“You wanna go fast? I want to go faster,” Iron Culture Podcast Ep. #127: Supplement Science: Everything You DIDN’T Know About Stimulants (But Should) ft. Ben Esgro

Do you take a pre-workout to help you push through a session at the gym? I admit, I associate pre-workouts with big guys in stringers storming around the gym like they own the place. Not that I have a problem with stringers. I’d love to have enough pec development some day to pull one off.

Photo description: A man’s shoulder and arm in a small black tank top (stringer) holding a dumbbell. Photo credit: Damir Spanik via Unsplash (cropped)

For now, though, no stringers and no pre-workouts for me. I don’t love the idea of adding stimulants to my routine to get myself to work harder in the gym. I have a relatively low caffeine tolerance–there’s no question I’m a slow metabolizer with any consumed after about noon impacting my sleep that night–and, to be really authentic and open, I consider myself to be high risk for developing dependency and addictions to substances. I have many family members with current or past challenges with alcoholism and drug abuse, so I am very hesitant to add new chemicals to my routine.

All that being said, I recognize that the use of stimulants is common in our community, and I’m glad that the folks at Iron Culture take on these nuanced conversations about personal responsibility, regulation, and potential harms and benefits of their use. I don’t feel comfortable commenting on the science of pre-workouts and stimulants, that’s not my expertise. I am a science and health educator for my day job, and this sort of information is useful in helping me teach, but I don’t think I’m qualified to commentate. I do appreciate that they discuss the risks for abuse (about 46 minutes in), although I think Ben misses an important point–if we are using stimulants to push through our workouts, it can mask evidence that we aren’t taking care of ourselves in other ways. Are we getting enough sleep? Are we getting enough recovery? These are “big rocks,” essential tools for creating a healthy lifestyle beyond our lifting.

Near the end of the episode, I appreciate that they do finally get into some practical applications and how to safely use pre-workout stimulants. I suspect the information on dry scooping is important context for any bandwagon-jumpers, and I love the emphasis on starting with a partial dose and seeing how it works for someone before they take more. Omar emphasizes the cultural tendencies he witnesses of wanting the biggest response right away, and I can’t help but wonder if the two aren’t implicitly intertwined–folks who want that buzz are more likely to also start with the most extreme experience? Is it the same psychology? After all, if we are prone to caution, we probably don’t start with wanting to take stimulants before we hold heavy stuff over our heads. But, I’m open to being wrong about this!

Finally, I love the discussion of how lifestyle factors influence how these drugs effect us. The connection to sleep seems obvious, but the connection with nutrition and sunlight are both surprising to me. Creating my own melatonin and serotonin-more great reasons to go out on my daily walk! Other factors he mentions include smoking, regular activity, and other supplements that we might take. These, for me, are the meat of the discussion–figuring out the intricacies of our own lifestyle factors and where pre-workout stimulants fit in for us. Me, I’m happy with keeping to my morning cup of coffee and pushing through my lifts as I’m able without other stimulation. What about you?

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Did you listen to this week’s Iron Culture? I’d love to hear your thoughts! (Please respect our comment policy.)

Feature photo credit: Sven Mieke via Unsplash

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