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Pre-Workout: with or without stimulants?
Pre-Workout: with or without stimulants?

Pre-Workout: with or without stimulants?

Date: September 01, 2021

In recent years, greater attention has been paid to peri-workout nutrition and supplementation, also in the light of more and more numerous studies by accredited scientific institutes in the sports sector (including the US ISSN) that have demonstrated the effectiveness in the field. adequate manipulation of nutrients in the next phases (before, during or after) the workout.

Beyond the various nutrients (free amino acids, peptides, carbohydrates, nitric oxide precursors, etc...), which we have already discussed in previous articles and we will certainly discuss again, when it comes to a pre-workout what is expected is to also assume something that gives us that push, physical and mental, that helps us to give our best during the entire duration of the training, and here is the crux of the matter: Is it preferable to use pre-workouts with stimulants or without? And for whom or what phases of training periodization are one or the other better?

When we talk about supplements with stimulants we are basically referring to those containing caffeine , which is a natural alkaloid (characterized by the presence of a nitrogen group with an alkaline reaction) contained in tea, coffee and other foods, with well-known stimulating properties on the nervous system central.
Once taken, caffeine reaches its peak of absorption after about 45 minutes and enters the body easily crossing the blood brain barrier causing an increase in the levels of the catecholamines adrenaline and noradrenaline (chemical compounds deriving from tyrosine, produced in part by the adrenal glands and for with regard to noradrenaline, especially from nerve endings) with consequent stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and activation of the alert state, with:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood supply to the muscles
  • Decreased blood supply to skin and internal organs
  • Increased release of glucose from the liver
  • Increased mobilization of free fatty acids from intramuscular adipose tissue

The effects of caffeine on aerobic and anaerobic sports performance are extensively studied and proven, and it is now universally recognized as a potent ergogenic and thermogenic.
As we have seen, the positive effects are mainly related to a stimulation of the nervous system and are concretely expressed in an increase in the duration and Energy expressed in aerobic and anaerobic sports, but there is also a direct peripheral effect at the level of stimulation of muscle contractility that passes through the stimulus of release of calcium ions in the sarcoplasmic reticulum.
In the case of workouts with overload such as in bodybuilding, it has been verified that caffeine may be able to increase the expression of Energy and an overall increase in the volume of work for the same amount of time, but not in pure maximum strength.

Caffeine together with many positive effects brings with it some undesirable effects and is not well tolerated by everyone both at the nervous and gastrointestinal level, moreover it can increase the cortisolemic response to stress, so it is not always the ideal ergogenic to use in a pre-workout and Fortunately, today we know many other substances with an ergogenic effect, but free from some of the problems related to caffeine.

We hear a lot about nootropic substances in the pre-workouts of new generations, that is substances that stimulate brain activity and efficiency by acting on the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, of which in reality also caffeine is part, but in the jargon of supplements with the term nootropic refers to substances that do not predominantly stimulate adrenaline and noradrenaline, but also and above all other neurotransmitters and mechanisms that act differently, not going to overstimulate the adrenaline response .

Nootropic substances are truly numerous and depending on which neurotransmitters they stimulate, they are classified into:

  • colinergiche
  • dopaminergiche
  • serotoninergiche
  • antidepressants, anxiolytics, adaptogens and mood stabilizers
  • nutritive (at the level of the nervous system)
  • stimulants, activators and tonics (at the level of the nervous system)

Basically with the term of nootropic in pre-workout jargon we refer to cholinergic nootropics , in particular to Citicolcholine . Once ingested, Citicoline is metabolized leading to the formation of choline, the precursor of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter of the nervous system, involved in numerous cognitive functions, such as memory and concentration.
Acetylcholine acts on the parasympathetic nervous system promoting relaxation and mental concentration, and general vasodilation mediated by the release of nitric oxide.
Furthermore, through so-called nicotinic cholinergic receptors, acetylcholine stimulates:

  • On the skeletal muscles, the contraction.
  • On the adrenal glands, release of adrenaline and noradrenaline.
  • On the peripheral sympathetic ganglia, activation of the sympathetic system with the release of norepinephrine.

Therefore, it also has an effect at the level of adrenal stimulation but overall much less marked than caffeine, with more functions that favor mental focus and vasodilation.
Another 'nootropic' substance that comes to our aid from nutraceuticals is Hericium Erinaceus , a mushroom with multiple properties, including that of promoting memory and mental concentration.

As we said, there are many other elements that are part of the formulation of an effective pre-workout , whether it is stimulating or not, and that provide valuable nutrients (e.g. essential amino acids or specific carbohydrates such as cyclodextrins) or substances that increase vasodilation and pump.with an increase in blood flow and therefore in nutrients and cellular exchanges towards the muscles with improved performance and subsequent recovery, starting from those that favor hydration and cell volumization (glutamine, creatine, taurine, glycerol), to the well known precursors of nitric oxide, which contribute to increase the blood supply to the muscles (citrulline arginine, associated or not with glutathione and norvaline), or other elements that delay the onset of fatigue at the peripheral (b alanine) or central level (bcaa) or increase strength, hypertrophy and general performance (creatine, hmb, sweet orange flavonoids whatsup).

The Yamamoto® Nutrition pre-workout range , as shown in the following summary tables, is really wide and responds well to all types of needs.
In particular, an excellent example of a completely stim free Yamamoto Nutrition preworkout is ShuraKHAN® , which contains Citicolina Cognizin®, citrulline malate, Setria® reduced L-glutathione, glycerol Glicerolmax®, l-alanyl glutamine Sustamine®, b-alanine, rhodiola extract (tonic, adaptogen, serotonin stimulator and cortisol reduction), beet extract (antioxidant, NO stimulant and cardioprotective x betaine), proprionyl carnitine hcl (the only form of carnitine capable of acute action, immediately after administration, NO stimulator, neuroprotective, antioxidant, and weight loss adjuvant).
Kamikaze instead is presented as a stimulant with 200 mg of caffeine per dose (same dosage also in Megasauzer and Sizefuel), Creapure® micronized creatine, BCAA Kyowa quality, Beta alanine, Taurine, L-Tyrosine, Reduced L-Glutathione Setria®.
Flexotor®, of the new Flex signature series, combines the nootropic properties of Citicoline Cognizin® and Hericium Erinaceus mushroom with the stimulating properties of Purcaf® caffeine (200 mg / dose) which is a form of 100% organic caffeine extracted from green grains. 95% pure coffee blanks, still with Setria® reduced l-glutathione and 6 grams of Kyowa quality l-citrulline per dose, combined with Kyowa quality l-arginine, glycerol Glycerolmax® and taurine, all precious and precious ingredients, studied to prepare the whole body to really get the most out of the next workout.

Which ones to use and when?

In the meantime, it is always a good indication to start from subjective tolerance, if you tolerate caffeine poorly with adverse effects such as anxiety, insomnia and gastrointestinal disorders you would most likely go to nullify the positive effects that a stimulation of this type gives you, so avoid it and resort to all the Fortunately, numerous and valid STIM Free alternatives.
On the other hand, those who have no particular problems and tolerate it well, taking into account that:

  • with addiction the effectiveness is reduced
  • you may be in a situation where the adrenal and cortisolemic response is already hyperstimulated and once again the adverse effects prevail over the positive ones

So it is always a good idea to alternate and cycle pre-workout with and without stimulants.


CARBS FREE Shurakan Race performance Kre-Alkalyn Performance Flexotor
Carbohydrates (type / gr)        
Caffeine   Yes (100mg / dose) Yes (60mg / dose) Yes (Purcaf® 200mg / dose)
Creatine     Yes (Kre-Alkalyn® pH Corrected® Creatine buffered creatine monohydrate))  
Nitric oxide precursors Citrulline malate, Reduced L-Glutathione (Setria®)     Citrulline 6gr (Kyowa Quality®) L-Arginine (Kyowa Quality®), Reduced Glutathione (Setria®)
Nootropi Citicolina (Cognizin®)     Citicoline (Cognizin®)
Glycerol Glycerol (GlycerolMax™)     Glycerol (GlycerolMax™)
Glutammina L-Alanil L-Glutamine (Sustamine®)      
EAA or BCAA amino acids        
β-alanine Yes Yes    
Adaptogenic / antioxidant nutraceuticals etc .. Rhodiola Extract, Beetroot Extract, Cordyceps, ashwagandha KSM-66®,   Hericium Erinaceus
Other Propionyl l-carnitine HCl, WATT’S UP® Flavonoids L-tyrosine, cocoa, green coffee Taurine
CARBS FREE, with BCAA o EAA Kamikaze Aminobol AminoBOL Energy Essential Amino Energy
Carbohydrates (type / gr)        
Caffeine Si (200 mg / dose)   Yes (100 mg / dose) Yes (75 mg / dose)
Creatine Yes (Creapure® micronized creatine))      
Nitric oxide precursors CNOP-1 [L-Citrulline, Creatine (Creapure®), L-Leucine (Kyowa Quality®), L-Isoleucine (Kyowa Quality®), L-Valine (Kyowa Quality®), Beta Alanine, Taurine, L-Tyrosine, L-Glutathione reduced (Setria®), Caffeine]     L-citruline
Glutamine   L-Alanil L-Glutamine (Sustamine®) L-Alanil L-Glutamine (Sustamine®) L-Glutamine peptide
EAA or BCAA amino acids BCAA (Kyowa Quality®) BCAA (Kyowa Quality®) BCAA (Kyowa Quality®) EAA from vegetable fermentation
β-alanine Yes      
Adaptogenic / antioxidant nutraceuticals etc ..        
Other   vit. B6, vit. B1 Powdered coconut water, vit. B6 Powdered coconut water, taurine
WITH CICLODESTRINE Glycogen Glycobol Glycobol Ultra Glycobol Performance Glycocharge
Carbohydrates (type / g dose) HBCD Cluster Dextrin® 25 gr HBCD Cluster Dextrin® 28 gr HBCD Cluster Dextrin® HBCD Cluster Dextrin® 32 gr HBCD Cluster Dextrin® 24 gr
Nitric oxide precursors     ENO-1 [Citrulin malate, Ornithine aspartate, BCAA (Kyowa Quality®), Taurine, L-Alanyl-L-Glutamine (Sustamine®), L-Phenylalanine, Reduced L-Glutathione (Setria®), L-Lysine, L- Histidine, L-Tryptophan, L-Methionine, L-Threonine, potassium , magnesium , vitamin B6, vitamin B12] L-Citrulline sick  
Glutamine     L-Alanil-L-Glutamine (Sustamine®), L-Glutamine peptide L-Alanil-L-Glutamine (Sustamine®),
EAA or BCAA amino acids     EAA from vegetable fermentation BCAA Kyowa Quality®(+ other EAAs except lysine) BCAA Kyowa Quality® (+ other EAAs except lysine)
Adaptogenic / antioxidant nutraceuticals etc ..          
Other Coconut water, WATT'S UP® Flavonoids, citrates and salt   Threonine, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 Taurine, glycine, vit. C, B6, B12, magnesium, potassium Taurine, glycine, vit. C, B6, magnesium, potassium
WITH OTHER CARBS (maltodextrin, vitargo, palatinous) Mega Sauzer Charge SizeFUEL
Carbohydrates (type / gr) maltodextrin Isomaltulose (glucose and fructose) * (Palatinose TM) 38gr Vitargo® 20gr
Caffeine Yes (200mg / dose)   Yes (200mg / dose)
Creatine     Yes (Kre-Alkalyn® pH Corrected® Creatine buffered creatine monohydrate))
Nitric oxide precursors Citrulline malate, L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, L-norvaline    
Nootropi Citicoline (Cognizin®)    
Glutammina     L-alanil L-glutamine (Sustamine®)
EAA or BCAA amino acids      
β-alanine Yes   Yes
Adaptogenic / antioxidant nutraceuticals etc .. Rhodiola extract, Ginseng extract    
Other Taurina, Vit C, Vit B6, Vit. B12   L-tyrosine, cocoa, black pepper, calcium, citrates


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