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Posts Tagged ‘Review’

At Large Nutrition: Pre-Workout Review

In General, Training on March 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm

[This review was not solicited nor endorsed by At Large in any way whatsoever… I just like to brag about Chris Mason’s company since he doesn’t do enough of it himself ;)]

I’m extremely cautious about what supplements I take– largely because my stomach’s so sensitive and reacts poorly to most brands out there. Generally, I hope that my diet is well-rounded and solid enough that I don’t need supplements. I take fish oil, protein powder (non-dairy), and BCAAs. However, because my schedule has forced me into some awkward workout times when I’m either tired or fresh-out-of-bed, I wanted to try a few pre-workout formulas to see if they helped me get the most out of my WOD. It’s not that my workouts have been suffering– just that, if I’m trying to get in and out of the gym quickly and I’ve already had a long day, sometimes I wish I had more energy to put into that last stretch.

Today, I tried my first 1/2 scoop of At Large’s Pre-Workout, and the difference was so substantial. I’ve been afraid of a lot of pre-workouts because they contain ingredients that may make you feel flushed or antsy or otherwise uncomfortable. They come with this litany of warnings and side-effects (beware of tingling, hallucinations, or radioactive urine)– and I almost always experience the “sometimes” side-effects. However, the ingredients for Pre-Workout are dead simple– caffeine, citruline malate, l-carnitine, l-tartrate, and amino acids. For me, the caffeine dose of a half scoop (perhaps a little less than half) was perfect. I got an energy boost without feeling like I was going to jump out of my skin. I just wanted to throw the bar through the roof. It was a max effort upper body day for me, and for the first time in my life, I strict pressed 75% of my bodyweight. Now, (I’d hope) there are a lot of factors involved, including the amount of attention I’ve been paying to my training and diet lately, but I’m also glad that I felt good enough to hit that PR. 

After that, we did a 16 minute AMRAP of 50 single unders, 5 burpees, 10 sit-ups. You know I haven’t been training longer WODs for a while, but my energy remained consistent for all 16 minutes, and I was watching the clock to monitor my pace. I consistently maintained a 45-second round for all 16 minutes. It was actually the damn 10-seconds of transition time that slowed me down (disentangling a jump rope takes too damn long!).

Anyway… I apologize for using the blog to speak about a specific product. I usually avoid such things; I’ve actually turned down a couple review requests from companies because I didn’t want to use my website to pimp their merchandise. That said, I want to support At Large because Chris himself stands for a lot of what I love about the CrossFit community. He’s very active in the CrossFit world as well as powerlifting and strength-training domains. He uses his many years of experience, training, and expertise to help others– in all fields, even those outside of nutrition. I’ve never seen him push his products on anyone. And he does this without asking for praise or recognition.

So I want to brag a bit about his products for him. The Pre-Workout formula is great for anyone who’d need a boost before their workout, or who wants to see if s/he can push harder. Beyond that, I think my fickle digestive system is testimony to the quality of his ingredients. His is the only brand of BCAAs I’ve tried that doesn’t give me terrible heartburn for hours afterwards. It sort of makes me worry what other companies are putting into their products that I can experience such a difference.

Chris is the first one to admit that supplements aren’t a substitute for food. There’s nothing a supplement can do that a quality diet can’t. But we live in an imperfect world and sometimes we fall back on other resources for the sake of convenience– and I’m pretty damn grateful that At Large provides me with the means to do so.

Thanks for everything, Chris!

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Sunwarrior Protein Powders Review

In Food on October 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Despite a childhood love of things milky and cheesy, my adult life has been plagued by a debilitating, severe lactose intolerance. Now, I know people—these awful pretenders—who claim to have lactose intolerance, who may experience a mild tummyache after a few slices of pizza or a bowl of ice cream. But these silly poseurs have obviously never endured the real thing. For me, what began as a mild discomfort after milk-based products worsened over a matter of months. Soon, I could no longer have anything related to anything that touched the idea of something to do with dairy without hours of a bedridden, fetal-positioned Jo, whimpering and wishing for the apocalypse. And still, I can feel the after-effects of dairy for days.

Due to stubbornness and common wisdom, I’ve tried to keep whey protein in my diet as long as possible since all the research I find seems to suggest it’s the most efficient form of protein post-exercise and for muscle production. But my tolerance has gotten worse and worse in these past years… I’ve tried every available brand of isolates and “lactose-free,” but if it’s milk-derived, I tend to experience some amount of misery. These past two years, I’ve just accepted the fact that I’ll be a little uncomfortable on a daily basis because without the shakes, I had a hard time recovering after workouts, and my strength stalled out too frequently. But it’s finally become so frustrating that I decided I could no longer live like that. So, once more, I gave up the whey again and embarked on a search for a replacement.

I happened to remember a few vegan bloggers I followed (back in the pre-Paleo days) and the fact that they all spoke highly of Sunwarrior. I also remembered that it’s “the first completely hypoallergenic protein” and often recommended to IBS sufferers (such as myself). They offer two types of protein powders: their “classic” protein, which is made from raw, sprouted brown rice, and the new “warrior blend,” which includes raw pea protein, raw cranberry protein, raw hemp protein, Coconut MCTs, Fenugreek, Glucomannan, and Leucine. The absolute simplicity of the “classic” formula appealed to me, but I was curious about the difference between the two so I wrote the company, and their generous, responsive representatives were delightful and sent me samples of every single one of their powders in all available flavors (“classic” and “warrior blend” each come in vanilla, chocolate, and “natural”– which is entirely unflavored and unsweetened). I wanted to try them all before I reviewed, so that I could give you a thorough evaluation.

Taste and Texture: I have to admit that I have a bit of an unusual palate after growing up in an Asian household… Though I was surprised by my first sip (more by the sandy texture than the taste), I do enjoy both the classic and warrior powders. The “classic” formula reminds me a lot of rice milk, which we drink in Taiwan. There’s an “earthy” taste to it, but it’s rich and thick and filling. The “warrior blend” formula is a bit thinner, but reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Chinese desserts (or rather, favorite desserts of all time). The Chinese make sweets of adzuki means and mung beans– if you’ve ever gotten “boba” or “bubble tea,” these shops probably offer a “red bean” and “green bean” flavor (which are adzuki and mung, respectively). To me, these shakes taste like the sweetened mung bean soup my mom used to make when I was a kid. The sweetness of both the classic and warrior blend is milder than that of commercial brands, but I actually really enjoy that and think that it makes the shakes much more appealing after a rough workout. The chocolate, I’ll admit, is not very “chocolately,” rather, just mildly sweet. The vanilla flavor comes through really well on the Warrior Blend version, and is probably my favorite flavor. However, all of them are tasty, and I would even drink the natural flavors straight without any additives.

Usage and Effect: The brown rice protein is the first and only protein powder I’ve tried that officially doesn’t upset my stomach in anyway. It’s actually remarkable. The jury’s still out on the warrior blend. Because I enjoy the taste of the vanilla warrior blend so much, I’m hoping I can still have it, but I did experience a little (tiny, tiny bit) of discomfort after my first serving. But I was fine after the second and third, so I’m hoping that it’s a fluke. Nevertheless, I’ve purchased a tub of the chocolate brown rice and I’ve been fine after weeks of that, so I know at least that one is safe. I’ve read a few reviews complaining about mixability, but I haven’t had any problems. It doesn’t dissolve as quickly as some whey powders, but a few good shakes in a blender bottle have worked well for me. Additionally, I’ve felt better-recovered after my workouts than when I don’t take any post-workout shakes. I noticed that I felt sore after workouts if I didn’t have a whey shake afterwards, but both of Sunwarrior’s protein powders seem equally effective as the top-of-the-line whey-based products in helping my body cope with all that I subject it to. It’s too soon now to make any determinate statements about strength gains, but we’ll see in the coming month.

Until then, thank you very much to the lovely folks at Sunwarrior for helping me find an effective, gentle fuel source.