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Performance Supplements

Performance Supplements


Next Stop: Gainsville

By Dr. Allan Bacon


Some of the most common questions I receive daily on social media have to do with proper supplement intake. For those of you that are unaware, I have professionally formulated for some of the biggest names in the industry for the past 15+ years.

There are a handful of supplements that appear to have significant evidence for effect or significant promise with further research needed. These include: micronized creatine monohydrate, citrulline with or without malate (although more recent research has been very disappointing with regards to citrulline malate), nitrates (this would be my choice over citrulline malate, currently), taurine, tyrosine, beta-alanine, betaine, protein powder (not beef protein isolate or collagen), cherry extract, KSM-66, fish oil (properly dosed is 2-3g of EPA + DHA, this is not the same as total Omega 3), and agmatine.

Then there are some supplements that simply don’t seem to help at all (or in most practical situations) such as BCAAs, EAAs, HMB, CLA, glutamine, arginine, beef protein isolate, DAA, carnitine specifically for fat loss, and ecdysterone/turkesterone. Before everyone loses their minds, I go over where BCAAs/EAAs may be helpful in my BCAA article linked farther down the page. In most cases where a bro recommends BCAAs/EAAs, a carbohydrate source would perform the same function, if not better.

A succinct one-stop overview of the literature can be found in a recent research review which suggests: For muscle mass and strength there is strong evidence for the use of nitrate and caffeine for their acute beneficial effects on muscle strength, whereas the long-term consumption of creatine, protein, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (I am personally skeptical of PUFAs for increasing size and strength, but this review placed them in their most credible category) seems to consistently increase or preserve muscle mass and

In the following sections I will give personal recommendations for specific products, as well as go over individual ingredients with research citations for your benefit. As a general rule of thumb, most people should at least be taking micronized creatine mono, a well-dosed fish oil, and a protein powder to supplement their daily intakes.

My current recommendations for pre-workout products include:
  • Stimmed Pre-workouts: Nutrabio Pre Workout, Citadel Nutrition Tier 1, Controlled Labs White Flood Plus if you don’t want creatine, Nutrex Outlift, Hosstile Hosstility
  • Non-Stim Pre-workouts: Hosstile Bloodshot
  • Utility: Orange Brainwash for best nootropic stimulant/cognitive/mood boost. I like this for throughout the day, studying, work, gaming, etc. It doesn’t crack you out like most pre’s. I use this daily and there is potential for the ingredients to become better with continued use. You can pick it up at with the code “mauiathletics” for 10% off. This is good for all products on their website (forever) and puts the price in line with major online retailers, but allows you to get the freshest batch.


For more in-depth articles on individual supplements please check out my blog articles on:


You can find a videocast of my personal supplement stack, including dosages and brands, on my YouTube channel:




Caffeine increases both maximal strength and muscular endurance.


“Caffeine reduces the perceived effort during exercise and increases the capacity for sedentary individuals, as well as trained athletes, to tolerate higher intensity exercise for greater duration; and, these benefits were not further enhanced by ingesting doses of low carbohydrate regularly during exercise.”


There is convincing evidence that caffeine ingestion is ergogenic for (i) one-repetition maximum, isometric, and isokinetic strength; and (ii) muscular endurance, velocity, and power in different resistance exercises, loads, and set protocols. Furthermore, there is some evidence that caffeine supplementation also may enhance adaptations to resistance training, such as gains in strength and power. Caffeine ingestion is ergogenic for resistance exercise performance in females, and the magnitude of these effects seems to be similar to that observed in men. Habitual caffeine intake and polymorphisms within CYP1A2 and ADORA2A do not seem to modulate caffeine’s ergogenic effects on resistance exercise. Consuming lower doses of caffeine (e.g., 2-3 mg/kg) appears to be comparably ergogenic to consuming high doses of caffeine (e.g., 6 mg/kg). Minimal effective doses of caffeine seem to be around 1.5 mg/kg. Alternate caffeine sources such as caffeinated chewing gum, gel, and coffee are also ergogenic for resistance exercise performance. With caffeine capsules, the optimal timing of ingestion seems to be 30-60 min before exercise. Caffeinated chewing gums and gels may enhance resistance exercise performance even when consumed 10 min before exercise. It appears that caffeine improves performance in resistance exercise primarily due to its physiological effects. Nevertheless, a small portion of the ergogenic effect of caffeine seems to be placebo-driven.

DOI: 10.1007/s40279-021-01521-x


The findings from the study further establish caffeine’s potential ergogenic benefit on measures of muscular strength.

DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2019.1675767


CAFF supplementation improved anaerobic performance in both the elite and recreational athletes. However, the ergogenic effect of CAFF on several mood dimensions and subjective vitality was greater in the elite athletes.

DOI: 10.1186/s12970-019-0332-5


Due to their composition, caffeinated sports drinks seem to be more beneficial to consume during long-duration exercise, when the drinks are used for both rehydration and caffeine supplementation. Energy drinks may be more appropriate for providing caffeine before exercise. Lastly, the magnitude of the ergogenic benefits obtained with caffeinated drinks seems similar in women and men athletes. Overall, the current systematic review provides evidence of the efficacy of caffeinated drinks as a valid form for caffeine supplementation in sport.


“Synthesis of the currently available meta-analyses suggest that caffeine ingestion improves exercise performance in a broad range of exercise tasks. Ergogenic effects of caffeine on muscle endurance, muscle strength, anaerobic power and aerobic endurance were substantiated by moderate quality of evidence coming from moderate-to-high quality systematic reviews. “


“Caffeine can be used effectively as an ergogenic aid when taken in moderate doses, such as during sports when a small increase in endurance performance can lead to significant differences in placements as athletes are often separated by small margins.”


“The ergogenic response to caffeine varied from 9% to 1% among individuals, but all participants increased both cycling power in the incremental test and Wingate mean power at least three to eight times out of eight the caffeine–placebo comparisons. These data expand the suggestion of a minimal occurrence of caffeine non-responders because it shows that all individuals responded to caffeine when caffeine is compared to a placebo on multiple and repeated testing sessions.”


“Caffeine doses of 2, 4, and 6 mg·kg-1 seem to be effective for acute enhancements in lower-body ballistic exercise performance in recreationally trained male individuals. For the upper-body ballistic exercise performance, only a caffeine dose of 6 mg·kg-1 seems to be effective. The acute effects of caffeine ingestion do not seem to be impacted by habitual caffeine intake; however, this requires further exploration.”


“Ingestion of 3 mg·kg-1 body mass of caffeine enhanced endurance exercise performance in women. The magnitude of the performance enhancement observed in women was similar to that of men, despite significantly greater plasma caffeine concentrations following exercise in women. These results suggest the current recommendations for caffeine intake (i.e. 3-6 mg·kg-1 caffeine prior to exercise to enhance endurance performance), which are derived almost exclusively from studies on men, may also be applicable to women.”


“The meta-analyses showed significant ergogenic effects of caffeine ingestion on maximal muscle strength of upper body and muscle power.”


Taurine supplementation increased time to exhaustion and local sweating, while decreasing ratings of perceived exertion and core temperature in the later stages of exercise, as well as reducing post-exercise blood lactate concentration. This study provides the evidence of taurine’s role in thermoregulatory processes. These findings have implications for the short-term preparation strategies of individuals exercising in the heat. Based on these findings, a single dose of taurine 2 h prior to training or competition would provide an ergogenic and thermoregulatory effect.


Taurine is an amino acid that has been shown to increase protein synthesis, increase cell hydration, metabolism, and improve cardiac function.


From the selected literature, we observed that taurine supplementation (2 g three times daily) with exercise can decrease DNA damage. Furthermore, 1 g of acute taurine administration before or after exercise can decrease lactate levels. However, acute administration of taurine (6 g) at a high dose before the start of exercise had no effect on reducing lactate level, but increased glycerol levels, suggesting that taurine could be an effective agent for prolonged activities, particularly at higher intensities. However, further studies are warranted to establish the role of taurine in fat metabolism during exercise. Finally, we observed that a low dose of taurine (0.05 g) before performing strength enhancing exercises can decrease muscular fatigue and increase enzymatic antioxidants.


Taurine can lead to a reduction in blood pressure, and an improvement in exercise capacity.


These results indicate that taurine controls glucose homeostasis by regulating the expression of genes required for glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. In addition, taurine enhances peripheral insulin sensitivity.


Limited and varied findings prohibit definitive conclusions regarding the efficacy of taurine on aerobic and anaerobic performance and metabolic outcomes. There are mixed findings for the effect of taurine consumption on improving recovery from training bouts and/or mitigating muscle damage. The timing of taurine ingestion as well as the type of exercise protocol performed may contribute to the effectiveness of taurine as an ergogenic aid. More investigations are needed to better understand the potential effects of taurine supplementation on aerobic and anaerobic performance, muscle damage, metabolic stress, and recovery.


The results suggest that taurine supplementation represents an important factor in improving performance and decreasing muscle damage and oxidative stress but does not decrease the inflammatory response after eccentric exercise.


Taurine has been shown to improve performance in middle distance runners. Taurine has also been shown to significantly increase fat oxidation in endurance trained cyclists, and to decrease the accumulation of lactate


The acute ingestion of 1.66 g of Taurine before exercise did not enhance time trial performance but did result in a small but significant increase in fat oxidation during submaximal cycling in endurance-trained cyclists.


The use of caffeine and taurine over a 2 week period enhanced endurance performance. Moreover, taurine significantly decreased the accumulated concentration of lactate over long running distances.


These data demonstrate that extracellular taurine promotes angiogenesis by Akt- and ERK-dependent cell cycle progression and Src/FAK-mediated cell migration without inducing vascular inflammation, indicating that it is potential use for the treatment of vascular dysfunction-associated human diseases.


Two weeks taurine supplementation reverses endothelial dysfunction in young male type 1 diabetics. This is an important indicator of cardiovascular health benefits.


Citrulline (with or without Malate)
The addition of malate does not appear to make a major difference in performance benefits, or lack thereof. Currently, there is no bonded citrulline malate products on the market, as far as am I aware. They simply toss citrulline and malic acid powder into a tub and stir it up, then call it citrulline malate. Whether the malic acid component is included in the mix should not currently be a reason to avoid or purchase any particular product as we currently do not have any evidence suggesting it makes a difference.


Our findings suggest that citrulline malate supplementation does not improve muscle strength in healthy and resistance-trained individuals

DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2021.1939473


Meta-analysis concludes “that citrulline malate supplementation does not improve muscle strength in healthy and resistance-trained individuals.”


The results of this study suggest that neither acute nor chronic supplementation of CM had an effect on recovery or fatigue rates.

DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2021-0117


To date, a single acute 8 g dose of CM on either resistance exercise performance or cycling has been the most common approach, which has produced equivocal results. This makes the effectiveness of CM to improve exercise performance difficult to determine. The efficacy of CM supplementation to improve exercise performance remains ambiguous.

DOI: 10.1007/s00421-021-04774-6


Nitrate ingestion during a four-week running program improved 10-km time trial performance and kept blood lactate concentration steady when compared to placebo in recreational runners.


The co-administration of a single dose of inorganic nitrate and vitamin C lowered diastolic blood pressure (BP) and improved peripheral pulse wave velocity (PWV) in older participants. Vitamin C supplementation improved PWV in both age groups but decreased systolic and mean BP in older participants only.


A strong positive correlation was observed in experimental situations using a chronic supplementation protocol but not in acute protocol situations. In the context of our results and recent histological observations of muscle fibres, there might be a fibre-type specific role in nitric oxide production and, therefore, supplement of ergogenicity.


Acute or chronic dietary NO3− intake significantly increases maximal muscle power in humans. The magnitude of this effect–on average, ~ 5%–is likely to be of considerable practical and clinical importance.


In conclusion, elevation of plasma nitrate and nitrate reduces leg skeletal muscle V02 and blood flow during exercise. However, nitrate supplementation does not enhance muscle V02 kinetics during exercise, nor does it improve time to exhaustion when exercising with a small muscle mass. Despite slower VO2 kinetics in the transition from moderate to intense exercise, no effects of nitrate supplementation were observed for VO2 kinetics and time to exhaustion.


A total of 29 studies were identified that investigated the effects of nitrate supplementation on exercise tolerance or performance in accordance with the criteria outlined. Analysis using time to exhaustion as the outcome variable revealed a significant effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise tolerance compared with placebo. Analysis using time to complete a specific distance as the outcome variable revealed no significant effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance compared with placebo. Nitrate supplementation is likely to improve exercise tolerance and capacity that may improve exercise performance.


Nitrates may be more beneficial for new trainees than advanced trainees. “These data suggest that nitrate ingestion up to 6.5mmol does not enhance recovery from supra-maximal exercise in world-class athletes”

Richard, et al. “Time-trial Performance in World-Class Speed Skaters After Chronic Nitrate Ingestion.” Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018 May 10:1-22.


Nitrates resulted in reduced perception of effort and leg muscle pain. Our findings extend the mechanistic basis for the improved exercise tolerance by showing that dietary nitrate supplementation (i) attenuated the development of muscle fatigue by reducing the exercise-induced impairments in contractile muscle function; and (ii) lowered the perception of both effort and leg muscle pain during exercise.


Ingestion of nitrate (NO3−), found in green leafy vegetables and especially beets, increases the production of nitric oxide (NO). Acute or chronic (NO3−) intake also improves muscle contractile function in a variety of subject populations, including healthy young and middle-aged individuals, athletes, patients with heart failure, and the elderly. Precisely how dietary (NO3−) intake enhances the contractile properties of human muscle is still unclear. We hypothesize that such improvements are the result of increased NO bioavailability and hence changes in Ca2+ signaling in muscle.


The described cardio-metabolic effects of dietary nitrate from experimental and clinical studies include lowering of blood pressure, improved endothelial function, increased exercise performance, and reversal of metabolic syndrome, as well as anti-diabetic effects. The mechanisms underlying the salutary metabolic effects of nitrate are being revealed and include interaction with mitochondrial respiration, activation of key metabolic regulatory pathways, and reduction of oxidative stress.


Intake of inorganic nitrate, which is predominantly found in green leafy vegetables and beets, has a variety of favourable cardiovascular effects. As hypertension is a major risk factor of morbidity and mortality worldwide, much attention has been paid to the blood pressure reducing effect of inorganic nitrate. Here, we describe how dietary nitrate, via stimulation of the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway, affects various organ systems and discuss underlying mechanisms that may contribute to the observed blood pressure-lowering effect.


“The current study showed that 24 weeks of BA supplementation at 6.4 g day−1 did not significantly affect muscle taurine content, clinical markers of renal, hepatic and muscle function, nor did it result in chronic sensory side-effects, in healthy individuals. Since athletes are likely to engage in chronic supplementation, these data provide important evidence to suggest that supplementation with BA at these doses for up to 24 weeks is safe for healthy individuals.”

“BA supplementation seems to improve perceived exertion and biochemical parameters related to muscle fatigue and less evidence was found for improvement in performance.”


The results of this review indicate that β-alanine supplementation within the doses used in the available research designs, does not adversely affect those consuming it.


“β-Alanine supplementation was effective at increasing power output when lifting loads equivalent to the individual’s maximal strength or when working at maximum power output. The improvement observed at 1RM was explained by a greater load lifted, or strength gain, in response to training in the participants who took this supplement.”


“In conclusion, this investigation demonstrated that 12 g/day of BA supplementation for 14 days resulted in several improvements in physical performance, cognitive function, and mood during a 24 hour simulated military exercise.”


“In line with the purported mechanisms for an ergogenic effect of β-alanine supplementation, exercise lasting 60-240 seconds was improved in BA compared to Pla, as was exercise of >240 seconds.”


Cherry Extract
Tart cherries, rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may have a protective effect to reduce muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise. Ingesting tart cherry for 7 days prior to and during a strenuous running event can minimize post-run muscle pain.


Cherry extract intake acutely reduces systolic blood pressure (SBP) in men with early hypertension. These benefits may be mechanistically linked to the actions of circulating phenolic acids. This study provides information on a new application of MCs in health maintenance, particularly in positively modulating SBP


The data demonstrate that cherry extract supplementation may be a practical nutritional intervention to help attenuate the symptoms of muscle damage and improve recovery on subsequent days.


Tart cherry concentrate has a significant benefit for endurance exercise performance. Tart cherry concentrate may enhance endurance exercise performance via its low glycemic index, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative capacity, and blood flow enhancing effects.

DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2020.1713246


These results suggest that acute supplementation with cherry extract can lower blood pressure and improve some aspects of exercise performance, both aerobic and anaerobic. Particularly end‐sprint performance in trained cyclists.


These results indicate that the consumption of a TC supplement can aid aspects of recovery from strenuous exercise.

DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2020-0145


This study demonstrated that tart cherry extract reduced oxidative stress and markers of muscle and cardiac damage following intense resistance exercise. This occurred along with a prevention of the decrease in handgrip strength seen following the intense exercise protocol, indicating a potential reduction in central fatigue. These benefits were seen with minimal energy intake.


This study demonstrated that tart cherry extract reduced oxidative stress and markers of muscle and cardiac damage following intense resistance exercise. This occurred along with a prevention of the decrease in handgrip strength seen following the intense exercise protocol, indicating a potential reduction in central fatigue. These benefits were seen with minimal energy intake.

DOI: 10.1186/s12970-021-00449-x


This review confirms that the “consumption of sweet or tart cherries can promote health by preventing or decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation.” This can potentially lead to increased recovery. Increased oxidative stress contributes to development and progression of several human chronic inflammatory diseases. Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C which have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


The results suggest that TCJ, in addition to habitual diet, can accelerate recovery after intermittent exercise and therefore extend the efficacy of TCJ in accelerating recovery in team sports.

DOI: 10.1123/ijspp.2019-0101


Tart cherry intake modified aquaporin 4 and endothelial inflammatory markers. These findings indicate the potential role of this nutritional supplement in preventing obesity-related risk factors, especially neuroinflammation.


There are studies suggesting some digestion benefits, but then you need to be using Betaine HCl rather than TMG. These studies use as low as 500mg of betaine HCl for digestion support. It is more likely due to the HCl than the betaine itself.


The results of this study indicated that betaine supplementation may enhance reductions in fat mass, but not absolute strength, that accompany a resistance training program in untrained collegiate females.

doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0243-x


Six-weeks of betaine supplementation improved body composition, arm size, bench press work capacity, attenuated the rise in urinary HCTL, and tended to improve power (p = .07) but not strength.

DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-39


14-week of betaine supplementation increased predicted 1-RM, VO2max, and repeated sprint ability performance in youth professional soccer players. Betaine supplementation seems to be a useful nutritional strategy to improve and to maintain performance during a competitive soccer season.


Betaine (vs. placebo) supplementation enhanced both the anabolic endocrine profile and the corresponding anabolic signaling environment, suggesting increased protein synthesis.

DOI: 10.1007/s00421-012-2492-8


In conclusion, we reported that betaine supplementation does not augment muscle PCr content. Furthermore, we showed that betaine supplementation combined or not with creatine supplementation does not affect strength and power performance in untrained subjects.


We conclude that plasma tHcy is lowered rapidly and significantly by 3 or 6 g betaine/d in healthy men and women.

DOI: 10.1079/BJN20041253


Observations indicated that rehydration with fluids containing betaine resulted in significant differences (p < 0.05) of plasma volume, oxygen consumption, plasma lactate concentration, and thermal sensation. The present experiments did not support the use of betaine to improve sprint duration, but nonsignificant trends occurred when betaine trials were compared with non-betaine trials (mean C+B > C by 32 seconds, +16%; mean W+B > W by 38 seconds, +21%). We interpret the increases of both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism (C+B > C) to mean that further investigation of betaine as a nutritional supplement, using other types of exercise, is warranted.

DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31816a6efb


One week of betaine ingestion improved cycling sprint power in recreationally active males and females.

DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-12


Two-weeks of betaine supplementation in active, college males appeared to improve muscle endurance of the squat exercise, and increase the quality of repetitions performed.

DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-6-7


These findings indicate that betaine supplementation results in a moderate increase in total repetitions and volume load in the bench press exercise, without favorably impacting other performance measures.

DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318217d48d


B supplementation increased power, force and maintenance of these measures in selected performance measures, and these were more apparent in the smaller upper-body muscle groups.

DOI: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-27


“Creatine monohydrate supplementation can increase total creatine and phosphocreatine stores for re-synthesis of adenosine triphosphate. Although most existing literature has investigated creatine to improve strength and body composition, it has also been shown to promote brain energy homeostasis and improve cognitive parameters. This may be another mechanism for performance enhancement because exercise is both physically and mentally depleting.”


“Following 24-h sleep deprivation, creatine supplementation had a positive effect on mood state and tasks that place a heavy stress on the prefrontal cortex.”


In addition to strength gains, research has shown that creatine supplementation may provide additional benefits including enhanced postexercise recovery, injury prevention, rehabilitation, as well as a number of potential neurologic benefits that may be relevant to sports. Studies show that short- and long-term supplementation is safe and well tolerated in healthy individuals and in a number of patient populations.

DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000863


Cr increased muscular strength in as little as two weeks during a resistance training program; however, this was not accompanied by decreased muscle damage. Greater muscle damage with Cr may be due to a greater training intensity enabled by Cr supplementation. This might lead to greater protein turnover and enhanced muscle adaptation.


“Creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory (backward digit span) and intelligence (Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices), both tasks that require speed of processing. These findings underline a dynamic and significant role of brain energy capacity in influencing brain performance.”


“This study concluded that creatine supplementation combined with complex training improved maximal muscular strength and reduced muscle damage during training.”


“Oral creatine administration may improve short-term memory and intelligence/reasoning of healthy individuals but its effect on other cognitive domains remains unclear. Findings suggest potential benefit for aging and stressed individuals. Since creatine is safe, future studies should include larger sample sizes. It is imperative that creatine should be tested on patients with dementias or cognitive impairment.”


“These results indicate that short-term creatine supplementation attenuates the loss in muscle mass and strength during upper-arm immobilization in young men.”


“A number of studies suggest that creatine supplementation improves cognitive processing under resting and various stressed conditions. “


“Creatine supplementation may enhance post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, thermoregulation, rehabilitation, and concussion and/or spinal cord neuroprotection. Additionally, a number of clinical applications of creatine supplementation have been studied involving neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease), diabetes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, aging, brain and heart ischemia, adolescent depression, and pregnancy. These studies provide a large body of evidence that creatine can not only improve exercise performance, but can play a role in preventing and/or reducing the severity of injury, enhancing rehabilitation from injuries, and helping athletes tolerate heavy training loads. Additionally, researchers have identified a number of potentially beneficial clinical uses of creatine supplementation. These studies show that short and long-term supplementation (up to 30 g/day for 5 years) is safe and well-tolerated in healthy individuals and in a number of patient populations ranging from infants to the elderly. Moreover, significant health benefits may be provided by ensuring habitual low dietary creatine ingestion (e.g., 3 g/day) throughout the lifespan. “


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