits of EAA supplements, compared to BCAA’s alone.
Dosage and Timing:
As with BCAA’s, and many other supplements, timing and dosage matter for EAA’s. Regarding dosage - 10g – 20g per serving is probably all you need. This is likely what you’ll find with most EAA supplements. Some may approach 30g or even more, and this is fine, but 20g is probably as much as you’ll need to take.
As for timing, it matters with EAA’s. Traditional wisdom – and research – suggests during and immediately after a workout are ideal. We wouldn’t recommend taking EAA’s during a workout and them immediately after (including as part of a protein supplement). Research suggests that the protein synthesis stimulated by EAA’s lasts 1-2 hours; so doubling up on doses doesn’t equal double the effect.
Here’s a better strategy: take your whey protein or EAA’s after your workout, which is really the best thing you can do. Then, have a serving of EAA’s with your next meal, between 2-3 hours later. This saturates the muscles with EAA’s, and turns on muscle protein synthesis again. Don’t overdo it though – your body can make only so much protein, and it can’t effectively store excess aminos.
You can find EAA’s in high amounts in the same foods where you’ll find BCAA’s. The foods with the highest concentrations of EAA’s are:
Plant based sources
These are also complete proteins, meaning they all contain ALL the EAA’s in the ideal amounts. This is a critical factor when it comes to protein and amino acids – your body thrives on complete proteins. If you eat a balanced diet, you are likely consuming enough EAA’s. If you prefer more plant based foods (everyone could use more fiber!) read this article for information on plant based proteins. If you prefer food (specifically plant) sources, the above are great, but any combination of rice, wheats, nuts and legumes will provide the full spectrum of EAA’s, so hopefully you like trail mix!
Should I Take EAA’s With Other Supplements?
You can, but it’s not necessary. Pre-workouts and creatine supplements will definitely boost performance beyond what EAA’s can do, but in different ways. And it’s hard to say to what degree. Plus, you need EAA’s; you don’t need pre-workouts.
If you do take a supplement with EAA’s, take a protein powder. Remember, protein powders provide whole protein and the full complement of EAA’s. EAA’s can boost muscle protein synthesis, but they can’t replace the energy that protein powders provide, especially during calorie restriction. Still, EAA’s can help preserve muscle mass when dieting, especially in combination with a protein powder.
In summary, EAA’s provide the 9 essential amino acids your body can’t make, including the 3 BCAA’s. What’s not to love? EAA’s increase muscle hypertrophy, reduce muscle damage, and speed up recovery. They have the same effects on overall muscle development as BCAA’s, but are superior. EAA’s saturate the muscles longer, and stimulate protein synthesis to a greater degree.
If you’re going to take either, take EAA’s. EAA’s include the BCAA’s, and the other aminos your body needs. So it's not even a matter of being better, but being more complete and what the body needs.
That said, EAAs may not even be necessary for you if you are eating enough protein from sources like meat, whey and certain complete vegan protein sources. By complete, we mean containing all 9 essential amino acids, as meat and whey protein does.
Where EAAs make the most sense is when you are restricting calories (such as during a cut for bodybuilders). You won't be consuming enough protein and thus EAAs yet you will still be training hard. Enter EAAs.
All in all, if we had to look at supplements from a greater and lesser need perspective, it would be as follows: Whey > EAAs > BCAAs.
To sum this all up, let’s start from the beginning:
If you need a recommendation for your next trip to the health store, go with EAA’s. They will provide all the amino acids needed to optimize protein synthesis. They get along well with other supplements, and they’re literally needed by the body. They are the next best thing to protein powders, particularly when you’re restricting calories.
**The above are Amazon affiliate ads where we will receive a small commission if you purchase, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for the support!**
Enjoy your new favorite supplement, and don’t forget to add on a few reps.
(1) Shimomura, Y.; Yamamoto, Y.; Bajotto, G.; Sato, J.; Murakami, T.; Shimomura, N.; Kobayashi, H.; Mawatari, K. Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle. J. Nutr. 2006, 136 (2), 529S-532S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.2.529S.
(2) Bloomgarden, Z. Diabetes and Branched-Chain Amino Acids: What Is the Link? J. Diabetes 2018, 10 (5), 350–352. https://doi.org/10.1111/1753-0407.12645.
(3) Blomstrand, E.; Eliasson, J.; Karlsson, H. K. R.; Köhnke, R. Branched-Chain Amino Acids Activate Key Enzymes in Protein Synthesis after Physical Exercise. J. Nutr. 2006, 136 (1 Suppl), 269S-73S. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.1.269S.
(4) Hulmi, J. J.; Lockwood, C. M.; Stout, J. R. Effect of Protein/Essential Amino Acids and Resistance Training on Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: A Case for Whey Protein. Nutr. Metab. 2010, 7 (1), 51. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-7-51.
February 05, 2022
There’s really not a comfortable way to say this, so we’re just going to say it. Protein farts are a real thing, and they aren’t fun. If you were to open an investigation to identify the culprit, you would almost always find a tub of whey protein at the end of the fart trail.
Unfortunately, protein farts aren’t the only downside of whey protein; it’s lactose. Well, it’s only a downside if you’re lactose-intolerant as it is almost universally accepted that whey protein taste the best and is the most complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids. Nevertheless, if you’ve ever found that you get a little rumble in your stomach after downing your whey protein shake, you might just be lactose intolerant.
However, there’s good news as there are plenty of lactose-free proteins on the market that can drastically mitigate this issue. In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about lactose-free protein, which includes:
Below are the 12 best protein powders on the market for people with lactose intolerance or those who simply want to cut lactose from their diet.
To start, we will provide you with the two best whey protein powder options for those with lactose intolerance. To be clear, they are not technically completely free of lactose but they contain little to no lactose, which means they should cause you no issue unless you are very sensitive to lactose. These would be:
But it should be noted that not all brands of isolate or hydrolyzed whey are created equally due to other ingredients. The point is, that we chose the two on this list for a reason.
If you are still iffy with taking whey protein or just looking for a 100% lactose-free protein, there are many other options. Remember that lactose is only found in dairy, so this just means that you need to consume a non-milk-based protein powder. In other words, you need to use anything else other than whey protein or casein.
The categories below of our favorite 100% lactose-free protein powders are as follows:
**This article contains affiliate ads where we will make a small commission on any purchase you make. We only recommend brands and products that we trust and have experience using.**
The following are in no particular order, they are just 12 great options categorized by different types of protein powders.
ISOPURE ZeroCarb Whey Protein Isolate is just about as pure a protein powder can be. At 100 calories per serving, a whopping 25g of protein is delivered. Being that a 1g of protein has 4 calories, you can see that this is basically 100% protein. Being so, there’s zero lactose as there’s simply no room! Further, ISOPURE is loaded with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, making it an excellent choice for those needing to make sure they get in all of their vitamins and minerals.
Price: $52.99 for 3LB
Optimum Nutrition (ON) always delivers on quality as they are considered to be the best (or one of the best) protein powders on the market. Their hydrolyzed whey protein powder is perfect for those who are trying to stay away from lactose but still want the quality of whey protein. One serving delivers 30gs of protein at 140 calories, making its protein percentage very high.
Flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla
Price: $64.99 for 3.6LB
The first non-dairy protein powder you could look at is a beef protein. Beef protein powder is simply a protein powder that’s derived from beef…makes sense. This means that it’s definitely 100% lactose-free. Also, beef protein is very low in cholesterol which can sometimes be an issue for some when drinking a milk protein. This means zero lactose and zero cholesterol.
While some more brands are coming on the market, the most popular is definitely MuscleMed’s Carnivor Beef Protein Isolate. Carnivor has been on the market for quite a while and was one of the original beef protein isolates. Further, Carnivor has added creatine and BCAAs to raise the level of leucine. Still, being that it’s a beef protein, it also delivers other nutrients such as iron. MuscleMeds Carnivor delivers 23g of beef protein for every 120 calories. It contains 0g of fat and and extra 2.5g of creatine per serving (this alone halves your spending on creatine). Better yet, it’s 100% lactose-free and dairy free which is backed by it’s Informed Choice Certification
Flavors: Many (if in stock)
Price: $32.33 for 2.25LB; $51 for 4.5LB; $93.94 for 8LB
A lot of people consider bone broth protein powder to be one of the healthiest options, and definitely the most gut-friendly, but just to be clear, it's not the best tasting, especially when comparing to whey. It's also not as complete of a protein in terms of essential amino acids. However, it does contain collagen, so you'll get the benefits of that (great for skin and joint health). It's also completely lactose-free, which is actually the main reason people opt for bone broth protein.
While not technically beef, Left Coast Performance has chosen to isolate the protein found in beef bone broth. What you get is a very, very lean protein powder with a protein percentage of 93%! One serving brings 21g of protein with a total calorie count of just 90 cals! This is some of the most pure protein you can buy on the market. There simply isn’t room for lactose with this much protein, and there’s not. Left Coast Performance boasts their broth protein as dairy and lactose-free.
Flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Unflavored
Price: $30.99 for 1LB; $46.99 for 2LB
And another bone broth! As you may have guessed, bone broth is becoming quite popular among health-conscious trainees, so more options are becoming available. However, this bone broth protein powder from Ancient Nutrition comes from chickens!
Again, a very lean protein powder with 22.3 grams at 90 calories. This means that 89.2 of the 90 calories are from protein!!! Lactose couldn’t find its way in if it tried! This may be the leanest protein powder we have ever come across, making it the perfect choice for anyone who is really trying to eliminate any unneeded calories. Oh, and of course, it’s dairy-free. However, Ancient Nutrition prides itself on creating “superfoods,” so their broth protein is also packed with collagen to help support healthy hair, joints, and healthy guts.
Flavor: Vanilla, Chocolate, Unflavored
Price: $39.81 for 1.1LB; $67.96 for 2.2LB
Another source of high-quality animal protein that delivers zero lactose is going to be your egg protein. Egg protein powder is derived from egg whites, arguably one of the purest forms of protein found in food. In fact, the amino acid profile of egg white is the standard that other amino acid profiles are judged from. Further, these egg white protein powders are generally very low in calories and consist of a very large percentage of protein.
One serving of Gaspari Proven Egg is made from 7 large egg whites, which delivers 25g of pure egg white protein. At just 110 calories, Gaspari offers an extremely lean protein percentage of about 90%. Being that it’s pure egg white, it’s 100% dairy and lactose-free.
Price: $48.99 for 2LB
Bulk Supplements is a great go-to supplement brand when you’re looking for cost-effective products with high quality. This is also true for their egg white protein powder. Their egg white protein delivers 24g of protein at 120 calories. While the protein percent is not as large as Gaspari, it’s still well within the accepted limits of a quality protein. The most important fact is that it’s 100% lactose-free, making it perfect for those on a budget.
Price: $23.96 for 1.1LB; 39.96 for 2.2LB; $133.96 for 5KG (also have less than 1lb options)
Naked Egg is one of the more expensive egg proteins on the market, but the quality is worth it if you can shell out some dollars. Its list of ingredients contains 2 sources; egg whites and sunflower lecithin, so you know exactly what you’re eating. It’s also extremely high in protein, with 1 serving offering 25g at 110 calories. And, of course, it’s 100% lactose-free. This is perfect for any trainee who is extremely health conscious and wants only the purest protein powders (Again, only two ingredients!)
Flavor: Unflavored, Chocolate (if in stock)
Price: $67.99 for 3LB
Universal Nutrition is another highly respected supplement company on the market that has been around for a very long time. Their egg protein is 100% dairy-free and lactose-free and delivers 24g of protein for every 110 calories. Universal Nutrition has been around for years and knows what a serious lifter needs and delivers some of the highest quality products on the market.
Flavor: Chocolate, Vanilla
Price: $23.38 for 1LB (chocolate); $20.21 for 1LB (vanilla)
Above were some great options for a lactose-free protein powder for those who still wanted to reap the benefits from eating an animal-based protein. However, the other obvious choice is just going with a vegan protein. Since a vegan protein comes from plants, they are guaranteed to come with zero lactose. Here are our top picks for a lactose-free vegan protein.
To get the full scoop on the difference between animal protein and plant protein, check out this article.
Above we listed Optimum Nutrition and noted how they are one of the best sports nutrition companies on the market. They show their dominance again with their plant-based protein. Made from brown rice and pea protein, they solve the issue of vegan protein being “incomplete”. Brown rice and pea protein are quickly becoming the go-to vegan protein powder as they work well together to fill in each other’s “gaps”, or missing amino acids.
One serving brings 150 calories and 24g of lactose-free protein. However, one advantage of vegan proteins is that they usually carry a little extra nutrition, depending on the plant sources. In the case of ON Plant Protein, you get 100% of your vitamin C daily serving and a good portion of vitamin B and Iron.
Flavor: Chocolate, Vanilla
Price: $34.99 for 1.5LB
Vega One is an excellent choice for those who are looking for a vegan-friendly option. Vega One contains 100% plant protein; their powder also acts as a superfood as it has a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, all while being lactose and dairy-free. One serving of Vega One packs 20g of quality plant protein with 150 calories and literally just about every vitamin and mineral you need. This is the perfect choice for those looking for a lactose-free protein powder AND is a little worried about getting sufficient amounts of their vitamins.
Flavor: Chocolate, French Vanilla
Price: $88.94 for 3.7LB (chocolate); $98.94 for 3.7lb (french vanilla)
Plant Fusion Complete Protein derives its protein powder from different plant sources such as pea, artichokes, and algae. However, their lactose-free protein powder is also infused with additional amino acids to perfect the amino acid profile, which matches whey. 1 Serving brings 25g of their amino acid-infused protein powder and 120 calories. This makes it one of the leaner plant proteins, as they tend to have higher calories. Either way, this is a great option for those looking for a plant protein that meets the amino acid profile of whey but could do without any lactose or dairy.
Flavor: Several (if in stock)
Price: $32.99 for a Pack of 12 (12 servings); $26.99 for 1LB; $39.99 for 2LB; $91.99 for 5LB
Protein powder is easily the most common supplement on the market. However, protein powder isn’t really a “supplement” as it’s simply protein from real food that has been processed to be easily consumed. And in reality, that’s what protein powder is; it’s an easy way to get your protein in. It's healthy and convenient.
Further, when compared with other food sources, strictly from a stance of their protein content, it’s actually very cheap. Why it’s so popular is resistance training generally eats much higher amounts of protein than their sedentary counterparts. Studies show that weightlifters should eat between 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight for optimal results.
This can be quite a bit to eat from real food, not to mention expensive. Therefore, this is where a high quality protein powder can be very useful. To be clear, you do not need protein powder and you definitely shouldn’t rely on protein powder. However, having 1 or 2 scoops after your workout can be very beneficial and save you a bit of cash (and time).
Lactose is actually pretty unique in the nutrition world as it is the only source of carbs that can be consumed from animals, specifically from dairy. Lactose is found in the milk of most mammals, and it’s what gives the milk a bit of a sweet taste. Even though it’s only found in dairy food, many of our food products contain dairy so you can find lactose in quite a bit of our normal diet.
In order to break down lactose properly, the body needs a specific enzyme in the small intestine called lactase. When you drink milk, lactase is responsible for breaking lactose down into glucose and galactose for your body to utilize. No problem there. However, if your body lacks lactase, lactose cannot be broken down into the smaller constituents to be absorbed into the intestinal wall. Therefore, lactose goes straight to the colon and wreaks havoc.
If you are lactose intolerant, you will likely experience some, or all, of the following symptoms.
None of that sounds fun, and you’re surely not going to want to continue drinking your protein shakes. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do to change course if you find that milk is making you excessively gassy. Your only option is to limit your lactose intake as much as possible which is why we listed the best lactose-free protein powders above.
Finding out if you’re lactose intolerant is pretty easy if you don’t want to go the medical way. The easiest method is to eat dairy products and see your reaction. The only downfall of this is that sometimes the amount of food you eat will affect how bad your response is. For example, a sip of milk probably won’t do much. Therefore, if you try this, eat regular quantities of your food.
Regardless, if you find that you consistently get an upset stomach, go ahead and take products containing lactose out of your diet.
Did the symptoms get better? Worse? Or stay the same? Depending on the answer, you can take a pretty good guess as to where your relationship with lactose falls.
However, this isn’t an exact science as there could be other factors at hand, such as an issue with another food, or you could have an underlying health condition such as Crohn’s disease or coeliac disease.
If you’re not sure and want to know for sure about health concerns, you need to see a gastroenterologists. They can run several more in-depth tests to verify whether or not you are lactose intolerant or perhaps have another issue going on.
Basically any protein powder that's not whey will be completely lactose-free. This includes egg protein powder, beef protein powder, bone broth protein powder, and any type of vegan protein powder.
That said, even some whey protein powders are ok for people with lactose intolerance...
Because lactose comes from dairy products, the most obvious question about protein is; “does whey have lactose in it?” For those that aren’t aware, whey protein is produced straight from mammals milk, specifically cows. In fact, the milk from a cow is made up of 80% casein protein and 20% whey. Therefore, because whey protein is derived from dairy, whey protein powder MIGHT consist of lactose.
The amount of lactose found in whey protein will depend on what type it is as there are generally 3 versions
So, as you can see, whey protein does contain lactose, but it greatly depends on what variation you get. Your reaction to drinking each type of whey protein can also depend on how sensitive you are to lactose. For example, if you have a very mild case, you could probably get away with drinking normal whey protein concentrate (assuming it’s at least 80% protein). At the same time, drinking the purest form of hydrolyzed could be too much if you are extremely sensitive.
That being said, most people should be OK with drinking either a whey isolate or whey hydrolyzed.
Note: A lot of protein powders on the market contain a mix of isolate and concentrate, which is fine, but something to consider. So, be sure to check the label for ingredients.
One of the worst things you could do is spend all of this time looking for a lactose-free protein powder only to go and mix it with dairy milk. That will obviously make everything you just did pointlessly. However, the protein mix only makes the perfect protein shake; the other half is the liquid. Sure, you could use water, but that’s just not the same. Here are some great milk options for those who are lactose intolerant.
Being lactose intolerant isn’t always the most fun, but there’s really nothing you can do about it. However, the good thing is that there are actually plenty of choices for lactose-free protein powders. We listed a good number of lactose-free proteins from different sources, giving you many options to start trying. Some of these protein powders can taste much different than whey protein, so you may need to experiment with a couple brands before you settle on your favorite. While being lactose intolerant can keep you away from a lot of foods, it won’t keep you away from your favorite protein shake. And just remember, don’t mix it with dairy milk!
January 31, 2022
Keto seems to be all the rage these days. Everywhere you look, there’s keto for muscle building, keto for fat loss, keto for athletes, etc. However, if you have ever looked into the keto diet or are using it, you know that it is a highly restrictive diet with a list of foods that you can and can not eat. Being that we live in a world that loves coffee, one of the more frequent questions concerning keto is, “Can I have half & half while on keto?” Therefore, we’re going to tell you that below, but we will also explain a lot more than just that. We want you to really understand this, so we’re going to go over:
To understand why you can or can’t have certain foods on the keto diet, you need to understand what the keto diet even is. The keto diet is one of the latest fad diets to hit the fitness industry, whose primary claim is that it can improve energy, decrease cravings, and help lose or maintain weight.
The hallmark of a keto diet is that it contains very high fat, minimal carbs, and moderate protein. Keto’s typical breakdown of macros looks as so:
This macro percentage is set this way as the goal of a keto diet is to get you to actually alter your metabolism. Under normal circumstances, the body’s preferred method of energy is through utilizing carbs and glucose. However, while on the keto diet, glucose is basically absent. Therefore, the body is forced to find other means of energy and finds it through compounds known as ketones which are heavily produced on the keto diet.
In order for this to happen, you must introduce a minimal amount of carbohydrates into your system so that it enters a state known as “ketosis. However, if your body finds glucose, you will get “kicked out” of ketosis meaning no more keto benefits. In fact, this is also why you need to be mindful of your protein intake. This is because if you eat a surplus of protein, your body can convert it into glucose through a process known as “gluconeogenesis.”
This being said, you have to be VERY CAREFUL with the foods you eat. The keto diet does not work like other diets where if you slip up and have a Snickers, you can just cut out some calories during dinner or get in some extra exercise. The keto diet modifies your metabolic system which leaves minimal room for error. And this is why there are so many questions like “Can I eat X on keto?”
However, even though the keto diet just recently hit the fitness industry, it’s actually been around for quite a while. 100 years to be exact. It was first introduced in the 1920s to control persons with seizures and epilepsy. And it works. Actually, very well. Multiple studies and meta-analyses have confirmed that the ketogenic diet is highly effective in treating epilepsy by severely reducing the number of seizures seen in an individual, anywhere from a 50-90% decrease. This is even more amazing because many of the test subjects in these studies had previously used medication yet saw no improvement.
Keto was the main course of action to combat epilepsy until the late 1930s, when new anticonvulsant drugs were produced. Research instead went in this direction and the popularity of the keto diet dwindled. However, due to the inconsistent outcome with drugs, the keto diet has recently seen an increase of popularity in the medical field again.
All this being said, many people fail to adhere to the keto diet for the long term because it is so restrictive. Nevertheless, patients on the keto diet started to report things like weight loss and loss of cravings which was picked up by the fitness industry, and that’s where we are today.
Half & half refer to a milk product that is equal parts cream and whole milk. It’s generally used for recipes and foods where you may want something thicker than milk but not full of cream. As mentioned above, one of the most popular uses of half and half is that of a coffee creamer. Using half and half can take the bitterness out of a strong coffee and make it a bit sweeter if that’s your thing (We’ll take ours black, please).
Being that half and half is actually a dairy product, it does, in fact, have carbs in it. These carbs come in the form of lactose, and dairy is actually the only form of carbohydrates that we consume from animals.
Luckily, half & half don’t actually contain a lot of carbs. When looking at the calorie content, you would see that the majority of the calories come from fat, with only 10-20% coming from carbs, depending on the specific mixture.
For example, Land O’ Lakes Half & Half macro content is broken down as:
If you do the math real quick, you see that 2.5 calories are missing. Our math doesn’t suck as we are aware. You can thank the FDA for that and its policy on reporting macros.
Anyways, you see, there is only 0.5g of carbs (actually, it’s likely 0.5-1.0) so it’s not a whole lot. Part of the reason there is so little is that a serving size for half & half is so small due to its intended use. At the same time, however, the percentage of carbohydrates found in half & half is more than your daily percentage of carbohydrates. Therefore, you need to decide if this is a carb you need in your life or if you’d instead allot that carb to someone else.
That being said, your average person on keto only allows themselves 50g of carbs a day, so it’s up to you on how you want to use them. Therefore, you need to take a few variables into account.
If you primarily use half & half to add to your coffee, you’re probably going to be ok assuming you only have one per day and you have reasonable control over the other carbohydrates. However, if you are using it for baking or making some sort of beverage, you should probably find an alternative (see below).
The one thing you don’t want to do when trying to minimize your carb intake is to try to swap out your half & half for whole milk! Whole milk is around 30% carbs, with 1 cup offering an insane 12g! That’s almost half of some keto dieters’ total intake!
Yes. However, you need to realize that just about everything we eat will raise our blood sugar levels; it’s not just sugar. Still, fluctuations in our blood sugar levels depend on a lot more than just the food we eat. For example, other variables that can dictate how our blood sugar levels react to food are the type of food we eat, the quantity, and if we eat it with anything else. That being said, as we generally eat small portions of half & half, it won’t significantly affect our blood sugar levels.
Nope. Not a good idea. If you were to look at the nutrition label of almost any type of “fat-free” version of a food, you will see that they don’t just take the fat out; they replace it with sugar and other ingredients like corn syrup. Fat is what gives food taste, so when you take it out of a food, you’re left with bland nothingness. The food industry can’t have that, so they’ll actually add other ingredients to make it taste better. You can almost universally say that these ingredients are always less healthy as they are generally just cheap sugars. Not only is this bad news for the keto diet, it’s bad news for your health in general.
Actually, never mind keto; just stay away from “fat-free” foods altogether.
While you could get away with a bit of half & half once in a while, there are other options out there. Therefore, if you do want to opt for something else, here are the best keto-friendly half & half alternatives.
1. Heavy Cream
The first half & half alternative for keto diets is to just go with full, heavy cream. Heavy cream has a much higher fat percentage than whole milk empty carbs. In fact, heavy cream is almost total fat leaving very little room for carbs. Therefore, next time you’re going to get a coffee, go ahead and get the full stuff rather than half & half.
2. Almond Milk
One of your best choices for a more keto-friendly alternative is your plant milk products. Perhaps the best option to substitute is going to be almond milk. Almond milk is an awesome plant-based milk as it offers healthy fats and is low in calories and low in carbs. However, you must get the unsweetened kinds! Buying almond milk that has been flavored will definitely not work with keto.
Still, another option could be to swap out the whole milk in your half and half with almond milk. As most of the carbs come from the whole milk, this will drastically reduce the number of carbs while maintaining the creaminess of half and half.
3. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is another popular plant-based milk that could be a possibility for you if you’re trying to keep carbs to a minimum. The caloric content makes up about 5% of the total calories, with one tablespoon containing 0.4g. This low count makes it fit quite nicely with a keto diet; again, assuming you’re not drinking glasses.
4. Bulletproof Coffee
Bulletproof coffee has become quite popular over the last decade or so due to its creator, the famous biohacker, Dave Asprey. Bulletproof coffee completely changes the game, and instead of using dairy products (or milk), it uses butter! Yes, you heard us right.
Actually, bulletproof coffee consists of butter and MCT oil, which is medium-chain triglyceride. MCT oil is touted to give a slew of health benefits by it’s adherents, but one of it’s primary abilities is to charge the brain. There are many ways to make bulletproof coffee, but it simply involves mixing 1 tbsp of MCT oil and 1tbsp of grass-fed butter into your coffee.
5. Plain Butter
Some people will also just use butter without the MCT oil in their coffee. They may do this for economic reasons or caloric; either way, it’s a cheap and easy solution to completely eliminate carbs in your coffee. People swear by it, so who are we to judge? The only way to see what the fuss is about is to try it yourself!
Perhaps the most obvious choice for a half & half alternative is to just use coffee creamer. It’s “creamer,” so it must be good, yea? Obviously, the answer is no; creamer is not good. The vast majority of these are simply a mixture of sugar, syrups, oil, and water. This is not good for those on keto, or anybody for that matter.
Coffee creamers are incredibly high in calories relative to their size and are heavy on the carbs. For example, just 1 tbsp of a popular creamer has a whopping 35 calories and 5 grams of carbs. As mentioned, it’s basically just eating sugar, and it really isn’t healthy for anyone. You’re way better off just sticking with half & half.
The keto diet is one of a few popular dieting methods (the other being intermittent fasting) that have come into mainstream lately that have completely changed the game and how we look at nutrition. As you can see, half & half does not have a ton of carbs when used as a coffee creamer, meaning it’s probably fine for you. However, when looking at the keto diet, we can say this about a lot of foods. Therefore, it’s up to the specific individual on how they want to consume their carbohydrates. There’s only a limited amount of carbs you can eat on the keto diet, so you must choose wisely.
Your best option is to look at your entire day and see what it is that you want to eat. This will give you an idea of how close you are to your total carb allowance for the day. From there, determine if you need to cut some out or perhaps you have a few to spare. This may also mean that you will have to decide between some foods; eat one and not the other. Still, don’t think that just because you choose not to eat one carb on this particular day that it bans you from ever eating it again. You may just need to have a schedule; something like you will use half & half in your coffee on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while using butter Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday. Sunday you can be nuts and have butter and MCT oil!!!
For more awesome information on cutting weight and controlling your metabolism, check out these articles:
January 25, 2022
Pre-workout is one of the most frequently used supplements by people who work out. However, a question that we often get is "how long does pre-workout last?". People want to know the answer to this question so that they can better time when they take their pre-workout so that it lasts long enough to do what it's supposed to do in enhancing their workout. There's quite a variety of options on the market today that contain various ingredients and dosages. Read on to find out how you can better judge how long your pre-workout will last.
Pre-workout is a fitness supplement that usually comes in powder form that's used to increase the intensity of your workout by waking up your nervous system, boosting energy levels, and giving you a bigger pump in the gym. Pre-workouts are generally consumed 30 minutes to1 hour before your workout; that way, the effects will kick off as your training begins.
Each brand will use different ingredients and dosages to enhance performance, but they aren't all equal. So, you'll need to carefully look at the list of ingredients and the amounts to determine whether or not a pre-workout is worth its salt.
Pre-workout comes in two main types: Stimulant or Stimulant-Free.
This will play a role in determining how long a certain pre-workout will last. Aside from stimulants, other performance-enhancing substances in pre-workouts help boost endurance and increase mental focus. Plus, nitric oxide boosters that vasodilate your arteries and veins so that more blood is pumped to your muscles, giving you a pumped-up look while you work out.
The most common stimulant used in pre-workouts is caffeine. There are multiple sources of caffeine generally used in pre-workouts, but it can range from regular caffeine, caffeine from natural sources, caffeine anhydrous, theobromine, and more. We will get into this in the next section because the amount of caffeine and its source will play a role in how long the pre-workout supplement is going to last.
Typical performance-enhancing substances used in pre-workouts are beta-alanine, agmatine sulfate, betaine, creatine, citrulline, malic acid, L-arginine, taurine, sodium bicarbonate, theanine, tyrosine, just to name a few.
With that out of the way, we can get to the nitty-gritty of how long pre-workouts last, and we're not talking about the shelf-life in this context.
The timing of when you take a pre-workout can influence how long it lasts and how effective it is for your workout. The driving force for using pre-workouts is to help improve your performance for a given training session. Most ingredients in the popular pre-workouts will hit you within an hour, but it could be as short as 20 minutes, depending on your body and the ingredients used. It's best to look at the label for guidance on when you should take your pre-workout. Just remember to account for the time it will take you to get to the gym, plus any warm-up that you usually do. Not sure if you've been there before, but once an intense pre-workout starts to kick in and you're not hitting the iron, things can get weird quickly.
There's no one size fits all to answer this question of how long you'll feel the effects of a pre-workout. To give a ballpark average, many pre-workouts will last from 2-4 hours after ingesting them. This window of time should cover the majority of workouts, especially if they are gym-focused around strength or hypertrophy.
Let's have a look at some factors that influence the amount of time a pre-workout will last in your system.
Your age, weight, muscle mass, and fat percentage: Your situation can influence the length of time a pre-workout will affect your body. Bigger people tend to withstand higher doses of most things, pre-workout included. If you're a small person with little to no fat, a pre-workout could hit you in a more profound way than someone bigger and stronger. Another point to emphasize is age. Older people may have developed a tolerance to caffeine on the one hand, but on the other hand, they also may have other medical conditions that can change how long a pre-workout lasts. Younger people on the opposite end of the spectrum might not have a built-up tolerance to caffeine, so a pre-workout supplement could last longer.
Ingredients and dosages used in the pre-workout: Perhaps the most important guiding factor that dictates how long the pre-workout lasts is what the ingredients are and how much of them are being used. The substances that you're likely to feel the effects from the most are the stimulant used. The most common stimulant used is caffeine. Caffeine is usually absorbed within an hour after ingestion.
Let's look deeper at caffeine and how long it can affect your body…
This study says that the mean half-life of caffeine in healthy people is around 5 hours. Researchers, however, say that the elimination half-life can range between 1.5 and 9.5 hours. The window of time that caffeine can affect a person is dependent on multiple factors, including physiological and environmental characteristics. Obesity, pregnancy, altitude, and smoking are a few factors that can influence the effect of caffeine on individuals. In addition, people can build up a tolerance to caffeine with frequent usage, which also plays a part in how long your pre-workout will last.
How long and how often you've been taking pre-workout: If you consistently take the same pre-workout over a long period of time, the effects will dissipate as your body builds up the tolerance to it. To avoid building a tolerance to your pre-workout, you can lower the frequency you're using it or take a week off from taking it after every 4 weeks on.
How your body metabolizes caffeine: Briefly mentioned above, your tolerance will increase over time if you frequently consume caffeine. This plays out in every day society, as we're sure you know someone or even might be that someone who drinks multiple cups of coffee without getting that energy boost. Compare this to someone who doesn't consume coffee often and drinks a small latte after lunch then can't get to sleep that night because their body isn't used to the caffeine. If your body can't handle much caffeine, you're better off sticking with stim-free pre-workout.
Daily water intake: The amount of water you ingest daily can play a part in shortening the time that pre-workout affects your body. If you stay properly hydrated and work out with intensity, you might slightly change the length of time you feel the effects of the pre-workout.
Quantity Consumed: You shouldn't exceed the recommended dosages on the label; it's there for a reason. Sometimes people buy a pre-workout and don't bother to look at the recommended dosing; this can be a big mistake, especially if the product is a high stim pre-workout. It would be best if you always started any pre-workout by taking half the recommended dosage the first time to see how your body reacts before you start taking the full dosage. On the other hand, if you've been using the same pre-workout for a prolonged time and the effects begin to lessen, don't try to compensate by increasing the dosage past the recommended amount.
How You Feel Before Consumption: The length of time a pre-workout lasts can be skewed by your current energy levels. For example, if you had a bad night's sleep and then a taxing day before taking your pre-workout, the effects might wear off quicker than when well-rested.
Pre-workout supplements offer multiple benefits to improve your training sessions, so you're able to achieve better results.
Let's have a quick look at the benefits of pre-workout and how they relate to the original question of how long they last:
Each pre-workout can have different side effects depending on the ingredients and the quantity used. We covered the benefits of pre-workout, which far outweigh the adverse side effects for many; that's why pre-workout continues to be one of the most popular fitness supplements on the market.
Here are some feelings and side effects that common ingredients in pre-workout may produce.
Of course, everyone will experience the impact slightly differently based on some of the factors we covered above.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout
In a different context, the question of how long does a pre-workout last refers to the shelf-life of the product once it's opened. If the tub isn't opened, there should be a date on the package that shows the best-used date. Each pre-workout supplement might vary in terms of how long it will last once opened. If you open a pre-workout and don't finish it within a couple of months, you're likely to see it start clumping up and/or becoming hard.
Here are a few things to look for to tell you whether or not you should continue taking your pre-workout or not:
Another common question people have that we want to answer is in regards to how long pre-workout stays good for once it has been mixed in water and does it lose its effectiveness if waiting to long to drink it once its been mixed...
While there are no clear studies on this, it is generally accepted that pre-workout won't lose its effectiveness if sitting in water (within a reasonable timeframe) and it can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 24 hours (although even a little longer is probably fine too) after being mixed in water.
So, if you wanted to mix your pre-workout in water the night before or you forget to drink it and save it for the next day, it's ok and the effect should be the same. It won't hurt you, that's for sure, so it's worth giving it a try rather than wasting your pre-workout (as long as it has been stored in a fridge). If it has been sitting out in the heat for more than several hours, while probably not a big deal, it's also probably not worth drinking. After all, one scoop of pre-workout doesn't cost that much.
Follow some of these tips to ensure you get the most out of whatever pre-workout you take.
You can assume that most mainstream pre-workout supplements will last for at least 2 hours after taking it, with possible lingering effects to last up to 6 hours or more depending on a multitude of factors we covered above. The key takeaway from this post is that pre-workouts can affect everyone slightly differently. To avoid adverse side effects of pre-workouts, make sure you start small with a half dosage before going all-in on a full dosage. Then, you can work your way up to a full dose so that your body has time to adjust to it.
More frequently asked questions about pre-workout:
January 20, 2022
Creatine is perhaps the most popular - and effective - supplement for building strength and size, and for good reason. Creatine has been around since the golden age of lifting, so you’ve probably heard of, or even used, creatine. Creatine hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced, although there are a few different forms of creatine – monohydrate and hydrochloride - and each has its advantages.
Creatine is typically used by bodybuilders who wish to increase muscle size and/or strength. In fact, creatine is most effective when used to support bodybuilding and strength training, HIIT, and explosive movements like plyometrics and sprinting (running and cycling).
Creatine helps improve strength at the cellular level by increasing the amount of energy available for muscle contraction. But what exactly is creatine, and how does it help build muscle? In this post, we’ll explore what creatine is and how it works. We’ll then compare the differences between the two main kinds of creatine and see how they stack up when it comes to helping you build muscle. Read on for more!
For reference, hydrochloride's abbreviation can be either HCL or HCI, which is why you will see either usage on creatine hydrochloride supplements. Either way, it is the same kind of creatine.
Creatine is not just a supplement - it is a naturally occurring compound that helps with energy metabolism. The body produces some creatine (~1g/day), but it’s also found in the diet, mostly in red meats and fish (more on this below). Creatine is stored in the muscles, but it’s also found in the liver and kidneys. Dietary or endogenous (made by the body) creatine isn’t sufficient to boost performance, which is why supplemental creatine is worth considering. Both creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride increase the amount of creatine your body can store, but in different ways.
Creatine works by increasing the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) available to cells. During exercise, the muscles use ATP as energy currency. That is, ATP provides phosphorous to activate proteins that control contraction, be it a 100-meter sprint or bench press. The supply of ATP is limited, and it takes a bit of time to regenerate once it’s drained. During exercise, ATP is regenerated between sets, and creatine helps by increasing the speed of ATP regeneration.
There are two types of exercise – aerobic and anaerobic. Both forms of exercise rely on ATP, but to different extents, which has to do with the concept of force versus endurance.
Aerobic exercises are basically any form of sustained cardio – think running or cycling. Aerobic exercises ultimately rely on oxygen to sustain contraction, rather than ATP.
Aerobic exercises require a high concentration of mitochondria in the muscles to aid in cellular metabolism. When you’re running, the body uses glucose as energy, which is ultimately broken down with oxygen in the mitochondria to produce CO2. Aerobic exercises do require ATP – but muscle contractions during a run are short, and do not generate much force, meaning the muscles are able to efficiently regenerate ATP. Plus, ATP doesn’t really impact oxygen consumption during exercise, so creatine likely won’t boost aerobic performance.
Anaerobic exercises require little or no oxygen - think lifting, sprinting, jumping. These movements are typically explosive and require power over endurance, meaning they generate a lot of force over a short period of time – less time than it takes oxygen to circulate.
When you perform anaerobic exercises - for example the biceps curl – your body is using ATP to activate the proteins responsible for contraction. This happens during aerobic exercises also, but to a lesser extent as the metabolic pathways differ. Anaerobic exercises rely on force, and the breakdown of glucose takes too long, and doesn’t generate enough ATP, to power contraction. The supply of ATP is limited, which is why you can only do so many reps or sprint so far before your muscles give out.
Enter creatine: Creatine helps increase contractile force by acting as a source of ATP in the muscle. In between sets, creatine increases ATP regeneration and concentration. Thus, there is more ATP available so you can hammer out a few more reps or sprint a little bit further. This, very basically, is how creatine helps with strength.
As demonstrated, you can take supplemental creatine to boost your workouts. Here are some specific examples of the benefits of creatine supplementation:
Now that we’re all experts in creatine, let’s talk about supplementing with creatine and the different types available.
There are many forms of creatine supplements on the market. They all (theoretically) increase the amount of creatine muscles can use, but the most popular and well-studied forms are monohydrate and hydrochloride. The chemical differences between these two are very small, but they can impact your gains in significant ways.
Creatine monohydrate is the most popular form of supplemental creatine, and it stands the test of time. Creatine monohydrate has been bodybuilders’ supplement of choice since the 1960’s. Creatine monohydrate is creatine plus a water molecule, which helps it dissolve in your favorite beverage. But more importantly, the water increases its absorption into the muscles, which are full of water. There is another form of monohydrate called anhydrous, where the water molecule has been removed. It may increase absorption, but it also tends to be more expensive.
Because creatine monohydrate is the most common form, it is the most studied form, which means we know more about how it supports muscle development compared to other forms. This includes increased 1 rep max for squat, increased vertical jump height, and reductions in 30 meter sprint time1,2. Creatine monohydrate may also increase total reps during exercises and can improve overall anaerobic capacity. It has also proven to be effective at reducing muscle damage, while showing increased rates of muscle repair post-workout1. This means you will likely see increases in overall strength with no negative impacts on recovery time.
One thing that sets creatine monohydrate apart from other supplements is the need for a loading phase. Loading, discussed in detail below, is the concept of priming the body with extra high doses of creatine for a week, then dropping down to a maintenance dose.
The Bottom Line
Creatine monohydrate is the gold standard of creatine supplements. It has been proven in research studies and in the gym. Despite the somewhat confusing loading and dosage requirements, creatine monohydrate delivers consistent results, and should be on the top of your supplement wish list.
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The ‘other’ form of creatine that you will likely come across is creatine hydrochloride. This form is relatively new, although it’s been around since at least the 1990’s.
This form of creatine has the chemical hydrochloride attached instead of water. This seemingly small change can increase its absorption. In fact, creatine hydrochloride may be up to 38 times more soluble in water than creatine monohydrate3.
In terms of benefits, creatine hydrochloride is pretty even with its nemesis, monohydrate. Creatine hydrochloride helps increase muscular strength and power, similar to monohydrate. This goes for overall anaerobic fitness. Unfortunately, creatine hydrochloride hasn’t been studied nearly as much as monohydrate, which is bad news for the absolutists. But, the author contends that this shouldn’t discourage you: creatine hydrochloride delivers creatine to your muscles with smaller doses than monohydrate, which leads to similar gains in muscle size and strength.
Both forms of creatine may seem like the magic bullet, and while they do lead to gains in strength and size, they have some drawbacks.
Water Retention: Because creatine monohydrate has a water molecule attached, which means it causes water retention, or bloating, in the muscles. This can be discouraging, especially to beginners, as they may perceive the bloating as gains in fat.
In a way, this is a sort of ‘rite of passage’ for creatine users, as it seems bloating is unavoidable. There is no real way to measure the level of water retention, as it varies from person to person. Bloating can be frustrating, even discouraging, but trust us, it is as natural as your desire to have big biceps, but it subsides within a week or two as your body adapts to the increases in creatine.
Loading: A fairly contentious topic, loading is the idea that you need to ‘frontload’ your creatine with extra high doses – approximately 3-5 grams, 4 times per day, for about 7 days. This is followed by a maintenance period, which consists of about 3-5 grams per day, once a day, for 6-12 weeks, or whatever the duration of your mesocycle.
The point behind loading is to saturate the muscles with creatine, so that it has a reservoir that will provide energy during exercises. Loading is supported by the literature, but there is evidence that loading is not necessary, or that the amount and duration of loading varies. Loading also contributes to water retention, which speaks for itself.
Diminishing Returns: Persistent intake of creatine may lead to diminishing returns, or plateaus. The muscles adapt to repeated, non-variable exercises, which is why the principals of progressive overload and periodization are critical to consistent gains. The same is true for creatine – over time, the muscles don’t respond to extra creatine. This means you should cycle your creatine intake based on your exercise phases.
Long Term Risks: There is very little evidence to suggest that long term creatine use causes adverse effects. Most studies focus on rather short-term creatine use (~3-12 months), so we can only speculate about the effects beyond that time frame. Of course, as with any supplement, you should be sure you are in good health, and stay hydrated. You should focus on creatine from reputable manufacturers, since supplements are poorly regulated.
If you are focusing on building muscle and strength, meaning you do traditional bodybuilding or HIIT type exercises, then yes, creatine might be just what you need. But, the form you take may depend on your experience with creatine.
Creatine, either monohydrate or hydrochloride, is a relatively safe supplement. In fact, creatine has been shown to be an effective treatment for kidney diseases, diabetes, bone loss, and even some forms of cancer4. This may have to do with how creatine impacts cellular metabolism, but we highly recommend you focus on creatine for its benefits to exercise.
The enduring question is, which should I take – creatine monohydrate or hydrochloride? The winner is…both. Honestly, either form of creatine will give you what you need, provided you use it as directed and for the right reasons.
The author recommends you experiment, but if you want something more definite, start with creatine monohydrate. In fact, you may want to start creatine when you start a new exercise routine. Ideally, your specific routines last anywhere from 6-12 weeks, whether bulking, cutting, or focusing on strength. In any case, you should use creatine when you are focusing on building muscle or improving your conditioning, rather than maintaining.
We also suggest you become familiar with the concept of loading, if even just once. The literature supports loading, and we agree, because our goal is to provide evidence-based guidance. Moreover, loading ensures you can frontload your creatine intake, and maximize creatine stores, so your progress will be more consistent. Loading also gives you an opportunity to observe how your muscles respond to something new. The loading phase should coincide with the first week or so of your new routine, the time when you’re focusing on familiarization, rather than progression (see this more information on periodization).
So, take creatine monohydrate. It is available from so many manufacturers, is affordable, and it is proven. If you like how you respond to monohydrate, switch it up to hydrochloride during your next cycle. Variety is the best thing for your workouts.
If you don’t like to take supplements, or you are interested in other, natural sources of creatine, you’re in luck. Creatine is found in many foods; in fact, you may already be consuming about as much creatine as a supplement may provide.
As mentioned, there are many different forms of supplemental creatine. Monohydrate and hydrochloride are the most well-known and studied, but here are a few extras you may come across:
If you want to know if you can take creatine with other supplements, the answer is Yes. Creatine works well by itself, which makes it an ideal supplement, but it’s been shown to be just as beneficial when taken with other supplements. In fact, many supplements, including pre- and post-workouts, contain creatine in some form. This can be problematic if you’re taking multiple supplements that contain creatine; at some point, you’ll be consuming far more creatine than your body can use. We recommend you stick with a single source of creatine, monohydrate or hydrochloride, and stack it with a pre-workout, and maybe some amino acids.
When it comes to timing, there’s no difference between taking creating before, during, or after a workout. Your best bet is to take creatine before your workout, or with one of your meals. This is really just to ensure consistency.
We go more in-depth into how and when to take creatine here.
In summary, both creatine monohydrate and hydrochloride can increase muscle size and strength and can improve recovery. This is especially true when they’re used as part of an intense resistance or strength training program.
Creatine monohydrate is pretty well studied, but hydrochloride offers nearly the same benefits to performance. There is a bit of a loading phase, and you can expect some bloating due to water retention, but this means it’s working.
We recommend you try monohydrate if you’re new to creatine, or supplements. It’ll introduce a new approach to supplementation and its reputation speaks for itself. However, the research doesn’t hurt.
If you’re more interested in endurance exercises than resistance training, you may want to consider creatine hydrochloride. It offers the same benefits as monohydrate and may improve recovery – all without the loading and bloating.
Good luck, and don’t forget to add on a few extra reps.
(1) Wang, C.-C.; Fang, C.-C.; Lee, Y.-H.; Yang, M.-T.; Chan, K.-H. Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance. Nutrients 2018, 10 (11), 1640. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111640.
(2) Cooper, R.; Naclerio, F.; Allgrove, J.; Jimenez, A. Creatine Supplementation with Specific View to Exercise/Sports Performance: An Update. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2012, 9, 33. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-33.
(3) Gufford, B. T.; Sriraghavan, K.; Miller, N. J.; Miller, D. W.; Gu, X.; Vennerstrom, J. L.; Robinson, D. H. Physicochemical Characterization of Creatine N-Methylguanidinium Salts. J. Diet. Suppl. 2010, 7 (3), 240–252. https://doi.org/10.3109/19390211.2010.491507.
(4) Creatine HCL vs. Creatine Monohydrate https://www.oldschoollabs.com/creatine-hcl-vs-monohydrate/ (accessed 2022 -01 -15).
January 05, 2022
Pre-workout is all the rage these days because it’ll make you rage in the gym. Horrible wordplay, but there is truth in there. Over the years, the sports supplement marketplace has been flooded with preworkouts; some great and some not so great. Regardless of their quality, you can almost be guaranteed that they’ll have a cringe name like “The Rage Of Matrix 5.0”. The good thing is that even with many awful names, pre-workouts do a pretty good job at what they’re supposed to do; improve the quality and intensity of your workout. But that all depends on if you take it at the right time...
In this article, we’re going to tell you:
But first, let’s clarify what a pre-workout is.
A pre-workout is simply something you consume before you go to the gym; hence the name “pre” “workout’. So is water a pre workout? Or a protein shake because people will sometimes have a protein shake before hitting the weights? Well no.
A pre-workout is a nutritional supplement designed to increase your energy and intensity levels while at the gym. Still, the term “pre-workout” just refers to a type of nutritional supplement which could actually consist of a wide variety of ingredients. We’ll discuss that more below, but this is the reason it’s so important to know when to take a pre-workout.
These ingredients act quickly and have passing benefits meaning there is a window of opportunity when taking them. And trust us, you don’t want to take a pre-workout and not workout…talk about raging.
Before we talk about timing, let’s first go over some common pre-workout ingredients...
Caffeine is perhaps the most common ingredient found in pre-workouts as it gives everything you need; focus and energy. Being a stimulant, this compound is the most highly consumed drug on the planet, so there shouldn’t be any issue finding it. Regardless, caffeine has been proven in numerous studies to be effective at improving sports performance; in fact, recent studies have even shown caffeine is effective for strength and power athletes; something that many believed wasn’t true.
Most pre-workouts will use a variation of caffeine known as anhydrous caffeine, which simply dried out caffeine powder. This makes it very easy for a company to measure the desired serving and be consistent with each serving.
So, how much pre-workout do you need to get the benefits of caffeine?
Well, that depends on how much is in each pre-workout serving as different brands provide an additional amount. Regardless, to get maximum benefits from caffeine, the dosing is higher than what most people take. The ISSN (International Society Of Sports Nutrition) suggests that to get optimal benefits from pre-workout with caffeine, you need to consume 3-6mg/kg. As that’s higher than most are used to, start with a lower dose and see how your body reacts.
Be aware that some brands will also use other words for caffeine or derivatives such as green tea.
Expert Tip: If you want to go simple, get an extra large latte or Americano with an extra shot of expresso for the gym.
Beta-alanine is another very popular pre-workout ingredient…but it shouldn’t be. Beta-alanine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid that occurs naturally within the body. Many trainees take a BA supplement as a pre-workout to reduce lactic acid build-up during training. However, this isn’t 100% correct but we’ll explain.
The main compound that buffers the muscle’s pH level during exercise is called carnosine. Carnosine is synthesized in the liver by two compounds, histidine, and beta-alanine. During the synthesization of carnosine, beta-alanine is always the limiting factor. This means when the beta-alanine runs out, so does the carnosine and you can say “bye-bye” to muscle buffering.
Therefore, athletes will supplement with beta-alanine to ensure the synthesis of more carnosine. So, while beta-alanine doesn’t directly buffer lactic acid, it directly impacts that process.
However, for this to work, you must load beta-alanine similarly to creatine before seeing effects. You then maintain these levels with continuous dosing. So even though BA is usually taken as a pre-workout for the tingles, its benefits come from its chronic use and can be taken anytime.
There's the answer to the common question of "what causes pre-workout tingles?"...It's beta-alanine!
Beta-Alanine is generally thought to work as a pre-workout due to the tingling sensation you get from consuming it. This sensation is called paresthesia and has nothing to do with improving your performance. Some may think it does because they want to claw their skin off, but it doesn’t, and some studies show a decrease in performance when taken acutely.
You can learn more about Pre-Workout Tingles & Itch here.
Again, beta-alanine does work but must be taken chronically in which it doesn’t matter when you take it.
Creatine is used by our bodies to replenish our muscle’s ATP stores (a high-energy triphosphate) for high intense energy, such as lifting weights. While we consume creatine naturally, our stores sit low. Therefore, creatine supplementation simply works by increasing the body’s natural store, which allows for the production of more ATP, thus more energy for higher workloads.
While very effective, creatine is another popular pre-workout ingredient that really needs to be taken chronically, and timing has little effect on its effectiveness. In fact, if there was a better time to take creatine for a pre-workout, studies show that taking creatine after your workout may be slightly better.
Related: Pre-Workout vs Creatine Comparison
Sodium bicarbonate is a very popular and effective ingredient added to preworkouts to buffer the muscle similarly to beta-alanine. Studies have shown that sodium bicarbonate is able to result in less fatigue and improve overall work capacity in high-intense activity lasting 12-30 minutes. While this may not be suitable for a powerlifter to take as a pre-workout, other high-intensity training could definitely benefit. This includes sports such as bodybuilding with short rest breaks, circuit training, boxing, HIIT, or Crossfit.
Nitric Oxide Booster/Nitrates:
Nitrates or nitric oxide boosters are an umbrella term for a list of different compounds, including popular pre-workout ingredients such as L-arginine and L-citrulline. These work by increasing blood flow and improving nitric oxide levels in the blood. Together, these allow longer workouts and higher work output.
While generally used in the past for endurance events, lately, they have been found to be more common in pre-workouts for strength athletes. In fact, perhaps the originally famous pre-workout, N.O.-Xplode, was named after this concept.
Now, of course, there are plenty of other pre-workout ingredients, but above are the main ones seen. A non-exhaustive list of other ingredients found in pre-workouts are:
Because no two pre-workouts contain the same ingredients or the same quantity of ingredients, each one will vary depending on their makeup. However, the general idea of a pre-workout is to improve your workout through several factors.
However, none of the advantages of pre-workout will happen if you get your timing messed up.
The great thing about taking a pre-workout is that they are fast-acting and have acute benefits. This basically means you can take them whenever you want before you go to the gym and will see the benefits in that same session. However, those benefits that come quickly also dissipate quickly, leaving you with a window of opportunity. This window will last somewhere between 30 mins after consumption to 3-4 hours after consumption.
This means that you could actually start lifting too early before the pre-workout kicks in or too late, after the effects have subsided. So to answer the question, taking pre-workout at the right time is so important because it’s the only way you’ll get the full benefits.
Related: How Long Does Pre-Workout Last?
One of the significant concerns with pre-workout is taking some and then getting caught up with life. You can’t make it to the gym but feel the neon purple juice you just drank kicking in. What’s going to happen?
Well, the good thing is you’re not going to die. However, you will likely feel a bit uncomfortable, anxious, and jittery for a couple hours. This will, of course, depend on what you took and how much. Hopefully, you’ll just have to run errands, in which case you’ll just need to make sure you don’t speed or run through any stop signs. If you do need to go interact with people, be sure to drink plenty of water and try your best to relax. In some cases, you may just need to tell the person upfront that you took some pre-workout.
If that sounds a bit much to some people, we can assure you they’ve never had a good pre-workout.
So, this brings us to the big question, when do we take pre-workout? Being it’s called a “pre” workout, we’ll assume you know it’s taken before your workouts. That being said, it kind of depends on what active ingredients are in your pre-workout.
However, generally speaking, you want to take your pre-workout 30-60 minutes before you start lifting. To be clear, this doesn’t mean 30-60 minutes before you leave your house; it means 30-60 minutes before you actually touch a barbell and start your first warm-up set.
Therefore, you need to consider the drive to the gym, checking in, warming up, and anything else you need to do between the time you drink your pre-workout and when you finally start lifting weights. And to reiterate the point above, don’t consume any pre-workout until you’re definitely going to the gym.
You also need to remember that there is a window where a pre-workout will be effective. With that in mind, the height of a pre-workouts effectiveness will lessen as time moves on so you want to try and catch it on the front end. A perfect timing would be that you start to feel it when you begin warming up (you better be using a dynamic warmup!) so after you’re loose and ready to go, you should be in full swing.
We need our sleep! This is why another common issue with trainees new to pre-workout is the latest time they can take a pre-workout and not be wired all night. Well, this will depend heavily on personal factors such as how easily you can fall asleep and how sensitive you are to your pre-workout. Also, keep in mind not every pre-workout will have the same effect on your sleep.
All that being said, you should be conservative the first time you take a pre-workout. While the effects of most pre-workouts dissipate after 4 hours, give it at least 5 hours before your planned bedtime and adjust from there.
If you still have issues falling asleep and can’t change your workout time, you may need to try using a smaller dose at first OR try a different pre-workout.
The vast majority of pre-workouts can be taken simply by mixing with water. However, you could also use it with juice, but understand that most pre-workouts are already sweetened pretty heavily. We suggest drinking with more water than less as you need to be hydrated for your workout anyways. Plus, we’re going to assume that you’ll be moving around a lot and sweating heavily, so you’ll need the extra H²O.
We also strongly suggest starting with a smaller dose your first couple of times using a new pre-workout. This is the only way to know for sure how much you need to take for optimal results. From here, you can gradually add more powder to your dose until you find the right balance.
Lately, there has been a trend on Instagram and Youtube where fitness influencers have been dry scooping their pre-workout. Basically, this just means that they take a scoop of pre-workout and pour it directly into their mouth. They’ll then usually pour a bit of water in, swish it around, and swallow it whole. This leads many to question, is dry scooping bad for you?
Meh. It’s not necessarily good for you and it’s not necessarily bad. It’s a fast way to get all of your pre-workout powder into your system making pre-workout timing a breeze. However, you should only do this if you’re extremely familiar with that specific pre-workout powder. This is because all of the ingredients will hit your stomach at the same time, meaning more absorption faster. Therefore, it can “hit” you a bit harder.
It can also cause you to choke or inhale it. While it probably won’t kill you, you’ll have nasty coughed-up powder all over your shirt.
Pre-workouts are an excellent supplement to add to your gym line of sports nutrition. Most of them contain ingredients that are proven to work, and they could be just what you need to give you an edge on days you’re not feeling it. In order to get the most out of them, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the back and follow the dosing protocol and timing.
It’s really not too complicated, so don’t make it. Just to be sure, we just told you the perfect time to take your pre-workout so that it starts kicking in at the right time. Next time you go to the gym, mix your pre-workout with 8-12oz of water and have that completed at least 30 mins before you touch the barbell, and you’ll be killing it.
More frequently asked questions about pre-workout: