To Caffienate, Stimulate, or Walk Cold Turkey

     One barrier to a good workout is one of how much activity one can put out in any given day. Even if your diet is full of food that will support your physical recovery and boost your energy levels, some days will seem as if the burden you are placing on yourself increases each day. This feeling can be expressed as a restless feeling when you should normally be calm, brain fog that follows you wherever you go, or sometimes it's a dull pain in an over-trained muscle group. However this strain plays out, you have an exercise plan that can't be broken at any cost. Cue your stimulating beverage of choice, are you a coffee connoisseur? A latte legend? If you spend any time in your local supplement/vitamin store, then you've surely been introduced to pre-workout drinks and powders. If this is you, consider yourself a Spartan standing on the cutting edge of scientific research. Long story short, you need a pickup.

     What you will gain from this post is insight into different energy supplements, highlighting the pros and cons of different types of stimulation, and which one is appropriate for your workout window, otherwise known as perhaps the only time you have in the day to pursue your physical goals for one more day.

     Your first consideration should be towards the time at which you plan to be asleep, since even one night of compromised sleep can set your progress towards your goals back many days. For this reason, caffeine should be treated as an absolute double-edged sword that can directly lead to this unfavorable outcome. For this reason, you should use extreme caution when considering a caffeinated beverage to get your workout started. To keep this simple, observe the following about this option:

     -Caffeine actually does not give you energy, it tells you to wake up, essentially turning on all the lights in your brain.
     -Caffeine's half-life is roughly six hours, meaning that its effects will not fully be gone for twelve hours. Smaller doses can help later in the day, so you should be mindful of how much you consume, especially around mid-day. If you must have a coffee past this time, consider a cup of half regular and half decaf.
     -If your caffeine comes in a supplement form such as a mixable powder, among other ingredients, or a premixed drink from your local grocery or convenience store, taking a small portion of that supplement can help you have your workout, get to sleep at night, and even make your expensive supplements last a bit longer. If your drink comes in a can, keep an empty plastic drinking bottle and pour the remainder into it for tomorrow.

     -The sleep-suppressing effect of caffeine do not take effect immediately. If you are conflicted between taking a ten to fifteen minute power nap and a half cup of coffee in the middle of the day, do not feel conflicted If you drink that coffee, take that nap, and go work out, it will be like getting your second wind.

     As a supplement, sugar is often used in energy drinks, alongside caffeine, to offer a short-term boost to your energy that can last you throughout our workout. While I shy away from recommending sugar as an energy supplement, I cannot ignore its short-term benefits and limited situations where it can actually be a beneficial addition to your workout regimen. Strictly speaking, sugar should not be consumed in large amounts. Consider the following before adding more sugar into your workout regimen:

     -Each gram of sugar on the nutritional label equals roughly one teaspoon of sugar. If your favorite energy drink contains 30 grams of sugar and your consider this normal, look at the number of servings that each can or bottle contains. If the container has 2 or 2.5 servings, then that 30 grams you think you are consuming can actually be 60 or 75.    

     -Sugar causes rises and falls in your energy level: the more you consume, the higher that high becomes and the further you fall when that energy high wears off. An important consideration when consuming sugar before your workout is how much time you will have to recover from that crash since it can affect your mental energy levels just as much as your physical energy levels. If you are scheduled to work a full day after your workout, don't set yourself up for a difficult day by piling on the sugar. Maybe you should take your coffee black or sleep in an extra half an hour before starting your workout can make the rest of your day easy and you will end the day on a positive note, subconsciously making you eager to work out on the following day as well.

     -Both long-term and short-term effects of high sugar consumption have been thoroughly documented. Weight gain, insulin resistance, restlessness, mood swings, and inability to focus are some of the after-effects of high sugar consumption. Make sure that you are not going to be in a disadvantageous situation on account of these after-effects if you choose to use this as an energy source for your workouts.

     -Fat is often misattributed to the weight gain from sugar consumption. When your liver is unable to process all of the sugar in your bloodstream, it is often stored as fat both in the liver and outside of it, showing itself as an extra fraction-of-an-inch bulge on your midsection.

     Few needs rank as highly as sleep when it comes to overall health and energy levels. Timing sleep is essential to making the benefits suit your needs while not taking away from the sleep you need at the end of the day. For this reason, I place sleep in a category that can hurt your efforts in the long term if it isn't executed properly in the context of an entire day; taking a long nap in the middle of the day can make you unable to fall asleep on time at night and make it so that you lose time in the morning that can be spent preparing a quality meal, getting ready for work, or getting yourself ready for your next workout:

     -Taking a nap in the afternoon should be done in a way that will not affect your sleep at night. Taking a 15-20 minute nap is an appropriate length of time considering the impact it can have on your overall sleep cycle.

     -Preparing yourself for sleep at night should never be an afterthought. Reducing the amount of time in front of phone screens and televisions has an immediate impact on your ability to sleep at night. In fact, the blue light emitted from those screens reduces the amount of the chemical melatonin the brain, a chemical essential to sleep. By reducing screen time before sleep or by using device settings or apps to reduce or eliminate blue light coming from those screens, you can set yourself up for a restful night of sleep.

     -By halting the consumption of stimulants such as sugar and caffeine in the long hours before sleep can have a large effect on how well you sleep at night. Generally speaking, cutting caffeine out ten hours before sleep and sugar by three or four, you should be settled enough at night  to rest easily.

   For now, I leave you with this. I hope this has been helpful in understanding the ever-important subject of stimulation. If at all possible, it's best to go about your workout without the use of stimulants due to the reality that you could become dependent on the effects to have a good workout. When it comes down to it, a good mindset can be the best stimulation leading up to your physical endeavors. At least that way you can have better workouts on the days you cannot have your desired stimulation.


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