Is N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine the Best Pre-Workout Ingredient for Training Intensity?

A slightly modified version of the sulfur-containing amino acid L-Cysteine, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (or NAC) is an amazing ingredient that has (for over 30 years) been used in conventional medicine to support the body’s natural healing systems. It’s also been used to favorably affect the genes involved in cellular repair. So powerful are the effects of N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine that this largely-unheralded compound has also been used as a mucolytic (mucus thinner) to successfully treat chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis. Much clinical research has demonstrated how profoundly effective NAC can be as a powerful antioxidant (it replenishes cellular antioxidant systems, most notably glutathione – GSH) and as a potent modulator of gene expression to regulate inflammation on many different levels, including that resulting from muscle microtrauma.3, 6, 8, 23

Now, thanks to the revolutionary IMPACT Igniter, this potent performance enhancer can also be used as part of pre-workout stack to optimize performance and accelerate muscle gains faster than previously thought possible. Considered by medical science to be an underutilized intervention in the war against ill health and disease, imagine what NAC can do for you when it comes to creating the anabolic conditions necessary for optimum workout performance and ongoing lean muscle gains. 

A Plateau Smasher
One of the primary roles of a top pre-workout supplement is to facilitate the highest level of workout intensity by removing performance barriers. Muscle fatigue and poor blood flow to the working muscles remain two such barriers. Two of NAC’s major direct benefits include fatigue reduction and EPO/blood volume increases. As we all know, hitting those last growth-inducing reps requires not only a disciplined mindset but the best supplemental support money can buy. NAC is the perfect solution as it’s been proven to increase anaerobic performance in high-volume training protocols.22

In one study alone, NAC enabled well-trained triathletes to significantly improve their repeated cycle-sprint performances when compared to a placebo.2 By increasing levels of the potent antioxidant and detoxification compound glutathione, which up-regulates lipid metabolism and reduces acidification in skeletal muscles while also mitigating against endurance-stifling oxidative stress, NAC was able to vastly extend training output. 2, 5, 13, 18


 Oxidative stress significantly overwhelms the body’s antioxidant defense mechanisms, thus leading to tissue damage and undesirable activity of key immune system cells.13 Plasma levels of inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-alpha and various interleukins are also increased with vigorous exercise.10, 11 As a dedicated iron athlete, the last thing you need is less than desirable levels of training intensity and insufficient volume.


 Instead, rather than curtailing your training output it’s best to enhance the way your body copes with the metabolic challenges brought about by intensive training. As an extremely powerful antioxidant with gene-regulating properties, NAC will enable you to counter oxidative stress to boost performance and immunity while limiting training-induced cellular damage.8 It’s been determined that not only can NAC improve exercise endurance time by up to 25% compared with a placebo, but this powerful performance booster can also significantly reduce levels of oxidative molecules released by stimulated immune cells to further optimize performance and enhance recovery.12, 19, 20


Athletic populations are also more susceptible to oxidative lung damage due in large part to excessive training-induced free radical accumulation.17 Thus there’s a greater chance that respiration among such people may be compromised and the subsequent supply of oxygen-rich blood needed by hard working muscles may be severely limited. Fortunately, NAC, a modality used in the clinical prevention and treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), works to reduce oxidative damage in the lungs while also countering inflamed lung tissue which by itself may lead to shortness of breath and suboptimal training output.17 

A Blood Booster
Increasing blood volume via greater than normal EPO levels is essential when seeking to boost training output (both endurance and strength-related). A glycoprotein that elevates haemoglobin levels by increasing red blood cell proliferation and decreasing blood plasma volume, EPO (Erythropoietin) is an undisputed key to optimizing human performance. By elevating haemoglobin levels, a maximum amount of oxygen can be transported to muscle cells and muscular endurance can be dramatically increased .4   
NAC supplementation has been shown to improve blood plasma levels of EPO (+26%), haemoglobin (+9%), haematocrit (+9%) and erythrocytes (−6%) at rest and after exercise.25 Sustained workout intensity has as much to do with the continual supply of oxygen-rich blood to the working muscles as it has to do with mental arousal and extreme focus. You can be assured that by dosing up on NAC before lifting off, you’ll have as much energy going into the dying stages of your session as you did when approaching the first rep.
Counters Insulin Resistance
The negative health consequences of insulin resistance are well documented. Aside from its association with metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes, insulin resistance (due to unstable blood sugar levels and inflammation in fat tissue) can seriously derail training output while putting the brakes on proper nutrient assimilation.7, 9, 15, 16 Many people are to a certain degree unwittingly insulin resistant. Off-season bodybuilders, with their extra adipose tissue, are especially susceptible. However, through gene regulation, insulin resistance can be sharply mitigated via NAC supplementation.1, 15 Yet another reason to include NAC in your arsenal of performance supplements.
Post-Workout Progress
The positive benefits of advanced pre-workout supplementation should not end once the workout is done. In fact, NAC-induced gene expression modifications can also reduce acute post-training oxidant-provoked inflammatory responses to keep muscles anabolic.6 Therefore the cellular damage incurred via intensive training can be more broadly addressed to better facilitate muscle recovery and growth.8, 20 While high intensity workouts ignite the muscle growth response, it’s what happens after training that invariably translates reps into results. Intense training produces tremendous amounts of oxidative stress and inflammation.10
While not entirely detrimental to muscle growth, both can lead to insulin resistance and suboptimal recovery if left unchecked. Both conditions also interfere with nutrient assimilation and muscle growth. This post-workout dilemma can be successfully addressed with highly bioavailable NAC.14 As mentioned above, NAC boosts blood levels of the immunity-enhancer glutathione. Greater immunity improves muscle anabolism via the scavenging of muscle-damaging free radicals. In fact, NAC supplementation greatly influences both resting and post-exercise levels of glutathione (+31%).2
A Potent Workout Force
Besides dramatically increasing training strength and endurance and aiding recovery from intensive workouts, NAC also has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, assist bone regeneration, and improve sleep efficiency.8, 14, 21, 24 Its combined effects will thus have you performing better than ever – on many levels. As part of a pre-workout stack of superior performance compounds its effects are further optimized. Working synergistically with IMPACT Igniter’s additional ingredients, the clinically-proven NAC will give you an undisputed edge when it comes to adding impressive layers of lean muscle.
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  2. Aoi, W. et al. Glutathione supplementation suppresses muscle fatigue induced by prolonged exercise via improved aerobic metabolism. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Feb 6;12:7.
  3. Blesa, S. et al. Oral N-acetyl cysteine attenuates the rat pulmonary inflammatory response to antigen. Eur Respir J. 2003 Mar;21(3):394-400.
  4. Boning, D. Erythropoietin effect on red cell and plasma volume. J Physiol. 2008 Jan 1; 586(Pt 1): 303.
  5. Chun, L.J., et al. Acetaminophen hepatotoxicity and acute liver failureJ Clin Gastroenterol. 2009 Apr;43(4):342-9.
  6. Chen, G. et al. Inhibitory effect on cerebral inflammatory response following traumatic brain injury in rats: a potential neuroprotective mechanism of N-acetyl cysteine. Mediators Inflamm. 2008;2008:716458.
  7. Evans J. L., et al. The molecular basis for oxidative stress-induced insulin resistance. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2005 Jul-Aug;7(7-8):1040-52.
  8. Goepp, J. The Overlooked Compound That Saves lives. Life Extension. [Online] Retrieved on 19.10.17
  9. Guo, Q. et al. Methylglyoxal contributes to the development of insulin resistance and salt sensitivity in Sprague-Dawley rats. J Hypertens. 2009 Aug;27(8):1664-71. (blood glucose)
  10. Hadzovic, A. et al. Oxidative stress status in elite athletes engaged in different sport disciplines. Bosn J Basic Med Sci. 2014 May; 14(2): 56–62.
  11. Kim, H. et al. Suppression of NF-kappaB activation and cytokine production by N-acetyl cysteine in pancreatic acinar cells. Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Oct 1;29(7):674-83.
  12. Koechlin, C. et al. Does oxidative stress alter quadriceps endurance in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004 May 1;169(9):1022-7.
  13. Kerksick, C et al.. The antioxidant role of glutathione and N-acetyl-cysteine supplements and exercise-induced oxidative stress. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005;2:38-44.
  14. Liu, C. et al. N-Acetyl Cysteine improves the diabetic cardiac function: possible role of fibrosis inhibition. BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2015 Aug 6;15:84.
  15. Masha, A. et al. Prolonged treatment with N-acetyl cysteine and L-arginine restores gonadal function in patients with PCO syndrome. J Endocrinol Invest. 2009 Apr 15.
  16. Ma, Y. et al. N-acetylcysteine Protects Mice from High Fat Diet-induced Metabolic Disorders. Pharm Res. 2016 Aug;33(8):2033-42
  17. COPD. [Online] retrieved on 19.10.17
  18. Mytilineou, C. et al. Glutathione depletion and oxidative stress. See comment in PubMed Commons belowParkinsonism Relat Disord. 2002 Sep;8(6):385-7.
  19. Peake, J. Neutrophil activation, antioxidant supplements and exercise-induced oxidative stress. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2004;10:129-41.
  20. Quadrilatero, J. N-Acetyl-L-cysteine prevents exercise-induced intestinal lymphocyte apoptosis by maintaining intracellular glutathione levels and reducing mitochondrial membrane depolarization. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2004 Jul 2;319(3):894-901.
  21. Sadasivam, K. Anti-oxidant treatment in obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome. Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci. 2011 Jul-Sep;53(3):153-62.
  22. Slattery, K. M., et al. 2014. Effect of N‐acetylcysteine on cycling performance after intensified training. Sci. Sports Exerc. 46:1114–1123.
  23. Saito, C. et al. Novel mechanisms of protection against acetaminophen hepatotoxicity in mice by glutathione and N-acetyl cysteine. Hepatology. Jan;51(1):246-54.
  24. Yamada, M. et al. N-acetyl cysteine as an osteogenesis-enhancing molecule for bone regeneration. 2013 Aug;34(26):6147-56.
  25. Zembron-Lacny, A. et al. The comparison of antioxidant and hematological properties of N-acetylcysteine and alpha-lipoic acid in physically active males. Physiol Res. 2009;58(6):855-61.

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