If you have ever purchased a fat burner or pre-workout supplement, chances are you’re familiar with stimulants. While labels can be confusing, you’ll quickly come to find that not all stimulants are built the same way, or even do the same things. Let’s break them down, and discuss the what’s what when it comes to stimulant ingredients.
When discussing stimulants, let’s first establish that a stimulant, by definition is a drug that “temporarily quickens some vital process or the functional activity of some organ or part”. Stimulants are also commonly referred to as “uppers”, since they leave you feeling “up”. They are used to increase your ability to focus, increase your energy, and elevate your mood. They enhance performance, both in and out of the gym.
Fun fact - caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. It is found naturally in certain plant species, such as coffee beans and tea leaves, acting as a natural pesticide for the plants that contain it. Caffeine is also available in the form of pills, powders, and energy drinks.
Caffeine is a Central Nervous System stimulant that reduces fatigue and drowsiness, and also decreases pain perception. It generally improves concentration, wakefulness, reaction time, and motor coordination. While tolerance in individuals may vary, it is generally agreed upon that adults should not consume more than 400 mg, a day.
Caffeine can be broken down into many different types, categorized by their chemical structure and composition. While they all stimulate, they each affect the body differently.
- Caffeine Anhydrous - This is the most widely-used caffeine in supplements, and is literally naturally-occurring caffeine (such as that found in coffee), with the water removed. Caffeine Anhydrous takes about 15-30 minutes to kick in, and effects last as long as 2 hours, typically.
- Dicaffeine Malate - This is a form of caffeine that has been bonded with malic acid. Dicaffeine malate works in a very similar fashion to caffeine anhydrous, with the added bonus of the malic acid counteracting any “digestive distress” natural caffeine may cause.
- Caffeine Citrate - This is a combination of caffeine anhydrous, citric acid, and sodium citrate. It is commonly used to treat migraines. Caffeine Citrate is increasing in popularity because it has been shown to offer peak performance in half of the time of traditional caffeine. However, it is half as potent as the same dose of anhydrous or dicaffeine malate. Caffeine Citrate is good for those who want a faster reaction time, but don’t mind taking double the dose.
- Theacrine - Theacrine, or TeaCrine as it is called in supplements, is a naturally-occurring compound whose effects closely mirror that of caffeine. It is increasing in popularity because it boosts energy without the jittery sensation and crash associated with caffeine. It is also said that you’re less likely to build up a tolerance to teacrine, making it great for prolonged use.
Ephedrine is a phenylethylamine that is naturally occurring in the Ephedra Sinica plant. Ephedrine acts as bronchodilator, opening up airways. It is said to have a synergistic effect with caffeine, serving to aid in fat loss. Ephedrine in sports supplements is now considered a banned substance (the ECA stack used to be very common in the fitness world), though you can find pseudoephedrine in several over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. Of note is the fact that the purchase of any medications including ephedrine in any form or dose are closely monitored and tracked, as it has been found as a common ingredient for the illegal drug methamphetamine.
1,3 Dimethylamylamine (DMAA)
Another controversial stimulant ingredient, DMAA arose after ephedrine was banned as a sports supplement. Like Ephedrine, DMAA is a bronchodilator, and also constricts blood vessels, resulting in increased blood pressure. Products that contain DMAA, like Dust Extreme, are typically paired with vasodilating ingredients, such as Agmatine Sulfate or Citrulline Malate to counteract this.
4-Amino-2-Methylpentane (AMP Citrate)
Chemically similar to DMAA, AMP Citrate is shown to increase energy, mental focus, and metabolism. It rose to popularity after DMAA went on the radar of the FDA, but was banned shortly after, like most good supplements are (in this author’s opinion).
Once you understand what the various effects of stimulants are, you’re able to utilize various mixes to work both harder and longer. As always, proceed with caution, as there can be unwanted side effects. Start in small doses, and take it from there. And always consult with a medical professional before starting any new supplementation regimen.