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Benefits of using natural stimulants in your preworkout

In the fitness industry today, we are constantly trying to find ways to make gains, be at peak performance levels every day, and keep our declining energy levels on the up and up. That is why energy drinks and preworkout supplements are so incredibly common in the sports nutrition industry. 

Unfortunately, many people who use preworkout and energy supplements never read past the first two or three ingredients on the label. Tons of other people take them, so what could it hurt to take them too? Sure, there’s the chance you’ll have a massive heart attack due to all the unnatural chemical stimulants, but that’s a very rare occurrence. Right?


Common Side Effects:

A few of the most common side effects of high stim pre-workout supplements include:

  • Vomiting
  • Crash & jittery feeling
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • High blood pressure
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Chest pain
  • Kidney damage

Not only are the desired effects of these supplements short-lived, but when taken on a regular basis they can zap your energy and shock your immune system with a heaping dose of toxins.


The solution?

We have a simple solution: Read the labels on all supplements you are considering taking. When shopping for a preworkout, look for products with natural stimulants.

The following are a few non-addictive natural stimulants that are excellent for your preworkout nutrition due to their effect on your energy levels, muscle mass and overall health and wellbeing, without the negative short term and long term effects of most high stimulant preworkout supplements on the market today.


  1. Caffeine

Caffeine, naturally found in coffee beans and tea leaves, is not only an excellent energy booster but is proven to boost your metabolism and stimulate fat breakdown.

Caffeine increases levels of adrenaline in the blood [1]. Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone that gets our body ready for intense physical activity, even if it is a grueling CrossFit session.

In addition, caffeine stimulates your nervous system, allowing it to send signals to your fat cells to break down fat to free fatty acids in the blood [2]. These fatty acids are now available as fuel for your workouts [3].

Numerous studies have indicated that caffeine can boost metabolic rate by a whopping 3 to 11% on average [4].

Research also shows that caffeine can have specific effects on certain groups of people, and increase fat breakdown by 10% among obese people and 29% among lean individuals [5].

Not surprisingly, caffeine can improve your physical performance by an average of 11 to 12%, making it an excellent natural preworkout stimulant [6].


  1. L-citrulline

L-citrulline is a nonessential alpha amino acid that is naturally made in the body. It can also be obtained from dietary sources such as watermelon, onions, garlic, chickpeas, fish, meat, nuts and dark chocolate.

According to research, L-citrulline increases the production of nitric oxide in the body and stimulates the production of more ATP – a molecule that your body uses for energy.

In addition, it also reduced lactic acid and ammonia buildup and supports phosphocreatine recovery. All of these effects are surefire ways of improving exercise performance, inhibiting fatigue and soreness, boosting recovery time and scoring major gains in the gym [7].

To prove this, two double-blind randomized trials were performed in 2015 using 25 trained female weightlifters of 20-26 years of age to test the effects of 8g doses of CM and 8g doses of dextrose as the placebo agent [8].

Supplements were administered one hour before exertion, where they performed 6 sets of bench presses and 6 sets of leg presses until failure at 80 percent of each person’s one rep maximums.

With each set, heart rate, rating or perceived exertion (RPE) and number of reps were recorded. Results showed that participants had decreased RPE and enhanced performance in both, lower and upper body workouts with no significant effect on heart rate.

Read more about what l-citrulline does for performance here


  1. Creatine

Creatine increases the phosphocreatine stores in your muscles [9]. Phosphocreatine aids in the production of ATP, which is broken down during exertion for energy.

Unfortunately, you use ATP faster than your body produces it again, greatly limiting your body from performing at its optimum intensity. However, taking creatine before your workout can massively increase phosphocreatine stores in the body, thereby allowing the body to manufacture more ATP to fuel high intensity workouts [10].

Creatine is also a widely used supplement for enhancing muscle mass. It changes several cellular pathways responsible for new muscle growth, such as increasing the production of proteins that form new muscle fibers [11].

Furthermore, creatine increases levels of IGF-1 in the body and stimulates the Akt/PKB pathway that signal the body to build more muscle [12].

Some studies also show that creatine can decrease myostatin levels in the body. Myostatin is a molecule that inhibits muscle growth. Reducing this by taking creatine can promote uninterrupted muscle gain [13].


What else can you do to increase performance naturally?

  • Get enough sleep
  • Drink enough water
  • Do strength and cardiovascular exercise regularly
  • Eat high quality foods and in moderation
  • Avoid junk, processed foods, refined sugar, and soda
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Get enough sunlight
  • Stretch daily


The bottom line

The risks associated with taking energy drinks and unnatural performance enhancing drugs and stimulants are endless. In addition to the previously listed common side effects of high stim preworkouts, some common risks associated with their intake include nervousness and irritability, poor concentration, dehydration, addiction or tolerance, heart palpitations, hypertension, heart rhythm abnormalities and even stroke and heart attacks when taken long-term.

Do these products boost performance? Maybe. However, given their long-term effects, taking them is a risky business.

Fortunately, there are companies like Atomic Strength Nutrition who produce products like Apocalypse, a preworkout containing only natural stimulants, so you get the benefits you are looking for, without all the unwanted side effects.



  1. Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C. Med Sci Sports Exerc.1994 Apr;26(4):453-8.
  2. Anti-obesity action of oolong tea. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders : Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity[01 Jan 1999, 23(1):98-105]
  3. Effects of caffeine on plasma free fatty acids, urinary catecholamines, and drug binding. Clin Pharmacol Ther.1980 Sep;28(3):398-403.
  4. Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr.1989 Jan;49(1):44-50.
  5. Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: lipid oxidation or futile cycling? Am J Clin Nutr January 2004 vol. 79 no. 1 40-46
  1. Effects of caffeine ingestion on exercise testing: a meta-analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.2004 Dec;14(6):626-46.
  2. l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985).2015 Aug 15;119(4):385-95. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00192.2014. Epub 2015 May 28.
  3. Acute citrulline malate supplementation improves upper- and lower-body submaximal weightlifting exercise performance in resistance-trained females. Eur J Nutr.2017 Mar;56(2):775-784. doi: 10.1007/s00394-015-1124-6. Epub 2015 Dec 11.
  4. Differential response of muscle phosphocreatine to creatine supplementation in young and old subjects. Acta Physiol Scand.2002 Jan;174(1):57-65.
  5. Skeletal muscle metabolism during short duration high-intensity exercise: influence of creatine supplementation. Acta Physiol Scand.1995 Jul;154(3):303-10.
  6. Creatine enhances differentiation of myogenic C2C12 cells by activating both p38 and Akt/PKB pathways. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol.2007 Oct;293(4):C1263-71. Epub 2007 Jul 25.
  7. Creatine enhances differentiation of myogenic C2C12 cells by activating both p38 and Akt/PKB pathways. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol.2007 Oct;293(4):C1263-71. Epub 2007 Jul 25.
  8. Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on serum myostatin and GASP-1. Mol Cell Endocrinol.2010 Apr 12;317(1-2):25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2009.12.019. Epub 2009 Dec 22.
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