In the world of preworkout supplements, stimulants like caffeine, theacrine, synephrine and yohimbe rule the roost. They help to boost energy, improve mental focus and in some cases delay fatigue. They are the ingredients that your body reacts to most quickly and that have the most significant sensory effect. Trust me, take a 300 mg dose of caffeine prior to any workout and you will certainly know about!
That doesn’t, however, mean that stimulant free preworkouts are ineffective or a waste of time. In fact, many of the most well researched supplement ingredients, and those with the most compelling evidence to support their use, are not stimulative in the slightest. Amino acids such as creatine and beta alanine, in particular, have routinely been shown to have significant ergogenic benefits for exercise performance.
What exactly are stimulant free preworkout supplements?
Compounds with stimulatory properties generally have an effect on the central and/or sympathetic nervous system, promoting the release of chemicals such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. It is the release of these catecholamines, which helps to regulate your heartbeat and breathing rate, preparing the body for physical activity, normally in stressful situations.
Consequently, a stimulant free preworkout must not contain any ingredients which can have such a physiological effect on the body. Instead they contain compounds which are purported to have ergogenic benefits irrelevant of the central and sympathetic nervous systems. These substances tend to help individuals train harder for longer by boosting potential supplies of muscle energy,or buffer lactic acid more efficiently. This often leads to greater gains in lean muscle mass, aerobic and anaerobic performance.
5 common stimulant free preworkout ingredients
Undoubtedly the most ergogenically effective nutritional supplement on the market. This non-protein amino acid found primarily in red meat plays a critical role in the provision of energy to your working muscles. The more creatine you have stored in your muscles, the more phosphocreatine you can generate and the more ATP you can resynthesise. All of which is critical when you’re asking your body to complete short bursts of high intensity activity such as that in the weight room or sprint track.
Second perhaps only to creatine in terms of tangible performance benefit, beta alanine is another key ingredient of any stimulant free preworkout. Another non essential amino acid found in animal sources of protein such as red meat, fish and poultry, its primary physiological role, as far as exercise performance is concerned, is in the synthesis of a dipeptide called carnosine. Carnosine helps to reduce lactic acid accumulation in your muscles during short duration anaerobic activity. If you weren’t already aware, the buildup of lactic acid is one of the primary causes of muscle fatigue!
BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids)
BCAA’s are thought to be incredibly important in maintaining and building muscle, as well as limiting muscle soreness in the aftermath of intense activity.
Moreover, the break down of BCAA’s in the body has also been shown to reduce lactate production and thus help you exercise for longer.
Citrulline is another non essential amino acid found primarily in watermelon. The body converts it to arginine, which plays an important role in nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide promotes blood flow and vasodilation, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach your muscles, particularly helpful when your exercising at high intensities.
Citrulline is also thought to play an important role in limiting the buildup of lactic acid and ammonia, both of which are responsible for exercise induced fatigue.
Betaine acts as a methyl donor and an osmolyte in the body. This basically means that it helps in a number of chemical processes involving the transfer of methyl groups to other molecules and to keep cells hydrated. This includes processes such as creatine production and protein synthesis. Pretty important stuff as far as exercise performance goes!
Why might you want to take a stimulant free preworkout?
There are a number of potential benefits to sticking with stimulant free preworkouts. For starters, ingredients like caffeine can have some unwanted side effects like headaches or nausea and leave you short of good quality sleep. It is very easy to become dependent on stimulants. So much so, that when you don’t take them you can feel overly fatigued and irritable. Moreover, your body builds up a tolerance to them which means you have to take them in higher and higher doses in order to feel the benefits. The problem is, the more you take, the more likely you are to experience the negative side effects we’ve already mentioned. As a result you made need to take breaks or cycle your stimulant based preworkout which means your missing out on the benefits of some of the other ingredients which should be taken on a daily basis for optimum gains.
Stimulant free preworkouts present none of these problems. Find a blend that works for you, maybe that’s creatine, beta alanine and BCAA’s, make sure you’re getting an optimum dosage of each and crack on. Lengthy periods of this kind of supplementation in combination with an appropriate training regime is guaranteed to produce results.
When should you take stimulant free preworkout?
If you’re serious about making physical gains and improving your performance in exercise, but you don’t want the ‘buzz’ and potential knock on effects related to stimulants like caffeine, then stimulant free preworkout products could be what you’re looking for.
They are particularly useful if you tend to exercise after work. After all, the last thing you want in your preworkout is a high dose of caffeine which is going to keep you up all night after your session!
How much? Dosage
Your stimulant free preworkout dosage will depend largely on the individual doses of the ingredients mentioned above. For more information on that, check out the links to our ingredient specific articles.
Because these products don’t contain ingredients which will have an immediate impact on your training performance (like caffeine does for instance), the timing of consumption doesn’t matter quite so much. The most important thing is that you take it regularly (daily) and for a period of time long enough to obtain the ergogenic benefit. Compounds such as creatine and beta alanine, for instance, take weeks of supplementation in order to reach optimum levels in your muscles. So be diligent and patient!