Pre-Workout Nutrition: Supplementation for Maximizing Hypertrophy

the rack front door

When trying to maximize hypertrophy, we have a few objectives through nutrition and supplementation:

  • Maximize Training Drive (Dopamine and Acetylcholine)
  • Cell Swelling / Hyperemia (blood flow to specific tissue)

To do this we want to use specific nutrients that enhance blood flow and fluid transfer to the cells within the muscle.  Supplements like beta alanine have gained popularity in the past, but I have found that using anti-oxidants not only improves ones ability to repeatedly perform an effort under extreme fatigue, but also, largely through mitochondrial proliferation, can enhance energy and mood.

In this case, agents like beta alanine, sodium bicarbonate and even creatine that act as buffers of lactic acid will decrease, to some extent, the acidic environment.

This is a highly debated topic amongst experts in the industry.  The dilemma: do I buffer more fatigue substrates (like lactic acid) to allow me to do more work, or is less work sufficient when the acidic environment is maximized?

Decades of trial and error have taught me 2 things:

  1. If you respond best to higher volumes of work, less buffering agents may work optimally for you.
  2. Those responding to higher intensities will benefit more from being able to lift at higher intensities, which will be aided by buffering.

Popular Supplements
Caffeine and Arginine are two of the more popular supplements on the market to be used pre-workout for hypertrophy.  However, these two supplements have contraindications that work in opposition to our goals for hypertrophy.


  • A major function of caffeine is vasoconstriction.  Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of blood vessels, thus reducing blood flow.  While caffeine will certainly improve neural drive and rate of contraction, if you are striving to optimize nutrient delivery to the tissues through blood flow, vasoconstriction dramatically reduces this.  Compounded over 12 months of training, the amount you will have limited delivery to the tissues will be significant.


  • Believed to increase NO.  It does not.
  • At rest, arginine supplementation (5 to 9g) increases Growth Hormone by 100%.  When taken prior to exercise Arginine actually blunts GH response during exercise.  Interestingly enough, exercises alone, without Arginine supplementation can increase GH levels by 300-500%.
  • Citrulline Malate, a precursor to L-Arginine, is more effective pre-workout.
Best Buffering Agents NO2 Pathway – Hyperemia Enhancers
Creatine Carnitine (Acetyl L, L-Tartrate)
Sodium Bicarbonate Agmatime Sulfate
Citrulline Malate CoQ10
Beta Alanine Alpha Lipoic Acid
Grape Seed Extract
Beet Root Extract

Robert Jacobs
USAW, PICP, BioSignature, Metabolic Analytics, NKT, Nike-SPARQ, NASM-PES, CES & CPT

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