Month: September 2016

Bonus Round: Protein on the Go

Having finished up the protein powder comparison it’s another week until I tell you all about Premier Protein vanilla shakes, right?

Wrong.

Here’s how this ended up happening: PP was the only premixed I purchased and it sat in the fridge, faithfully, for the first week or so.  But then I got hungry, because one or two of the shakes didn’t quite cut it when I was doing a long run, or because I didn’t have time to pack a lunch as nicely for myself as I wanted to, and so I just threw a shake in there.

The smallest batch of PP’s you can get I think is 4 (unless someone breaks up a pack and gives you a one-off) and within a week they were gone. I didn’t think they’d go that fast and I also didn’t think it would be fair to compare a premixed to have-to-drag-the-blender-out powder, so here’s a comparison of 3 premixed proteins (all Vanilla!).

The contenders: Obviously there’s Premier Protein, which is available pretty much everywhere (Safeway, Costco, Amazon) and was the recommendation by my best friend’s hubs. I then tried out Muscle Milk in Vanilla, and there’s the old standby of Labrada Lean Body protein shake in Vanilla Ice Cream.

The flavors:

  • Premier Protein: basic vanilla, not fancy and not too rich.
  • Labrada: my favorite vanilla of the three, slightly lighter flavor (despite advertisement as “ice cream”
  • Muscle Milk: was fine for the first split-second but there’s a medicine-y aftertaste.

The textures: All three were much more watery than anything I did in a blender, although Premier Protein was the least watery. Then again I’m not sure how I’d feel about a thick shake for a shelf-sitting product.

The vitals:

  • Premier Protein offers 30 grams of protein at 160 calories. Somewhere in there there is 3 grams of fat and 25mg of cholesterol (it is a bit on the high side, while the packaging says 8% of my intake it would technically be 13%).
  • Muscle Milk offers 20 grams of protein at 130 calories, with 4 grams of fat and 10mg of cholesterol (so about 5% of my daily intake).
  • Labrada offers 25 grams of protein at 180 calories, with 7 grams of fat and 10mg of cholesterol.

The performance: These all performed equally well – not quite meal “replacement” (I don’t care what the package says) but with leftover veggies from the night before or to cure mid-afternoon drag they worked great!

The cost: I’m going to use Amazon as the great leveler of prices here; your mileage may vary.

  • Premier Protein: $7.46 as an add-on item of one 4-pack, or a 12-pack for $30.  First price would be $1.87/serving, second would be $2.50/serving
  • Muscle Milk: 2-4packs (so 8) for $24. $3/serving
  • Labrada: $31 for a 12 pack (that’s not a type-o!). $2.58/serving.

 

Grade: Premier Protein gets an A- (subtracting points for cholesterol, although it’s still less than my original shake mix by far), Muscle Milk gets a B- (minus points for being the most expensive and medicine-y aftertaste), and Labrada gets a B  (minus points for all of that fat).

 

 

Lean Green: Nutiva Hemp Protein

img_0243Nutiva was another Facebook friend recommendation and I have to say the packaging is different from the bags-o-powder thus far; in fact the packaging lets you know it’s a Non-BPA container and frankly once I’m done with the powder I’ll likely reuse it for other stuff.
One thing to note about Nutiva is it is green. Very very green. And so if you don’t normally mix your shakes with green stuff (the greenest thing in my shake these days is a questionable banana) you get a new color to drink.

img_0246The flavor: Kinda vanilla? Hint-o-vanilla. Hard to get a bead on it, because I was so distracted by…

The texture: I don’t think “mealy” is the right word, but maybe sandy? More time in the blender didn’t help; although blending it with softer textured things did a bit (e.g., the aforementioned banana). It’s very likely this was intended to be blended with many other things, and in fact there’s a recipe on the side that includes coconut and pineapple (and rice milk or almond milk, the latter of which would kill me). (Oh, and blending with psyllium is a *bad* idea for this, namely because it has it’s own fiber content, so you get to gelatinous goo phase much, much faster.)

img_0244The vitals:10 grams of protein per serving, making it the smallest protein provider of the bunch. However that doesn’t actually appear to be its focus as much as fiber, of which it also provides 5 grams. (It thinks each is 20% of my daily diet). 120 calories per serving means it’s bang in the middle of the current offerings, but where’s the 1.5g fat coming from? Still, no cholesterol.

The performance: Okay. And by okay I mean that I didn’t feel the need to eat until lunch (unless I ran that morning, which is 5 mornings a week) and it didn’t cause any reverse-broom or broom effects, as it were.

The cost: The container I purchased holds 15 servings (about — you can do 2-4tbsp, they don’t give you a scoop and they don’t tell you if those are heaping or not; they do nutrition based on 3 tbsp), and can be got at Amazon for about $14 (Prime free shipping) so it’s probably the least expensive of the lot by “serving” (e.g., slightly under a dollar). However if you were trying to match protein with the original (so, 18 grams) or with Vega (the other vegan offering, which offered up 15 grams) you’d have to use considerably more.

Grade: B-.  The texture doesn’t work for my application but may for yours; and I already get my fiber from the psyllium powder. Bump it up to a B+ if you need fiber and mix with smoother textured items (e.g., peanut butter and the like).

 

 

Gold Standard Whey – Good, but…

Gold Standard Whey was recommended by one of my friends (I have like, four) who is a true badass.  Like get up in the morning at 4am, run 10 miles, then kick butt at work, do eleven billion hobbies, in bed by midnight people. He’s in data so he’s aware there is a curve that most people fall on and is completely ambivalent that he’s ruining it.

gswhey_labelHe posted this before and I’ve heard his recipe — he mixes with peanut butter and kale (he actually likes kale) and chocolate and I have no idea what else.  I put this stuff to the test plain, with psyllium, and with a banana.

The flavor: standard, regular, vanilla. Not to sweet, not too plain; not too fancy.  Very vanilla vanilla.

The texture: PERFECT texture. Truly. Not gritty, not mealy, not slurry, just a great texture. NB: like every other shake thus far (except my original), if you leave it alone in the blender it will seize up and make an impressive gelatinous goo.

gswhey_nutritionThe vitals: 24 grams of protein per serving, which this agrees should be 50 grams per day. 35mg of Cholesterol making it less than my original powder but still an impressive fifth of what I should intake per day (a little more). Only one gram of sugars and 120 calories.

The performance: I felt full, although here’s an unpleasant side effect: remember that “Nature’s Broom” effect some protein shakes give? Let’s call this one “Nature’s Cork”. What this did after standing in my blender it did to me, and while I gave it a legitimate week’s try there is no way I’m doing that again. No.

The cost: a one-pound bag of 14 servings can be got at Amazon for about $19 (free shipping with Prime) making the cost about $1.36 — not the most spendy but close to. But even if it was 50 cents the stoppage in my system is enough of a sign.

Grade: C-. I’m sorry, I just can’t get over the grinding halt of my gears. BUT! Protein shakes hit everyone differently, if I were to remove the gastrointestinal seizure I’d give it a B+ based on the other criteria.

Decibel – No Thanks Turkish, I’m Sweet Enough

I really wanted to like Decibel because I could tell they really wanted me to like it. The website is clearly meant to show professional, serious people doing extremely fit things. The packaging is black, white, and gold (in that order) and there’s a whole booklet on how awesome the product is, that is shipped with said product. Also, my trainer recommended it.

Quick break for this: one thing my trainer pointed out is protein shakes aren’t the same for everyone, and one thing to consider is how likely they are to act as (shall we say) Nature’s Broom. It never occurred to me that that would be a consideration.

So Decibel shipped from the UK and arrived while I was out of town, but I gave it a good week. This review is for Decibel Whey Protein Concentrate in Madagascan Vanilla.

img_0236The flavor: If I were making a shake that would be for dessert — you know, like the kind you get at a Dairy Queen or a Fatburger — then this is the shake to use. If you have a chronic sweet tooth and need your breakfast shakes to be dessert-level sweet, use this. I cannot stress enough how sweet this is. Unfortunately I tend to cut my shakes with things like banana or strawberries, which only serve to make the shake *more* sweet.

The texture: Not as moist in powder form as the Vega was, more of a ‘traditional’ powder. Blended with the usuals (or even stand-alone) it is *extremely* smooth; it even found a way to grind out some of the impact of the psyllium husks I use. Just like other shakes it will congeal if left and you want to rinse out your blender well.

img_0237The vitals: This has 23.6 grams of protein per serving, so more than  my comparison point and quite a bit more than Vega. However the nutritional panel, while including things like fat, does *not* include cholesterol. Also I noticed something else — this said my daily intake of protein would be 50 grams (backward-calculated form 23.6 being 47% of my daily according to them), while Vega declined to opine just how much protein I need, and my original Designer Whey agreed that 50 grams was it. What I find interesting here is technically it depends on what kind of diet you’re on, but some calculators tell me I should aim for as much as 1 gram/pound. I weigh  more than 50 pounds.

The performance: I stayed full, but the cloying sweetness would drive me to drink a bunch of coffee to kill the sweet; this resulted in a couple of over-caffeinated days and some dehydration (remember to drink water!). Also, that “nature’s broom” effect? Let’s just say it worked in reverse. You’d think the coffee would’ve helped with that.

The cost: Here’s where I’m glad I included cost per serving — I thought the bag was a bit large and I was right, this bag has 31 servings. It’s 18.99 british pounds per package not including shipping, and that was another 13 pounds. Just shy of 32 pounds translates to about $44,  which in turn means this is about $1.42/serving and the most expensive one so far.

Grade: B-.  More expensive, too sweet. If you are into sweet and you find your protein shake is not sweet enough, and/or if you don’t mind the extra expense, you can bump that up to an A or A-.

Next up: Gold Standard Whey in Vanilla.

The Valley Isle

Two years (and a couple of weeks) ago, my husband and I were married on the island of Kauai. The only attendee was our best man, ring bearer, and man of honor: my son. It was a perfect vacation, marked by lazy beach days and the obligatory helicopter tour.

We had decided upon our return that we’d save up and return to Hawaii in two years, and would go to Maui: I had been as a teenager with my parents but neither my son nor husband had been; all I remembered was that my brother and I had made a large pain in the ass about going to Lahaina all of the time. I think I was seventeen at the time.

Maui is an island composite of two volcanoes, effectively splitting the island into a “north” and “south” with a valley betwixt. We were staying in Kihei which meant that from Kahului (OGG – the major airport on the island, and on the eastside) you cross through the valley to the west side of the island, and drive down a bit (down the North, then South Kihei road along the Piilani highway). We rented a condo (pro tip: if you’re going to Hawaii with kids it is far cheaper to get a two bedroom condo with a kitchenette than it is to get a two bedroom hotel room; and the bonus is you can eat in for breakfast) and if you’re interested I recommend VRBO for that — check out the pictures and review the amenities. NB: groceries on Hawaii are more expensive than at home. Just accept it. It’s slightly less expensive if you buy local products.

As part of this trip I decided I’d reread James Michener’s Hawaii, for the bulk of the middle text takes place in Lahaina, and I knew we would be visiting there this trip. I had to reassure my dad — who good-naturedly teased me about this trip and asked if we’d go to Lahaina — that yes, we would be going, but no we would not be staying. Lahaina is a beautiful, historic town, but it’s also where you’d go if you *need* to be surrounded by shops and lots of people and that is frankly not me (or us). In Michener’s Hawaii it covers the missionary settlement in Lahaina and its formative years, along with the importation of Chinese and Japanese labor, the impact of the missionary settlement (and imported labor) on the Hawaiians, etc. At something like a thousand pages a Michener book should come on a kindle but it goes surprisingly fast, especially when your afternoon is beachside, listening to the rolling waves and watching your teenager boogieboard. I finished on day two.

In our trips to Lahaina, we first visited the Baldwin Home. This is not the missionary that Michener based his central character on (Abner Hale) although by reading his bio and reviewing his living quarters I’d bet money it’s who he based his missionary/doctor character on (Dr. Whipple). Entrance to the Baldwin home is a mere $5 for adults, kids are free; it’s a quick review but a beautiful home. Head a bit south and west from there and you will come upon the Lahaina courthouse, which has in its confines a lovely art gallery (Maui is big on art galleries and if I had had a spare $1500 I would have purchased a particular map of the island) and a museum showing (very briefly by museum standards) the history of the area: you can see an original sperm whale tooth (declaring the power of the Alii Nui — basically the Royal person gets to wear it) hung by 80 strands of braided human hair (no joke); you get to see original fabric created by the Hawaiians (and how it’s essentially paper-based and involves a lot of different beating implements to get it into shape), as well as several currencies used on the island (until Hawaii came to the US as a territory and then a state it used Mexican, American, Spanish, Portuguese, Netherlands, etc. currency). There’s a bit of stamp collecting and a history of the last kings of Hawaii, as well as the timeline of the “center” of Hawaii — the capital of which did not move to Honolulu until just before the Civil War.

Just outside the courthouse is a beautiful Banyan tree, with at least seven roots (this tree has one main center and then has tendrils out to at least six other root systems, so basically it looks like seven trees that are all interconnected) and to the right (south) of the tree is a corner of what was the old fort — hewn from coral block. Up the street (eastward, about 3 blocks) is the old Lahaina prison, where you can see the prisoner’s quarters, read the costs and relative frequencies associated with various crimes (they have 3 year snapshots so you can see the impact on adultery that is, I believe, inverse from public drunkenness — if I remember correctly; I should have taken a picture). Lahaina is not all preserved history, though, and if you want a truly amazing collection of souvenir, ice cream, eatery, jewelry, and skin-care shops you’d be hard pressed to find a larger set on the island.

Lahaina though is not the be-all and end-all of Maui and it would be a shame to ignore other areas. Here’s a brief review if you’re thinking about going; for us we consider the Maui box “checked”:

Kihei/Wailea – beautiful beaches. At Kamaole beach park (I or II) you can snorkel with sea turtles (we did). There’s a rough selection of shops and even a health food store (Hawaiian Moons, which also has ready-to-eat food). The best dinners we had were at a place called the Monkeypod kitchen (we went twice) in Wailua, which is just south of where we stayed in Kihei. For runners, a good run is from north to south Kihei and then up the Wailua hill– it’s a solid one mile of uphill but the downhill is a patient grade and you will very much enjoy it. A good deli is the 808 deli on south Kihei, just across from the second Kamaole beach park.

Paia (pronounced Pah-EE-ah) has a couple of blocks of shops and it’s on the Road to Hana (a southward road along the east side of the island which is more about the journey tha the destination). Best pizza ever is at a place called the Flabread Company, where you get a pulled pork, pineapple, goat cheese and maui onion pizza. Don’t argue. Just get it.

Kanapali – also a good beach, specifically the DT Fleming beach just north of the Ritz. Not pretty — there’s bits of wood everywhere — but the boogieboarding is top-notch (per the teenager). Unless you value a burger at $25 get your food before you arrive there; there’s picnic tables and the restrooms are NICE!

Ha’Iku – make sure to visit the North Shore Zipline Company (which is ironic since they’re actually on the south of the island but whatever). Seven zip lines and for those of us on the trip that were afraid of heights (hi) it was transformative. The crew there is patient, kind, and will not let you chicken out of things. They are also witty intelligent guys. The pictures they take are well worth it — you don’t see the photographer all that often but he does take some amazing pictures.

Wailuku – Maui Ocean Center & Aquarium. Hands down one of the best aquariums I’ve ever been to (it was built in ’98 so I couldn’t nag my parents to take me to it), they have actual sharks (juveniles — as they mature they’re released back into the wild) and they’re staffed by local University marine biologists. Sea turtles, hammerhead and reef sharks, informative exhibits and a nice, non-confrontational gift shop (e.g. you don’t have to exit through it).

Molokini Crater – you get here via snorkeling tour and there’s tours and tours. We went a little higher-end and from a volume-of-people-on-the-boat perspective it was worth it; the Alii Nui tours are staffed by professional, gracious people who know what they’re about. You wanna dive? You can dive. You wanna Snuba/Hooka dive? Yep. You wanna snorkel? rock on. You wanna snorkel but you’ve never done it before? Yep, they can help you with that. Full breakfast and lunch plus snacks, they provide towels and sunscreen, and it’s five hours of sheer fun. Plus they sail back for a bit, so if you are a sailor at heart — or like to pretend you are — I highly recommend.