How Excess Stimulant Use Can Lead to Overtraining

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Nutrition, Training

There’s a helluva a lotta cats out there addicted to pre-workout stimulants. Gotta be cranked for your workout; bouncing off the walls or ready to run through ‘em.

So you slug down a triple espresso and stack with it with some 3 Hour Energy Blaster, NO Explode-aria and whatever else they sell at the checkout counter of GNC. Anything short of an 8-ball of coke is fair game.

After twenty minutes or so it starts kicking in and you feel superhuman.

You’re no longer a guy who barely slept because you were stressed out all night or the guy who can barely keep his head up after an exhausting day of work.

You’re Randy Savage, Lyle Alzado and Ken Shamrock all rolled into one. You’re unstoppable.

So you go to the gym and are shaking half way through your warm up. You can’t wait to unleash the beast. When you hit the weights you know today’s gonna be a good day. They’re flying up. If you don’t hold onto the bar tight enough at the top of your presses it will go through the ceiling.

You’re killing it. Set after set. There’s no end to your energy supply so you keep going and going. You think you’re doing a great thing. Your pump keeps increasing and your work capacity is seemingly endless. This has to beneficial, right?


When you do more than you are naturally capable of on a regular basis it catches up with you.

Sometime it only takes as little as one workout. Because you do more, contract harder, and train with more overall intensity than you’d be capable of doing without all the stimulants you start to dig yourself a hole.

It may feel great at the time but a few days later you start to notice a sniffle here or there, a scratchy throat, an achy shoulder or an overall feeling of systemic fatigue.

You pushed it too far because you relied on artificial energy. That allowed you to do more than your body was naturally capable of doing and recovering from, and now you’ve gotta pay for it. The same way you do after a long night of drinking; although the effects of this can last quite a bit longer.

You Don’t Have to Go Straight Edge

Now before you think I’m preaching the ultimate straight edge, purity message let me assure you that I’ll whack down ten Red Bull & vodkas on a big night out in LA, NY or Vegas. That always makes for a good time.

And I love a pre-workout cup of organic black coffee. But that’s it. One cup per day is all she wrote for me. Some of my clients have two but I don’t recommend more than that on a regular basis.

If you need more than some coffee to get you up for your workouts something’s wrong. Your diet and, more importantly, your sleep need some serious improvements. They’re the two main determining factors in your energy levels. Make them both a bigger priority than getting a rush order or Awesome Energy 5000.

Sleep at least seven hours per night and shoot for 8-9. And make sure you’re eating enough carbs to fuel high intensity workouts. For hard training Renegades this will usually be a bare minimum of 100 grams per day, average.

As part of The Renegade Diet I always recommend eating most of your carbs at night. However, many people find that they feel awesome by having a piece of fruit anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before training earlier in the day. This can slightly elevate blood glucose and liver glycogen levels, which will make you feel better and increase your performance in the gym.

My buddy, Nate Miyaki and I both started using this approach with our clients over the last few months and have had great results.

The other option, which is my personal favorite that I had previously only shared with Renegade Inner Circle members, is a jar of organic sweet potato baby food. You laugh now, but you won’t after you try it.

The Ultimate Formula For High Energy Workouts

So for the ultimate workouts you need the following:

  • 8-9 hours or sleep per night.
  • Enough carbs with your nightly feast to fuel high intensity workouts the next day.
  • 1 cup of black coffee pre-workout (obviously optional, but recommended).
  • A piece of fruit or jar of baby food 15-60 minutes before.
  • If you train in the early morning, before you’ve had a chance to eat anything, adding in 10gm of BCAA is an option worth considering. The fruit or baby food could be added or omitted at this time depending on if your goal was muscle gain or fat loss.

If you’re not the parent of an infant, having your pantry stocked with baby food like mine will draw lots of odd reactions and questions. Be prepared.

Leave a Reply

15 Responses to How Excess Stimulant Use Can Lead to Overtraining

  1. Jeff November 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm #


    Kinda along the same lines of using things that allow you to do things ‘unnaturally’ like stimulants, what’s your take on belts/wraps/straps used all the time? Thanks for your time.

  2. AJ Perisho November 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Nice post Jason, and great advice!

  3. Brian P November 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Good Stuff!

    I like to use the credit card analogy because gettin’ jacked up on the latest of any “Caffeinacreatinaargininacitrulinacarnosina” supplement comes with a high interest rate due to its “taxing” effects on the adrenal glands. The borrowed energy has to be put back with more rest (interest) because it is recovery that actually builds strength & size. These abusers end up wired and tired!

    The problem is that they actually do work… temporarily. Thus, another temporary solution to a permanent problem. In other words, it is a strength and size suicide when used irresponsibly.

  4. Darren November 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Hey great article! However, what is your take on creatine & maca? Keep up great work.

  5. Craig L. November 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    People ask me all the time what preworkout supplements I take. When I say half a caffeine pill – and only when cutting fat – they look at me like I’m nuts.

    Thanks for confirming my sanity, Jay!

  6. Chris November 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    J – do you recommend BCAA’s pre/during workout if I train in the evening?

  7. Mighty Mark November 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Am I the only one superimposing my imagined ‘slap base’ to Seinfeld’s bit as it ends?

  8. Izaak November 13, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    How do you recommend weaning off of preworkout drinks? How would I detox myself from them?

  9. Tobias November 14, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    I totally agree with you Jason!

    If you don’t mind Jason I would like to share one of my favorite stimulants with you guys?

    Green Tea!

    Totally awesome starter for a long day… It activates over a very long period of time and has a lot of positive side benefits!

    I would only recommend to watch out for organic high quality products!

  10. Nick November 14, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    If you want to go further on this in the future. Explain to readers more about adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. I would think that would be more of the issue being beaten down by the excess caffeine consumption! :)

  11. Liam November 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    When you say 10g of bcaas,whats that in relation to pill form? Great read as always,i think i would upset my daughter if id eat her baby food,lol!

  12. Chris November 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    This may be a stupid question, but what kind of fruit is preferred pre-workout?

  13. Tim Meredith November 15, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Humorously truthful, but thanks most of all for the Seinfeld cameo. My question is, “Does the baby food taste like shyte or is it palatable? I will pick up some this week and give it a go, but I’m envisioning holding my breath while swallowing!

  14. Richard November 23, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    So True!

    People are addicted to these energy drinks and most of the guys I know who down them don’t even train! They’re packed with sugars and I personally would grudge wasting the calories on them.

    They’re a load of nonsense in my view, I’ve only ever tried them on a couple of occasions, pre-sprint sessions, and never found them to be of any benefit.

    I’ve had my eyes opened in the last 6 months. I don’t take on any carbs (or very few, less than 30 grams), I’m talking a tomato or some other low carb veggies, during the first part of my day (pre-training, before 6pm). I have a few cups of black coffee during this phase also but it’s very weak (don’t do strong coffee). My training sessions are short (35 – 45mins, if I can manage it) but intense (a combination of failure sets and drop sets) with very little rest throughout.

    If I’m early shift I’m up at 5am to do a 6 till 6 12hr shift. Home for 6.30pm, play with kids for an hour, storytime then bed. I hit the gym and don’t get carbed up till I’m done! On other days I’ll train fasted with just a pre-workout black (weak-ass) coffee. Which is awesome!

    Since adopting this way of living and training I’ve never been stronger, felt or looked better, or had more control over my eating habbits. Sometimes it can be tuff but I generally find going low carb or fasted during the first part of the day keeps me far more focused on my tasks and less focused on food. IMHO carbs are responsible for cravings, energy fluctuations and poor productivity.

    When I’m done working and training, I feast and chill-out!

  15. Roger June 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm #


    For some who is allergic to dairy(so no whey) and can’t always eat so much meat then would it be a good idea to use bcaas as a post-workout beverage in place of the whey?