Pre-workouts might cause ED in susceptible individuals. But don’t blame caffeine. Read to find out.
When it first happened to you, did your evening look something like this?
6:00 PM: You slam your pre-workout.
6:30-7:15 PM: You crush your gym session, got massive pumps and set PRs.
8:00 PM: You finished eating and showering.
8-9 PM: You spend time in light conversation with the missus to set the mood in candlelight.
9 PM: The two of you are in bed ready to make things happen. Everything has gone perfectly to plan. Now it’s just up to lil’ Johnny to perform. But he’s as unresponsive as a frozen computer.
You, my friend, are a victim of stim dick.
What is stim dick?
Stim dick is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection due to excessive use of stimulants, typically from pre-workout supplements.
You might have heard to deca dick or whiskey dick before. Well, this is the same, but from stimulants.
Although a small amount of stimulants can enhance sexual arousal and function, too much can have the opposite effect. It can make your penis completely unresponsive and even shrink your flaccid hang.
What causes stim dick
The excessive intake of stimulants can make you feel wired, anxious and overhyped due to excessive activation of the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is part of your nervous system that carries signals related to your “fight-or-flight” response. It also promotes the release of cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline.
All three of these transfer blood away from your penis to your muscles and constrict the blood vessels in your penis. Therefore your muscles might look pumped and full, but your penor is flat.
The sympathetic nervous system plays an important role in sexual performance, desire and arousal, but too much will kill erections and even contribute to premature ejaculation.
Nothing will be worse than eventually getting an erection, but then blowing your load right after takeoff.
Additionally, too much stimulation can make you anxious, which can inhibit erections even more.
Other side effects of excessive intake of stimulants are high blood pressure, elevated heart rate and even heart attack.
Can pre-workouts improve erections?
Yes, since most pre-workouts contain compounds that might be able to increase testosterone and blood flow. These compounds will have a good effect on erections.
Let’s look at a few sample ingredients.
Betaine, a common pre-workout ingredient, might improve erections, by lowering homocysteine (R). Excess homocysteine can cause vascular inflammation, which contributes to ED. Low betaine and choline intake can put a burden on folate, which is needed for dopamine and nitric oxide production (NO).
Low folate is an independent risk factor for erectile dysfunction. Betaine has a folate-sparing effect, thus can help to increase NO and dopamine.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that has been shown to increase testosterone levels, help build muscle mass and it also helps with erections.
You can expect a testosterone increase between 70-100ng/dl on average from taking 600mg KSM-66 extract daily.
Ashwagandha – adaptogenic, androgenic and anabolic
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in getting an erection (R). Most people don’t eat enough choline-rich foods and can benefit from the choline in a pre-workout.
Phenylalanine & tyrosine
Phenylalanine is converted to tyrosine and tyrosine to dopamine. Dopamine promotes sex drive and erections. Dopaminergic drugs are regularly prescribed for low libido and sexual dysfunction.
Shilajit is a mineral-rich complex harvested from the Himalayan mountains. It’s been shown to enhance exercise performance, reduce fatigue and improve mitochondrial function.
It’s also been shown to increase testosterone, which can help with erections.
Shilajit on dopamine, testosterone and sexual function
Citrulline is one of the most common pre-workout ingredients since it’s good at boosting nitric oxide levels, which could help you get better pumps. Citrulline for that fact is also helpful for erections.
Other NO boosters found in pre-workouts include beetroot extract, green coffee bean extract, Nitrosigine, Navoline, pomegranate extract, etc, which can also improve erections.
The difference between citrulline and citrulline malate is that the latter can also improve exercise performance, due to the extra malate, which serves as fuel for the mitochondria.
Beta-alanine is great at boosting intracellular carnosine, which buffers acidity.
One of the blood flow-promoting mechanisms of carnosine is via cyclic GMP production (R). cGMP promotes vasorelaxation for erections. Viagra works by inhibiting the breakdown of cGMP, which is how it promotes better erections.
Creatine monohydrate in combination with exercise has been shown to boost DHT. DHT is very important for proper erection and is also an independent marker of orgasm frequency.
The ultimate guide for increasing DHT
In summary, pre-workouts might help with erection because it:
- Increases energy levels – Feeling low energy is a sure way to sap your libido.
- Helps with blood flow – Better blood flow equals better erections.
- Enhances endurance – Erections for longer can help extend a session.
- Helps with arousal – Activation of the sympathetic nervous system boosts libido and arousal.
- Helps with focus – Being distracted can kill your erections.
Pre-workouts aren’t just good as workout enhancers, but erections enhancers as well. Most ingredients in pre-workouts can help you get stronger erections.
The risk of ED is only significant in those that are sensitive to stimulants. Plus, it would seem that most people that are sensitive to it don’t even know.
Which stimulants are bad for erections?
Pre-workouts can contain many stimulants, some being worse than others.
Some of these stimulants include:
- Caffeine (caffeine anhydrous, dicaffeine malate, caffeine citrate, pterostilbene-caffeine, etc.)
- Ephedrine – A powerful stimulant that is illegal in many countries due to safety concerns.
- DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) – A powerful stimulant that has been banned in many countries due to safety concerns.
Caffeine and ED
Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients in pre-workouts for the exact reason that it gives you a boost of energy. All of the other ingredients are less important.
Caffeine is likely to have a beneficial effect on erections. According to this study, men who consumed 85-303 mg of caffeine per day were less likely to report ED compared to men with the lowest intake of caffeine (R). Even energy drinks haven’t been shown to contribute to ED. Unless it starts to cause sleep issues, then it can become a problem.
It’s really difficult to get an erection when you have low energy or aren’t focused or interested. Caffeine can give you that energy and that can help boost your libido and erections.
Other stims and ED
Yohimbine has also been shown to be helpful with erections. However, high doses can make someone overstimulated, sweaty and anxious.
In terms of the rest, there isn’t any scientific evidence that they contribute to erectile dysfunction. The more powerful a stimulant is and the higher dose you’re consuming, the more likely you might get stim dick.
Stimulants aren’t bad, it’s when you take too much that it can be detrimental.
How do I fix stim dick?
There are 2 main things that you can do.
- Switch to a stim-free pre-workout
- Take adaptogens with your pre-workout
There are many great stim-free pre-workouts out there, that will give you the same bang for your buck as pre-workouts with stims.
Option 2 is to take an adaptogen with the stimulant to offset the overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system. A common combination is theanine with caffeine. Start with a 1:1 ratio, but you can always go higher to a 2:1 ratio.
Another compound that pairs well with caffeine is taurine, but the dose needs to be 2-5g.
Any other GABA-ergic compound like Lemon balm, passionflower, kava, etc, can help to take the edge off the stimulants.
Could steroids cause ED?
The two anabolic steroids that have the highest risk of causing ED seems to be deca and trenbolone.
The reason I mention steroids is that some people, when they get back into lifting, buy all the clothes, gear, deodorants, steroids, protein powders, pre-workouts, sleep supps and whatnot. So oftentimes there will be a lot of confounding variables and it’s hard to point the finger at one thing.
Meaning, the ED could be from steroids and not the pre-workout, if someone is also on steroids.
What really causes ED
Other factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction are:
- Low and free testosterone
- Drug use, such as finasteride or anti-depressants
- Sleep loss and specifically sleep apnea
- Autoimmune conditions
- Gut issues (indigestion, bloating, gas, GERD, messy stools, etc.)
- Cardiovascular disease (due to diabetes)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Estrogen excess
- and much more.
The best way to improve your erections permanently is to optimize your diet and make important lifestyle changes. If you have erectile problems, start by eating the right foods, cutting out the foods that are contributing to ED and improving your lifestyle. It’s really that simple.
- Erectile dysfunction Part 1: the solution for your neurotransmitters
- Erectile dysfunction Part 2 – which hormones to optimize and how
- Erectile dysfunction Part 3: nitric oxide, oxidative stress and insulin resistance
- Erectile dysfunction Part 4: effective supplements
- Erectile dysfunction Part 5: Porn and Masturbation