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How Excess Stimulant Use Can Lead to Overtraining

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Muscle, Nutrition


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?

Wrong.

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.