25 Days of Gifting: Caffeine and Kilos Coffee and Apparel Package

To continue our 25 Days of Gifting extravaganza, BarBend and Caffeine and Kilos are teaming up to give one lucky winner a C&K Coffee and Apparel Package!

Great coffee? Check. Hot threads? Double Check. One lucky winner will receive a gift bag of Caffeine and Kilos coffee PLUS a selection of gear from one of the hottest fitness and weightlifting brands around.

Don’t miss out of any of our awesome December giveaways! Check the 25 Days of Gifting homepage for the latest.

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Nutrex Research OUTLIFT Pre-Workout Review — BCAAs + Caffeine

Nutrex Research is a Florida-based supplement company that sells a ton of products that include fat burners, testosterone boosters, and non-steroidal anabolic agents. (Not surprisingly, they sponsor a lot of physique competitors.)

OUTLIFT is part of their Clinical Edge line, and it’s unusual in that it contains a dose of branched chain amino acids and it has 350 milligrams of caffeine — which is the highest dose you’re ever likely to find. What else is in it? Let’s take a closer look.

Nutrex Research OUTLIFT Pre-Workout Nutrition & Ingredients

There’s no calorie information, but in one scoop you’ll find 350 milligrams of caffeine and the following ingredients, the effects of which I’ll discuss in the next section.

Citrulline malate (8g)
Beta-alanine (3.2g)
Creatine monohydrate (3g)
Taurine (2g)
Branched chain amino acids (That’s 6 grams of leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio)
Tyrosine (150mg)
BioPerine® a black pepper fruit extract (5mg)

There’s also 135 milligrams of sodium, about 6 percent of the RDI. The other ingredients are mostly your standard natural and artificial flavors and sweeteners, but there are no artificial colors, if that’s important to you.

Nutrex Research OUTLIFT Benefits & Effectiveness

There’s a lot to like, here. There are few pre-workouts that contain branched chain amino acids, but there’s evidence they can help with focus, endurance, and muscle retention, particularly when you’re working out on an empty stomach.

There’s a ton of caffeine here as well, 350 milligrams. That’s as much as you’ll find in 3.5 cups of coffee, and after reviewing dozens of pre-workouts, I can say you’ll rarely ever find more than 350 milligrams in a serving.

As for the rest of the ingredients, they’re variously linked with endurance (beta alanine), focus (tyrosine and taurine), power (caffeine and creatine), and blood flow (citrulline, which is also associated with power). The pepper extract, meanwhile, helps to improve the absorption of all these ingredients.

There’s no nonsense in OUTLIFT, no weird plant extracts with barely any scientific evidence supporting them. Every ingredient is thoroughly researched and has a pretty significant amount of data supporting not just their inclusion, but their dosage.

The dosing is a really important aspect, because many pre-workouts seem to assume you’ll see the name of the ingredient but not check if it’s an effective dose. But it’s super high in almost of these ingredients and in some cases, like the beta alanine and the taurine, there’s twice the recommended dosage.

(The exception is tyrosine — there’s 150mg here, but for an acute effect for a workout you probably want at least 500mg. But there’s still 2 grams of taurine to help with focus.)

The high doses are welcome to me, with two caveats: it’s very high in caffeine, so folks who are sensitive to its effects probably won’t love that; and beta alanine does tend to produce a tingling sensation on the skin, which some people find unpleasant. It’s harmless and a lot of people enjoy this feeling, but if you don’t then you really won’t like the extra high dose of beta alanine in OUTLIFT.

Nutrex Research OUTLIFT Price

Servings are very large — 24.8 grams — so a standard tub of 248 grams contains just 10 servings at a cost of $26. That means one serving is $2.60, which is very expensive. Most pre-workouts cost between 80 cents and a dollar per scoop.

Nutrex Research OUTLIFT Taste

It comes in Blackberry Lemonade, Blue Raspberry, Miami Vice, Wild Cherry Citrus, but we tried the standard Fruit Punch flavor.

Usually, “Fruit Punch” just tastes like cherry candy. This is one of the few Fruit Punch flavors that doesn’t: it actually tastes like a combination of different tropical fruits, sort of like tutti frutti. I’d say it tastes like pineapple, mango, and bubble gum.

The Takeaway

I really liked OUTLIFT. The ingredients are effective, well-researched, and well-dosed, and it has some BCAAs to help take you to the finish line. It’s expensive, it might be too high in caffeine for some folks, and it’s a little low in tyrosine, but if you’re OK with all that, this is one of the best pre-workouts out there.

The post Nutrex Research OUTLIFT Pre-Workout Review — BCAAs + Caffeine appeared first on BarBend.

25 Days of Gifting: Reebok Nanos and Fitness Apparel!

To continue our 25 Days of Gifting extravaganza, BarBend Reebok are teaming up to give one lucky winner a pair of Reebok Nanos and a goodie bag of functional fitness apparel!

Reebok revolutionized the functional fitness world with their Reebok CrossFit Nano, and now one lucky winner is going to win a pair PLUS a selection of other great Reebok fitness apparel!

[Looking for a new lifting shoe? Find out if the Reebok Legacy Lifter is right for you!]

Don’t miss out of any of our awesome December giveaways! Check the 25 Days of Gifting homepage for the latest.

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Is There a Perfect Pre and Post-Workout Meal?

Every athlete has their favorite go-to pre and post-workout meals. These are meals usually composed of foods geared towards a specific goal, taste, and thought in mind. For example, a higher carb pre-workout meal for a longer duration workout, and so forth. What’s interesting is how it’s usually trial and error with multiple foods until one figures out what their body benefits and responds to best.

When it comes to supporting performance and gaining muscle, there have been multiple dietary recommendations made to best assist with both characteristics, but there’s never one clear cut answer. We have an idea of proper ratios and foods to seek, yet there’s no real “perfect” meal that so many continually seek out.

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I was curious to hear what a nutritionist thought about the idea of the “perfect” pre and post-workout meal, so I reached out to Brian Tanzer who currently serves as Vitamin Shoppe’s Manager of Scientific Affairs.

Boly: When building a pre-workout meal, is there a “perfect” one-size fits all meal?

Tanzer: I don’t think there is ONE “perfect” pre-workout meal. The size of the meal, ratio of macros, etc. depend upon the type of workout and goals. Regardless of the type of workout, one should consume some carbohydrates and protein 30 minutes to 45-minutes before training. The optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio depends upon numerous factors including fitness level, exercise duration, and exercise intensity. A general rule of thumb is a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within an hour or less of training.

Boly: What are some more examples of how one can dictate the manipulation of macronutrient amounts for different workouts?

Tanzer: A long cardio workout will benefit most from a higher carbohydrate meal/snack 30-60 minutes prior. In addition, a long cardio workout could also be supported by intra-workout simple carbs, water, and electrolytes. And for shorter more intense workouts, I recommend to look for about a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein with a small amount of fat, like mentioned above.

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Boly: Post-workout: What’s the most important macro to get a lot of?

Tanzer: This depends on the workout. Most resistance training causes breakdown of muscle fibers and utilization of muscle glycogen. Be sure to replenish glycogen stores with complex carbohydrates, then promote recovery and muscle growth with adequate protein, a good number to look for is 30-40 grams post-workout.

[Need a pre and post-workout protein powder? Check out our best whey protein powder round-up to see which would fit your needs best.]

Regular ingestion of different protein sources along with carbohydrates stimulates greater increases in strength, while favorably impacting body composition when compared to consuming carbohydrates alone.

Boly: Are there ideal macro ranges for different types of athletes following a regular workout? Weightlifter, powerlifter, CrossFit?

Tanzer: I suggest looking at this question from an activity perspective. Any activity that places muscles under load requires adequate intake of carbohydrates and protein for recovery/growth. Maintenance of glycogen stores is essential for supporting endurance and performances as well as optimal recovery.

A balanced intake of carbohydrates and protein is effective for enhancing exercise training adaptations and reducing exercise induced muscle damage for strength athletes.

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Boly: Should someone change their macro ranges if their goal is decreasing body weight and fat loss? Or should they leave them the same for recovery and worry about the rest of the day instead?

Tanzer: If loss of body fat is the goal, then one must still be sure to consume adequate carbohydrate before and after exercise, or they can risk loss of lean body mass. More importantly are the meal/foods consumed throughout the day. Limiting refined carbohydrates and increasing protein intake, along with adequate fat intake will promote a metabolic environment conducive to loss of body fat and increase in lean muscle tissue.

In Closing

Much like everything in the industry, the idea of “perfect”, or a “one-size fits all” type of pre and post-workout meal is a fictitious concept. Like Tanzer points out, what’s most important is creating meals based on your needs and goals, along with obtaining complex and whole protein sources.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Feature image from @healthymood_sf Instagram page. 

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StrongGirl Pre-Workout Review — Does Green Tea Help Weight Loss?

In 2015, Iovate Health Sciences — the same company behind MuscleTech — launched StrongGirl, a female-focused brand with four products: a whey protein, branched chain amino acids, a fat burner, and a pre-workout.

The pre-workout comes in Cosmopolitan Fruit Punch and Strawberry Mojito flavors and it contains a wide variety of ingredients, including one we’ve never seen in any pre-workout. Let’s take a closer look.

StrongGirl Pre-Workout Nutrition & Ingredients

One scoop has 20 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates, plus 80 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin B6 and 33 percent of your B12.

The rest of the ingredients fall into a “Pre-Workout Energy + Focus Blend.” It’s a proprietary blend, so we don’t know how much of each ingredient it contains. They’re as follows:

Beta alanine
Taurine
Green tea extract
L-carnitine L-tartrate
Caffeine (125 milligrams, about what you’ll find in 1.5 cups of coffee)
Quercetin
Choline bitartrate
Japanese raisin tree extract
Rhodiola extract
Theanine

The remaining ingredients are mostly a series of natural and artificial flavors and sweeteners, a blend of gums (which are thickeners and stabilizers), and some natural coloring from red beet powder. Note that it contains the artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

StrongGirl Pre-Workout Benefits and Effectiveness

We can group most of the ingredients into a few different categories, here.

Energy: The caffeine, of course, is a major player here, but there’s also some evidence that l-carnitine l-tartrate can help with energy and focus.

Focus: The taurine and theanine are both used to improve focus and reduce the jitters that can accompany a big caffeine hit. The rhodiola, made from a Scandinavian flowering plant, is also a way to reduce fatigue and improve focus without technically being a stimulant.

Endurance: The beta alanine is very strongly linked with endurance, and the choline bitartrate might increase anaerobic endurance, or shorter bursts of high intensity exercise.

Antioxidants: The green tea extract and the quercetin, a bioflavinoid found in high amounts in apples and lemons, are both really high in antioxidants. This means they may reduce the cellular damage associated with exercise. There are also some studies that suggest green tea extract may improve sprinting speed and that quercetin could improve VO2 max when combined with caffeine.

Green tea extract is also sometimes considered a weight loss supplement, as it may increase thermogenesis. If it does have an effect, it’s probably going to be mild — 100 calories or so over a day — but the evidence is somewhat reliable.

Hangovers? The Japanese raisin tree extract seemed like an unusual inclusion. It’s generally not known for use in improving workout performance. Rather, it’s used to treat (i.e. reduce) drunkenness and help “cure” hangovers. Studies suggest it may reduce alcohol-related liver damage and helps you metabolize alcohol faster, and a 2017 study found that people taking Japanese raisin tree extract experienced less headache, dizziness, and nausea during their hangover than a control group. So maybe this is a pre-workout that could make it easier to get to the gym if you had one too many last night.

But to be fair, that 2017 study used about 2.5 grams of Japanese raisin tree extract, and there’s probably a lot less than that in StrongGirl Pre-Workout — it’s one ingredient in a 3-gram blend of ten ingredients.

And that’s my main issue with this product: we don’t know how much of any of these ingredients it contains, so we don’t know whether or not it has an effective dose. And the dosage is just as important as the ingredient itself.

For effective doses, studies suggest you probably need 1.6 grams of beta alanine, 1 gram of taurine, and 500 milligrams of l-carnitine l-tartrate. That puts us over the 3.05 grams in the Pre-Workout Energy + Focus Blend, and we haven’t even taken the 7 other ingredients into account.

But these dosages may not apply for lighter athletes, so it’s actually kind of cool that StrongGirl might be making their product more accessible for smaller women or people who are more sensitive to these effects. The tub actually suggests trying just one scoop at first, and then moving up to two scoops if you don’t feel much of an impact.

StrongGirl Pre-Workout Price

You can pick up 30 servings for $19, or 63 cents per serving. That’s pretty cheap; most pre-workouts are somewhere between 80 cents and $1 per serving. But remember that one scoop is probably only going to be effective for lighter athletes. Others may need to double up.

StrongGirl Pre-Workout Taste

The Cosmopolitan Fruit Punch flavor tasted less like a Cosmo and more like Fruit Punch, which is to say the flavor was mostly cherry with a slightly vanilla aftertaste that was reminiscent of bubble gum.

The Takeaway

This is a pretty cheap pre-workout with a good hit of caffeine and it has a wide range of ingredients linked to energy, focus, and endurance. We don’t know the dosages of any of the ingredients, so we don’t really know how effective this product is, but I’m pretty confident that two scoops will be enough for most people.

The post StrongGirl Pre-Workout Review — Does Green Tea Help Weight Loss? appeared first on BarBend.

Could Jogging Actually Help You Get Stronger?

Love squats and deadlifts? Dedicated to getting stronger? Then don’t you dare run at a low intensity. Your body will gush cortisol, eat its own muscles, and take pounds off of your lifts. At least, that’s been the conventional wisdom ever since high intensity interval training (HIIT) came into vogue. Is jogging really bad for strength?

The tide is turning in the strength world and low intensity, steady state cardio, or LISS — often described as the opposite of HIIT — can have a few advantages over sprint training and metabolic conditioning (also known as “metcons”). That is, if you time it right.

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Isn’t HIIT Better Than Jogging?

There are the folks who believe that sprints are all you need for cardiovascular benefits and fat burning. We’re not about to say HIIT is useless for either of those purposes — HIIT is awesome, and a few studies have shown that high intensity training is better for endurance and making a hormonal environment that’s conducive for fat loss.

But fitness is more complicated than that. For example, one celebrated study compared ten seconds of “sprints” on a stationary bike to 20-25 minutes of steady state training over 15 weeks and found that the sprints were better for improving endurance and power output. However, the steady state training was better at removing blood lactate concentrations and slightly better at improving VO2 max.

[One BarBend writer tried running for 24 hours straight. Here are eight things he learned.]

High intensity intervals are said to increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and thereby have an “after burn” effect that continues burning calories after you exercise. But this effect isn’t that pronounced. An influential 2006 study found this post-exercise calorie burn was 6 to 15 percent, so if you somehow burned 1,000 calories in a workout, you’d burn at most 150 extra calories from the EPOC.

Plus when you’re in good shape, the effect appears to be reduced. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that in nine well-trained individuals, the average EPOC was just 4.8 percent and in one case just 1 percent.

And even if HIIT is better for burning fat, so what?

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But What About Strength?

More importantly, if your goal is gaining strength, it usually doesn’t matter what kind of exercise increases oxygen consumption or burns more fat. The question we want to answer is, can a jogging habit improve your total?

“Obviously a lot of running beats the shit out of your body, but thirty to forty-five minutes in the morning can help a lot of goals,” says Kenny Santucci, a strength coach, marathon runner, and manager of CrossFit Solace in New York City. “It can really be beneficial for building overall stabilization and stability in the ankles, hips, and knees, and that constant pounding builds a little durability in your lower half and your midline.”

[Avoiding steady state cardio is just one of these powerlifting rules you should break.]

He notes that when training for an ironman or marathon, he tried to keep endurance training to three days a week, otherwise he finds it counterproductive to his strength goals.

“I know a lot of powerlifters who have to go sit on the sidelines for three or four minutes to catch their breath after one lift,” he says. “Adding some jogging two or three times a week strengthens the cardiovascular system and helps to recover a bit faster, and in that way it helps you strength train.”

“Obviously, cardio alone isn’t going to help you squat or bench more, and for as much as some lifters like to talk about work capacity, you don’t need to be able to run a 5k to make it through a powerlifting meet,” adds Ben Pollack, a BarBend contributor and holder of the all-time world record total in the 198-pound class. “For those reasons, a lot of strength athletes neglect cardiovascular work completely, and I think that’s a mistake. Besides its health benefits, cardio can help alleviate soreness, improve sleep and appetite, and warm up your body for the general mobility work that you should be doing outside of training anyway.”

There are a few reasons why a steady jog can, in some circumstances, be a better pick for cardio than HIIT or metcons.

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It’s less likely to exhaust muscles you need for lifting

Most kinds of HIIT and metcons, be they cycling, burpees, rowing, or kettlebell swings, fatigue large muscle groups. That can be great if you’re in the general population or you’re trying to burn a ton of calories or you’re not doing a lot of progressive strength training any time soon, but if your goal is steady strength gains? It’s going to be pretty hard to properly max your deadlift tomorrow if you’ve done a scorching metcon of kettlebell swings and rows.

It’s less likely to fry your CNS

Again, intensity is great if you don’t exercise all that often but if you’re lifting regularly or preparing for a meet, you want your CNS to be well-rested so that all systems are go for the next workout.

You don’t have to train at 100 percent every time you put on sneakers. Keeping cardio mild can ensure your progress in the weights room goes unimpeded.

“Remember, the point is recovery,” says Pollack. “Hour-long bouts and wind sprints aren’t going to help with that. Try to keep the duration of each session short, and your heart rate somewhere in the range of 60 to 70 percent of max.”

Pollack himself sticks to twenty to thirty minutes of low intensity cardio once or twice a week.

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It’s easier to fit into a strength program

If you’ve picked up a strength program online or from a trainer and it just consists of lifts, sets, and reps, then dropping HIIT or metcons throughout the week can jeopardize the progress planned. Two or three brisk jogs a week should be able to fit into almost any strength-only plan — it’s a versatile cardio habit.

It gets you out of the gym

“I’ve been working out since I was 15 years old and sometimes it gets boring doing the same thing all the time,” says Santucci. “Sometimes you need to change it up and want to enjoy the outdoors. It refreshes your routine, and on days you just don’t want to go to the gym, going outside is probably more beneficial.”

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What Should I Know About Form?

A lot of strength athletes are unclear on the finer points of running form. It’s the kind of subject that can fill a book, but perhaps the most common mistake people make is that they kick their feet far out in front of them when they run.

“That’s where you get a lot of shin splints and hip and ankle problems,” says Santucci. “Instead, you want a very slight lean forward in the torso and a tight midline, so you’re letting your upper body pull you forward.”

The idea is to have as little ground contact time as you can; that will increase your cadence and foot turnover.

So instead of leaping forward, think about feeling “tall” and “bouncy.” When you’re trying to feel tall, you’re going to keep your hips high, which will help stop you from striking out in front of you. And keep your feet beneath your center of mass. That, in turn, will help your step be springier, keep your feet on the ground for less time, and lower your injury risk.

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The Takeaway

To be clear, nobody is saying that HIIT is useless or that it has no place in a strength program. It has a ton of cardiovascular benefits, a better VO2 max might help you train and recover more efficiently, and a better anaerobic metabolism can certainly help power output.

Likewise, we’re not advising you wake every morning to jog for an hour like a boxer or an ’80s fitness nut.

But twenty- to forty-minute sessions of jogging two or three times a week can be a great way to improve your cardiovascular capacity, blood flow, recovery between sets, and energy efficiency without crushing your CNS or interfering with your strength program.

Featured image via @elleryphotos on Instagram.

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25 Days of Gifting: $150.00 Trifecta Meal Credit!

To continue our 25 Days of Gifting extravaganza, BarBend Trifecta are teaming up to give one lucky winner $150 credit for Trifecta meals!

Find out why Trifecta is the athlete’s choice for healthy meals! One lucky winner will receive a $150 Trifecta meal credit, plenty to fuel training and recovery with delicious meals all week!

[Learn more about Trifecta’s food and delivery in our full review of their meals! And all BarBend readers can get amazing deals on Trifecta meals and food here!]

Don’t miss out of any of our awesome December giveaways! Check the 25 Days of Gifting homepage for the latest.

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