Workout Supplement Cautions

preworkout safety

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

DHEA is a common supplement used by bodybuilders because of its effect on testosterone and strength. DHEA levels drop beginning at the age of 30, causing decreased muscle mass and libido.

DHEA seems to be a great addition to a workout stack, but there are several reported side effects. Due to the fluctuation of testosterone levels, DHEA can cause psychological disturbances including anger and insomnia. Supplementing with DHEA can also cause gender-specific alterations such as shrinking of testes or unwanted hair growth.

DHEA is likely safe when taken as directed; however, it is important to contact a physician prior to use.

Vitamins C and E

VitaminC[1]These vitamins are found in most workout supplements acting as natural antioxidants. Both vitamins C and E offer many benefits including weight management support, healthy skin, and improved immune function.

It is safe to use vitamins C and E; however, it is much more beneficial to consume these vitamins through whole foods rather than supplements. Overdoing these supplements can result in fewer mitochondria meaning less energy and growth.

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris is a common ingredient in testosterone boosters and pre workout supplements. Tribulus claims state that the supplement increases testosterone levels, thus improving strength, muscle mass, and sex drive.

There have been no dangerous side effects reported from Tribulus supplementation, so it appears safe to consume. The problem with Tribulus is that there are very little studies to back up the claims stating this supplement supports testosterone or performance enhancement.


Yohimbine is a popular supplement taken to increase energy and fat loss, which is why yohimbine is a common ingredient in weight loss and pre workout supplements.

This supplement needs to be treated just like other stimulants. Too many stimulating supplements can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and insomnia. When using supplements in this category, it is always wise to start at the lowest dose possible to assess tolerance.

Effective and Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

Whey Protein Make sure you have some whey protein and some Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) like isoleucine, leucine, and valine. The whey is the same protein you needed when you were a child to help you grow big and strong while the BCAA’s help your body use the protein more effectively and reduce delayed muscle soreness.

While some workout supplements have approximately 900,000 ingredients, taking the time to make sure you know what each one is and what it does can not only give you a better workout, it can save your life. Also remember that any of the beneficial ingredients – such as caffeine – can be harmful if taken in improper amounts.

The Bottom Line

Taking supplements daily is an excellent way to feel better and work harder; however, some dietary supplements do have side effects. It is always recommended to speak with a doctor before taking any dietary supplement.

Build a Cheap Home Gym

Valor Athletics BD-7 Power Rack

The key to saving money on gym equipment is to be patient while checking different marketplaces: Amazon, Craiglist, and deal sites like Also check with local gyms if you want sturdy equipment at a lower price. All prices I mention are with shipping included and most prices are from when I purchased them around March-April of 2013. Prices will change, but the tactics used to find the lowest prices won’t.

Complete transcript available below.

Cheap Gym Equipment

These are the bare necessities for a free weight home gym.

Valor Athletics BD-7 Power RackValor BD-7 Power Rack

I got this for $497, but it’s currently $595 on Amazon. Use a historic price checking tool like to ensure you’re not paying a record high price for your equipment.

Ceiling height can be an issue for power racks. The BD-7, with the rubber end caps removed, is 6’10”. My ceiling is 7’1″ however there’s an additional 9.5 inches between the slats in my ceiling, which is why I removed the drywall for the pullup bar.

Putting together the power rack is a chore, but this is a given based on the number of parts. I had a warped plastic spacer for the cable slide, but Valor shipped a replacement immediately. Jim Vanderbleek, the owner, answered my email and was very helpful.

Ironmaster Super Bench ($318)

Over $300 for a bench seems like a lot, but I wanted a sturdy bench where I don’t have to worry about the weight breaking the bench because I went with a cheap Marcy or Innova.

This Ironmaster Super Bench is rated at 1000 pounds. Most older used benches from a gym should work as well, but I went this one since it’s versatile and I don’t have enough room for two benches.

You can use it as a decline and incline, and there’s an optional attachment to hold your legs for lots of exercises like decline crunches, decline bench or skull crushers. This attachment was $72.

Gym size and floor padding

I’m working with about 170 sqare feet (13×13). You can probably get away with 11×11 or even less if you find efficient dumbbell racks.

Harbor freight slickdeal gym floor matsSquare pads – I have the bare minimum so as to not chip the floor if I drop weights. These half inch thick pads are 4 for $10 at harbor freight. Each one is 4 sq feet, so I needed about 10 packs ($100) to cover this floor. These or folded cardboard make variable lifts for the bench if you need to adjust its height for the spotting bars.

I say these are the bare minimum because they start to show wear and dents immediately. Also, they’ll separate in high traffic areas, such as in front of the power rack where you’ll have your bench.

If you need something thicker that won’t separate, Tractor Supply Company has 3/4 inch thick 6’x4′ pads for $43 each. These are about triple the cost per square foot, but seem to be worth it based on the reviews. I might just buy one for this high traffic area and use the cheaper squares for the rest of the gym.

200 lbs adjustable dumbbell kit $260

A lot of the cost was from shipping. If you find something like this locally, you can pay closer to $0.50/lb. However, I was impatient and my gym membership was about to expire.

You’ll notice that the bars are really long, but you’ll need this length when you get above 95lbs per dumbbell. If you wanted, you could get a second pair of spin-lock dumbbell bars that are either shorter or take some length off with a heavy duty reciprocating saw. Just DO NOT get the spin-lock bars from Wal-Mart (the Gold’s Gym brand). In fact, don’t get any gym equipment from Wal-Mart. It’s overpriced and low-quality.

olympic weight set with bar255 lb Olympic Weight Set with Olympic bar

Purchased as a special at Dick’s sporting goods for under $300, spring click collars for $10 from Amazon

If you’re power lifting and 255 lbs + an Olympic bar isn’t enough weight, then get another 2x 45lb Olympic plates. I paid too much for mine at $106 for 90 lbs. Buy these locally if you can since shipping inflates the price.

Calf block ($53). You can make your own for a fraction of the price if you have the time. Video tutorial here.

Dumbbells (~$610 assuming $0.50/lb used)

If adjustable dumbbells are too much of a pain, then you should start building your dumbbell collection. As with any weights, don’t buy these new, and buy locally unless you find a good deal on or another deal site. For example, I found some company online that was selling the last of their dumbbell stock at a loss for a few of these.

Just buy what you need. If the heaviest dumbbells you use are 75lbs then buy up to 65lbs and use the adjustable dumbbells for 75s. With heavier weight starting around 50 or 60lbs, you may only need dumbbell sets for every 10 lb increment instead of every 5 lbs.

You’ll find most of your dumbbell and dumbbell rack deals on craigslist. I purchased my racks for $90 total. The larger rack isn’t efficient space-wise; you won’t need as much room with a two or three tier rack.

Personally, I prefer heavier weights on the top rack, so the inefficiency doesn’t bother me. I used to hate picking up heavier dumbbells off the lowest rack at the local gym as it can lead to back injuries.

Total Cost

So your total cost of the bare minimum home gym is between $1240 and $1610 whether or not you purchase them locally, used, or online. The break even for a $30 month gym is between three and half and four and a half years.

Total cost of the complete home gym is anywhere between about $2300 to $2900 and your break even for this is between 6.3 and eight years. Now it seems like it’s a long time to get your return on your investment, but this doesn’t factor in hard-to-cost benefits like gas and your time saved from not driving to the gym daily. Depending on how you value your time and how far the gym is this is going to vary a lot person to person. That should be it and good luck with your deal hunting.

Video Transcript

Having a home gym has a lot of advantages such as not having to drive to the gym, not having to wait for equipment on a busy day, and being able to listen to your music without headphones. But many of you might find it either space or cost prohibitive to have your own home gym. For space you really don’t need that much. The minimum is around 100 square feet for the equipment I’m going to be going over. As for my gym at home, I have 13 by 13 foot size, and that’s more than enough.

Now as far as cost, depending on the equipment you need, it’s anywhere from around $1200 to $2500. $1200 is the bare minimum, and the biggest difference for the fluctuation in range is whether or not you want to have sets of dumbbells or if you’re just buying one set of adjustable dumbbells.

Now the key to saving on gym equipment is to be patient, or checking Amazon, Craigslist, and deal sites like You’re also going to want to check the local gyms around you just to see, they’re going to have a lot of used equipment that’s in pretty good shape, even though it’s old. It’s going to be a lot better to get that than to get some chintzy new equipment that isn’t going to last you as long.

When I purchased my gym equipment it was around March or April of 2013. Prices are always going to change but the tactics you use to find those prices will not.

Now for any home gym you’re going to need a power rack. This is the Valor Athletics BD Seven power rack. I got this for around $500 on Amazon. Right now it’s between $500 and $600 on Amazon. But you’re going to want to use a historic price checking site such as to check price history on Amazon items. You don’t want to pay a record high price for your item. So if this is on a record high currently, just wait a few months or few weeks if you have the patience.

Ceiling height can be an issue for any power rack. The Valor BD Seven with the rubber end caps removed it’s about six feet 10 inches. My ceiling is just over seven feet one inch. Now I took away some drywall and there’s an additional nine and half inches in between the wooden slats. This is so you can do pull ups and chin ups. So definitely measure your ceiling height before purchasing this if you’re in a basement or if you’re putting this on the first floor.

Putting together this power rack is a chore. But given the parts and the complexity, especially the pulley system in the back, I don’t see how it could be any easier. Just make sure you have the right tools for it. I did have a warped piece of plastic in the back for the pulley system, but Jim Vanderbleek, the owner of the Valor Athletics, answered my email and shipped out a replacement part immediately, so customer service is great for this.

You’re also going to need an Olympic weight set. It’s pretty much a necessity, along with an Olympic bar. I purchased these at Dick’s Sporting Goods. They were on sale for under $300 for 255 pounds, and then you can just get some clips at Amazon for around $10. If you need more than 255 pounds just get two additional 45 pound weights locally, either on Craigslist or at a local gym. It really doesn’t matter if they’re rusty, they’re just weights.

Also you’re going to need a calf block. This is a necessity for all your calf exercises since you’re not going to have any dedicated calf machines. You can do a variety of different exercises, but each one uses this. It’s about $50 on Amazon.

Next you’re going to want a bench. I have the Ironmaster Super Bench. It was around $320 on Amazon. I know over $300 is a lot just for a bench but it’s really versatile and you can do incline, decline, of course flat, but you really want to make sure you get a sturdy bench because this is rated 1000 pounds. You don’t want to get a bench that’s rated much lower than that.

You don’t want to get a cheap Marcy or a Nova bench. You can also see if your local gym has a bench as well. You might not be able to get one that does incline and decline. But that’s what I like about this one because if you have two benches, especially in a space as small as 13 by 13 or any smaller, you’re going to start to get a little crowded.

With the seat attachment you can do an incline. Then you can also get an additional decline attachment. This is around $70. Again, it’s all together around $400 for a bench but it’s definitely worth it. You might be able to find it cheaper but just put this on the end and then that’s your decline as well.

Now you’re also going to want some dumbbells. If you’re going to go the cheaper route just get a pair of adjustable dumbbells. These were on Amazon for around 260. A lot of the cost was from shipping so if you can find some adjustable dumbbells on Craigslist it’ll save a lot of money that way. Now the ones I got on Amazon, I’ll provide the links.

They’re pretty wide. So if these are a little too wide for you, you could also get a saw and saw some of it off. You just have one lighter weight set and then a heavier weight set. Whatever you do just don’t get adjustable dumbbell sets at Wal-Mart because they’re cheap pieces of crap. A piece just broke off, I hope you can see, but I mean you get what you’re paying for at Wal-Mart. Just don’t get any gym equipment period at Wal-Mart. Word of advice. You’re going to pay a lot more for a lot lower quality.

Now you’re going to want some padding so you don’t chip your gym floor. What I have right now is the bare minimum to protect your floor. It’s just about a quarter inch to half inch of these anti-fatigue mats you can get at a lot of hardware places. I got mine at Harbor Freight. These are four square feet each and they come at four to a pack at $10 a pack. So it’s a cost effective way to cover your gym floor. I needed about $100 worth of pads to cover this floor. But they start to show wear right away.

As you can see there a bunch of divots which it’s not a problem. But what is a problem is when they start to separate in the high traffic areas, like right in front of the power rack. You’re going to get some separation, even though you can easily puzzle piece them back together they always become separate again because you get the shift in the padding overtime. To really get it back correctly you’d have to lift the power rack and all the weights just to get it back together and it’s really not worth it.

Instead of these I recommend Tractor Supply Co. They have these large one to two inch rubber mats they use for horses, but they’re about 20 square feet each. It’s going to be more expensive but it’s worth in the long run because they’re not going to shift around like these do.

Now as for protection for your floor, the bare minimum is going to prevent dents, but there, even 10 pounds at a couple of inches, I mean you can see a dent, but it’s good for a start. But after experiencing this I’d recommend just going with the rubber mats from Tractor Supply right away.

Now if you find adjustable dumbbells too much of a pain and you’re willing to spend the extra money you can get a whole dumbbell set for around $600 assuming they’re used and at around 50 cents a pound. You can get great deals if you just search locally for these dumbbells at local gyms and especially on Craigslist. If you build them up overtime instead of trying to buy a whole set at once, you’ll probably get a better deal. Once you find a set and you’re able to talk someone down, negotiate for the whole set. Just buy what you need.

If the heaviest dumbbells you use are 75 pounds then buy 65 pounds and then use the adjustable dumbbells for the 75 because you’re probably not going to use your heaviest set as much as you are the others. Also for the heavier weights, space them in 10 pound increments instead of five pound increments like you do with the lower weights. I started at 10 pounds then go in five pound increments up to 60. And then from 60 on I’d just go in 10 pound increments. Then I use my adjustable dumbbells for the heaviest set and I also use it to fill in between. I don’t have a 65 pound set so I just use those when I need them.

Also for the racks you’re also going to want to get these used. My spacing isn’t very efficient with these. I have just one rack at the top here. The bottom isn’t being used. I actually prefer having the weights at the top rack. That way you’re not bending over and having to pick up the heavy weight and possibly hurt your back. Now with the lower weights I use the four-tier set. If you had a two or three-tier set here I mean you can make do with half the space for the dumbbells.

Now these pieces of equipment aren’t exactly necessary but they do help flesh out the variety of lifts you can do. You can get a preacher bench. This is a pretty cheap one. It was about $100 new on Amazon. I mean it’s really light, which is actually an asset because then you can pick it up and move it around. You can use it for a variety of purposes once you attach a T-bar row attachment here. That really helps out, the amount of back exercises you can do. This is all you really need for your preacher bench.

This adjusts and then both of the racks here adjust. Then you’re also going to want to get an EZ curlbar. There’s a bunch of other small items you’ll get which will just make things easier. The Valor power rack comes with a cable system so you’re going to want a variety of attachments such as the rope attachment. This is the triangle attachment. It’s a variety of gears. Valor comes with a chain so you can adjust the length of the attachments. This is for squats. That’s about it.

You might want a plate tree. It’s really up to you. The Valor comes with four plate racks so you might not, but if you have the space definitely get a plate rack.

As I mentioned earlier you’ll want to use a site like to track your historic Amazon pricing. You want to purchase something when it’s in one of its price valleys. You can do this by setting up alerts with your email address so then it will email you once the price dips below the norm. For your local purchases such as barbells and dumbbells use CraigsList. Then for your equipment purchases set up some deal alerts on

Now let’s go over the bare minimums equipment needed for your home gym. First you want a power rack. That’s between $500 and $600. Your super bench, $400 with the attachment. Your Olympic weight set between $200 and $300. Your calf block depending on if you make it yourself or you purchase a metal version between $20 and $70 and your barbell clips. Your adjustable dumbbells. Get these regardless if you purchase the non-adjustable dumbbells or not. You’ll need these to fill in the gaps. These are between $120 and $240 depending on if you buy them locally or online.

So your total cost of the bare minimum home gym is between $1240 and $1610 whether or not you purchase them locally, used, or online. The break even for a $30 month gym is between three and half and four and a half years.

If you want to protect your floor get some mats. I highly recommend the Tractor Supply Co mats, a lot more expensive. But if you’re fine with piecing together puzzle board and putting them back together every now and then the Harbor Freight version is so much cheaper.

Your non-adjustable dumbbells set is going to be around $600, this assuming 50 cents per pound, used, getting them locally. For this set this is between this is from 10 pounds up to 85 pounds in five pound increments, except between 65 and 85 pounds, those are in 10 pound increments. Then if you need something in between those, just use your adjustable dumbbell set. You can get used racks for around $100.

T-bar bracket $40 online. Handles and barbell pads between $50 and $100, depending if you get those locally or not. Preacher bench around $100. You can probably get a used preacher bench locally for around the same price, but I like the online version just because I think the light weight is an asset in the home gym because it’s easier to move around. Your EZ curl bar is between $30 and $80, and your Plate tree between $30 and $45.

Total cost of the complete home gym is anywhere between about $2300 to $2900 and your break even for this is between 6.3 and eight years. Now it seems like it’s a long time to get your return on your investment, but this doesn’t factor in hard-to-cost benefits like gas and your time saved from not driving to the gym daily. Depending on how you value your time and how far the gym is this is going to vary a lot person to person. That should be it and good luck with your deal hunting.

Correct Squat Stance: How Wide, and How Low?

squat form
Here is an example of a shoulder-width stance.

Squats are a great exercise to strengthen the lower body and are fairly easy to incorporate into a workout.  However, as with most athletic and weight-lifting activities, form is incredibly important in completing the exercise correctly.  Improper form can result in injury or a lack of effectiveness, and no one wants to get hurt or waste his or her time working out incorrectly.

Squats can be particularly difficult to figure out the correct form because there is some debate over how to position the body.  Some people believe that a wider stance is more effective, while others think that the feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Aside from that, many disagree on how deep squats should go—is parallel good enough, or should a squatter try to get the deepest squat possible?  All of these conflicting opinions can be confusing, but squats are actually fairly easy to sort out.

Figuring out Squat Stance

wide stance squat
Here is an example of a wide-stance squat.

Positioning the legs in the first step in a successful squat.  First of all, stance depends on the physical composition of the person exercising.  Some people may be more comfortable with a wider stance, and women in particular may choose a wide stance or point their feet out more because their hips are turned out further.  Having a wide stance does not necessarily mean that the squat is being done incorrectly.

The most important part is choosing a stance that allows for proper form.  Keeping the feet closer to shoulder distance apart will work the legs and quads more, while a wider stance is better for working out the glutes.  Either of these choices is fine, depending on which area of the body you want to work harder.  The most important aspects are keeping the torso in the correct position, keeping your feet firmly planted on the floor, tracking your knees and feet in the same direction, and making sure your knees do not extend past your toes.

How Low Should You Go?

While it is a popular opinion that “real” squats require lowering the body to the ground, this is not necessary for an effective squat.  The key with squats is to go below parallel—to have the line of the hips go beneath the line of the knees (unless you have a medical condition that prevents this).  Deeper squats are not necessarily more successful, and in some cases may be a detriment [1]. Once again, the key is keeping correct form.

Sacrificing form for a deeper squat means that the exercise is not as effective as it would be with a shallower squat and perfect form.  Letting the knees splay out or cave in, putting too much pressure on the toes, or bending the lower back can all result in injury.  It’s best to stay comfortable with your stance and depth, rather than trying for a wider or deeper squat and risking injury.

Getting the Most Out of Your Squats

When you have the correct form down, squats should be an effective way to build lower body strength and muscle.  Once comfortable with squats, you may want to look into supplementing with branched-chain amino acids to improve performance and muscle gains [2].  These supplements can give your workout an extra kick, and help you see better results faster.

You may also find yourself struggling with muscle soreness after an intense lower-body workout. Try taking a citrulline malate supplement to reduce muscle soreness or protein powder to support your muscles with proper nutrition.



DIY Energy Drink

DIY energy drink

When you think of energy drinks you probably think of Red Bull. However, those are packed with calories, sugar, and will cost you a ton of money over time. But what can you do when you need an inexpensive energy boost? Make your own DIY energy drink.

DIY Energy Drink Supplements

DIY Energy Drink Supplies

  • Caffeine powder
  • Theanine supplement
  • Sugar or stevia
  • Flavoring powder
  • Milligram scale
  • Water

To make this drink, you will need caffeine powder, theanine supplement, and some kind of sweetener such as sugar or stevia as well as a flavoring of some kind (lime powder mix, citric powder, etc).

The batch we are going to make includes 16 cups of energy drink and costs less than $0.25 per gallon. That’s significantly cheaper than your average energy drink.

Caffeine is an obvious choice, but why is theanine included? More often than not, individuals choose to take energy drinks because they need to clear their head and focus on the task at hand.

Unfortunately, caffeine often comes with the jitters. This is why theanine is an excellent addition. The two supplements work together synergistically to boost your energy and focus without the jitters to provide clean and smooth concentration.

How to Make the Drink

To make the drink, you will need to heat up your water. This is to more easily dissolve the supplements. While the water is heating go ahead and measure out your supplements using a milligram scale.

You will need 450mg of caffeine (this will give you around 30mg of caffeine per cup). Most individuals choose to supplement theanine and caffeine in a 2:1 ratio, calling for 900mg of theanine. However, if you find that makes you too relaxed, you can do a 1:1 ratio of 450mg caffeine and 450mg theanine.

For a sweeter energy drink, use 800mg of stevia. However, if you aren’t a big sugar fan start with 600mg and increase from there. As for the flavoring you chose, just follow the instructions on the package to make 1 gallon.

Once your water is done heating up, add all of the powders and stir until the supplements, especially caffeine, are completely dissolved. Then, simply pour it into a pitcher, and you’re done. You now have an energy drink for less than $0.25 per gallon!

Watch a Video Demonstration

The video transcript is available below.

How to Carbonate Your Own Water

Some people really like that carbonated feel a lot of energy drinks have. If this is the case, you can also carbonate your own water!

To do this you will need a bottle, a tire valve, cold tap or filtered water, and a way to pressurize the bottle with CO2 (most often a CO2 tank).

You can easily drill a hole in your bottle cap and insert the tire valve. Next you will want to fill the bottle with water but leave some room for air. Squeeze the bottle until the water reaches the rim and screw on the cap with the tire valve in it.

Attach the CO2 tank to the valve and fill the empty space you squeezed to fully inflate the bottle. Do not over do it, or it might explode. Now shake the bottle (still attached to the tank) to mix and dissolve the CO2. Now you can remove the cap, and you have carbonated water. You can watch this youtube video for further instruction

How to make Concentrated Caffeine Water

coffee-beansWhat if you want concentrated caffeine water on hand to be able to easily measure a dose of caffeine? Or what if you wanted to caffeinate some of your favorite foods and products? Caffeinated alternatives are always much more expensive than their original counterparts. However, caffeine powder is incredibly inexpensive, so you can make your own caffeinated brownies if you so desired.

You will need a scale accurage to 1g, preferably to 1mg; bulk caffeine powder; a 500ml-1L bottle; a funnel; and warm or hot water (filtered or distilled is preferred).

Caffeine is incredibly potent in bulk form, so be careful when dosing. A standard serving size is 50mg; however, some individuals take up to 200mg at a time. The easiest way to accurately measure out caffeine is to dilute it in water. The following method will result in a concentration of 10mg per mL. This translates to 50mg per teaspoon.

Secure your scale to your bottle and begin filling it with water (1mL is equal to 1g) until you hit your desired 100g increment (500g, 600g, etc). Make sure to leave some space to add the caffeine. When adding the caffeine, divide your water weight by 100 to determine the proper caffeine dosage. So 500g of water will need 5g of caffeine.

Now you will need to screw on the lid to your bottle and shake it. This may take some time as caffeine does not dissolve easily. To speed up this process, you could leave your bottle out in the sun, near a hot water heater, or run it under hot water to heat up the water inside. Continue shaking every few minutes until dissolved.

Unfortunately, caffeine has a very distinct and bitter taste. If you are mixing it with a flavored powder and sugar of some kind as we suggest above you will not notice the bitterness.

Now you have an easy to measure caffeine mixture. If you want to use 50mg of caffeine, measure out a teaspoon; 150mg of caffeine is equivalent to a tablespoon. Your standard cup of coffee has around 85-125mg of caffeine, so start low until you find the dosage that works best for you. Be careful though as it is possible to overdose on caffeine.

Video Transcript

Let’s make our own energy drink. It’s not carbonated, you can make about 16 cups in less than 5 minutes, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying pre-made energy drinks like Red Bull. To do this, you’ll need caffeine powder, L-Theanine, and some kind of sweetener like Stevia or sugar. I use Stevia. And also you’re going to need some kind of flavoring.I’m just using Great Value brand lime powder mix from Walmart and also food coloring. Now if you buy bulk powders, this equates to less than $0.25 for a whole gallon. I’ll put the links to where you can buy these bulk powders in the video description. First, we’ll heat up some water in the microwave for about a minute and a half.

We want to really get the water hot so that the powder’s dissolve. Then while that’s heating up, let’s go ahead and measure up the caffeine and theanine. I like to use about 450 milligrams of caffeine, that equates to about 30 milligrams per cup. I forget to turn it on here. You can adjust it accordingly.

Let’s see. And as for the ratio between caffeine and theanine, I like to use a one to one ratio. Some people like to use a two to one between theanine and caffeine, but I find that that makes me a little tired, whereas theanine is just supposed to, I’ll make this about 900 total, whereas theanine is just supposed to take the nervous edge off caffeine.

All right, close enough. Okay. We’re going to measure out for a sweetener using Stevia. I like to use about an 800 grams per gallon. You can adjust that as well. You can always add more later, maybe start with 600 and then increase it from there, it really depends upon your preference. I like mine a little sweeter.

All right. Okay. Water’s done heating up. We’re going to add our flavoring and our food coloring. Just stir until everything is completely dissolved. Then add it to the pitcher. And now you have a gallon energy drink for less than 25 cents.

How Much Protein Does a Person Need?

whey milk protein

The body needs plenty of protein because protein builds muscle and aids in a variety of internal processes. While most Americans eat plenty of protein in their diets, getting the right kind of protein is just as important as how much is consumed. Different proteins play different roles in muscle growth, immunity, hormone regulation, and energy production. Whey proteins have become popular as a supplement because they can be used for muscle building as well as a variety of other health benefits.

What are Whey Protein Supplements?

whey protein builds muscle
The first step to building a great physique is to make sure you’re ingesting enough protein.

As the name suggests, whey protein comes from whey, a by-product of cheese production. It contains all of the soluble proteins and nutrients from milk, but is dehydrated into a more convenient supplement form. Whey is generally available in three different forms: concentrates, isolates, and hydrosolates.

Concentrates still contain fats and lactose, but are less processed than other whey protein forms. Isolates have the fat and lactose removed and are made up of a higher percentage of pure protein. Hydrosolates are processed even further and metabolize more easily. All of the forms of whey protein can be used as a pre-workout supplement to increase gains in muscle mass (1).

The Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey protein is an incredibly popular supplement for bodybuilders due to its ability to help increase muscle mass and endurance and reduce body fat. It stimulates protein synthesis in the muscles, which means more muscle mass and more energy.

These proteins are also absorbed quickly, meaning that they start working faster than other supplements. Whey protein will increase blood flow to muscles, providing energy and allowing for a faster post-workout recovery. On top of the workout benefits, whey proteins contain leucine, a compound that helps the body to adapt to high levels of stress from exercise. Whey contains antioxidants that destroy free radicals, and also blocks harmful carcinogens from affecting the body. Using whey protein not only helps during and after workouts, but also protects your body from outside threats.

How Much Whey Protein to Take

whey protein shake
Whey protein makes for a delicious pre or post-workout snack.

Ultimately, the body needs at minimum between 46 and 56 grams of protein per day, and whey protein is a great way to reach, or even exceed, that number. Proteins from food are necessary to keep the body running, but adding whey protein has the added benefit of being a workout booster.

A whey protein supplement can be taken before workouts, usually in an amount of 10 to 20 grams, but can also be taken post-workout at 20 to 40 grams. It can also be taken in between meals for an extra boost. The amount of protein needed by the body is actually fairly small; supplementing with whey protein means that you get extra nutrients, more power, and more strength.

1. Burke, Darren G. “The Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation With and Without Creatine Monohydrate Combined With Resistance Training on Lean Tissue Mass and Muscle Strength”. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.

D-Ribose for Muscle Energy and Strength

weightlifting d-ribose

Sometimes, no matter how motivated or how well-rested you are, you simply don’t feel like you have enough energy during workouts. Supplementing with d-ribose powder is one way to boost muscle energy and get past muscle fatigue. D-ribose is a naturally occurring sugar, which means that it’s safe to take and your body will gladly accept the energy that d-ribose provides.

What is D-Ribose?

d-ribose weightlifting gains
D-ribose can help with that burst of energy needed in the deadlift.

Your muscle cells already contain ribose, a sugar that is used in the manufacturing of amino acids and that promotes metabolic processes. D-ribose, the naturally occurring version of ribose that is in almost all living things, is crucial in starting the process in your body that makes ATP.

Your body uses ATP as energy for almost everything, which means that slowed metabolism of ATP will make you feel sluggish. Clinical studies have shown that supplementing with D-ribose can improve metabolic function and restore energy [1]. It can also reduce after-workout muscle cramps and stiffness, allowing for faster recovery [2].

Benefits of D-Ribose in Muscle Cells

When D-ribose enters the body, it provides greater energy production and helps the user feel more energized. It can be used pre-workout to stop fatigue, and will lower muscle strain. It can also be taken independently of workouts to reduce other types of muscle pain, or to provide energy throughout the day.

D-ribose is becoming increasingly popular because it is natural, effective, and safe. Supplementing with D-ribose supplies your body with more of a sugar that it already has, and boosts your natural production of energy rather than altering it or interfering with existing cellular mechanisms. Taking this supplement is like giving your body a shortcut to making more D-ribose, which is usually a long process. Providing more of it to your muscles quickly lets them recover faster and work better without waiting to synthesize more D-ribose to get the energy they need. Some people even use D-ribose in their energy stack to maximize their potential energy.

How to Take D-Ribose for Energy

d-ribose weightlifting
Supplement right and lift heavy!

D-Ribose is widely available as a dietary supplement powder, and should be taken several times a day before and after working out to maintain energy levels. The suggested dosage is 3 to 5 grams a day, though the amount taken should be modified according to body weight.


Nitric Oxide Supplements

Nitric oxide works to increase muscle size

Nitric oxide is a chemical compound made of nitrogen and oxygen. As a supplement, it is widely used to increase muscle size and endurance. Nitric oxide increases blood flow, which can lead to increased muscle gains.

How does Nitric Oxide Work? What is it and Why is it Important?

Nitric oxide benefits
Nitric oxide can help with muscle strength and growth.

Nitric oxide is a very important biological messenger, and a versatile molecule. It is synthesized from arginine, oxygen, and NADPH. Blood vessels use this compound to relax the surrounding muscles, which makes it a vasodilator.

Its main role in the body is regulating blood flow and communication between different organ systems such as the brain, lungs, and kidneys. Nitric oxide can diffuse freely across membranes, which makes it effective and fast-acting. It can also affect the body’s release of adrenaline and other hormones. Therefore, it can help muscles get more nutrients while under physical stress.

Nitric Oxide Benefits

nitric oxide muscle growth
Nitric oxide can help you set new personal records.

The vasodilation and hormone increasing effects of nitric oxide are believed to make it effective as a supplement for greater endurance and muscle gains. Those supplementing with nitric oxide often report more muscle growth after workouts, and less fatigue. The ability to workout harder and faster means that muscle growth can happen more quickly, and it is easier to increase workout length and intensity when more blood is flowing freely to the muscles. Taking nitric oxide can help increase the anaerobic threshold, the point at which lactic acid builds up in muscles and causes fatigue.

Nitric oxide supplements, and those that increase the influx of nitric oxide to the body, have been shown effective in increasing blood flow in active men [1]. Some supplements contain a precursor to nitric oxide, which is then synthesized in the body after ingestion. Either supplement will rapidly diffuse into the body and increase blood flow quickly.

Taking Nitric Oxide Supplements

The best way to take nitric oxide supplements is by mixing the supplement powder with a beverage and consuming it pre-workout. It is best to follow the dosage instructions that come with the specific supplement, since most nitric oxide powders will contain other compounds that help the nitric oxide to absorb. Supplements commonly contain arginine, citrulline, and other strength boosters that help the efficacy of nitric oxide.

Nitric Oxide Supplement Side Effects

There are many N.O. boosting supplements available on the market, so side effects may vary depending on the supplement. The most common side effects include, nausea, changes in blood pressure, and decreased dopamine levels. There are several supplements to take that may counteract the side effects of nitric oxide supplements. Fish Oil maintains healthy blood pressure levels and mucuna pruriens increases dopamine levels.



Cissus Quadrangularis vs Glucosamine for Joint Pain?

knee joint pain

Glucosamine and cissus quadrangularis are both commonly used to reduce joint pain and improve mobility. People with ongoing joint pain often want to be able to remain active, and natural supplements are a great way to reduce pain and accomplish daily tasks. Glucosamine was long lauded as the best supplement for joint pain, but recently the extract of cissus quadrangularis, an herb from India, has gained popularity as an effective joint pain reliever.

What are Glucosamine and Cissus?

cissus quadrangularis
The cissus quadrangularis plant resembles a skinny cactus.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar that is found in shellfish, bone marrow, and fungi. It is made by hydrolyzing chitin, a structural component of cells. It is a precursor to glycosaminoglycans, which are key components of joint cartilage. Taking glucosamine may then help to repair damaged joints.

Cissus comes from the cissus quadrangularis plant, a member of the grape family that is found across Southeast Asia and Africa. It was often used in classical medicine to help heal injuries, and is taken as a supplement to aid in anything from healing broken bones to stopping gastric distress [1].

It helps to quicken the healing process because it has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and also works as an antioxidant. Cissus supplements taken for joint pain will help to improve joint function by lessening pain and revitalizing injured joints.

Cissus Quadrangularis vs Glucosamine?

jogging joint pain
Jogging can cause joint pain. Use supplements to counteract the effect.

Because glucosamine is found naturally in healthy cartilage, it makes sense to take for joint pain. Glucosamine supplements are a natural way to improve the quality of life for someone having joint problems. It is thought to be particularly effective for knee pain, and it is often taken with chondroitin, a compound derived from cartilage that allows for faster pain relief [2].

Cissus has many benefits, since it has so many uses. Besides relieving joint pain, it helps general healing processes and can relieve a variety of minor ailments. It has even been used for a weight loss supplement. Either supplement is great for joint pain relief, but cissus can also be used for other health benefits.

Taking Supplements for Joint Pain

Glucosamine is most effective in amounts of 500 mg 3 times daily, thought the full 1.5 gram amount can be taken at once. Cissus is recommended in amounts between 500 and 1000 mg, though it depends on the concentration of the plant extract. It is always best to start with a lower dosage, because cissus can take some time to have its full pain-relieving effect.


Creatine as a Nootropic Supplement

Pictured above is creatine being measure in a spoon. This is not a recommended way to measure your creatine dosage.

The odds are that you have heard of creatine and its association with athletic performance. Creatine is a popular choice for athletes thanks to its effect on lean muscle mass and its energy-boosting properties.

But did you know that creatine also has nootropic properties? The benefits of creatine are myriad: increased memory, reduced fatigue, improved mood, and even reduced brain fog. Let’s take a closer look at the mental benefits you’ll receive from taking creatine supplement.

Memory Benefits of Creatine

Creatine can be used a nootropic to boost brain power.
Creatine is a proven brain-booster!

Creatine is  known to increase your short-term memory and this increase is one of the most well-documented benefits of the compound. Supporting studies abound: improvements in memory span[1], improvements in working memory[2], and prevention of memory decline [3]. Scientifically, the results are in: creatine is great for improving memory.

So how exactly does a supplement known for its physical benefits do so much for the brain? Creatine primarily works by increasing your synthesis of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP [4]. ATP is a nucleotide that functions as the primary source of energy for cells.

In other words, the more ATP that you’re synthesizing, the more fully and efficiently your cells can transmit information. Think of ATP as the “fuel” for the neurological vehicles taxiing information around your brain. Higher levels of ATP make calling to mind that elusive word or thought that much easier.

Creatine for Fatigue

Creatine’s ability to enhance your production of ATP also ties directly into another one of its main benefits: fatigue reduction. Studies have found that creatine’s abilities to reduce fatigue and boost energy are apparent even at low doses [5]. Since increased ATP boosts cellular performance, creatine is at least partially responsible for this energy boost, but there is more to the picture than that.

After a successful study on creatine’s mental-fatigue-reducing effects, a team of researchers measured an increase of cerebral-oxygenated hemoglobin in the brains of the test subjects. This increase was evidence of increased oxygen use by the brain. In other words, creatine primes your brain for improved performance.

Creatine for Mood

Creatine's nootropic side effects include increased mood.
Creatine can boost your mood.

Studies have found that taking a creatine supplement has mood boosting properties both on its own and synergistically with prescription anti-depressants [6]. This synergy too ties into creatine’s boosted production of ATP. Beyond that, creatine has also been shown to reduce some of the side effects of sleep deprivation, such as irritability [7].

Additionally, boosted energy levels means reduced stress making it much easier for your better moods to shine through. While the exact benefits of creatine for mood are not fully understood, what we know so far seems promising.

Creatine for Brain Fog

One of the bottom lines of nootropics is that, one way or another, you are probably going to deal with brain fog. Some people might be looking to alleviate existing brain fog, while for others brain fog may be caused by a nootropic.

Either way, the verdict is clear: having a gummed-up haze hampering your mental performance is no fun. The great news is that here too a creatine supplement will benefit you. Here is the impressive part: even this benefit is tied to creatine’s ATP production, albeit from a slightly different way. Increased ATP improves your brain’s ability to block negative effects by allowing the brain to more quickly deal with any deficiencies.  A study found that creatine supplementation improved the subject’s fluid intelligence, or their ability to solve problems and derive meaning from abstract knowledge [8]. Or in other words, directly counteract the effects of brain fog.

Bottom Line: Creatine as a Nootropic

Creatine is a harmless amino acid with many benefits for the keen-eyed nootropic user looking for something to top off their stack. As long as you keep your dosing at safe levels, creatine has tremendous potential for improving your mental performance. Not only that, but thanks to the ways a creatine supplement will benefit your mood and fatigue, creatine is an almost sure-fire way to improve your all-around quality of life.



Pre-Workout Supplements: Do I need anything more than caffeine or am I wasting money?

caffeine is found in coffee

With the flashy marketing and high-pressure sales tactics favored by supplement companies, pre-workout supplements may come off as snake oil. And to be honest, some pre-workout supplements are ineffective, overpriced, and full of nasty filler that will do more harm than good (see: belly fat).

That being said, there are a few supplements that I highly suggest including in your pre-workout blend in addition to caffeine. We all know that caffeine supplements can boost your energy levels, but what other supplements can have an impact on your workout? Let’s take a look at my three favorite pre-workout supplements other than caffeine: L-arginine, creatine, and beta-alanine.



Muscle growth
L-arginine can help with muscle growth

L-arginine is an amino acid that shows significant promise in increasing natural production of growth hormone, boosting testosterone levels, and reducing fatigue. L-arginine is the precursor to nitric oxide, and increased nitric oxide production is a great thing for exercise.Why? Nitric oxide is responsible for vasodilation.

When vasodilation occurs, blood vessels widen. Wider blood vessels equal better blood flow. Better blood flow equals more effective oxygen transportation. More oxygen equals more intense workouts. It is as simple as that! Also, for you men out there, I can report that l-arginine is a big boost in the bedroom!


Creatine can be added to protein shakes
Creatine can be added to protein shakes

If you’ve spent any time in the workout community, you’ve heard about creatine. Creatine is an organic acid found in many foods, especially fish. Creatine powder’s main function is to supply energy to the cells, in particularly to muscle.

If you eat meat on a regular basis, your body probably has a standard supply of creatine. If you don’t… well, I hate to tell you, but you’re probably deficient. That being said, even meat eaters can benefit from a creatine supplement regimen because the more creatine your body has, the more energy is supplied to your cells. More energy translates into more intense and productive workouts. Great deal, right?


Beta-alanine is another amino acid, and if you’ve ever taken a pre-workout blend before, then you know EXACTLY what beta-alanine does. You know that tingly, powerful, stimulant feeling you get after taking your pre-workout? That’s beta-alanine doing its job.


Beta-alanine can help increase muscular endurance
Beta-alanine can help increase muscular endurance

Beta-alanine is all-around my favorite supplement other than caffeine because it helps with weight-loss, stamina, and muscle recovery. It is an all-in-one miracle supplement, and I say that with 100 percent sincerity.


So, knowing that these three supplements (plus caffeine) are decent is one thing, but how do you go about introducing them to your workouts? You can do what I do, which is buy the bulk supplement powders and cap my own pre-workout pills, but I recognize that the capping process is labor intensive and some of you may have busy schedules. So what do you do? Simple, check out the nutrition labels on pre-workout blends and keep an eye out for these supplements. Speaking from experience, both MusclePharm Assault and Cellucor C4 are good choices.