Getting the Most Out of Your Workout

Pre-workout supplements have never been more popular. They provide you with increased energy and endurance for your workout; however, there are several issues to consider when choosing the best approach for yourself or your patients.

One of the most important things to consider when evaluating your options is that many popular pre-workout supplements are loaded with stimulants. There is nothing wrong with a little caffeine, but most of the pre-workout products on the market contain as much caffeine as five cups of coffee. In addition, many also contain food dyes and artificial sweeteners, with most powders being sweetened with sucralose. While food manufacturing companies and global health authorities have deemed sucralose safe for consumption, most health care providers know that this is not the case. According to a recent study in theJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, sucralose is a biologically active compound that decreases the number and balance of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; causes epithelial scarring, the depletion of goblet cells and glandular disorganization in the colon; and alters insulin, blood glucose, and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) levels.1 

I started weight training 16 years ago and have been a competitive powerlifter for the past four years. I know the importance of nutrients for supporting focus, energy, and endurance. The challenge is finding good, health-promoting products that do not have excessive amounts of caffeine, while also being free of artificial sweeteners and food dyes.

These are some nutrients that I have personally found to be effective and safe to take prior to training: 

Creatine has been heavily researched for the past 20 years and is ideal for people who are sensitive to stimulants. Creatine supplementation can increase tissue concentrations of this nutrient to a level that is unobtainable through the diet alone. However, it is important to use a creatine supplement in a stabilized, alkaline form so it does not raise creatinine (a metabolite of creatine). Many of the side effects of taking high-dose creatine supplementation are not from the creatine itself, but are actually from creatinine.

Acetyl L-carnitine is one of the most extensively researched brain nutrients with a proven ability to enhance mental energy. Most people associate acetyl L-carnitine with preventing age-related memory decline and slowing Alzheimer's; however, it is also very effective when used pre-workout for increasing mental focus and energy.

Glycerophosphocholine (GPC) is an activated form of choline that crosses the blood brain barrier. GPC is another brain nutrient commonly used for age-related brain conditions and brain recovery from stroke or trauma. GPC also has other benefits, such as enhancing growth hormone secretion. According to a study in Nutrition, plasma growth hormone secretion was increased significantly 60 minutes after taking GPC, whereas no significant change was observed with the placebo.2

L-Arginine is a non-essential amino acid that is important for many cellular functions. It is a precursor to nitric oxide, which increases blood flow, thereby raising the supply of oxygen and nutrients to muscles.

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) provide a great energy source for weight lifters. MCTs are quickly converted into energy, sparing amino acids from being used as fuel. This is essential for athletes restricting their carbohydrate intake, intermittent fasting, carb back-loading, or following the "warrior diet.”

Caffeine is definitely beneficial but not a lot is needed to get the job done. It also depends on the time of day that you are training. I prefer to mix coconut oil in tea (coffee may be preferable to many, but I myself do not drink coffee) prior to training. A good alternative is to use an MCT oil supplement containing coconut and palm oils.

Choosing the right supplements can have a large impact on what you are able to get out of your workouts, but sifting through the stimulants, dyes and unhealthy sweeteners can be discouraging. This list presents safe and beneficial nutrients that support athletic performance, as well as some brain nutrients that are often not thought of when formulating a pre-workout regimen, yet can be extremely helpful for focus and mental energy in athletes.  I can honestly say that I feel and see the difference in my workouts now.

by Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN

What Enzymes Does Mercury Inhibit?

Mercury is a heavy metal that has been used for centuries as a medicine and a poison. Common exposures come from contaminated seafood, dental amalgams, and vaccines for infants. Mercury can exist in 11 different chemical states or compounds. At the molecular level, it forms bonds with sulfhydryl groups on an enzyme, which are parts of the enzyme that contain a sulfur atom that is attached to a hydrogen atom (SH). Binding of mercury can change the shape of the enzyme and block its activity. Enzymes inhibited by mercury include acetylcholinesterase, catalase, dipeptyl peptidase (CD26), amylase, lipase, lactase and glucose-6-phosphatase.


Acetylcholine is one of the main neurotransmitters that nerves use to control muscle movement. After release, acetylcholine must be degraded in order to stop the “go” signal from continuing to stimulate the receiving cell. Acetylcholine is degraded by an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. This enzyme is found in the synaptic cleft, which is the space between the "fingertips" of a nerve cell and the neighboring cell that the nerve activates. Mercury inhibits this enzyme differently in different species, depending on whether it can easily find a sulfhydryl group to latch onto. For human acetylcholinesterase, it takes millimolar amounts of mercuric chloride (HgCl2) to inhibit the enzyme.


Catalase is an enzyme that converts hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide is regularly produced by cells as they make energy in a process called cellular respiration. Hydrogen peroxide is toxic at high levels, so cells get rid of it via the enzyme catalase. Though it is widely known that mercury inhibits catalase, it may do so by binding to sites other than sulfhydryl groups. It is interesting to note that when a person absorbs elemental mercury, which causes brain damage, catalase is the enzyme in the red blood cells that converts elemental mercury into an ionic form (mercuric salt).

Creatine Kinase

Mercury also inhibits the enzyme found in skeletal muscle called creatine kinase. Muscle cells contract by using an energy molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule with three -- thus the “tri” prefix -- phosphates. Energy is released for an enzyme when the enzyme grabs ATP and breaks off one phosphate, resulting in adenosine diphosphate (ADP) -- “di” means two. A quick way of making ATP is to take a phosphate from a sugar molecule called phosphocreatine and add it to ADP. Creatine kinase is the enzyme that recharges ADP into ATP in this way. Mercury inhibits creatine kinase in several ways. Mercury blocks creatine kinase’s ability to bind ADP or the magnesium ion that the enzyme needs in order to function properly.

Digestive Enzymes

Mercury binds to sulfhydryl groups, which is found on the amino acid cysteine. Since cysteine is a common amino acid in many enzymes, mercury inhibits a whole host of enzymes. The "Journal of Applied Toxicology" reported the effects of inorganic mercury in the liver tissue of freshwater fish. Mercury inhibited many enzymes involved in digestion of food molecules, such as protein, carbohydrate and fat: amylase, lipase, lactase and maltase. Mercury also inhibited glucose-6-phosphatase, an enzyme involved in the production and export of glucose in cells.