Category Archives: Supplements

On Supplements — The Pre-Workout…


A long, long time ago, I promised to do a few articles on supplements. I never really did, and now seems as good a time as any to make good on that.

I’ll gradually hit on proteins, post-workout supps, and other legal supplements one can put into the body to see various effects. Today’s post, however, focuses on the many and varied pre-workout supplements I’ve tried over the last couple years.

The photo above shows everything I’m currently using, with two exceptions.

Cytomax and Thermonex

Out of curiosity, and after many years of seeing it on the shelf, I broke down and bought a bottle of Cytomax by CytoSport. Huge mistake! I was interested because it lacked caffein (a near perquisite for most pre-w/o supps). Bottom line: It did not make me feel extra hydrated and energized during workouts as promised (quite the opposite), but I did pee a lot the rest of the day.

The second mistake was buying BAS’s Thermonex. At first, I liked them…until I learned they turned me (a laid back kind of guy) into a raging beast a la David Banner’s Mr. Hyde. And that reaction was actually some-timey. Other times I behaved more like Cal Lightman of Lie to Me fame…jittery and curiously intense.

Needless to say, both products are gone from my house.

The Long List of the Short List…

With that, I’ll share my thoughts on pre-w/o supps (pardon the abbreviations) I’ve tried. This short list isn’t all inclusive, but it’s pretty darn close. We’ll hit them one at a time, but first, let me share a few thoughts on pre-w/o supps:

You don’t need them to build a lean, mean, awesome physique.

Okay. With that out of the way, let’s talk about some supplements that can help the casual-come-serious weight lifter take things to “the next level.” This is a rank-ordered list from least favorite to favorite.

Cytomax and Thermonex — Throw them away! Enough said on that.

Xtreme Shock


Xtreme Shock is interesting. It packs a skin-crawling flush that has driven me to my limits on my annual fitness tests (1.5 mi run, pushups, situps). For that purpose, and that purpose alone, I may use again in the future. Thing is, the crash is huge and hits very rapidly. Drinkability is great, but there is no lasting pump with this one. I’ve only seen it pre-bottled, which could really be pricy in bulk. Plus, it’s just not a real pre-w/o.

Black Powder


MRI’s Black Powder was actually my first true pre-workout a couple years ago. I thought it was awesome because it tasted better than the crap I remembered from my high school football days, and made me feel pretty pumped. What I didn’t realize, though, is that there were better supps out there that didn’t make you crash. The name is pretty awesome, though. That counts four something, right?

Hyper FX


BSN’s Hyper Fx is definitely a pre-workout supplement. It does it’s job as it doesn’t let you crash halfway through your workout. Unfortunately, it’s mixability and taste isn’t awesome. Other than that, I like the mental focus without the super amped jitters many other pre-w/o supps give you. Taste is a pretty big deal, though. Oh…and you can’t just shake it up. It needs to be stirred; otherwise it foams and tastes even worse.

N0-Extreme N-Zero


Cellucore’s N0-Extreme N-Zero was my second pre-workout. I liked it enough to buy two bottles. Funny thing is that the first bottle I purchased had been slightly exposed to humidity or something, so it was kind of clumpy. I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure Cellucore had an issue with this, because my second purchase brought individual powder packets (think Crystal Light water flavoring packets). Honestly, this product is pretty great, because it has zero carbs and zero creatine. Hard to find in most pre-w/o supps. Taste is pretty good, but you see these weird, shiny floaters that I at first thought were bits of tinfoil that some disgruntled Cellucore employee surreptitiously dropped into the secret sauce. Why is it not my nĂºmero uno? I’m not exactly sure. I think it’s because I just didn’t see the gains I saw after using this next potion for power.

N.O.-Xplode 2.0


BSN doesn’t do everything right, but this one is pretty good. With N.O.-Xplode 2.0, my mental focus was on, inter-set recovery was great, the pump was impressive and lasting, and I always managed to push out that extra rep. Drinkability was good, and it mixed well, too. While it may be a toss up between this product and Cellucore’s N0-Extreme N-Zero, the gains I saw with N.O.-Xplode were pretty impressive. In the 30 days I used this, I saw significant size, strength and muscular endurance gains.

Why do I need a pre-workout supplement?

Answer: You don’t. Simple as that. If you do choose to supplement with them, though, it is very important to limit (or eliminate altogether) other sources of caffein. Also, please follow the directions. Only ingest the recommended daily amount, and take a month or so off of pre-w/o supps after 8-10 weeks of usage. I know people who practically brag about taking 3X the recommended amount for months on end. Remember, the FDA is pretty particular for a reason. Protect your heart, brain, kidneys, and liver. Protect yourself!

What’s next?

Not sure. Whatever I’m inspired to write, I suppose. In the meantime, look forward to another supplement chat regarding post-workout supplements to include the favorite argument: creatine before or after your workout.

I’d love to hear what you think about this topic. What pre-workout supplements do you love or hate? Leave your comments hear. Sound off!

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,

Product photos courtesy of


Wounded Warriors Project (TM)

I’ve only one thing to share with you today.

My Bootcamp (TM) is a real military Bootcamp-inspired personal training company that not only supports the Wounded Warrior Project (TM), it employs our nation’s heroes as personal trainers; not just for their physical abilities, but for their warrior spirit. That spirit is contagious, and if you’ve ever spent even a few minutes chatting with a wounded warrior, you know exactly what I mean.

So…forget about my blog. Please take a few minutes to learn more about companies like My Bootcamp (TM), and support those returning from harm’s way.

Warmest Regards,

TBH…I Juice for Performance


Happy US Independence Day, everybody!

I said today would be an off day for my blog. But today is just too awesome, and this proud American is inspired to write!

Cool, Aj! Happy 4th to you, too! Now what’s with the header? TBH? I don’t get it…

First off, if you’re anything like me, a teen had to explain to you what the heck “TBH” means and why they and all their friends preface almost every Facebook status update with those letters. If you haven’t had that experience but are still wondering what it means, I’ll save you the frustration of being schooled by a middle schooler.


Here are a few examples of how to use TBH (or “to be honest”) in a text or social media update. TBH, I think this should be submitted to Urban Dictionary. Here goes:

    TBH…Nick’s new haircut is epic

    TBH…Ms. Thrasher totally kills us with homework on Fridays



Ok. I made up that last one for effect. YPH = You’re pretty hot. Man I hope my daughter doesn’t read this and start that new trend. NOT something I want as part of my legacy…

Regarding my (ahem) “juicing” habit…

Though I’ve never used “roids” to enhance a workout, I sure do like to juice before one.


If you’re new to this blog, you should know that about 2 weeks ago, I made a pledge to myself to juice at least once each day. l literally pull juice from organic produce and ingest whatever concoction pours forth from the magic juicing machine. So, no. By juicing, I do not mean anabolic steroid injections. That would be illegal and (more importantly in my mind) stupid.

So far, I’ve honored my pledge. Every morning for the past 11 days, I’ve pushed veggies and fruit down the chute of my Jack Lalanne juicer. The taste has grown on me to the point I can juice just about anything and find something enjoyable about it.

I just finished a spinach, beets with stems, carrots, orange, and goji berry mix. So delicious, and I’m ready to hit the P90X arms and abs routine with everything I’ve got.

So I’m signing off to go complete today’s workout with Mr. Horton and company. I’ll let you all know how things went after super-feeding my body on micronutrients. TBH…it’s gonna be epic!

To life!



11:35AM – Just completed the Shoulders & Arms Plus Ab Ripper X routine. My teenage daughter joined me. What a troop! If only she was old enough to join the ranks. Uh…ok. Maybe that’s one way in which she doesn’t need to be like her old man.

According to my heart rate monitor, I burned about 830 calories in about 75 min. How did I hold up after juicing? TBH…it was grueling! Still, I felt more energized than I did Monday morning when I juiced after my workout.

I’m completely soaked. It’s time to hit the shower and start celebrating the awesomeness that is the United States of America! *

* I struggle with this all the time. Is USA singular or plural? Of course we’re referring to all the states that make up the Union, but I guess it’s the singular Union to which we refer. Oh well. Let’s celebrate!

Weekend Update

Hi, everyone. I hope this weekend has been kind to you and that you have been kind to yourself and to those around you. If you’re not feeling recharged, is it possible you may be misutilizing your downtime?

We’ve been chatting about short-, mid-, and long-term goals lately. If your weekends aren’t living up to your week-long expectations, consider adding a couple of short-term goals to list.

These last few weeks (read months) have been especially challenging for me. I need to recharge. A good, long vacation with my family is what will do the trick, but that can’t happen but more than once or twice a year (for me, anyway).

So the last two weekends, I’ve made a point to drive my family out of town. Just day trips, but far enough from the city to know my only business at the time is to do stuff. Admittedly, if you have a teen and a preteen like I do, that’s not always a stress-free mission. When you nail it, though, the effort pays for itself.

Last weekend was a visit to a car museum, lunch, an earthquake-formed cave tour, and a couple hours at a trampoline jumping center. I happened to fall ill that day, but everyone enjoyed the time out of town.

This weekend we drove to the coast for some much-needed R&R. Forecasts called for thunderstorms all day, but we took our chances. The early afternoon was indeed dreary. So we ate up some time on a self-guided tour (my favorite kind) of a US Navy ship. We got there early and had the ship practically to ourselves. From there we grabbed lunch and headed to the beach. No rain, no lightning, and the sun even decided to show its brilliant face for the last couple hours of our visit. Totally worth the trip!

Why the Sunday post, Aj?

Well, we’re still focused (or should be) on our fitness and nutrition goals. Tomorrow, though, we’ll hit on stress (both positive and negative) and its influence upon how we perform in the gym. Recharging events like these are a big part of managing stress, particularly while we await those mega events called vacations.

Remember to take time to decompress after each long week, and if you live with others, try to create opportunities to do so together–unless, of course, those others tend to be part of the stress campaign waged against you each week. In that case, just get away!

Bring it on, Monday!

With the downtime behind me, now it’s time to prepare for the week ahead. For me that means a trip to the mega grocery store down the road (mega stressor), another juiced breakfast (still at it and starting to like it…a lot), setting up my uniform, washing the sand from my beautiful car, grilling some fresh steaks and veggies, and (of course) making time for my first workout of the week.

On that last “to-do”…

I follow another blog, Coach Crystal’s Padawan, which is written by another family guy who, like myself, is interested in fine-tuning his fitness and health profile.

As you already know from previous posts, I seek out inspiration from other positive people all the time. Last week it was my mom regarding her juicing activities. This week, it’s Scott (the aforementioned Padawan).

Scott has taken on the Insanity challenge and appears to be making great strides toward some of his personal goals. I’ve done a few Insanity workouts as part of my unit’s PT program. So I know first-hand how grueling many of the workouts can be. Big time kudos, Scott!

My Mission: Get inspired, overcome, and adapt…

I’ve recently been challenged by my local gym. Two years ago, a neat little gym opened up no more than a mile and-a-half from my house. It’s one of those 24/7-types and though small, it has everything I need to get in, get out, and get back to my family. Or rather…it had everything I needed to do all that.

A couple weeks ago, management decided to cash in on specialized workout offerings, such as Zumba and Insanity-like group workouts. While that may be great for some, it’s not for me. I do group workouts at work, and now they’ve gutted my little gym. In place of squat racks and dumbbells, it’s one great big dance studio. Boo.

We have a copy of P-90X. I have a pull-up bar, a few weights, and an open space in the garage. It may not be Insanity, but I’m going to take the Tony Horton challenge. Goodbye expensive, unused dance studio. Hello mortgaged at-home gym!

Thanks for the inspiration, Scott. I encourage anyone reading this to seek out those who motivate through action. The only thing better is to be the one who motivates.

Until tomorrow then…

Warmest Regards,

It’s Friday, and I’m Beet!


You read that right. Beet. As in those strange red bulbs your mom always said were so packed with nutrients but that you still refused to try unless force fed.

My mother emailed me yesterday and told me how she had started juicing to help relieve arthritis pain and to discover more of the supposed positive side effects of a juicing lifestyle.

I was inspired. Thanks, Mom!

The Beet That Started It All!

Last night, while the family ate my famous homemade spaghetti, I took out the juicer. My hearty dinner consisted of the following:

1) 4 medium-sized organic carrots (unpeeled)
2) 2 bunched up handfuls (fists) of baby spinach (about 3 cups)
3) and 1/2 medium-sized organic beet (stems included)

It was…interesting.

At some point, I think I may have likened the taste to that of the fresh waters of Lake Minnetonka. After time, though, the taste kind of…I don’t know…settled onto my palate (as much as late summer inland waters can, I suppose).

Thing is, my energy levels last night were incredible, but when it was time for bed, I knocked right out. When my iPhone’s alarm sounded at 4:45 this morning, I jumped out of bed, put on my PT uniform, and cranked up the juicer once more.

Dinner was a concoction ripped from a website. Breakfast was my own creation.

1) 3 medium-sized carrots
2) 3 fists of baby spinach
3) 1/2 unpeeled cucumber
4) 1/2 beet
5) 1 small green apple
6) and–wait for it–3 oz pure goji juice

By the time I got to the gym, I couldn’t wait to hit the treadmill. Totally energized, I did 15 min of 1 min speed intervals. The tread was practically smoking!! If that wasn’t enough, I spent another hour playing Ultimate football (I know…it’s not Ultimate if no one’s chucking a disc down field, but still a fun and demanding workout!).

So I think I’m sold on juicing. While it will likely never replace my carnivorous ways, it sure is an awesome way to supplement.

Pure octane!

Oh…and if you do try the beet recipe, don’t be surprised if your urine has a slight reddish tint to it. Sure it’s a little unnerving at first, but then it becomes a little amazing. Especially after 12 hours and more than a gallon of water hydration!

This experience was just too interesting not to share. I challenge you to try replacing one meal a day with fresh, organic vegetable and fruit juices for seven days. Share your juicing experiences here. I will, too!

Don’t forget your goals…

In the meantime, let’s all keep focused on those mid-term goals. Are you still progressing? Did you backslide on a goal? If so, what happened? Do you intend to get back on track? Do it! It’s never too late to make a fresh start. We’ll follow up more on these later next week.

Up next…

Monday’s focus will be on the effects of stress on gym performance and weight management. Still researching as promised.

Until then, have a super relaxing, fun, and SAFE weekend!

Warmest Regards,

Photo courtesy of

Today’s Trifecta

Okay. Here’s today’s intake and output all laid out. This was not a typical day for me. I ran late this morning (body told me it was tired; so I listened — it’s all about trade offs). I keep meal replacement shakes on-hand just in case I have mornings like this. I also keep one or two in the fridge at work in the event of those last-minute meetings that zip right through the lunch hour. They’re not great, nutrition-wise, but they’re still major que nada, right?

The soy milk was a nice surprise. I forgot I had left one at work a couple weeks ago. Really came in handy since I didn’t get enough good food in me last night. Remember: Pay it forward!

The subway lunch was great. Absolutely love spinach salads! The snacks kept my recovery going, and the pizza dinner was a special treat made even more special by the fact that my kids made the pizzas by themselves (1 cheese & tomato, 1 cheese & pepperoni).

Here’s how it all went down:

7:00 – HEB brand Opti-Meal
10:00 – Chocolate Silk (soy milk)
10:50 – Vega Sport Pre-workout Energizer
11:10 – 12:00 – Workout (Legs)

  • Smith Machine Squat (135×12)(155×10)(165×8)
  • Smith Machine Front-loaded Squat (95×8)(95×8)(95×9)
  • Leg Press: (90×12)(180×10)(270×9)(360×6)(90×12)
  • Leg Extensions: (85×12)(110×10) — Superset w/leg curls; no rest
  • Leg Curls: (65×12)(80×10)
  • Seated Calf Raises (50×14)(50×14)(50×14)
  • Dead Lifts (225×4)(225×4)(225×4)
  • 5 min cool-down stretch

12:30 – Subway spinach salad w/grilled chicken & bacon (oil & vinegar dressing)
2:30 – Fiber One Chewy Chocolate and Peanut Butter (90 cal variety)
4:00 – Blueberry GoGurt (I know…I was in a hurry this AM)
6:30 – Homemade thin crust pizza (4 slices – Kids nailed it!)

Total daily intake after evening meal: ~1800 cal
Day’s Goal: 2000 – 2200 cal

So you see I’ll need to bridge the gap with an evening snack in order to make my calorie goal (especially if I decided to go for a run later). If I don’t hit 2K for the day, that’s not great, but breakfast tomorrow (eggs with salmon and a side of fruit) should set me up for another great mid-day workout tomorrow.

And now for a game of chess with my youngest!

Warmest Regards


P.S. Make time for positive things that leave you feeling enriched by having done them. Playing games with my kids is one of those enrichment activities for me, and it can really have a profound impact on one’s general outlook on life.

Image courtesy of

Feed The Beast!

As promised, today we talk pre-workout nutrition. But first, I want to make something very clear to anyone reading this:

I am not a nutrition expert–certified or otherwise. I am also not a world-class athlete, nor do I anticipate every attempting to become one. What you read on my blog is a healthy, common sense, every guy or gal approach to fitness and fitness nutrition. It is based on nearly 20 years of adult life experience, which includes both formal (thanks, military) and self education on the subject. If you feel your current health picture is not so good, I highly encourage you to speak with a certified/registered nutritionist or other qualified health professional such as your primary care physician. He or she can team up with you to establish a healthy and safe approach to recovery that is unique to your specific needs and lifestyle.

Okay! Like I stated above, these are just a few common sense things you can do to get a little more out of your current workout routines. Regardless of what physical activities you engage in, nutrition plays a huge role in your performance. What’s more, nutrition not only influences how well you do something, but also how much you get out of what you do. Remember…pay it forward.

Should I eat before a workout, and if so, when?

For that question, check out “To eat or not to eat…” from last week’s discussion.

Okay. I’ve decided to eat before working out. Now what?

I’d first recommend not eating anything within a two-hour window of starting your routine. If you opt for a protein shake, juice or smoothie, you probably don’t need to give it more than an hour to settle. A lot of that, of course, depends on what time of day you choose to exercise, what type of exercise you choose, and your personal preference (eating just before a workout just doesn’t seem to negatively affect some folks).

My Morning Routine

When I get up early to hit the weights at the gym, I choose not to eat anything first. I will, though, sometimes have a pre-workout supplement (powder mix such as Vega Sport’s Natural Plant-Based Pre-Workout Energizer). We can talk specific pre-workout supplements in a later post.

The important thing to keep in mind is that if you are going to work out in the morning, either get up early enough to mostly digest what you eat, or just work out on an empty stomach. If you’re really running on fumes, though (i.e. you skipped dinner last night), try to reschedule your workout if at all possible until after you’ve had a chance to take in some calories.

Also, be sure to eat something within 30 min of workout completion (ideally something higher in protein). Finally, if you’re not well hydrated, regardless of when you workout, you’ll almost certainly feel sluggish and weaker than normal. So stay hydrated. Too easy…

That’s good for the morning, but how about daytime or evening workouts?

When I take a “working lunch” at the gym, I obviously will have eaten something for breakfast and probably even a mid-morning snack. I pay attention to what those meals are, when I eat them, and how they might influence the quality of my workout. You should, too, but don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

KISS – Keep It Super Simple

Instead of getting into the technical mumbo jumbo about which foods are most ideal pre-workout foods, let’s just keep it simple:

  • Eat healthy foods in lower quantity before your workouts
  • Eat healthy foods in somewhat greater quantity after your workouts
  • If you feel extremely tired during your workout, eat a little more next time.
  • Just be sure to stay within your daily calorie target. There are a lot of resources out there for that. Here’s one to try: Bottom line: pay attention to your body and be willing to adjust your calorie intake up or down as needed.

    It really can’t be that simple, Aj…

    Honestly, it really can and it is that simple…once you see it for what it really is: it’s a lifestyle; not a specialized diet or exercise routine.

    Ask yourself this: Do I want to be a world-class athlete?

      If the answer is “Yes”: Please send me a quick note to say “hi” before looking elsewhere for information on becoming a world-class athlete.
      If the answer is “No” or even “Dude…I don’t know. Maybe” : Then just focus first on being as healthy as you can be without making it so time and thought intensive that it becomes a chore before it even has a chance to become lifestyle.

    Wait. What? I thought you were gonna…

    Still, some folks may read all this and say, “Wow. What a disappointment. I was hoping for a menu and prescribed formula for a tight midsection and killer guns!” Well…you can go pick up a copy of your favorite fitness magazine.

    That’s not me being snarky (man I like that word!). I’m serious. If you are really ready to take your current plan to the next level, several popular health and fitness magazines offer up some highly effective nutrition tips. I may discuss some more advanced stuff at some point, but for now…this is all “basic training” stuff. Establish your baseline and improve from there.

    For the rest of you, here’s what I’ll do:

      Tomorrow’s post will be a little shorter but will provide you with a list of some of my favorite meals for days of high physical output–breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything in between.

    With that, I’ll sign off for the day with another, fresh Aj-ism to ponder:

    How do you eat an elephant?

    You don’t. You follow it around because a creature that big knows where the really nutritious stuff is.

    Warmest Regards