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Are Stimulants Friend or Foe? A Scientific Overview of How the Supplement Industry Creates Addiction
- Updated: September 16, 2015
By Josh Hayward – In the arena of supplementation (and world in general) there is an unfortunate epidemic that is escalating day by day and year by year. Can you take a “supercharged” guess as to what that may be?
Go on – take a moment – really think about it…you’re bombarded at every turn, with every soda, every energy drink and 95% of preworkout supplements… Commercials left and right with buzzwords like “Amped,” “Extreme,” “Powerful,” “Potent,” “Energizing,” etc.
Still not quite sure? It’s Stimulant Dependency!
You’re probably thinking:
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’m not dependent on anything. Nor am I an addict!”
The cold, hard reality is that you are and it’s not your fault! You have been told for decades that caffeine and other stimulant sources are 100% safe and that is a fallacy from a scientific standpoint. You’ve also heard plenty about how they raise BMR/RMR and cAMP; aiding in fat loss, stoking the metabolic fires within the biochemical computer that is the human body… BUT you haven’t been told the other side of the story. It’s been purposely suppressed to produce cheap, tasty supplements and drinks to hook consumers.
The average product (be it energy drink or preworkout) has 300mgs of caffeine and other stimulants, sodas have between 50-75mgs caffeine per 8 fl oz. Tea and coffee have about the same amount depending on brew time and bean/leaf type, with green tea being the least caffeinated of all natural sources (so you’ve been told).
However caffeine is never typically alone, you will see the following stimulants and nootropic agents (smart drugs) in the majority of products:
- L-Theanine (seen as TeaActive™)
- Alpha GPC (seen as AlphaSize™)
- Synephrine HCl (seen as Citrus Aurantium)
- AMP Citrate (seen as 1,3-dimethylbutylamine or DMBA)
- Theacrine (seen as TeaCrine™)
- Huperzine A
- Agmatine Sulfate
- Higenamine HCl
Starting to get the picture? This is just a minor list, but consider yourself taking multiple products within your supplementation protocol, it begins to take a toll on your body extremely quick – a week is all it takes to create caffeine and stimulant dependency.
According to John Hopkins Medical, the average American citizen consumes 280mg of caffeine per day including children! It has been scientifically proven numerous times that while caffeine offers the above affects, it also boosts cortisol significantly with a dose dependent action. The Food Research Institute of New Zealand proved that an 800mg dose of caffeine raised cortisol levels by 52%!
Now the question must be asked: What is cortisol?
Cortisol (ACTH or Adrenocorticotropic hormone) is known as the “stress hormone” This is essentially the flight-or-fight response and it occurs with most of the above stimulants listed, with the exception of the nootropics which will be touched on a bit later (and are also the safer option for increasing focus and intensity!)
It has also been scientifically proven to pack on fat, specifically in the midsection of men and women using a basis of waist to hip ratios in combination with stress tests and salivary cortisol analyses to determine baseline and post-stress levels. It was found that there were higher W:H ratios in highly stressed subjects with more adipose tissue accumulation vs non-stressed subjects.
However there is one more tiny, yet major factor that’s hidden: The pharmacological half-life of stimulants. Caffeine in particular has a half-life of six hours. Half-life is the time to eliminate half the amount of a given substance in the body, so the triple whammy here is:
- You’re stressed for six hours without realizing it, due to caffeine’s action in blocking the Adenosine receptor.
- You’ve still got 150mg of caffeine left in you after six hours, thus causing you insomnia.
- Your adrenal health begins to suffer from the pituitary gland attempting to catch up with immune system requirements, thus eventually causing the famous “stimulant crash” involving the following symptoms:
- Fatigue — (tiredness, lethargy, sluggishness)
- Sleepiness/drowsiness – (sleepy, drowsy, yawning)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Work difficulty — (decreased motivation for tasks/work)
- Irritability — (irritable, cross, decreased well-being/contentedness)
- Depression — (depressed mood)
- Anxiety — (anxious, nervous)
- Flu-like symptoms — (nausea/vomiting, muscle aches/stiffness, hot and cold spells, heavy
- feelings in arms or legs)
- Impairment in psychomotor, vigilance and cognitive performances
Just… One more hidden tidbit for you (if you’re scared by all of this, GOOD! You SHOULD be): The release of cortisol also release epinephrine, thus providing a double dose of internal stress, but pile on all the above it’s more like taking a wrecking ball to your HPTA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testes-Axis) and the adverse effects of catabolism begin to take the reins.
You stop losing fat — you’re losing weight, yes — but that loss is typically water and muscle with a highly taxed HPTA where testosterone is actually reduced because of elevated cortisol.
You get sicker easier because WBC (White Blood Cell Count) is lower and the immune system’s shot, thus you meet a dimishing return for all that stimulant use. The same goes for research chemical like clenbuterol, albuterol and T3/T4.
There is a lot of fear out there on speaking about steroids — this is in fact an area where steroids shine and actually AID in reducing cortisol or keeping it in normal ranges. Am I advocating use here? Certainly not uneducated use… (Though I am an advocate of decriminalizing and utilizing anabolics for personal enrichment and longevity, screw you DEA and your lies, also docs do yourself favors and learn some endocrinology)
Simply put: The anabolic properties of testosterone suppress cortisol, creating an overall anabolic environment that will keep the maximum amount of gained muscle on one’s frame. Age plays a factor in this as well, by age 25-30 test levels begin declining by 1% every year, which means cortisol slowly creeps up and it gets harder to put on dense, lean mass along with retaining it.
Is this all starting to come together for you yet? I certainly hope so, but let’s continue forth.
Remember that word “Nootropics”? Or “Smart Drugs” as they are dubbed. These are simply neurotransmitters or functional equivalents attached to a particular molecule, splitting off to efficiently pass the BBB (Blood-Brain-Barrier) aiding in CNS improvements of focus, energy production as well as mood.
Most of which work in highly efficient manners and do absolutely nothing to boost cortisol — you’re literally ingesting more neurotransmitters for a better functioning brain and repairing damaged neural connections.
That is why you are seeing so many products today with “cognitive enhancers” or “focus blends” unfortunately the majority still contain a high amount of caffeine. Then they want you to take their fat burner with another 300-500mgs caffeine or blend of mentioned stims with undisclosed amounts… Thus putting you in a catabolic purgatory, chained to cheap, poor, science-less tasty products!
Which brings me to a very serious point: Stims are really only needed for fat burners and should generally be limited in use. Limited as in every other day or cardio days, that’s when caffeine is truly beneficial, because it does elevate cAMP, it does cause more kcals burned per exercised, but you’d be surprised at just how little is actually needed…
Are you ready for this?
Fifty. Milligrams. 50mg!
Mind blown, right?!
Addiction and withdrawal symptoms (known technically as Adrenal Shutdown) can occur with as much as 100mgs per day.
“Well, what about people who suffer from ADD/ADHD?”
This is rather irrelevant because the drugs are meant to bring other portions of the brain up to speed to balance an individual out. Not exacerbate the problem. However there are now alternatives such as Pikatropin which has shown much success in combating ADD/ADHD around 300mgs/day. Normal focus needs of this particular nootropic are 50mg-100mg.
Allow me to reach back up to the aforementioned list for four particular substances found in products but little to no explanation of function (or you have to search for it):
Higenamine HCl, Huperzine A, Theacrine & Theobromine.
Higenamine- boosts metabolic function through beta-1 and beta-2 adrenergic receptors, working similarly to Synephrine or Ephedrine though at a much lower strength.
Huperzine A- inhibits both somatostatin and acetylcholinesterase. For the purposes of this article, acetylcholinesterase inhibition is the noteworthy use of Huperzine, while not necessarily a stimulant it’s important to know this one as it works by elevating levels of choline in the brain, thus causing faster processing of information and learning.
Also allows for stronger muscle contractions. Acetylcholinesterase is the enzyme that degrades choline.
Theacrine- Newer xanthine alkaloid that has similar effects to caffeine (and structure), affecting adenosine signaling without tolerance, which means you can stick with a dose you like and it will always be effective. It is recommended at 200mg and is synergistic with caffeine, which is also good because you can use less caffeine either way.
Theobromine- Theobromine is little known from a public standpoint, unless you are a fitness enthusiast. Smoother, longer-acting version of caffeine usually extracted from cocoa beans being, kola nut or tea leaves. Another xanthine alkaloid that is weaker than caffeine in terms of antagonizing adenosine receptors this having a lower impact on the central nervous system.
Are you angry yet? You should be! Learning that all those gains were stolen from carbon-copy products and highly stimmed energy drinks, sapping away every ounce of work put in. If you’re a true natural athlete or bodybuilder, this information can literally save your life.
The above options, while low in studies show promise for being viable alternatives to caffeine consumption and can better your goals and life as opposed to catabolically crushing every ounce of sweat you put into gaining your physique or performance goals.
So what’s to be done? Use less stimulants. It takes 2-3 weeks for the adrenals to reset and utilizing adaptogenic herbs will aid in restoring function/reducing cortisol. Phosphatidylserine in particular is wonderful at this in combo with Vitamin C 2-4g/day.
Track stimulant consumption as well. Every energy drink, every preworkout scoop, every soda and see how badly you’re affecting yourself thinking it’s OK to consume caffeine so often, remember: You’ve been flat out lied to for quite some time.
The information provided here is meant to send a shockwave through consumers as well as supplement companies and energy drink manufacturers exposing their twisted lies and providing the facts you’ve missed out on (and suffered from) due to negligence, because their product hype and bottom lines are apparently more important than your life and goals.
THIS is how the supplement industry (and soft drink industry) creates addiction — through hype, vague explanations, misdirection and stifling of these facts they know that cause you literal stress and wreak havoc within your body.
The industry can help by telling scientific facts on both sides, reducing amounts of caffeine in products as well as offering stimulant-free options, energy drink manufacturers can reduce both sugars AND caffeine in their products for a safer, well-rounded product that still gets the job done.
Most importantly, YOU the consumers have a VOICE, so USE IT armed with this incredibly important arsenal of knowledge and battle back, because you’re worth it as are your goals… Aren’t you?