Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Homemade NO2 Preworkout Stack

NO2 blend products like SuperPump and NO-Xplode are all the rage nowadays.  These type of pre/during/post workout supplements don't fit into a particular category, but are generally meant to be used to give you a boost of strength, energy and a massive muscular pump during your workout that can be very motivating to help you out in the gym.  But, they sort of take a "kitchen sink" approach when it comes to what's in them.  Generally, they have a variety of different amino acids, including creatine and arginine especially.  They also have a blend of some type of carbohydrates and a delivery system to try and get them into your bloodstream as fast as possible. Some have BCAAs and others don't.  They often times use a lot of fancy proprietary ingredients and you can never tell how much exactly of anything you're getting.  And, a lot of times, they have different stimulants, such as caffeine and exotic herbal blends to give you an extra boost to lift harder and heavier.

Although these products provide a lot of good motivation from the extra energy and the visual pump you get during and after the workout the real question is whether they actually increase strength and body composition beyond that of the supplements that we know do, like creatine and whey protein.  Originally, an NO2 product was just made up of the amino acid arginine or an a derivative of it, such as arginine bound to malic acid or ketoglutarate (AAKG) in a certain delivery system like a powder or pill.  The intended purpose was to increase levels of nitric oxide in the blood and the theory was that this would increase blood flow to the muscles, delivering all the rich nutrients from food/vitamins and amino acids to help build muscle, but there is no scientific data that shows this to be true.  Mostly what supplementing with arginine did was just give users a very noticeable pump in their muscles, but not much else. This is probably due to the cellular volumizing effects of just allowing more water and glycol into the muscle during the workout.  Some studies done with arginine showed no benefit on body composition, strength, 1 rep max (1RM) or any other positive factors. But, arginine has always been one of those bastardized amino acids.  It always looks good on paper, but no one can really say it has positive effects for body composition or strength. [4] Some studies show it increases growth hormone levels when taken at certain times in certain dosages, and others show nothing. [5,6] But one thing the supplement companies have learned is that arginine absolutely provides a visual effect in the form of what bodybuilders and weight lifters refer to as the "pump".  This is when you are lifting and the muscle becomes fuller and harder and this effect typically lasts several hours after the workout, but it is only temporary.

A more recent trend, NO2 supplements can be placed in just about any category of ergogenic (muscle building) and contain any range of ingredients.  The trouble is that a lot of these products are very expensive for the amount of servings they provide.  In this article I'll go over some ways you can make your own NO2/preworkout supplement yourself with bulk powder ingredients blended together in portions that work.  You can add in other ingredients based on your budget and your goals.  Then, you can simply flavor the formula yourself with whatever you like and drink it before and/or during your workout to get that same effect of cellular volumization, strength, energy and hopefully even some real body composition and ergogenic benefits too!

Creatine


We'll start with creatine since we know that creatine has real life muscle building and strength effects. [1]  There are a lot of fancy creatines out there, such as creatine ethyl ester (CEE), Kre-Alkalyn, di-creatine malate, and so forth.  But, the only creatine that has been conclusively shown in studies to be effective is good ole' plain jane creatine monohydrate. [2]  That's not to say that the other creatines don't work -- they might even be better.  But no one has ever tested them side by side to determine that.  There was only one study comparing creatine monohydrate to CEE side by side and creatine monohydrate was shown to be superior in every way. [3] So, I'll show you a few examples of what creatine powder you might want to choose for your own blend and get that one based on your budget or if you're just feeling experimental and want to try one of the other more exotic creatines out there.  Ideally you want to be getting at least 5g of creatine per serving or per day, but you can go up to 10g if you wish.  Some creatines like CEE only require a dosage of 3g per serving however.
I recommend the Higher Power brand creatine monohydrate for our NO2 mix.  It is the same price per gram as the Cheap Supplements brand, but it is also micronized for superior digestibility and absorption.

Arginine


Just like creatine, there are a lot of different forms of arginine you can pick from based on your budget and what you want to go with.  I wasn't able to find arginine ethyl ester in pure powder form though, so we'll just be looking at plain free form arginine, di-arginine-malate, and arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG).  Any one of them would be fine, but I would probably pick AAKG, although regular arginine would be just fine.  As a commenter below pointed out, plain arginine has an unpleasant taste, giving AAKG a leg up over its amino acid cousin.  One study using AAKG showed an increase in 1RM, but no effects on body composition or overall strength.  [6] However, arginine does also have other positive effects such as vasodilation and the potential to increase growth hormone (GH) and insulin like growth factor (IGF) levels. [4,6] But, the main reason we add it is to get that great pump effect we desire from our NO2 mix.  The problem with high dosing arginine is that it can cause upset stomach and so we want to keep it within the low range, giving us the benefits, without the negative side effects, so we will try and keep it within the 5-10g range.
I recommend the Higher Power AAKG arginine powder.  AAKG is what was used in one of the main studies looking at arginine for strength and body composition, but either of the two options would be also good.  The Higher Power brand is cheaper per gram than NOW.

Dextrose


I picked dextrose as the main carbohydrate for the NO2 mix for a couple reasons.  Firstly, it's dirt cheap.  Dextrose is the same thing as glucose, which is sugar in its simplest form. Ideally, you want a fast absorbing carbohydrate around the workout window (before/during/after) to replenish the ones that are being used during the exercise routine. Dextrose goes right into the blood stream to give you the insulin spike you want, and doesn't have any fructose in it to go through conversion in the liver. [7]  Sports drinks like Gatorade are good, but the fact that they have high fructose corn syrup is what takes away their advantage. [9] Other products have maltodextrin in them which is also not ideally suited for our purposes.  Dextrose is going to give you quick energy and get the ingredients in the blood stream faster.  As we know, creatine works best with a high GI (glycemic index) carb as it's delivery system, and so it's perfect for this.  Fructose is an extremely poor choice for this purpose and so I had to discount any product that had it or maltodextrin in it as I looked for suitable products for our blend.  Fructose is processed by the liver before it is released into the blood stream creating insulin resistance.  It also starts to create triglycerides from fat after consumption, leading to the potential to increase adipose (fat) tissue from repeated usage.  So, it's best to just stick with the basics and use dextrose. [8]  There are many special carbohydrate mixtures out there that have timed released formulas and other things like added amino acids and vitamins, but you shouldn't need those provided you already take a multivitamin daily and get plenty of protein from whole foods and/or protein supplements (like whey).

But, for low GI purists out there, you could also substitute dextrose for ground oatmeal powder, which is available premade by Protein Factory or you can blend it yourself.  In the past, I've found trying to blend oats into a powder to be a real chore, so I would just opt to buy the powder.  It should work just as well as dextrose, although possibly not quite as quickly and not as dramatic of an insulin spike will happen when you use it.  This is essentially a toss up between people who may be trying to follow a ketogenic diet routine (who would be going for the oats) or anyone else (who would choose dextrose).
I would recommend the NOW Dextrose powder.


Beta Alanine


Beta Alanine increases skeletal muscle concentrations of an amino acid dipeptide, carnosine.  Carnosine acts as a pH buffer in the muscle, helping to reduce lactic acid build up.  Lactic acid causes the fatigue and the burning in the muscle after long periods of high intensity training, so supplementing with beta alanine can help reduce this.  It also appears to increase strength in some, making it a great combination to take with creatine.  There are speculations that anabolic steroid usage leads to increases in skeletal muscle carnosine levels, similar to how they also increase creatine production (another reason why steroids are so effective at muscle building).  The dosing for beta alanine can be in the range of 4-6g daily, but it should be consumed throughout the day as taking one large dose causes an unpleasant tingling and stinging sensation in the skin, possibly caused by histamine release. [12,13]  The recipe I have at the bottom of the page lists 1g of beta alanine for our blend, but you will need to consume around 6g daily from other sources outside our blend.  Because users cannot tolerate more than 1g of beta alanine per dosage, it must be spread out.  This can be a bit tedious, but there are products, like Molecular Nutrition's PeakBeta, which comes as a time released beta alanine capsule that can be swallowed and delivered into the body throughout the day.  Although its more expensive than the powder, it is more convenient to use, so it's a trade off that will have to be made if you decide to use beta alanine.  You may consume teaspoons of beta alanine powder at multiple intervals during the day, or use a time released capsule product.  You should base this decision on both convenience and your supplement budget.

Carnosine’s role as an intracellular buffer is undisputed given its location within the skeletal muscle of humans and its chemical structure (Harris et al. 1990). Consequently, there is potential for supplementation with b-alanine to result in improved exercise performance, especially during high-intensity exercise. [13]
The NOW Beta Alanine appears to be the better deal at 5¢ per gram, so I would recommend that.  Alternately, you can use a time released beta alanine product.

Citrulline


Citrulline and citrulline malate (citrulline bound to malic acid) is a non essential amino acid that makes the conversion to arginine and arginine derivatives via enzyme pathways.  It was originally touted as being beneficial for aerobic exercise, but recent studies have shown that it has positive effects during anaerobic exercise.  For one, citrulline itself, when ingested, creates and causes the body to make and utilize some amino acids more efficiently. [10]

Citrulline-malate ingestion significantly increased the plasma concentration of citrulline, arginine, ornithine, urea, creatinine and nitrite (p < 0.05) and significantly decreased the isoleucine concentration from basal measures to after exercise (p < 0.05). Insulin levels significantly increased after exercise in both groups (p < 0.05) returning to basal values at recovery. [11]
Citrulline malate has also been shown to reduce post workout muscle soreness, also known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Although you can opt for the more expensive citrulline malate formula, l-citrulline alone would probably work just as well for your NO2 mix. I could not find it sold in bulk powder, only prepacked in capsules.  The dose for citrulline should be in the 1-5g per serving range.
Taurine


Taurine is another amino acid that plays a key role in many exercise mediated actions.  It can increase endurance, strength and energy, as well as cause a great deal of cellular volumization and hydration to the muscles.  It's one of the main ingredients in Red Bull (along with sugar and caffeine) to give its users a positive feeling of well being and alertness.  It's also one of the cheapest ingredients here on our list, so that is another plus in adding it to our cocktail.  The dosage range can be anywhere from 1-6g per serving. [14]

The Nimbus Nutrition brand appears to be the cheapest at 2¢ per gram.

Caffeine (Optional)


Since many NO2 products use a variety of different stimulants I thought I would include the option of adding caffeine in here.  Obviously we don't want to use caffeine in powder form since it would be hard to measure out and scoop, so the best idea is to buy it in tablet form and split it.  A 200mg caffeine pill split into 4ths would give you 50mg of caffeine, which should be sufficient for a good amount of energy.  If you feel like you need more, you could always take half the pill.  Pills can be split using a cheap pill splitter found at a pharmacy or just using a butter knife (press into the tablet, don't saw at it) and obviously scored tablets are best for this, but normally more expensive.  The other issue with adding too much caffeine is that it acts as a vasoconstrictor (restricting blood flow) while the other ingredients, arginine especially, are trying to act as vasodialators (expanding blood flow).  So you don't want too much caffeine with your NO2 blend or it will negate the effects.

Flavoring


You can flavor your blend in whatever way you choose.  I would recommend buying unsweetened Koolaid packets and then adding the sweetener of your choice, such as Splenda (sucralose) which can be bought in large bags and is now sold as a generic product at most grocery stores or you could use Stevia powder.  Aspartame, saccharine, or sugar alcohols such as maltitol or xylitol would also be suitable alternatives, but obviously it is a personal choice.  You could use some table sugar (sucrose), but you wouldn't want to use much since you already have a high GI carb source from the dextrose, so an artificial sweetener would be preferred here.  Mix the Koolaid flavor of your choice and then sweeten to desired results per serving.  If you are blending it up all at once for use later in the day, you would not want to mix it in liquid, but leave it in powder form so the ingredients wouldn't break down or denature.

What's missing?


You may notice I left out a lot of popular ingredients found in many of these NO2 pre/during/post workout blends like BCAAs, Ribose [15,16], and Glutamine [17,18].  I still feel like the scientific evidence on these is very sketchy.  BCAAs may be a good idea, but their expense puts them at a disadvantage.  Ribose is basically just fancy and more expensive sugar, and we know from many, many studies that glutamine just simply is not orally bioavailable and never makes it into skeletal muscle tissue, making it a total waste of money.  I also didn't include any fancy or exotic herbs that may act as stimulants, nootropics, or insulin stimulating agents.  Although some of them may be advantageous, it's impossible to know what the proper dosage is and find it in a cheap enough form to buy in bulk and add it into our blend.  Not to mention flavoring a lot of these herbs is going to require some very fancy concoctions -- more so than Koolaid would cover up.  In reality, they are probably also not necessary and a lot of times just added on the ingredients list in a proprietary blend, so you, the consumer have no idea how much you're getting and whether or not it's even in a worthwhile amount.  Basically, it's a gimmick.  Still, you could always use any stimulant product you prefer in place of the caffeine, it's up to you.

The Home Made NO2 Cocktail


This blend should have all the main ingredients all the other fancy and more expensive NO2/preworkout blends on the market have, with real working ingredients that are actually scientifically shown to effect strength, body composition, endurance, energy, and stamina.   The ingredients here may even be more abundant than you are getting in one of the marketed blends since, as mentioned, all the ingredients are listed in a proprietary fashion not giving you a clear picture of what you are taking and in what amounts.

You can drink it before, during or after your workout -- although I believe that before or during would be optimal.  So, here are the ingredients you want in the proportions I recommend.  However, you are more than welcome to alter them to suit your needs and tastes.  You can increase the dosage of Beta Alanine beyond 1g if you are comfortable doing so.  Many users report an unpleasant tingling sensation in dosages beyond 20mg/kg (which would be approximately 1.6g for 180lb person). [13]
  • 5g Creatine monohydrate
  • 5g Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG)
  • 20g Dextrose
  • 1g Beta Alanine
  • 2g Citrulline Malate
  • 2g Taurine
  • 50mg Caffeine
Mix into 16-32oz of water (with the exception of the caffeine tablet).  Add Koolaid powder and Splenda to your liking.  The dextrose will already be sweet, so you may want more or less depending on the flavor.  You may want to use a whole packet of Koolaid or more depending on the flavor of some of these amino acids, but start off small and decide for yourself.  Some flavors of Koolaid may work to mask certain unpleasant flavors with Tropical Punch probably being the most masking, but again, this is personal preference.


1. Tolson, David. Creatine Overview. Bulknutrition.com. Accessed 6/30/10.
2. Brink, Will. The Creatine Grave Yard. Brinkzone.com. Feb 20, 2009.
3. Spillane M., et al. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, Baylor University, Box 97313, Waco, TX 76798, USA. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 19;6:6.
4. Campbell BI., et al. The ergogenic potential of arginine. Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, Baylor University, Waco, TX. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004 Dec 31;1(2):35-8.
5. Zajac A., et al. Arginine and ornithine supplementation increases growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 serum levels after heavy-resistance exercise in strength-trained athletes. Department of Sports Training, Academy of Physical Education, Katowice, Poland. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1082-90.
6. Campbell B., et al. Pharmacokinetics, safety, and effects on exercise performance of L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in trained adult men. Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory at the Center for Exercise, Nutrition, and Preventative Health Research, Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA.  Nutrition. 2006 Sep;22(9):872-81.
7. el-Sayed MS., et al. Exogenous carbohydrate utilisation: effects on metabolism and exercise performance. Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, School of Human Sciences, U.K. Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol. 1997 Nov;118(3):789-803.
8. Tolson, David. Carbohydrates and Exercise Performance. Bulknutrition.com.  Accessed 6/30/10.
9. Dolson, Laura. Fructose: Sweet, But Dangerous. About.com. October 09, 2008.
10. Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. Department of Medicine, University of Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22.
11. Sureda A., et al. L: -Citrulline-malate influence over branched chain amino acid utilization during exercise. Research Group on Community Nutrition and Oxidative Stress, Laboratory of Physical Activity Sciences, Departament de Biologia Fonamental i Ciències de la Salut, University of Balearic Islands, Crtra. Valldemossa Km 7.5, 07122, Palma de Mallorca, Illes Balears, Spain. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 May 25.
12. Derave W., et al. Muscle carnosine metabolism and beta-alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Sports Med. 2010 Mar 1;40(3):247-63.
13. Sale C., et al. Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine concentrations and exercise performance. School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Clifton Lane, Nottingham, NG11 8NS, UK. Amino Acids. 2010 Jul;39(2):321-33. Epub 2009 Dec 20.
14. Author unknown. Taurine.  Supplementwatch.com accessed via archive.org. 6/30/10
15. Kreider RB., et al. Effects of oral D-ribose supplementation on anaerobic capacity and selected metabolic markers in healthy males. Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, Center for Exercise, Nutrition and Preventative Health, in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798-7313, USA. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Mar;13(1):76-86.
16. Dunne L., et al. Ribose versus dextrose supplementation, association with rowing performance: a double-blind study. Sports Medicine Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA. Clin J Sport Med. 2006 Jan;16(1):68-71.
17. Candow DG., et al. Effect of glutamine supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults. College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2001 Dec;86(2):142-9.
18. Antonio J., et al. The effects of high-dose glutamine ingestion on weightlifting performance. Sports Science Laboratory, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, USA. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):157-60.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You stylin on these other blogs brah.

Max Cascone said...

I use the NOW arginine powder and highly recommend any kind of sweetener, sugar or juice to mask the taste - it is HORRIBLE. But it's easily maskable.

Wholesalekey01 said...

Our store is mainly engaged in windows activation. All the windows activation key we sell is office activation key authorized by windows product key directly. Of course the office product key we sell is cheapest and excellent. The windows key generator we sell is various and complete. You can find the office key generator which you want in our store. And windows key can get windows generator service in our store.

Priyanka said...

I think the best place to buy supplements, whey protein powders, protein shakes and other nutritional products online is www.madeinhealth.com . They have good service, low prices and products are genuine.. It's cool

Catherine Torres said...

Me I only drink whey protein before and after workout. I do an intense workout that's why I need it a lot. Please also keep away from sodas. It has a large amount of fructose that is bad to our health.  read it here - http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/01/02/highfructose-corn-syrup-alters-human-metabolism.aspx

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Addthis