Ten years ago, pre-workout supplements were for the unhinged looking dudes in the gym who nobody made eye contact with.
You know the type: steroids, stringers, water jugs, strutting and peacocking, and the like.
Back then, the pre-workout space mostly consisted of products like Craze, Jack3d, and Detonate (all of which have been banned, by the way) that contained mega-doses of amphetamine-like stimulants and little else.
Fortunately, times have changed, and now we have pre-workout supplements that contain lower levels of much safer stimulants plus clinically effective doses of safe, natural ingredients scientifically proven to enhance performance and muscle and strength gain.
That’s why people who take their training seriously aren’t asking whether they should take a pre-workout supplement anymore but instead which they should choose and why.
And that’s what Kurtis Frank and I talk about in today’s interview.
In case you’re not familiar with Kurtis, he’s the director of Research and Development for my supplement company Legion Athletics as well as the co-founder and former lead researcher and writer for Examine.com, which is the premiere online resource for science-based information on supplementation.
Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn in this episode:
- What a pre-workout is
- Ingredients that do and don’t significantly improve performance
- How much you need to take of these ingredients to see benefits
- The pros and cons of including creatine in a pre-workout supplement
- And more.
Click the player below to listen now!
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
7:00 – What is your definition of a preworkout?
11:40 – What ingredients help and don’t help increase power output?
18:18 – How does Alpha-GPC work?
20:12 – How much Alpha-GPC do you need to take and when in order to see beneficial effects?
23:01 – How long before a workout should you take Alpha-GPC?
30:09 – What’s the best time to take creatine?
33:04 – What preworkout ingredients help with anaerobic exercise?
36:30 – What’s the effective dose of citrulline and when’s the best time to take it?
45:17 – What’s the effective dose of beta-alanine and when’s the best time to take it?
47:38 – What about betaine?
57:35 – Are there any other ingredients worth noting for aerobic or anaerobic training?
60:26 – How do you detect a bad preworkout supplement?
69:28 – Anything else you’d like to share?
Mentioned on the Show:
Mike: [00:00:18] Hello there, I am Mike Matthews, and this is the Muscle For Life podcast. Welcome, welcome to another episode. This episode is about pre-workouts. Now, 10 years ago or so, pre-workout supplements were not nearly as popular or not nearly as mainstream as they are now, back then, they were more for the unhinged looking dudes at the gym who you really didn’t want to make eye contact with.
You know who I’m talking about: steroids, stringer’s, water jugs strutting around and peacocking – those guys. And back then the pre-workout space, most of the products consisted of megadoses of amphetamine-like stimulants. Yes, you heard that right. Stimulants that are chemically almost identical to methamphetamine, but not quite, so legally not methamphetamine.
You probably remember some of these products like Braze, Jacked, or Jack3D, as people would call it, and Detonate, all of those have been banned, by the way. And so that’s how it was, and that’s also one of the reasons why pre-workouts were not all that popular. A lot of people didn’t like how they made them feel, they didn’t like the racing heart, jitters, the anxiety, and so forth.
Mike: [00:01:35] Fortunately, however, times have changed and now we have pre-workout supplements that contain much lower levels of much safer stimulants, like just caffeine, for example. Plus clinically effective doses of safe natural ingredients scientifically proven to enhance performance and muscle and strength gain.
And that is why people who take their training seriously are now not asking whether they should take a pre-workout supplement, but instead which they should take and why. And that, of course, is what Kurtis Frank and I talk about in today’s interview. Now, if you’re not familiar with Kurtis, he is the director of research and development for my supplement company, Legion Athletics.
And that does not mean that this is just a pitch for our stuff, because it’s not, a little bit of shameless plugging, but is not just a pitch for Legion. And Kurtis is also the co-founder and the former lead researcher and writer for examine.com, which is the premier online resource for science-based information on supplementation.
If you’re not familiar with Examine, go check it out, examine.com, and poke around and realize that the majority of the technical, the very thorough to the point of being overwhelming, a lot of that information, most of that information was researched and written by Kurtis.
Over the six or so years that he worked on that project, he personally reviewed over 40,000 papers and wrote hundreds of thousands of words, and I’m only saying that because I’m impressed by it. Kurtis knows supplementation inside and out. He’s really like, at a [00:03:14] ____ level of understanding of human biology and supplementation, so it’s always fun to talk about those things with him.
[00:03:21] So here is a little sneak peek of what you’re going to learn in this episode: you’re going to learn what a pre-workout is, you’re going to learn ingredients that do and do not work, that do and do not significantly improve performance and muscle and strength gain in particular.
You’re gonna learn how much should you take of these ingredients to see benefits, the pros and cons of including creatine in a pre-workout supplement – and the reason why I’m calling that out is because it’s something I get asked about fairly often, “is it good, is it bad?” – and more.
Mike : [00:05:46] Kurtis Frank returns. What’s up, man?
Kurtis : [00:05:48] Not much, not much.
Mike : [00:05:50] What’s the weather like? Is it cold as fuck up there? Still cold down here in Virginia.
Kurtis : [00:05:53] Oh, it’s really cold now, but like, this is the good type of cold because cold is the only negative thing affecting us Canadians and northern Ontario right now. Because in the past few weeks it was either like, every now and then getting just warm enough to also rain and then getting cold right again, or it was the whole “the wind turns to daggers” it hurts your face.
Mike : [00:06:15] Yeah.
Kurtis : [00:06:16] But right now it’s cold, but it’s very manageable. Just bundle up, have a scarf over your face, and you’re good.
Kurtis : [00:06:22] And stop whining.
Mike : [00:06:24] Yeah. The goose aren’t out, so that’s good.
Mike : [00:06:27] [Laughing] That’s what I was going to say.
Kurtis : [00:06:28] Or look on the bright side, “the goose aren’t here.” [Laughing]
Mike : [00:06:30] [Laughing] At least the geese aren’t hunting for the eyeballs. All right, so now that the chitchat is over, let’s get the pre-workouts. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today. We both thought this would be a good topic because pre-workouts are super popular, our Pulse is our best selling product out of everything.
I’ve written a bit about his workouts in the past and spoken a little bit about it, but haven’t really had an in-depth discussion, whether in writing or over the audios in a bit, and so here we are. Let’s just start the top, Kurtis, with what is your definition of a pre-workout?
Kurtis : [00:07:05] Okay, so a pre-workout, my basic definition is: something you take before a workout for the purposes of either enhancing that workout or enhancing the benefits you would get from that workout.
Mike : [00:07:17] But that could be quickly or something like maybe beta-alanine, that has to …
Kurtis : [00:07:21] Well, something that like, let’s say something that is caffeine, for example, you just want coffee before a workout, that would improve your workout, so that classifies. But then if you take something like, let’s say arachidonic acid.
Mike : [00:07:35] Have a bit though, right? If you’re going for a performance boost, you got to have quite a bit of caffeine.
Kurtis : [00:07:40] It depends on what you do like – or could just be like a placebo, some people just have like 90 milligrams of caffeine and that’s enough to get them waking up.
Mike : [00:07:48] Yeah, if nothing else, they just feel a little bit perkier in their workouts and so then they enjoy their workouts more, and so than they apply themselves a little bit more to their workouts, and get more out of them, right?
Kurtis : [00:07:56] And anything that comes with rate to perceived exertion, of which exhaustion is voluntary, minor placebo effects do go a long way.
Mike : [00:08:05] Yeah, yeah.
Kurtis : [00:08:05] But then also apply stuff like arachidonic acid, which has absolutely no properties, proven or theoretical, to enhance your ability to workout. But it amplifies inflammation from your workout, increases DOMS and all that, and is thought to increase muscle growth because of it. It’s not really proven yet, but I would also classify that as a pre-workout because it works best when it’s in your body just before workout.
Mike : [00:08:32] How does that play out in terms of the common ingredient? Let’s get more into the products themselves. So obviously there are a handful of ingredients that are common in pre-workout supplements, you know, they’re not all the same, they’re not all equal, they don’t all benefit you in the same ways, and depending on how you work out, some are going to help and some are not going to help. Right?
Kurtis : [00:08:53] Correct. Because generally speaking, when it comes to how supplements affect the workouts, at least for the scientific studies there’s like four general categories. The one-rep max or anything power-related, usually when it comes to science, it’s a sprint test, although sometimes you see a bench throw as well, to just prove max power.
And anything that works in max power, it would work well for powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or any sort of very dynamic sports training.
Mike : [00:09:25] What in terms of rep range, what would you say?
Kurtis : [00:09:27] One to three.
Mike : [00:09:29] Okay, so just very heavy?
Kurtis : [00:09:31] Yeah, one to three or if it’s not necessarily reps, like when it comes to sprinting, four seconds or less. And then it comes to some things where it acts for endurance but only for as long as it’s carbohydrate base, like glycogen, sort of thing. And when it comes to the whole glycogen, carbohydrate-based – anaerobic is the word I was looking for, wow that took me way too long to find – anaerobic training.
Like you don’t really know exactly where the line is between supplements that help with anaerobic and suppleness that help with aerobic, because if your workout’s kind of on the edge, they can both help you, but some supplements do clearly show better benefits for anaerobic training and some clearly show better effects for aerobic training.
When it comes to studies, anaerobic training tends to be weightlifting workouts, whereas aerobic trading is just straight up a jog or a cycle for a prolonged period of time. And then the final one is the, how do I say this – it’s kind of like the death march training supplement where almost none of them are successful, a 2k on an erg, like rowing.
Creatine and maybe sodium bicarbonate are the only things that have been successful on that, everything else in existence has failed. I kind of want to mention that because like, almost every pre-workout if you give it to people about to do rowing at a collegiate or university level, the supplement is going to fail, there’s a limit to pre-workouts.
Mike : [00:10:59] And sodium bicarbonate, you get to shit yourself after as well.
Kurtis : [00:11:03] Out of any sort of supplement where there’s a very fine balance of, “take just this much and not a bit more, because otherwise you’ll vomit and shit yourself,” you really don’t want to take a supplement right before you just exert yourself when it comes to exercise, because even if you get the dose right, you’re going to accidentally hit yourself in the gut once with the rowing machine handle and then just vomit all over it, and probably get beat by your coach.
Mike : [00:11:30] [Laughing] Not if you win, though.
Kurtis : [00:11:32] If it’s a certain practice, you’re just going to get beat regardless.
Mike : [00:11:35] Truth, so you save it for the big day.
Mike : [00:11:38] Yeah.
Mike : [00:11:39] [Laughing] Let’s get to some specifics, so for the power, what are some ingredients that help with that, what are someones that maybe are commonly promoted to help that don’t?
Mike : [00:11:51] A main three for power-based would be: caffeine, which I’ll have to go through some nuance for, creatine, and alpha-GPC. Creatine I just want to talk about it and get it out there quickly, it’s also good for anaerobic training, creatine can just help with power, you don’t need to take a pre-workout, just have some in your system – bing, bang, boom, done, that’s it.
For caffeine, it’s much more nuanced. Because caffeine, if you’re not used to it, it can act as a dopaminergic agonist. It can actually be a very potent stimulant as well as having anti-sleep effects. If you become tolerant to caffeine, you no longer feel the stimulant effects, but you still get the anti-sleep effects. The ability for caffeine to increase power is due to the stimulatory effects and it is very powerful as a power increaser, something like 15 percent increase on your deadlift or squat for one rep, like that’s huge.
Mike : [00:12:56] How much caffeine though?
Kurtis : [00:12:57] That’s the thing. First of all, you need to take it once every two weeks, that’s it.
Mike : [00:13:02] Even just a couple of days a week, nope?
Kurtis : [00:13:05] Yeah, like you can’t even have tea at this point.
Mike : [00:13:07] Oh wow.
Kurtis : [00:13:08] Or if you do have tea like 30 milligrams or less, like one cup of green tea in the morning, that’s it. And then when you’re heading into your workout like I don’t know the exact milligram per kilogram measurement, but last time I checked, I think a 150-pound adult male needs to take at least 400 milligrams acutely.
Mike : [00:13:27] The number that pops in my mind is somewhere around 0.6 Milligrams per kilogram? It’s the upper end of the range, right, for power?
Kurtis : [00:13:33] I think so, but the numbers that are in my head right now is 400 milligrams acutely or up to 600 milligrams for some 250-pound people.
Mike : [00:13:43] For me, I weigh 195 pounds, probably be what? Somewhere around 550 milligrams.
Kurtis : [00:13:48] 4 to 6 milligrams per kilogram body weight, in that 400 to 600 range, around 500 milligrams. This is for people who are not tolerant to it.
Mike : [00:13:58] Yeah, so you’re gonna be …
Kurtis : [00:13:59] “Jazzed,” is the best way to say it [laughing]. Like you may get pulled over and cops will have you do a urine test just to make sure. That’s the type of stuff that caffeine can do if you’re not used to it, but, you know, it does have power to it. One of the best-proven ways to increase one rep strength out there.
Mike : [00:14:18] Everybody listening who has caffeine at all is gonna be sensitized by now. It doesn’t even make sense, of course, like you hear that and you go, “oh, that’s cool,” but for the average everyday person who’s just in the gym trying to get in shape, does it really matter if they, every two weeks can squat or press a bit more weight? No, they would rather just have their coffee every morning.
Kurtis : [00:14:40] Like for some people it does, because especially when I was younger, I loved the idea of just like abstaining from something for two weeks and then just going balls to the wall of that single day. In fact, I’m thankful I never went to Vegas when I was younger because it would have ended very poorly for me.
Mike : [00:14:55] It’s not too late.
Kurtis : [00:14:57] No, I don’t have the mentality anymore [laughing]. My mentality is more moderate and I do have the caffeine everyday approach, but if you’re willing to abstain from caffeine for a long period of time, then know that it is a viable way to improve your …
Mike : [00:15:10] I mean, if nothing else, it’s gonna be an interesting experience, right?
Kurtis : [00:15:12] Yeah.
Mike : [00:15:13] If you resensitize yourself to caffeine and then have that much before a workout, it’s gonna be the best workout you had in a long time, that’s for sure.
Kurtis : [00:15:20] And make sure there aren’t any like cardiac issues leading into that.
Mike : [00:15:24] Fair point. Good medical advice.
Kurtis : [00:15:26] But extending from there, like I also mentioned, alpha-GPC …
Mike : [00:15:29] Just quickly on caffeine, to clarify then, for those of us having it every day, even if it’s not that much, right? So in my case, my average daily intake is three shots of espresso in the morning and that’s it, really, but that’s enough. I wouldn’t be able to benefit from any sort of acute power increase by one day doing 600 milligrams before I train or something.
Mike : [00:15:52] Correct. Because like caffeine has a weird tolerance, usually it’s you take 200 milligrams of something, you get tolerant to that level, then you increase it a bit more, you get some of the benefits back, but then you get tolerant to that level again.
That’s how tolerance normally works, but caffeine is very much putting your foot down, like just closing a bunker door type of, “no.” As soon as tolerance hits, it’s called an insurmountable tolerance, you no longer get those benefits, full stop no matter the dose you take. So if you’re tolerant to caffeine, you don’t get the strength benefits. End of story.
Mike : [00:16:29] But you still will experience more alertness, right?
Mike : [00:16:33] Yeah, the anti-sleep effects are still in effect and there may be some help to the rate of perceived exertion. So when it comes to insurance work, you may feel like you’re able to get one or two extra reps out each set, but the highly unique boost and power that is kind of amphetamine-like, that’s just gone out the window.
Mike : [00:16:55] So then you just gotta do amphetamines.
Kurtis : [00:16:57] I’m not going to recommend that. But you’re on the right track.
Mike : [00:17:01] [Laughing] All right, cool. So let’s move on to alpha-GPC.
Kurtis : [00:17:03] Yeah, alpha-GPC is less researched, doesn’t have nowhere near as good evidence for caffeine, but it appears to be on the right track, appears to be a bit weaker, and it does not appear to have any issues with sensitivity tolerance. You can actually take alpha-GPC before every workout, you might be able to see a small increase in power as assessed by bench throws and sprints.
Mike : [00:17:26] What’s a bench throw? I’ve never even heard of that.
Kurtis : [00:17:28] So it’s a technique that you should do on the Smith machine. Don’t do it just with this free bar, like do a bench press, bring it down to your chest and throw the bar into the air, hopefully you catch it. You basically put on a set amount of weight and you see how high you can throw it. One to three reps or maybe you do one rep wait 10 seconds, do one more rep. It’s a very power-based measurement of the chest.
Mike : [00:17:52] Sounds kind of fun, actually.
Kurtis : [00:17:54] Yeah. For me, I like doing them in warm-ups sometimes, like I also do jump squats when I warm up, it’s just fun.
Mike : [00:18:03] [Laughing] Tim Ferriss says that they fight belly fat too so …
Kurtis : [00:18:06] Oh no, I just like, put a plate on each side and hop like a bunny. [Laughing] People just look at me like, “oh whatever. He’s doing the thing again, just leave him be.” When it comes to just actually making scientific study, good way to assess strength.
Mike : [00:18:19] Makes sense. And in the case of alpha-GPC then, how does it work?
Kurtis : [00:18:23] It seems to just get to the brain relatively fast and be on standby so when you need to create acetylcholine, which is the neurotransmitter that is used for muscle contractions, it’s helped mediate how the brain instantaneously causes muscles to contract. It’s there to allow more production of acetylcholine.
Mike : [00:18:43] And then you’re able to contract your muscles more forcefully because of that?
Kurtis : [00:18:46] The amount of acetylcholine you have is temporarily higher so there’s more floating around free to work. And if you just did this 24/7, eventually your body would normalize and just say, like, “this isn’t a normal condition, desensitize a few things.”
But when you have a small boost before workout and you’re using it to, the body’s grateful for the situation. At the level of a neuron it’s thinking, “we have too much of this neurotransmitter, what do we do? Oh, we can just use it, that’s convenient,” and then it just does it.
Mike : [00:19:15] Get bigger biceps. Similar actually, to how creatine works, right? It’s similar in that it’s a reserve of energy, really. Or it’s increasing energy reserves that you can tap into during your resistance training.
Kurtis : [00:19:28] Well, acetylcholine does have a sort of reserve within every neuron, because you can get depleted in acetylcholine, just have none left over. But acetylcholine itself does not turn into energy, it’s more of a signaling molecule. Just how insulin hits on the insulin receptor, acetylcholine hits on the acetylcholine receptor.
Mike : [00:19:45] So it’s the strength of the signal as opposed to the actual energy itself.
Kurtis : [00:19:49] Yeah, so if you, for some reason have no acetylcholine in your cells or a very small amount, it won’t be able to send as much of a signal through. And just by having some alpha-GPC, you may be able to attenuate the depletion somewhat, or maybe temporary increase. The temporary increase hasn’t been 100 percent confirmed in studies, it seems to increase power and this is the most reasonable theory behind it.
Mike : [00:20:14] Interesting. And how much do you need to take and when to see these effects?
Kurtis : [00:20:19] A lot of studies use a bunch of different doses, so we haven’t really tuned into …
Mike : [00:20:24] That was part of the problem you ran into, right? Because we’re adding alpha-GPC to Pulse, but there was a question of how much to add exactly, and then there’s also some other supplements like Forge that has CDP choline so we want to make sure that if people are using Forge and Pulse they’re not getting too much choline.
Kurtis : [00:20:40] Yeah.
Kurtis : [00:20:40] And there’s also Ascend and nootropics.
Kurtis : [00:20:43] Yeah, because like, when you have a study that showed 250 milligrams worked and then another person has a study that showed a 600 milligrams worked, and neither of those studies are actually designed to say whether 250 is better than 600 or vice versa, it’s basically, you have two data points and there’s no way to choose which one is better than the other. And when it comes to cholinergic, you could potentially have too much.
Mike : [00:21:08] Yeah, and for people listening, more is not always better, that’s not how it always works.
Kurtis : [00:21:12] Yeah, there are some supplements where more is not better, but you can just throw in more and there’s no real downside. for any cholinergic, that could potentially downside when it comes to headaches, and the case of alpha-GPC is just horrendously expensive. So we want to get the lowest active and reliable dose possible.
Mike : [00:21:28] Yeah, one of the guys in the office ran into that.
Kurtis : [00:21:30] Headaches?
Mike : [00:21:30] Yeah, it was Ascend, it was Forge, and I want to say, I think he was also taking the stim-free Pulse, which already has the alpha-GPC added for anybody listening. We are rolling out this new formulation first with the stim-free because it’s a new product and it’s easy to do, and we’re currently wrapping up all the flavor testing.
If we’re going to change the formulation, we got to make sure that we change all the flavors, obviously, so the caffeinated Pulse is a little bit behind the stim-free. But anyway, so it was a full serving of the stim-free, a full serving plus probably a little bit of Forge, and I think he was taking Ascend. And yeah, he started to get headaches.
Kurtis : [00:22:10] So, like, if you can avoid all the headaches and still have an active dose of alpha-GPC that would be perfect. But at the same time, if it turns out in five years that 600 milligrams is the best dose, it’s kind of embarrassing to be stuck putting in 250 milligrams in all of our products.
Mike : [00:22:25] Yes. And we don’t also necessarily want to assume that the majority of people who are going to use Pulse are also going to be using a full plus serving of Forge every day – he might have even been using twice a today because he might have been doing fasted lifting and then cardio later – plus ascend, it’s gonna be a special case.
In most cases, people are just going to be using Pulse regularly and then they’re going to be using Forge here and there when they’re cutting and a minority are going to be using Ascend.
Kurtis : [00:22:57] Yeah, it’s just something we have to deal with, work out on our own – or my own. Because I’m that guy.
Mike : [00:23:02] [Laughing] That guy. And in terms of timing on the alpha-GPC in particular, what is it, 30 minutes before you train?
Kurtis : [00:23:08] It’s similar to the caffeine, whereas usually it’s 30 to 45 minutes. When that term like, that range is given to you, basically means take it and then get to the gym before the 30 minutes hits, at around 30 minutes you could be in the zone. Some days it could take 45 minutes.
You have that 15-minute range, you should be willing to work out, at least start your workout at around that time. Because some days it will hit you in 30 minutes, some days it will hit you in 40 minutes, it’s a little bit different each time, just based on what you have in your gut at that point.
Mike : [00:23:42] Just out of curiosity, what types of foods slow it down?
Kurtis : [00:23:46] I used to have a warning list of stuff not to eat, but the main problem would be the mixture of protein, fatty acids, and gelation properties, because there’s a lot of things that take a long time to digest. Like fibers take a long time to pass through, but fibers pass through the stomach fairly fast.
Then they get to the intestines and then they take a long time there but as long as this stuff gets into these small intestines, who cares if you have, like, half a steak sitting in your large intestines or your colon? They’re not going to meet.
Mike : [00:24:17] Right.
Kurtis : [00:24:18] So you don’t want stuff sitting in your stomach waiting there and snaring anything that comes by. So I personally wouldn’t have any dairy before a workout.
Mike : [00:24:29] That’s always the reliable caffeine killer for me.
Kurtis : [00:24:33] Yeah. And of course, like the casein proteins in dairy do have gel-forming properties. So if you take anything else there, then the gels could just sort of ensnare and cover the thing and then slow down its absorption rate because it only allows a little bit of trickle into the next area.
Kurtis : [00:24:50] And what about whey, for people listening? I’m sure a lot of people are wondering.
Kurtis : [00:24:53] Oh, if it’s just isolated whey, it’s totally fine. No gel-forming properties whatsoever, just kind of, “zoop, zoop,” goes right in. Honestly, if you have multiple scoops of whey a day, I would actually consider that a risk factor for diarrhea. That’s how well it goes through. And it’s also why I’ve had my way with Metamucil to prevent that.
Mike : [00:25:10] I mean, I have a few scoops a day, but I guess I eat enough fiber and other foods to not have that issue.
Kurtis : [00:25:15] Yeah, I just, you know, I like the whole ghost poop cannon kind of thing: sit down on the toilet, stand up, five seconds later, wipe once done.
Mike : [00:25:26] [Laughter] Those are glorious times. They’re rare.
Kurtis : [00:25:29] That’s my morning.
Mike : [00:25:30] Every day?
Mike : [00:25:31] Essentially.
Mike : [00:25:32] Wow.
Kurtis : [00:25:32] That’s why I have Metamucil every time I have whey protein.
Mike : [00:25:35] I’m actually kind of jealous. That’s the key takeaway of this entire podcast, is that.
Kurtis : [00:25:41] Yeah, I just go out, have some chicken wings and beer with my friends or whatever, just like talk about standard guy stuff, then it’s like, “oh, man, my back was really hurting.” “Did you have your Metamucil?” “I had my Metamucil, bro. “Oh Metamucil makes it pass so good!” We just sound like old men.
Mike : [00:25:59] [Laughing] So good. So that’s alpha-GPC. That’s it for the power, or was there another one?
Kurtis : [00:26:05] That was essentially it for the power. The creatine, caffeine, and alpha-GPC. We don’t have too many other acute benefits that are legal at least.
Mike : [00:26:14] And for creatine, I guess there’s not much …
Kurtis : [00:26:16] And I should also mention that – extending beyond the legalities of things – if you happened to have an amphetamine in your hand and then it was not in your hand because it’s going down your throat, yeah, it’s going to hit for acute strength.
Amphetamine signaling is all for acute strength, not much else. I don’t recommend it, but if you ever see someone spazzing out at the gym and lifting way more than they should, keep your distance.
Mike : [00:26:41] [Laughing] Amphetamines were big among the Nazis, maybe that’s why they were strong, man.
Kurtis : [00:26:44] I don’t really know about that.
Mike : [00:26:46] No, it was. It was amphetamines and what was – there were two drugs they were big on. So if you take amphetamines before lifting, you’re a Nazi. That’s basically what that means.
Mike : [00:26:55] I actually think the Americans used modafinil a lot, especially when it comes to their pilots. So, yeah, if you activate the amphetamine signaling, you’re your Nazi, but if you activate the histaminergic signaling, you’re an American.
Mike : [00:27:06] There’s a good snippet [laughing]. That’s a good little quote. That’ll be in the bullets, “here’s what you’re gonna learn about in this episode.”
Kurtis : [00:27:12] Yeah, and if you take a benzo, you’re Italian. [Laughing] I can say that as an Italian.
Mike : [00:27:18] I can say whatever I want, as whatever I identify as, so I don’t have to worry about that.
Kurtis : [00:27:23] Yeah. What’s even the limit for that, like saying, “as a ‘blank’,” like is there a heritage line of just like, “I’m one eight this,” “okay, you could pass through” …
Mike : [00:27:33] Senator Warren, she’s like 1/1,000th American Indian and she can say things like, “my high cheekbones.”
Kurtis : [00:27:37] Yeah, but the thing is, at best she was 1/32nd. At worst, she was 1/64th or whatever. But even when you look at the best situation, 1/32nd is like, “no, no, that’s one out of thirty-two.” I’m 1/8th of something and I’m just like, “you know, that’s 1/8th, that’s pretty low, can I even call myself that if I’m 1/8th?” The senator walks in and is like, “I’m one of one-thousandth, I’m totally legit.” It’s like, “no you’re not.”
Mike : [00:28:05] No, it’s on the level of gaslighting, actually. It reminds me of in 1984, when O’Brien was saying, basically, “we tell people ridiculous lies because if we can get them to believe obviously false things, ridiculous, absurd things, we’ve broken them and we can get them to believe anything.”
And that’s what I think of when I see shit like that. Like if you can get someone to actually agree that someone who’s 1/1,000th at best, 1/32nd at worst, 1/1,000th American Indian is a legit American Indian, you can get them to believe anything, actually.
Kurtis : [00:28:40] Yeah, kind of. On the top of gaslighting, I was talking with a few other people earlier and they mentioned something called DARVO. And it’s an acronym for: Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim, and Offender.
Where basically, if you’re ever put against the wall on any sort of topic, you deny that topic first and foremost, like a no holds barred denial, immediately attack before they get getting sort of response in, and then, even though you are the offender, you now play the victim and call them an offender. Paired with DARVO, paired with gaslighting, a lot of political rhetoric really sounds like an abusive boyfriend these days.
Mike : [00:29:17] Or girlfriend.
Kurtis : [00:29:19] True. More likely, I should mention.
Mike : [00:29:24] [Laughing] Statistically, the data shows. Yeah, I know, that’s interesting, I’m going to look that up, I just Googled it, I’ve never heard about that. But it’s one of the things that immediately you go, “oh yeah, that makes sense,” and yes, you see it in the political space back and forth.
This is now just kind of the modus operandi, it seems. I mean, you see it on both sides of the political aisle. And I guess there’s quite a bit of research on this so there’s obviously psychology underlying this, that it’s one those like shitty things about humans is what it looks like, you know what I mean?
Kurtis : [00:29:55] Yeah, like you have to get stuff off your back so you just throw it off to somebody else and blame them for having stuff on their back.
Mike : [00:30:01] Easy. Too easy.
Mike : [00:31:34] Well, getting back on track here, we didn’t say this, but creatine is simple, right? Five grams a day, take it with your post-workout meals if you want to – it’s probably the best time to take it, not that it really matters all that much but would you agree?
Kurtis: [00:31:46] The timing stuff on creatine is weird because theoretically, it should be better when taken post-workout if the other post-workout stuff is all in order. The other post-workout stuff where you have, like carbohydrates flowing through your system, all your cells are ready to actually consume something for the first time rather than just being damaged, taking creatine at that time should be the best.
And there have been a few studies suggesting that it’s a bit better. Other studies find no real difference. And at this point, I would say that 90 percent of taking creatine is not time-dependent at all. The most important thing is that you just get creatine in your face at some point.
But the timing thing may be better for some of us who are creatine non-responders, where you can take like 10 grams of creatine a day and you don’t even gain water weight or barely any water weight from it. Some people, when they take a 10 to 20 grams creatine day to a loading phase, they gained 10 pounds from that loading phase.
Being so weird in my phrasing of this because I don’t respond well to creatine at all. And it’s because of that that I always take a post-workout because I feel that for those of us who don’t respond well to it, we need to get any sort of small little tweak, no matter how potentially unscientific it is, just actually maybe get some of the benefits of creatine.
Mike : [00:33:14] Do you think a nonresponse is related to absorption? Because that’s really what you’re getting …
Kurtis: [00:33:19] The definition of a nonresponse is how that creatine in your blood vessels, so you absorb the creatine, it’s just not going into your skeletal tissue. Technically speaking, everybody absorbs creatine from the blood to the skeletal tissue. But as a general rule of thumb, nonresponders absorb like 20 percent or less of the creatine, and some people just absorb like 80 percent of the creatine.
Mike : [00:33:42] And the rest gets washed out.
Kurtis: [00:33:44] Yeah, just like floats around for a bit until it degrades and gets pissed out. So there is something within the muscle cell that is basically saying, “okay, we don’t need this creatine, go away.” For some people, they just eat enough meat that they already have good creatine stores in their muscles.
For other people there’s like another factor, nobody really knows if there is the thing that causes creatine nonresponse. But despite that, some people like me, no matter what we do, we just don’t get much response in creatine. At the end of the day, if you don’t respond to creatine, consider taking it after a workout with carbohydrates, pretty much anything that can help refuel muscle glycogen.
And then, of course, a bit of protein. And maybe you’ll get lucky and get more into your muscles. No promises, though.
Mike : [00:34:32] Makes sense. All right, so that’s it for power, let’s talk anaerobic now. Kind of lock them together, I said anaerobic and there’s some crossover with the aerobic as well.
Kurtis: [00:34:40] Yeah, from one category to the next there’s always going to be crossover. Like creatine’s the first good example, it does increase one rep max, but because it uses the creatine phosphate system for that one rep to help that one rep go, indirectly spares some muscle glycogen.
So usually because of this, if you’re doing any work in like the 6 to 10 rep range you can usually get an extra rep out of it when you’re using creatine. And that’s essentially all it is for creatine. There’s nothing impressive, it just indirectly spares a bit of glycogen and you get an extra rep. It’s reliable, it’s cheap, but it’s not really that pretty. Actually, citrulline it’s a good one to bring up because I still don’t know how it works.
Mike : [00:35:25] That’s a good way to start [laughing]. It’s good, but who knows why?
Kurtis: [00:35:29] Because if you think about it like citrulline increases nitric oxide so it helps with blood flow. Get more blood flowing, yay, maybe you get some more nutrients circulating around, yay. How does that increase muscle growth? How does that increase muscle endurance? The last time I checked when you were working out and you got lactic acid in your muscles – it was in your muscles. It wasn’t in your blood.
Mike : [00:35:54] Yeah.
Mike : [00:35:54] So what the heck is happening there? Anything that increased nitric oxide can potentially also give you an extra rep in the 5 to 10 reps range. And citrulline is one of the most reliable ones because it’s better absorbed than L-arginine. Nitrates from leafy green vegetables are also an option here. It’s just they’re not the best supplemental option because of the legalities around sodium nitrite being added to pink meats and all that.
Mike : [00:36:22] Pound some spinach before you hit the bench.
Kurtis: [00:36:24] Any leafy green, to be honest. Just shove in a blender, blend it down, be judged by your child for what you’re doing, and just drink it and go to the gym.
Mike : [00:36:33] And force them to drink it too. We actually hide spinach in fruit smoothies for our kids.
Kurtis: [00:36:38] You are like a dictator in your house. That’s evil.
Mike : [00:36:41] We’ve even hidden spinach in pancakes. But that stopped working when – the green hue threw my son off. He did it for a little bit and then he wasn’t going for it anymore [laughing].
Kurtis: [00:36:49] You need to put like a nice little layer of Nutella on top and, “look at the chocolate pancake! Don’t flip it.” It’s like pure broccoli.
Mike : [00:36:58] [Laughing] Knowing him, he would figure it out. He’s a con man at heart.
Kurtis: [00:37:02] [Laughing] Just like his dad.
Mike : [00:37:03] “Yeah, more money.”
Kurtis: [00:37:05] So, I don’t really know how the nitric oxide stuff’s working, but it seems to work …
Mike : [00:37:09] But the bottom line is: yeah, citrulline is a reliable increaser of muscle endurance. Right?
Kurtis: [00:37:15] Yeah, and it may actually increase muscle growth over a long period of time because nitric oxide does increase satellite cell recruitment. It sounds more fancy than it really is because every now and then there’s going to be a few listeners who have never heard of a satellite cell before.
And now they’re Googling it and they’re going to be in like a little rabbit hole for the next few hours. Satellite cells are cool the first time you hear about them, but then they get boring.
Mike : [00:37:39] Anyone listening, if you want to learn more about that, but not spend hours in a rabbit hole, just Google: Muscle For Life hypertrophy, and you’ll find an article I wrote on that, that was updated semi-recently that goes into some of the mechanisms of muscle building and explains in simple terms what satellite cells are and how they relate to muscle growth and so forth. So citrulline, effective dose, timing?
Kurtis: [00:38:06] Effective does: we use eight grams. I’d be okay with six grams to be honest, it’s a little bit less, but not by much. And I would actually recommend taking it around the 30 to 40 minutes before a workout, same with the other ones, but know that it may hit you later in the workout rather than your first set.
Mike : [00:38:27] So good you get your warm-ups done and if it hasn’t hit you already, it’ll be revving you up for your hard sets. And by the way, for people listening when he says “we”, he’s referring to Pulse, which is the pre-workout that he designed and that’s Legion’s pre-workout.
Kurtis: [00:38:42] Pulse has eight grams citrulline in it. Tends to be the higher dose. Citrulline has kind of a tart flavor to it, so some people don’t like it. Others not so much, they like them.
Mike : [00:38:52] We are improving in that regard. I mean, I think Pulse has always tasted okay, some flavors more so than others. I actually like tart, so something like green apple, I’ve always really liked. But with this update to the formulation, we are also working with a different flavor lab that is just better, so I think we’ve improved every flavor, actually. I’m excited to get all of these guys out there and get some feedback.
Kurtis: [00:39:16] And moving on to another one, beta-alanine. I will be honest, a lot of people say that it’s creatine 2.0 and I don’t understand what they’re smoking. Have you heard about that? People just hyping up beta-alanine?
Mike : [00:39:29] No, I haven’t. Is that a more recent thing?
Kurtis: [00:39:31] That’s more old than anything, it’s been around for five years, people hyping up beta-alanine more than it should be. Its entire purpose is – if you heard the amino acid L-alanine or just alanine, you just twist one little thing round into a beta configuration, now it’s beta-alanine. That’s quite literally it, nothing special.
When it combines with histidine, it turns into a carnosine. And carnosine is something else in your muscles, floats around, it just sort of scavenges stuff that could make your muscle inefficient. You always have carnosine in your muscles, it’s always working. Sometimes you don’t have enough and your muscles fatigue because you’re lacking carnosine.
Beta-alanine supplementation is a good way to get it into your muscles because if you take carnosine by itself, it needs to break down beta-alanine histidine anyways before you take it into the muscle, and so by increasing stores or carnosine, it doesn’t provide energy but can help with cleanup.
And unlike the things that we mentioned previously that help in the 5 to 10 reps range, beta-alanine is very strong in increasing endurance in the 2 to 3-minute rep range. So any sort of cardiovascular stuff that takes multiple minutes to do, beta-alanine could help you with it.
When it comes to standard, you know, workouts where you just do 10 reps and then you rest for a minute, beta-alanine is probably not going to do much. And just as a side note, I actually do German volume training a lot.
Which is: you do ten reps you wait for 20 seconds, you do ten more reps you wait for 20 seconds, you do this until you do ten sets. It’s quite literally a 10 reps of 10 sets with 20 seconds rest in between.
Mike : [00:41:20] Or you die, whichever one comes first.
Kurtis: [00:41:22] Either or, Germany has no place for the inefficient.
Mike : [00:41:25] Or the weak. We already know that.
Kurtis: [00:41:27] But beta-alanine seems to work for that, in my experience. So it seems to be the whole: if you are doing a lot of work and you’re not giving your muscles time to relax and get blood flowing back to them, you want beta-alanine. But if you’re doing a standard workout, then despite beta-alanine being in a lot of pre-workouts – may not help you if you take sufficient rest between sets.
Mike : [00:41:52] And there’s also the potential muscle-building effects, right? There’s evidence, but it’s not quite understood why that would be or …
Kurtis: [00:41:59] Yeah, we don’t even have any leads on that. We’ve just found that there is some studies where you have a group given placebo, a group giving beta-alanine, and these groups do the exact same amount of workload, have the exact same amount of food, and the beta-alanine group has a bit more muscle. Nobody knows why that’s the case, but it could theoretically help build muscle even if it doesn’t help you in your workouts. It’s good to slip into something and the tingles are great.
Mike : [00:42:26] I like them. I’m weird, though.
Kurtis: [00:42:28] The tingles are so good.
Mike : [00:42:28] I mean, I take niacin, I forgot to take it today, I take it semi-regularly just because I like the flush.
Kurtis: [00:42:34] I told you this before, but for any listeners, the first time I ever felt the niacin flush was before I actually newer niacin did and I thought I was having an allergic attack and overreacted horrendously, so now I don’t like my particular but …
Mike : [00:42:49] Maybe it poisoned the well. Maybe it’s like, you know when you eat a food and then you get food poisoning and you can’t eat again for a long time.
Kurtis: [00:42:55] Yeah, like whenever I feel that particular type of flush, because it has a lot of cheek warming to it, then I just kind of panic a little bit. But beta-alanine has no cheek warming, it’s just all tingles.
Mike : [00:43:08] With niacin sometimes, I almost get like a niacin high, there’s like a euphoric effect. I don’t know why.
Kurtis: [00:43:14] Yeah, I tried to look into that after you mentioned it earlier, but I couldn’t find anything on that.
Mike : [00:43:19] I mean, it doesn’t happen every time. It’s more likely to happen if I don’t take it for a bit and then I take, it could be 500 milligrams like a higher dose where I get a kind of intense flush, it ends with the euphoria. I’m scratching myself from, I’m rolling around on the carpet like a weirdo. It just feels good, man. That’s my version of drugs. I mean, I need a vice, I don’t have any real vices so I need something. I take niacin every once in a while [laughing].
Kurtis: [00:43:44] To anyone listening, when it comes to doing those little niacin experiments, they should be safe unless you overdose on it each and every day. And of course, even though there is “overdose”, so to speak, just to get the flush like this, you will need to go over the RDA, but, you know, you go over the RDA to a certain limit without hurting yourself.
So it appears that when it comes to niacin, you can take a gram a day and it doesn’t seem to be too bad. If you take two grams a day, most cases it doesn’t have any harm to it, but that is the dose of which some people started to get negative effects. And around five to six grams a day is where the negative effects start to become more common.
Mike : [00:44:28] Yeah, I’ve never gone above a gram a day, and again, it’s not every day. My brother in law is even more into niacin than I’ve ever been. I think he was up – you become tolerant to it, right? So you have to take more and more to continue getting any sort of significant flush. I think he got up to five grams a day for a while until I told him – but I didn’t know he was doing it until he mentioned it, I was like, “Nah, that’s too much, dude, you need to stop.”
Kurtis: [00:44:52] So to reiterate those doses: one gram seems to be okay?
Mike : [00:44:56] I don’t think I’d recommend a gram, though, to someone who’s never taken it before, I think that’s going to blow them up.
Kurtis: [00:45:02] Oh, true, true, true.
Mike : [00:45:03] You can get really nauseous if you don’t build up to it. It’s probably, for the average person, what, 100 milligrams might produce a flush, 100, 200?
Kurtis: [00:45:12] Might be a good starting point. If it doesn’t give you a flush, then, “oh no. You missed out on a single flush, take another pill.” Starting low always helps there. Let’s just try to sum all that up -.
Mike : [00:45:23] As far as any sort of benefits, it can benefit your cholesterol levels, right? That’s about it.
Kurtis: [00:45:27] Only the ones that can give you the flush, because niacin gives you the flush. Nicotinamide does not give you a flush. Both of them are B vitamin supplements, so they can both actually help with B vitamin requirements, but only the one that gives you the flush helps to reduce cholesterol.
And it’s actually very potent in doing so. So that’s great news. Because if anyone’s listening to this thinking like, “I want to try a little bit with niacin flush. Is this safe for my high cholesterol?” It’s double good for the high cholesterol.
Mike : [00:46:01] Very nice. I think you’d also – am making this up, there’s something like you’ll get better pumps if you don’t mind looking like a weirdo in the gym because you’re gonna get red and splotchy. You’re gonna look like you have a disease.
Mike : [00:46:13] I’ve never tried that, actually.
Kurtis: [00:46:15] I think there was something to that. I might just be making that up though.
Kurtis: [00:46:18] I’ll probably look into it, but, you know, it’s worth a shot. It’s nice and it’s cheap.
Mike : [00:46:22] [Laughing] For any women listening, you’ll keep guys away from you, they won’t come to bother you.
Kurtis: [00:46:26] Just growl when they come near as well, like right in our face, sweating. [Laughing]
Mike : [00:46:31] Scratching yourself [laughing]. You’ve just broken out in hives, sweating, scratching yourself, grumbling – that’ll keep guys away.
Kurtis: [00:46:41] And speak in tongues, of course, just wrap up the entire package with some Latin.
Mike : [00:46:44] I like it, some evangelism woven in. All right, well that’s nice, but we were talking about beta-alanine, so it has some possible muscle-building effects kind of in additive addition to any of the performance-enhancing effects. Dosage and timing on that?
Kurtis: [00:47:00] The dose we have and Pulse is considered white pod.
Mike : [00:47:05] Yeah, currently the caffeinated has five grams and that was part of what we’re updating to the formulation, we’re bringing that down to 3.8, right? And Kurtis, you can explain why. And then we’re adding alpha-GPC, which is going to make for an all-around better product, I think.
Kurtis: [00:47:19] The doses range is usually 2.4 to 4.8 grams. And you can’t really prove that 4.8 is better than half the dose, 2.4. But if both doses seem okay and you’re aiming for higher intensity athletes, tends to be a bit cautious toward the higher dose unless you have a reason not to. And initially we didn’t have a reason to because the tingles hit you equally the same.
Mike : [00:47:46] And, you know, a lot of people don’t really like the tingles, so going down to 3.8 is beneficial in that regard too, where you’re not going to miss out on any of the benefits of the supplement and it is going to produce less tingles, which some of us are not happy to hear, but most of the people listening probably would be happy to hear that.
Kurtis: [00:48:08] So as long as it’s effective, we keep it in, but reduce it a bit. We started out at just an obscenely high dose. I very much enjoyed those times.
Mike : [00:48:17] Did it hit your butthole? Did you get the itchy butthole?
Kurtis: [00:48:20] Dude, what? [Laughing] I have never had an itchy butthole from beta-alanine.
Mike : [00:48:32] [Laughing] That’s Arttie in the office, that was his complaint. Every time he would take it he’d be like, “ah my asshole’s itching, man.” Maybe he was covering for something else.
Kurtis: [00:48:40] Yeah there’s something else, “well, if it’s itchy, blame beta-alanine.”
Mike : [00:48:43] [Laughing] “Yeah, fucking beta-alanine!”
Kurtis: [00:48:46] Yeah, meanwhile he’s just eating dinner at a new Mexican restaurant, mixing beta-alanine with all these freakin’ hot sauces, or so much money from gambles.
Mike : [00:48:55] Yeah, or something else, we live in the Washington, D.C. area, so you never know.
Mike : [00:49:00] As a Canadian, I don’t know what you’re insinuating, but I don’t want to know, so shall we move on [laughing]. An American-worse is worse than Canadian-worse.
Mike : [00:49:08] Probably. All right, so that’s beta-alanine. What about betaine? Was that on your list? Did you want to talk about that?
Mike : [00:49:14] Yeah, that’s one of those ones I’m not sure how to pronounce, that’s the downside of being mostly trained online, I don’t know whether ‘betaine’ or ‘betaine’.
Mike : [00:49:23] Yeah, it might – I’m trying to remember because when I was rewriting my books for men and women, I was hitting a bunch of pronunciation websites and I think ‘betaine’ is at least generally accepted.
Kurtis: [00:49:37] At the very least I’ve learned that, like, people don’t judge you too bad for it.
Mike : [00:49:40] Pet peeves that people have, like if you mispronounce “hypertrophy”, people are going to flame you for it.
Mike : [00:49:47] A really smart professor, really old and wisened, comes into the lecture hall, “this is the neurotransmitter asi-tile-co-line.” I was like, “no, no, that’s not it.” Yeah, after a certain point, you’re just like, “whatever, let him have his ‘asi-tile-co-line’, we’ll have our acetylcholine, it’s fine.”
Mike : [00:50:08] Tomato, tomato.
Mike : [00:50:09] Tomato, ‘tomatioto’, or something.
Mike : [00:50:13] [Laughing] Tomatioto!
Kurtis: [00:50:15] [Laughing] Just let them have it.
Mike : [00:50:16] If you do it in the accent then it’s okay, “tomatioto!” [Laughing]
Mike : [00:50:21] But, yeah, when it comes to betaine, it’s kind of like carnosine in the sense that its entire duty is to mop stuff up. But instead of the case of mopping up stuff within a muscle, it tends to mop stuff up more of the blood. Methyl groups is tend to what happens, like just mops of few methyl groups here and there.
And it’s really boring but it seems to work fairly well at the same time range that beta-alanine works in. The two minutes or longer of endurance, you have about three grams of betaine at minimum. For more endurance stuff you may need to go up to five to six grams, and it just seems to be a very light increase in endurance.
Does really seem to increase the – sorry, influence – the rate of perceived exertion. So you’re probably going to feel just as bad, maybe a little bit more exhausted, but you just do a bit more work. It’s just one of the more boring supplements, but it’s solid, reliable, and it kind of works. And taurine is similar, actually.
Mike : [00:51:24] There was a point when you wanted to taurine to Pulse and then you changed your mind.
Kurtis: [00:51:28] Well, if they both do the same thing, then why have both?
Mike : [00:51:31] Sure. True.
Kurtis: [00:51:32] The main issue is that they don’t like, technically do the same thing, they just have the same results. Like one goes down road A one goes down road B but they still go to the same store and we only need one thing bought at the store, so let’s go for one that’s cheaper and more reliable.
Mike : [00:51:47] Makes sense. And there’s some evidence that betaine, I’m just gonna say it my way, increases strength as well. Am I off there? We referenced that research on the sales page of Pulse, which for anybody listening, Kurtis, like I write the sales pages, but often I’m going to Kurtis to clarify technical points or sometimes even get some copy that I play with, he goes through them just because I want to make sure that everything that is being discussed and claimed – that I’m understanding things correctly.
Kurtis: [00:52:13] So the studies do exist and if someone wanted to call betaine a strength enhancer, they could technically do so. I’m just a bit skeptical of those studies because there were increased in strength, reported from endurance work.
If you could do 11 reps instead of 10, of course, you’re going to be stronger the 11th rep because the other team didn’t have a value to it. The studies weren’t that disingenuous, they weren’t disingenuous at all. But when I want to call something a strength enhancer, I want that study to be designed for strength measurement.
Mike : [00:52:43] I remember when I was writing that copy, I mean, for me I would say, I guess you can call that strength, that’s how many people would probably think of strength, “oh if I got 11 reps instead of 10 reps, I got 10 reps last week, 11 reps this week, I’m a little bit stronger,” that’s how they would think of it, you know?
Kurtis: [00:52:59] Yeah, it makes sense because power usually has a speed component there, but strength is just the overall, “I do more” thing. The reason I don’t want to straight-up call betaine a strength enhancer is because: if I did that based on the study betaine has, I might have to call ashwagandha, and spirulina strength enhancers as well.
Mike : [00:53:17] Buzzwords.
Kurtis: [00:53:18] Well, because ashwagandha has two studies of which they just measured grip strength in men. You just have people, they squeeze something, you give them ashwagandha, they come back later, they squeeze the same thing, they squeeze harder with ashwagandha versus placebo.
Same thing has happened with spirulina. Same sufficient evidence to call it a strength enhancer, but doesn’t feel right to call it a strength enhancer when it’s on the topic of sports supplements because there’s a grip test.
Mike : [00:53:45] Yeah, exactly, that feels a bit slimy to extrapolate that to the gym and to tell people like, “yeah, you’re going to squat more if you take these two.”
Kurtis: [00:53:54] And I’m pretty sure one of the ashwagandha studies was done on like 60-year-old men, but the other one was done on youth, which surprised me because I thought the old men would get the strength boost and the young men would not, but they both did, so …
Mike : [00:54:06] It’s one of things where there may actually be something going on that is benefiting you in the gym if you take ashwagandha.
Kurtis: [00:54:11] Yeah, it’s just how best to measure it? And yet it did have one study showing an increase in sprints, so yeah maybe it’s actually a strength booster.
Mike : [00:54:19] Was that it was that for ashwagandha or was that for spirulina?
Kurtis: [00:54:22] Ashwagandha. Spirally’s literally only had one group study. Ashwagandha has had a few other exercise studies on it.
Kurtis: [00:54:28] It makes me think of – these are just little interesting questions they would be fun to fund research on, gain insight into.
Kurtis: [00:54:35] Oh first thing’s definitely creatine and hair loss, oh my God.
Mike : [00:54:39] We’re gonna do it. People are listening already in talks. So currently we have put money into a lean bulking study that is being conducted by Eric Helms, James Kreiger, and a few other people on Legion’s scientific advisory board, so that’s underway. And I want to really just put aside an amount of money and have a fund from Legion that I can use for funding research that.
I think there’ll be two lines of research: one will just be research to benefit the body composition space, I guess you could say, or bodybuilding space, just kind of give back to the community, so to speak, and so, lean bulking study is a good example of that, where it has nothing to do with selling a Legion product.
So there’s nothing that’s going to come out of it, other than maybe some goodwill where people, if they know, “Legion funded this research, this is good research,” and it helps lend some insight into something that one of those questions a lot of people ask that a lot of more scientifically literate people wonder about because there isn’t much research, or least much well designed.
Well-executed research on the effect of a small or moderate calorie surplus on muscle and strength gain. So similarly, the creatine and hair loss research would be along those lines too, which would be – I’m very interested in putting together, and Kurtis and I are talking about that.
And then we also could look at doing research on individual ingredients that, and again, I would just really tap Kurtis’ vast wisdom here, because there are certain ingredients that Kurtis believes have good potential but the research is just not there yet or maybe there’s some animal research or some mechanistic research that says, “hey, this might be pretty cool,”.
But somebody has to come along, and put the money up, and do the work to see what happens in humans. And so that’s something we’re gonna be getting more into. Realistically, there’s – I’m talking with Menno right now because he and Andy Galpin are putting together a lean gains intermittent fasting study that definitely going to give protein to and I’m looking at giving some money to, but as far as putting together a larger amount of money, probably going to be later this year or next year, but I’m excited for it, I think it’ll be fun.
Kurtis: [00:56:43] I’m definitely looking forward to that study. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Menno hop around all happy like that. He’s giddy with the thought of his study.
Mike : [00:56:51] It sounds like it could be interesting. I mean, the idea of the study, for people listening is: because a lot of the intermittent fasting research has been conducted with sedentary people, which is cool, but he wants to conduct this research – it’s lean gains protocol with resistance-trained people and really look at muscle building and how he sees it is:
Have it be like the definitive study on the lean gains, intermittent fasting approach for people who are into body composition to say, “yes, here it is. We know it is more beneficial or it has some unique benefits over traditional dieting,” or, “no, it does not,” and really kind of open up – if it does, then it opens up a different, you could say, more legitimate line of IF research for us in the fitness space, at least.
Kurtis: [00:57:38] And they’re going to be able to measure a lot of the cellular parameters, as well. mTOR being the easy one. Is there going to be a muscle biopsy or not?
Mike : [00:57:46] I don’t think he mentioned. I know it’s expensive, though. I think the all-in cost of the study is gonna be somewhere around 75k. Because I want to do an acute and then a long term.
Kurtis: [00:57:55] So acute study, long term study, more than just measuring waist circumference and weight kind of thing. And not the whole caliper measurements of body fat either. I would leave it to Menno to have one of the more reliable forms of body fat measuring body calipers.
Mike : [00:58:11] But you know, beta-alanine, I don’t think we mentioned the timing on that. Basically it doesn’t matter, right?
Mike : [00:58:15] Yeah, that’s surprising. Beta alanine’s timing does not matter. So if for some reason you cannot work out with the tingles, you don’t need to take it before workout. You can take it with meals and when you take with meals, it’s absorbed at a slower rate, you don’t get as much tingles. But because it gives you the tingles, so many people took it before a workout anyways because it just got them excited for the gym.
Mike : [00:58:39] Maybe that’s one of the reasons why so many of us like it. It’s like a positive association, right? It’s like a trigger like, “the tingles have kicked in, it’s time to workout.”
Kurtis: [00:58:47] Yeah and like, if you just stay in the locker room, running around the circle saying, “the tingles, the tingles, the tingles, the tingles,” security is going to be escorting you out pretty fast.
Mike : [00:58:56] It’s a gym, they might understand. They’ll be like …
Kurtis: [00:58:58] “This is a lot of white powder on the bench,” it’s like, “I swear it’s beta-alanine! I swear!”
Mike : [00:59:04] [Laughing] All right, cool, so that’s beta-alanine. I don’t think there’s anything else to say on that. Was there anything else for anaerobic or aerobic that you wanted to talk about?
Kurtis: [00:59:12] The only thing I want to mention, finally, was just a very brief touch on nitrates, because they’re not a supplement, they’re leafy greens and all that. But when it comes to 10 minutes or more exercise, so, you know, just jogging there is via studies on nitrates, evidence that just increasing leafy greens and other vegetables in your diet can improve aerobic capacity.
So if you’re a jogger, if you just want to run for 30 minutes a day, leafy greens can actually improve your performance because of studies on nitrates. A lot of people always talk about leafy greens and they just say, “whatever is green, shove new your face, do as I say peasant,” and they never explain why these things are beneficial. But because of nitrates, we’ve now made that link, leafy greens can help aerobic exercise because they’re a cheap and effective way of getting dietary nitrates into your body.
Mike : [01:00:06] It’s a sexier sales pitch than because they’re healthy.
Kurtis: [01:00:08] Yeah, pretty much, from the dietary side of things, and for a long time it was like, “eat your broccoli.” “Why?” “Because we said so. We’re associated with the government, don’t defy our food pyramid,” it’s like, “okay.” It’s one of my pet peeves, people telling others to eat vegetables and never explaining why.
Mike : [01:00:25] If you have kids, I want to see how you go about it. I want to see you explaining nitrates to your five-year-old. Good luck.
Kurtis: [01:00:30] “Well, if you put this in your mouth you’ll grow strong like daddy, otherwise you need to clean your room.” then they clean their room anyway because daddy is a mean person. [Laughing]
Mike : [01:00:41] I read about a study recently that had kids do some sort of task that was not enjoyable and they also had the option to go like, mess around on an iPad or something. And one of the groups was told to think of themselves, just think of the concept: “I’m doing this.”
Another one was: think of themselves in the third person, so in my son’s case, it would be, “Lennox is doing this,” while they’re doing the not-fun task. And then the third group was to think of themselves as Batman. And the Batman group did the best by a significant margin. You could try that in the gym. [Laughing]
Kurtis: [01:01:19] “I will eat my vegetables.”
Mike : [01:01:22] Yeah, Batman can do it.
Kurtis: [01:01:25] That’s a really cute study.
Mike : [01:01:26] Yeah. I’m reading this book on how to make your kid a money genius or something. Getting ahead of the curve so I don’t have financially illiterate children that are trying to live off of me for their entire lives [laughing], it was mentioned in that book. Supplement wise, is that it?
Kurtis: [01:01:43] We covered all the good stuff and the pre-workouts. The only last thing we mentioned is just like a standard warning against these stupid herbs that appear on the pre-workouts and how they’re probably a cover for lacing things in it.
Mike : [01:01:56] So explain. This is kind of like: how to detect shitty pre-workouts, right? This is important because pre-workouts on the whole, I don’t actually know, I mean protein is definitely the number one bestseller as far as supplements go, but in sports nutrition, pre-workouts are going to be up there. They’re very popular and there are so many options and so many new options hitting the market, making so many different claims and there are a lot of shady things, a lot of shenanigans in the pre-workout game because you can buy whatever you want from China and it can be laced with whatever you want and then you can find unscrupulous manufacturers who will bottle whatever it is that you are sending from China without testing it, they don’t care. They’ll put it in a bottle for you, it doesn’t matter what it says on the label and that can be sitting on the shelf anywhere.
Kurtis: [01:02:47] One of the reasons why I want to mention the herb issue is because of all that aforementioned, they can just get random stuff and put in your bottle and whatever, it happens. But when it comes to something like citrulline, you have l-citrulline, maybe you have l-citrulline malate.
You know what the molecule is, you can Google it, you know everything about it. But when you’re given a random herb name and you try to Google the herb, you don’t necessarily get clear answers as to what is in the herb or why it’s working. And I was talking with somebody earlier about what I consider ethical labeling laws when it comes to herbs, because you can’t list everything of the herb.
Like every plant has well over 200 different known molecules in it but they’re all just way to my minute to care. But you have an estimate about what works in most. So if you see something like Tribulus Terrestris and then in brackets, “40 percent steroidal supplements,” that’s a good enough indicator of what’s inside the plant and a good enough indicator of its concentration.
But when it comes to pre-workouts, they – well, I say “they”, but other people in the industry don’t necessarily take steps to elaborate on what’s in their products. This initially happened, well, I wouldn’t say initially, the one that I remember most was the Jack3D product.
Mike : [01:04:11] The old pre-nerf one, right? Is it still around, but now it’s just whatever?
Kurtis: [01:04:15] It’s still around, but it no longer has 1,3-DMAA in it. But when it first hit the market, it had 1,3-DMAA in it but its label said “Geranium”. Geranium is the family name of a plant. If you were to name a plant, you’d be like Tribulus Terrestris. Tribulus is the family name, terrestrial species name.
If I just said tribunals, I could be mentioning any tribunals plant. When it came to Geranium, there was over 700 different plants that could have been named. The company never specified which of the plants it used. So this made people have to go out and analyze each and every one of the plants for the compounds found in Jack3D to see whether or not this 1,3-DMAA was approved by the FDA or not.
Because according to the FDA: if it exists in nature in an unperturbed form, it’s legal and has to be retroactively banned. But if it’s outright synthesized, it’s not legal from the outset. So after about two years, it was found that 1,3-DMAA was completely illegal, should never have been sold.
And the only reason it went this far was because they never listed 1,3-DMAA on the label, never mention the herb that it was from or supposed to be from, because at the end of the day, it wasn’t actually from a plant, and after those two years, the initial people behind the company just cashed out and ran.
Mike : [01:05:42] Yeah, I mean, that was the same company that was caught putting Prozac in their fat burners along with something that was causing liver failure.
Kurtis: [01:05:51] Yeah, there are a few people that …
Mike : [01:05:52] Didn’t one of the founders go to jail along with one the guy who ran one of their manufacturing facilities? Pretty sure some people went to jail over it.
Kurtis: [01:06:01] I do recall that. Around the time that they were caught in USPlabs, they initially tried to book it, but these people had multiple runs before USPlabs.
Mike : [01:06:12] I didn’t know that. I mean, I know that according to court documents, it was some insane amount of money was like 400 million dollars over the course of four or five years from just a few of their products.
Kurtis: [01:06:21] Well, there are just some people in the industry who do the entire thing, where they make a company, do something with it to make it really popular for a short time – and I’m only saying “do something” to not put heat on my back.
The “something” may or may not be related to lacing the first line of supplements with drugs to make people’s self-reports go, “oh, wow, this stuff is really good,” and then they take it out before they can get busted by the feds. They could just be completely innocent on the drug side but pay way too much money in marketing and just dominate the online area through, you know, a forced monopoly, they just audit one-off.
Mike : [01:07:00] That’s hard to do. I mean, it can be done, but it’s hard to do to that level. Talking about that much money, I mean, you remember when Jack3D was – it was word of mouth what drove it, because people are out working out in the gym and people always know other people in the gym, even outside the gum who are into working out, and it’s a natural social setting, and so I remember that’s how I heard about it. Somebody told me in the gym, like when I first heard about it, they said, “this shit is crazy, you gotta try this.”
Kurtis: [01:07:27] Well, I guess I was being a little bit naive because I wanted to give these companies an out saying, “hey, I’m not accusing all of you of spiking your shit with drugs,” but let’s be practical, that’s usually how this stuff goes.
Mike : [01:07:39] Yeah.
Kurtis: [01:07:40] Spike it the first round and then either leaving it in or taking it out before the feds get you.
Mike : [01:07:45] Or not, like Craze with driven sports, “fuck it, just leave the amphetamine in there.” [Laughing]
Kurtis: [01:07:50] Yeah, they just left it. I still don’t know how they went for so long with that.
Mike : [01:07:55] Yeah. And he already previously was busted for selling, was it DNP? Yeah, for selling – I think it was DNP, that’s the acronym, right, it’s a very powerful fat burning drug?
Kurtis: [01:08:07] Oh DNP, dinitrophenol?
Mike : [01:08:09] Yeah, extracted from dynamite, right? And if you take too much you die, that’s the problem. If you take enough it can help you get shredded fast.
Kurtis: [01:08:18] And the worst part is that there is a small demographic of people that may be hypersensitive to it, but we don’t know because turns out you can’t really judge hypersensitivity in humans when you propose to the ethics board: “oh, some people might just straight up die.”
Mike : [01:08:33] Once that process begins, there’s no stopping it either. If you overdose on it, you could go to the hospital immediately and say, “this is what I took,” and they’d be like, “say your goodbyes because that’s it. You’re done.” The dude who was the CEO, I think it was Matt something the name of the CEO founder guy of Driven Sports was already previously busted by the feds for selling the DNP as just like fat loss pills. I think he was also busted for steroids?
Possibly, the supplements scumbags, I’m getting them mixed up in my head, maybe, I don’t know if steroids were involved. Steroids are usually involved with these guys, but it was definitely DNP previously and then the meth analog in Craze. I remember when that was getting popular, people were emailing me.
It was the Jack3D craze again, it was, “this stuff’s amazing, you got to try it,” and then there are people who were asking, who are a bit more informed, “how is this possible? Look at the ingredients, there’s basically nothing in,” it was some caffeine, and maybe another stimulant, and some creatine, it was super under dosed, but they are saying, you know, “I feel really good.
I have really good workouts,” and at the time, I was more naive, this was early on in my foray to the fitness space, and so I was like, “I don’t know, maybe these people have never had caffeine before or something, or is it just complete placebo?” But no, it was meth, meth apparently makes for some pretty good workouts.
Kurtis: [01:09:50] But yeah, like the main reason I’m cautioning against the herbs and all that is just, every now and then people slip stuff into products and they hide behind a herb because they know that just by nature, a putting a herb on the product list, it can buy them time. And sometimes they’re, as we were mentioning, like pretty significant and dangerous things.
Other times they’re just not so dangerous things but they technically shouldn’t be sold or they maybe stuff that’s completely okay to be sold, but it doesn’t just have a good reputation because it has no studies on it, it’s like, “why’d you put this in?” “Oh, because it causes fat loss.” “Can you prove that?”
And they can’t. They just put it in there because they know it gives them a buzz and they don’t want to deal with people asking questions. Any pre-work that they use as a herb should go out of its way to give as much information on the herb as possible and any pre-workout that gives little information is probably hiding shit behind the plant.
Mike : [01:10:49] It’s a good take away. Practical, I like it. All right. Well that, I think wraps up our exhaustive discussion of pre-workouts. That was everything we had in the outline, at least, right?
Kurtis: [01:11:00] Yeah.
Mike : [01:11:00] Cool man. Anything interesting that you want to share with all of your adoring fans?
Kurtis: [01:11:05] Nothing at this point in time, although I am getting a bit more back into aromatherapy. Well, yeah, because studies on aromatherapy by design, they can never be top tier evidence. So it’s a bit unfortunate because of that because you can almost never do completely perfect blinding of somebody.
Mike : [01:11:22] Sure. “Is that shit or lavender? I’m not sure.”
Mike : [01:11:27] [Laughing] There’s no placebo, like no true placebo. There’s almond oil as an act of control. Because apparently almond oil is something that you smell but you can never really define what it smells like because, “it smells like a smell, kind of a boring smell,” that kind of stuff.
Mike : [01:11:44] I know, I was suggesting poop as a control, but..
Kurtis: [01:11:46] Oh yeah, poops are pretty active, but yeah. I’ve had a mustache quite some time and in the past, I used to dab a bit of lavender on the mustache just so it stays in the hairs right under the nose and I get like a continuous waft of the smell as I’m working on my computer.
And I’ve started to get back into that, mostly when it comes to beard and oils and such because as long as there’s aroma in my beard, I could be actively under the effects of aromatherapy. So I thought, like, what if there was a cognitive boosting one? Or what if there was one that increased alertness? I just put this into my mustache and beard and boom, go.
Mike : [01:12:23] And have you noticed anything?
Kurtis: [01:12:24] So far, no. Actually I have noticed that having a beard that smells of lemon for over an hour is infuriating. Do not do that. [Laughing]
Mike : [01:12:34] [Laughing] So maybe it’s orogenic, maybe you do that before a workout, then. [Laughing] Tap into some extra rage for those Kroc rows.
Kurtis: [01:12:42] [Laughing] “Fuck you lemons.”
Mike : [01:12:46] [Laughing] All right. Well, thanks again for taking the time, Kurtis. As always, it’s fun and we’ll line up the next one. I guess it’s also worth mentioning you’ve been putting a lot of work into updating existing formulations and working on new formulations, I’m excited for that.
Kurtis: [01:13:01] They’re turning out a lot more elegant and hopefully – I wouldn’t say cheaper, but we can slip a few more goodies into them while maintaining the price is what it seems to be happening so far.
Mike : [01:13:11] Yeah, and that’s the goal. I mean, we can leverage economies of scale to bring down our costs to some degree. Unfortunately, it doesn’t scale that well in this space because good raws are just expensive and good manufacturers work on, I’d say, tight-ish profit margins, so an expensive product is always gonna be expensive, but it’s like reducing the beta-alanine in Pulse from 4.8 to – is it going down to 3.6?
Kurtis: [01:13:39] At this moment in time, yes. There might be some changes, but it should be at 3.6.
Mike : [01:13:44] Yep. Which makes sense from an effectiveness standpoint. I mean, you’re not going to lose any effectiveness and then it also reduces the paresthesia, it reduces the tingles. But instead of just leaving it at that and saying, “Hey, it’s still actually an expensive product,” but we can make a little bit more, we’re taking that money and rolling it into alpha-GPC, which is just an expensive ingredient, so we’re looking for opportunities to do similar things in other products. All right, man, well, that’s it, we’ll brainstorm our next episode and get it out in the next month or so.
Kurtis: [01:14:19] See y’all later.