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Monday, November 21, 2011

Pre-Workout's vs. Food. Which One Is Better?

I tricked myself. Okay … not so much trick, but tested. I took a much needed quick little weekend vacation to New Orleans. I took my protein, carbs and supplements with the INTENT on keeping with my schedule … but I will admit, I DID NOT stick with it. Walking around The French Quarter toting a cooler or fanny pack did not go well with my idea of a relaxing time, let alone lug my camera backpack around. So, I decided to forgo the food cart for the camera in hopes I could get some decent food while walking the streets of NOLA (that’s short for New Orleans for you non-NOLA visitors).

As Saturday progressed, I could feel my blood sugar getting really low as the gaps between meals were getting longer and longer, and like any athlete who lives by a 6 to 7 meal per day plan, miss a meal … or two and well, cranky is an understatement. I felt like some meth junkie going through withdrawals. Even though people were talking to me, every scent of something cooking made my mouth salivate and I would envision myself eating it. The mere vision of food in front me with my fork diving in was truly a moment of what some call, “Food Porn”. Everything I smelled in The French Quarter (and there is the smell of amazing food oozing out of every doorway and alleyway in that city) sparked a food fantasy. It was getting a tad ridiculous, but uncontrollable. Let me clarify that my vision and fantasy wasn't of chocolate truffles, biegnets or of any other decadent culinary creation; quite the opposite. I just wanted protein and potatoes or rice. Period. 

As the gaps between meals kept getting longer, people’s words began to drown out and I would get tunnel vision and get ancy for sheer sustenance. I would put my hands in my pockets, hold them then put them back in the pockets again over a thousand times to contain myself, just hoping I would get food … soon. Once inside the restaurant, I did manage to NOT eat everything on my plate in one bite or from the plates of those around me (at other tables, though I did glare at what they were eating like a starving bear just out of hibernation.). I kept a calm demeanor, but it was tough. I just smiled and said, “No, I’m fine.” as I glared at their arms and my mind turned it into a Turkey leg or chicken breast.

However, to be a good sport, I never let on to anyone how truly hungry I was, but there was one point where I truly felt as if I was about to pass out. So I just leaned up against a wall, tried to breath deep and remain calm. (I laugh now as I read this. However, I have a full belly of protein, carbs and essential fat as I sip from a heaping tall glass of water.)

Food. A necessity. Period.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling out of it. I had enjoyed ONE adult beverage during the afternoon Saturday, but tanked the water like a thirsty Camel when I had the chance. Needless to say, it’s become a reality that I just don’t like how drinking makes me feel … just plain ICK! Now, I still like my wine, don’t get me wrong, but maybe it was the lack of food, the walking 500 miles around New Orleans, or the killer leg workout I had on Thursday … but needless to say, “drinking” was not on my agenda for this trip and that one drink really didn’t make me feel very clean inside. I felt like my body was trying to work via a clogged, dirty filter.

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “OK MD, get to the point. How did you ‘test’ yourself?”

Well, I had a hard workout planned for today, Monday. Chest and biceps. My fun groups. However, I wanted to test the energy effects and capacity of pre-workout supplements. The ONLY one I have is my Pre-Surge by AEN, possibly the cleanest, most level pre-workout & N.O. I've ever had without the weird typical side effects from the other brands like crawling skin, the shakes and a bad crash after they wear off. In the previous weeks it has been the best performing Pre-W for me, period. So this test was Not to test AEN specifically, but a pre-workout in general to see just what kind of “boost” it would offer when depleted of calories and water. I may try other products as well ... if I want to jeopardize another workout day, but I may have to be coerced heavily to do so. Just saying.

Here’s what I ate on Sunday:

Ø      Meal 1, 9:30am – 40gr Protein Shake, 40gr carb (corn tortillas)
Ø      Meal 2, noon – 18gr protein, egg whites, 20gr carb, potatoes
Ø      Meal 3, 4:30pm – 7oz chicken breast, 30gr bread
Ø      Meal 4, 8:00pm – 7oz Turkey breast, 100gr bread, potatoes & veggies, 1 piece of cake.
On a side note …. JUDGE FREE ZONE here people! Come on now! Haha

My Monday food intake:

Ø      Meal 1, 9:00am – 40gr Protein Shake, 40gr carb, potatoes
Ø      Meal 2, Noon – 6gr Chicken breast, 30gr carb, corn tortillas

Workout at 3:30 – had my pre-workout drink.

I walked into the gym feeling a tad lethargic. Basically I was dragging my butt. My head was feeling foggy, and this seems to be my body’s signal that I haven’t eaten enough. Having 3.5 hours since my last SMALL meal, my pre-workout was giving me a bit of a internal shock boost to get me going, but just after my 4 sets of warm-up on chest, I was feeling depleted already. I had great focus on the workout, but just couldn’t really engage the muscles like I have before.

My heart rate was elevated, I began to sweat profusely from the get go and I was out of breath very, very easily. If you would have seen me after my warm-up you would have thought I had been in there all day from the amount of sweat that was dripping off of me.

I somehow managed to muster the gumption to finish chest, but not sure how. OH WAIT … yes I do. “I DECIDE”! That’s how! ZING! But now it was onto biceps.

Now, biceps is one of my favorite groups to workout because you can watch them flex the entire time, contract, blow up and you feel it so well. Just a cool group to work. But within the first few reps of the warm-up before I started my Spider Curls, I was running out of steam quick. After my Spider Curls and standing iso-curls, I had nothing left to finish Hammer Curls, EZ-Bar Curls and Barbell Curls. Absolutely nothing. I was on the verge of going anaerobic in my heart rate and I just couldn’t catch my breath.

I never did feel a pump. I wasn’t vascular at all, meaning I was flat the entire time. My “buzz” from the pre-workout fell off, at least it seemed, within 15 minutes. Then again, probably nothing couldn’t helped my depleted body get a super-charged, scream induced workout other than being properly fueled.

Afterwards, I sat in the car and sipped on my recovery drink of 50gr of whey protein, my BSN AMINO-X, L-Glutamine and 50gr of pure carbs. Each sip was making me feel a bit better, but as I reflected on the lack of energy I had the epiphany … no Pre-Workout can take the place of OR get you through a workout without first being properly fueled with solid and sound nutrition.

My side-effects of shortness of breath, elevated heart rate and excessive sweating are side effects I recall happening during my training days as a triathlete when I wasn’t properly recovered or refueled from a previous days workout.

The testament is true, what you eat today provides you with the energy for tomorrow, and now I know it is true for me, but with one added element … a pre-workout is to aid and assist your body’s already existing fuel source, food, in helping your body reach it’s fullest potential during your workout … NOT be the only catalyst of energy. No energy booster beverage or pill can help your body once it is depleted of fuel. They end up becoming short bursts of power that quickly diminish like trying to start your engine with a Carburetor Cleaner directly when the problem is that your tank is empty. Your engine will crank, even rev a second or two, then quickly die off.

I think too much hype is given to any one supplement, especially the countless barrage of pre-workout supplements these days as the ads all seem to promise to give you the MOST INSANE PUMP, ENERGY OF A RAGING BEAST, BEST WORKOUT EVER if you take their product, eluding that it’s their product alone that would provide that.

NOT! Not even close.

BUT … who am I to judge. I’m just an average guy throwin’ some weight around in the gym.

~ FINDINGS Of My Test ~

Pre-Workout supplement did not push my body to a new limit. My focus was laser sharp, but my muscles just didn’t have the deep energy to push or perform with the weight or reps I should have been doing.

My Pre-Workout DOES work however when I am properly fueled. I can get really deep in muscle engagement in all groups and I am very vascular when I have enough carbs AND water flowing through my system.


I will eat the calories required by my body that I have learned work through food first. I will drink my gallon of water a day, minimum, to keep my cells hydrated. I will NOT depend on my supplements for primary energy.

LESSON . . .

Supplements are just that … to SUPPLEMENT your diet to add to what you are not getting enough of through regular food. They aren’t called PRIMARIES for a reason. 

Have I mentioned how this bodybuilding this is hard as hell??? Uhhhh, well, yeah ... IT IS!

~ MD


  1. "MD", this is great! Not that I didn't know how important eating was, but goodness, you really explained all about these pre-workout drinks. I see so many ads in the fitness magazines I read and often wonder do they really work. This all makes senses, and the way you described them as a bit of a boost really helped me understand their purpose. Thank you for letting me in on your journey. You are making me consider competing in my first figure show next year. Thank you!

  2. This is great. I've often wondered about those pre-workout drinks. What would you recommend?