Grizzly Guide to Making Your Own Pre-Workout

I’ve been playing a lot recently with my caffeine intake, during midterms it really skyrocketed and messed with a ton of things, including my sleep. I see lot of things like Koios on the market and I got curious – if there was a way to stretch a smaller amount of caffeine to the same effect, mental performance, clarity, and energy without all the none sense that comes with 900mg of caffeine in a single day. This led me down the road of making my own pre workout and I actually found it far more effective than anything I’ve ever bought (and I’ve bought a lot of them). Obviously once I nailed down something I liked my first thought was to share it with you guys.

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So I stared my journey on PowderCity.com which has a whole pre workout section. As my flavored base, I used 2-3 scoops, 100mg-150mg of caffeine, of Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy. This was both a solid BCAA source pre-training as well as caffeine, and you need something flavored, cause all these nootropics taste like butthole, literally, Beasley told me, he licks his a lot.

So here’s what I did…

Oxiracetam – Oxiracetam is one of the three first-tier Racetam compounds, being produced after both Piracetam and Aniracetam. Oxiracetam appears to enhance the release of excitatory neurotransmitters and can aid in memory formation. So you’ll definitely remember all those PR’s. JK, but seriously, racetams are pretty well established in the nootropic community and can really stretch that caffeine jolt.

Alpha-GPC – a cholinergic compound that is used for its cognitive-promoting properties, and to enhance power output in athletes. It appears to also support cellular membranes, and may aid in preventing cognitive decline. Choline in humans has 3 main purposes, structural integrity and signaling roles for cell membranes, cholinergic neurotransmission (acetylcholine synthesis), and a major source for methyl groups via its metabolite, trimethylglycine (betaine), which participates in the S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) synthesis pathways. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choline) The one we care about here is the 2nd one, neurotransmission.

Noopept – Noopept is the brand name for N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine ethyl ester , a synthetic Nootropic molecule. Noopept has a similar effect to Piracetam, in that it provides a mild cognitive boost after supplementation. Noopept also provides a subtle psychostimulatory effect. So really you probably only need either Noopept or Oxiracetam, if you’re doing this yourself maybe pick one.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine – L-Carnitine and the related compound Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) are compounds able to alleviate the effects of aging and disease on mitochondria, while increasing the mitochondria’s potential to burn fat. ALCAR is often used as a brain booster, due to its ability to increase alertness and mitochondrial capacity while providing support for the neurons. Here we have a slight stimulatory effect, a neuromodulatory effect, and a fat burnings/mitochondiral effect, perfect for a pre workout.

L-Tyrosine – L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that is used to produce noradrenaline and dopamine; supplemental appears to be anti-stress for acute stressors (which tend to deplete noradrenaline) and may preserve stress-induced memory deficits.

Combine all that with the BCAA and Caffeine and you’ve got a pretty potent mix without all the other garbage people put in pre-workouts. Let’s compare some costs. I’m going to use one of the most popular pre workouts I know of – Cellucor C4 which is $40 for 30 servings, so that’s the baseline I’ll use for cost – $1.33/serving.

There’s a fair bit of math here so stick with me…
Oxiracetam is $19.99 for 50g, which is 66 servings of 750mg, or $0.30/serving
Alpha-GPC is $85 for 250g, which is 104 servings of 1200mg, or $0.80/serving
Noopept is $12.99 for 10g, which is 1000 servings! of 10mg, about a penny/serving (probably want to use this instead of the racetam above)
ALCAR is $7.51 for 100g, which is 100 servings of 1000mg, or $0.07/serving
L-Tyrosine is $5.59 for 100g, which is 100 servings of 1000mg, or $0.05/serving

Amino Energy is $37.99 for 65 servings, which is $0.58/serving.

Thus our total cost without Oxiracetam is = $1.50/serving for a pre workout that works and has nothing to do with enormous quantities of caffeine.

You’ll notice, that we’re above the baseline of $1.33/serving. There’s really nothing I can do about that, because of the Alpha-GPC mostly, it’s the powerhouse here, some studies even show its effectiveness at increasing power output greater than caffeine. Plus it synergizes well with almost everything else in here. I love this pre-workout, and I actually get to sleep at night, and don’t need a coffee 2 hours later. If you’re burnt out on caffeine and looking for a change, I highly recommend you design your own. If this was all too much for you, Powder City sells pre-made stacks that make it much simpler. Alternatively you could substitute a cheaper form of choline, say Choline Bitartrate, which is only $8.47 for 500g, which drops the price of the pre workout down under $0.50/serving which is much better than store bought pre workouts.

Deep, Deep, Deep Off Season

Here’s the deal. I’m not quitting Crossfit outright, but I am taking a rather extended break for reasons I’ve touched on previously. Primarily, for the type of Competitive Exerciser I want to be, I just don’t have the time and energy right now to do all the things required, not just the workouts but the recovery and planning. It requires a lot of energy, more than ever before. What I’ve learned over the last 6 months is that beating your head against a wall like that doesn’t really make you a happy, fulfilled person. Lately I’ve simplified my goals, probably down to the simplest they’ve ever been. In a weird, big picture way, they are still Crossfit oriented, but for the next year, until I’m done with school, the goal is to move better, work on skills, and get as strong as possible without adding unnecessary weight. Pretty cut and dry I think. This way, when I graduate in December 2016, I can turn my attention back to Crossfit and hopefully be in solid enough shape to make a run at the 2016 Open. For now though, I needed to get rid of that negative energy, that feeling of failure, and that frustration. So I have.

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With that said, I think a lot of people could benefit from this train of thought. And by a lot of people I mean a lot of people doing Crossfit, either for sport or for exercise, very few are truly strong enough to be competitive, but insist on doing metcon after metcon as the solution. Perhaps you’re in the genetic elite that can condition their balls off (or ovaries if you’re of the female persuasion), and still get stronger. I’m not in that category, nor probably are you, because its a fraction of a percent, you’d know by now, it’s not just hiding waiting to come out. The point is, getting stronger never hurt anyone in sport, save for maybe marathoners, but in general being stronger makes you more athletic, more powerful, and gives you more room to do more work. The biggest improvement I ever made in Crossfit is when I was doing the most strength work, and then stopped to focus on conditioning and skills. Partitioning your time can be much more effective than trying to do everything at once. In a way I’m sort of justifying this choice to myself, but in reality it’s already been made so it doesn’t really matter.

A video posted by Daniel Nolan (@grizzlystrong) on

The other half of the equation here is of course diet. I’ve been on some sort of macro template for athletic performance for better than a year. The funny part is they really aren’t all that different, look at your lean body pass, assess your activity level, do some napkin math and boom here’s what you eat. The problem was really paleo. Paleo is a great starting template for someone trying to eat healthier, and provides an adequate amount of energy for the average person. Most of us aren’t average people, we have greater than average energy expenditure, we have greater than average muscle mass, we’re greater than average. Obviously you can still be paleo and train for athletics, but it requires some hard effort and thought, I’ve written about this before so I won’t break it down again. Let’s look at some specifics.

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When I was training twice a day, about a year ago, I was following the guidelines of Dynamic Nutrition, and I was doing quite well, my target caloric intake per day was 3800 calories, 210-260g of protein, and a minimum of 215g of carbs, with the rest coming from fat. This was a vague guideline but I did alright with it, but I didn’t get enough carbohydrates, and the ones I was getting were centered around training, which wasn’t a bad thing in itself, but eventually wore me down. Tracking an average day was something like this 3652 calories, 338g carbs, 272g, protein. I ate like this for a long time, truthfully I’m not sure why I stopped. I switched to the RP diet when I got back from Italy, which had similar recommendations, with slightly different carbohydrate timings, and volume, eating large amounts close to training, and smaller amounts as you got further from training (not giving away many secrets here). The problem I had with it, is that there was almost too much freedom, I needed something dumber, the mix and match style just made meal prep too difficult, and my training schedule meant I had 3-4 templates to follow, which was similarly overwhelming. I know, boo hoo, diets are soooo hard. The last 8 weeks I was doing carb cycling, which is probably the least I’ve eaten in the last year, with some days carbohydrate intake being as low as 100-150g, and calories similarly lower. Now the real question is why am I rehashing the last year of diets, well I think its an opportunity to learn from my wandering, if you have something that works, just keep doing it. Finally, now I’m following a diet outlined by Charles Poliquin’s BioPrint courtesy of the one and only James Harris, which is super interesting, and requires weekly weigh-in’s with bodyfat caliper testing. My training day calories are 4,072 (the most I’ve ever consumed), with 311g of protein, 136g of fat, and 400g of carbohydrates (also the most I’ve ever eaten). The funny part is I don’t feel like I’m eating a lot, and I’m actually pretty hungry usually, that’s good right? Am I dying? Better WedMD this…. Cancer?! I knew it! Sorry cancer isn’t funny.

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I think that’s it for not – goals, training, diet, nailed it! Happy Halloween internet friends!

Product Review: The Marc Pro Plus

For whatever reason, these review posts always get pushed to the bottom of the pile, I’m more than happy to finally be getting to this one though. First of, I’m not going to completely rehash the basic Marc Pro functionality that carries over to the new unit, so if you’re curious about the basic unit, read my original review here. For this review I’ll be focusing specifically on the high frequency features of the Marc Pro Plus.

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What Is It?

I’ve found the easiest way to write this section is by process of elimination, instead of saying what the Marc Pro Plus (MPP) is, it’s far easier to define what it isn’t first. It’s not a TENS unit. The traditional TENS unit is a waveform pulse, meaning the electrical stimulus is applied instantly without any gradient, and shut off just as quickly, thus you get a 100% contraction and then rest. This obviously would mimic real work, and is a fatiguing contraction. The low frequency contraction of the MP is non-fatiguing, and not a square form pulse. It’s not a medical device, legally it can’t be, they can’t sell it that way. Though there are always off-label uses. We’ll touch on this a little later. So then what is it, well the main purpose of the “Plus” is pain resolution through high frequency contraction. Unlike the MP low frequency setting that you apply directly to large muscle bodies. The high frequency setting would quickly tetanize any muscle group. As such the electrodes get placed directly on top of joints ideally, or in areas where they won’t force contractions in larger muscle groups. This allows the electrical stimulus to calm irritated nerves and associated muscle tension while the low frequency side moves waste and helps condition the muscle. Often, especially when acute injury occurs to a joint, the bodies reaction to protect it is for the surrounding muscles to somewhat seize to prevent further injury. Typically rest and ice is prescribed here before any more effective measures can be taken. The Marc Pro Plus let’s you resolve this tension more quickly and get back to training 100%. It’s really designed to work with itself, combining low frequency recovery and high frequency pain resolution increases the productive capacity of the unit exponentially.

How Does It Work

With the added features, the operation of the unit is very different than the original. The basics of the Marc Pro are, place pads, turn on unit, reach desired power output, and relax. It really is a set it and forget it type of experience, the simplicity of it was one of its biggest selling points for me. The Plus however is designed for someone wanting far more control over their experience. In addition to having a high frequency mode, it also allows you a full manual mode, which let’s you control the frequency and intensity totally. The default setting for low is 2 hz or 2 contractions per second, and 60 hz for high. The manual mode lets you set the intensity for either high or low to any frequency from 1 to 70 hz. Not only does this give you enormous control over your experience with the unit, it also opens up the possibility for off-label uses. The largest proponent of this is Brian Mackenzie, who publishes several of these to his Instagram. He uses it for form correction drills, hypertrophy, isolation work, eccentric training and even mobility. The beauty of the added complexity is that it’s still very simple to use, there are no program buttons or complicated settings, just the same on and off button for high/low frequency, and an intensity button. Additionally the published placements you receive with the Plus are quite good, and come with suggested intensities as well, which keeps it as much like the original as possible. At the end of the day you can just as simply place the pads, turn it on, and be on your way to recovery and pain resolution.

A video posted by brian mackenzie (@iamunscared) on

How It’s Different From The MP

The only true difference is in it’s capabilities. On the surface it looks the same, operates more or less the same, and uses the same waveform at a different frequency to accomplish a different goal. The difference is really in the pad placement protocols, as I mentioned above the placements rely on a different physiological mechanism and as such should be used differently. Rather than aiming for large muscle bellies, you want almost the exact opposite, focusing on the joints themselves. The magic is when you combine a large muscle belly recovery contraction with the joint focused high frequency one. For example, I tweaked my knee cleaning a few weeks ago, I put the high frequency pads on either side of the knee joint as outlined in the booklet, and online. I put the low frequency pads on my major quad muscles and turned both sides on. After about 45 minutes the pain had resolved and my leg felt so good I actually did the other side just so I wasn’t walking around in circles the rest of the day.

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Who Is It For

I decided to add this section after publication because I realized I took completely for granted that not everyone curious about an MPP might actually be in the market for one. Like all things, the MPP has a target audience, and it’s an important considering, whether or not you fit that target. The MPP might be more than you need, incredibly overwhelming, or a perfect fit. If you’re like me, you like having the responsibility of control, so often removed from the consumer these days to protect them from themselves. The MPP gives you the utmost control down to the hertz of the recovery or pain management program you desire. For some people this is too much, I get that. There are still ways to use the MPP without this control, you can simply select high/low and dial it up, still works great, still has great results. The second consideration beyond your tolerance for responsibility, is what kind of athlete you are. Do you need to recovery super quickly? Do you often walk around with nagging injuries that keep you out of the gym? Then this is probably a good fit. If you only need to recover better, the Marc Pro is a great fit, for significantly less money. Unfortunately, there is no “only high frequency” unit, so if you want to treat injuries, you need the Plus. If neither of these are true, then go buy some new nano’s and train harder (just kidding, sort of).

Pro’s

  • Easy to use
  • Completely customizable
  • Proven technology
  • Highly effective
  • Multiple off label uses

Con’s

  • Price – quite a bit more than the regular unit
  • Can be overwhelming
  • A little tricky to nail the pad placements

Conclusions

The Marc Pro Plus is just as easy to use as it’s brother, it adds additional customizability to just about every regular feature from the original, in my mind it’s a proven technology, I’ve had my original Marc Pro for 2 years now and swear by it and it’s effectiveness at reducing recovery times. Further it has numerous off-label uses that increase it’s utility exponentially. Both the Marc Pro and the Plus are expensive, I can’t deny that, but both are available at a no-interest monthly installment that was less than my gym membership, with that in mind they make it easily affordable. I’ll admit when I first pulled the Plus out of the box, I was overwhelmed, there were far more features than I was used to, and I didn’t know where to start, but once I had some practice it was only mildly more complicated than the original. The high frequency pad placements can be more difficult than the low frequency ones. The low frequency areas are very large and not very error prone, anywhere on the large muscle and you’re set. The high frequencies placements are difficult because of the tetanizing nature of the high frequency mode, if you miss and hit muscle you’ll know right away, and might have to remove and reset the pad a few times until you get it right. Or even simply moving can help reposition.

It’s no secret I love my Marc Pro. When the Plus was first introduced I thought I didn’t need it, and wouldn’t. I thought it was more for people who had an old injury, some kind of chronic pain that needed to be dealt with. For the wear and tear that competitive exercisers put themselves through, they are basically always battling a different chronic injury. In the timespan of a single off season, days missed due to injury add up fast, and minimizing those can be crucial. I really wasn’t convinced that I needed the Plus until I tried it, now I’m pretty sure I couldn’t function without it. I’ve used it on my forearms, my knees, my shoulders, my lower back. Pretty much anywhere an acute pain pops up, the Plus beats it back down. The one area that I would really like to play with more that I haven’t is the off-label usages, but given that they’re off-label, they probably shouldn’t factor much into this review anyways. But the capability is exciting and worth noting.

96/100 – A solid improvement on an already A grade product.

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If you’re interested in buying a Marc Pro Plus – use the discount code “GRIZZLY” at checkout for an extra 5% off.

A Fresh Start

I haven’t written a post since August 3rd. I think two months off is enough time to officially have to explain some things, so I’ll start at the beginning, or really the end. Right after that last post I made a decision to stop doing Crossfit entirely. I was beat up, worn out, and really just sick of it in a lot of ways. I’ve often written about when I started Crossfit and how different it was then, the bars were lower, and the barriers fewer. It was easy to think that with a good bit of hard work and the right set of skills you could make it pretty far. Having grown exponentially since then, it’s a full time job to even be pretty okay at. The number of skills and different sets of coaching tools you need is exhausting. Now I’m just complaining, long story short, with a full graduate student load, it’s too much. Too much time, too much to focus on. I think I learned that awhile ago, it just took a lot more time to sink in than I expected. I still pushed myself through the spring and into the summer, eventually it came to a head. No matter what programming I switched to, or how long of a break I took, a week into the next thing I was exhausted again. Finally I just stopped.

Instead of taking time off, hoping that somehow something would change without changing anything, I changed everything. I picked up a new diet, I picked up new training, and I decided I would do whatever felt like fun. That meant changing goals, and accepting that just about every Crossfit skill would get worse, and being okay with that. It was uncomfortable at first, just like those first weeks of Crossfit, now it’s some of the most fun I’ve had training in years. I hadn’t realized how little fun I’d been having training until I started to get that feeling back. That’s the quick version of why I stopped, with that I stopped writing these posts, which in retrospect I now view as a mistake. I think it was disingenuous of me to sit on that, with 100,000 people doing the Open every year, certainly there are people in my shoes, riding that 90% line, putting in a lot of effort and only moving upwards marginally. Its a tough place to be, and forces hard decisions that make training that hard that frequently almost impossible for people who don’t work in the strength and conditioning field already. I wish I had shared this all as it was happening, but truthfully I didn’t really have a handle on it until recently, so it would’ve been even more rambley garbage than this post already is (woof, okay dan just a little out of practice). I guess my point here is that I really benefited from some introspection, for a long time I did a lot of this for the wrong reasons, and it eventually caught up to me. In the off chance someone in a similar situation reads this, it’s important to know what your goals are, and to have them be reasonable for your given levels of time and energy. So that’s why I stopped, and where I’ve been. For now I’m still done with Crossfit, and my goals are changing. A fresh start.

Now onto a little more cheerful matter, what I’m up to now. In computer science there are a lot of optimization problems, finding the optimal paths, the sets of least weight, etc, for a long time I treated my life as one of these problems, I even wrote a post (read, a hundred posts) about being optimal. The issue is, as it sometimes is in these problems, you can’t apply your optimization directly to the problem at hand, sometimes you need to reshape the problem to get the answer you’re looking for. So I spent all this time trying to be an optimal Competitive Exerciser; when really I probably should’ve been focused on being an optimal human first. In my mind that means picking goals that match your energy and time, it means being realistic with yourself, and picking goals that let you work hard but also enjoy what you’re doing, that in some measure restore you, rather than drain you. Lately I’ve chosen to focus on much simpler things, I’ve pruned away gymnastics, and endurance, most of my olympic work, and even some strength work. I picked a superficial goal that game me flexibility and let me have fun, I went back to training that first got me started in fitness, Aesthetics. For shame, the dirty A word, for some reason there’s an underlying shame with wanting to look good being your primary goal. If you say you’re trying to be healthy, or strong, or fast, or you just want a reason to drink more beer, no one really bothers you. But the second someone does a barbell curl, you need a paragraph long note to explain why. It’s a little mindless, but that lets me focus on better things, like sleep and school and nutrition. Picking away at more foundational weaknesses that will ultimately make me a better athlete when I come back. And yes, I plan on coming back, when my time and energy and drive allow.

So what’s up next then? Starting in a week I’ll be doing Layne Norton’s PH3 programming, which is a strength biased hypertrophy program. Ontop of that on the lighter volume days I’ll layer in olympic technique work from the Catalyst Athletics Technique Development cycle. On rest days I’ll do some interval work on the assault bike, and if there’s room, or time, or desire, perhaps even some gymnastics. But for the most part my effort will be placed on moving a barbell. I’ve been tinkering with my diet pretty much non-stop since I got back from Italy and this new phase will be no different, I’ll be following Charles Poliquin’s “Bioprint” which tailor’s diet to not only training style and volume, but also personal differences in hormone and insulin sensitivity. It’s a very powerful program and I’m very excited to start. Time to have some fun and set some PR’s!

For whatever it’s worth – I also plan to hold myself far more accountable here once this new phase starts, I think the weekly post structure will be a nice way to track the strength progress, so look forward to those! I know you will.