Get pumped. Get huge. Look vascular. Bulk up. Bulge out. Get ripped. Gain libido. Unmatched muscle fullness. Get swollen. Jack3d. Explode. C4. Cellucor. Detonate. Supplement. Depth. Massive. 

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Being the best personal trainer means knowing all the factors that influence someone’s health decisions. I need to be on top of the new packaged foods, commercials, studies, popular supplements, workout DVDS, diet trends, energy drinks, and everything else that hits the market claiming to increase your health. I will test it myself, read others’ reviews, or research the science of the claim. As I traverse my journey to building muscle, I became curious about the supplements that claim to give you pump. I wondered, “What is this pump? Is it real or false? Will it help me get bigger, faster? Does it work on women? Why are only men on the packaging and marketing?”

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What’s the Deal? Recently made pre-workout supplements that claim to give you pump contain a form of nitric oxide called Arginine Nitrate, or NO3. This lab-made chemical dilates your veins and blood vessels, allows more blood flow, and gives your veins a visible inflated appearance. This is known as pump. This is what they are selling. But what got me interested was the claim to increase strength by simply downing a watermelon or cherry flavored kool-aid as seen here:

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Notice the claim for strength.

I wondered, “If a supplement gives you access to pumped veins before even working out, will it improve your workout? Will it really improve your strength?”

Is it Legit? Turns out, no. Pump is solely an appearance thing. The actual vascularity has no direct relation to strength.

Everyone who takes them will tell you they get a boost of energy and feel stronger. This is due to the amount of caffeine and sugar in them, which will let you run faster and work harder, so that later you are stronger. Having fresh oxygen and hydration in your blood will let you work harder without fatigue. This is true. The false part is that the “pumped up veins” gives you strength.

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Fact: The only way to get faster and stronger is to run more and lift heavier.

Supplements themselves do not give you strength, speed, or agility. It is the energy they provide, in carbs, caffeine, and available ATP, that will help you workout longer, push harder, and recover faster. But you know what? Really good organic nutrition that is timed correctly can do the same thing.

Personally, I use things like yerba mate, kombucha, ginseng, ginger, matcha, and other organically found nutrients. I’m not a fan of the synthetic lab-made materials in these supplements, but that’s my individual stance. Plus, the one time I tried a sample of Jack3d, I practically had a panic attack.  Below are the nutrients in the pre-workout fuel I take sometimes. It can be found here.

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How do I get strong without these powders?
You need to push your muscles past the limit they are used to being pushed. If you normally use 10lb dumbbells, you will need to work up to 12’s and then 15’s. This is your strength increasing.

Personally, it has taken me a while to get up to 20lb dumbbells. But once you realize you can do 3 reps, 4, 5, and then 8, you did it! You used a heavier weight and your muscles will respond to that challenge. They will recover by building more muscle fibers so that next time the weight won’t feel so heavy. If you can do more than 12 reps with the weight you are currently using, increase the pounds. 

Bottom Line: Those who take supplements but make no changes in the way they train and eat will not see any improvements. Lifting weights 5-6 times a week will increase muscle and strength, not a supplement. Supplements can help give you energy and reduce fatigue, and so can food. 

A triathlete who got this way on organic nutrition:

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