Power Analysis: BSN N.O. Xplode 2.0

Yeah, baby. It’s N.O. Xplode 2.0! No one has gone through a serious workout program without hearing about this product. It’s a legend, even though sometimes I really don’t know why. Before I even started training seriously I had heard about N.O. Xplode. It has been copied by other Pre Workout Supplements as well, because that is always what is done with the best products. If you have ever wondered why some people are your gym are WIRED or in my case, seem super angry and determined, living in some crazy other world zone, N.O. Xplode is probably to blame, or thank, I have no idea. Just take one look at their advertisement and you will see what they are going for–ripped, strong, powerful. Of course, this can be kind of intimidating, and Pre Workouts should be taken with caution, but they can be very useful, and sometimes mean the difference between serious gains and lackluster results simply because of enhanced motivation. Here’s why:

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What is a Pre Workout Supplement?

A Pre Workout supplement is a powdery substance designed to help you push your body to the EXTREME. If taken before a lifting session, Pre Workout supplements are designed to improve focus and energy, allowing you to lift more and build muscles faster. Of course, caffeine has a lot to do with all of this added energy. Don’t fear, if you have a low tolerance of caffeine, there are decaffeinated versions of Pre Workout supplements that can be taken to achieve desired results.

Pre Workouts contain a similar formula of a few key ingredients (aside from Caffeine):

 L-Arginine to support oxygen flow and create a pump: this amino acid is a vasodilator, which means it may help your blood vessels expand within a normal range.

Beta-Alanine to promote muscular endurance, maximize protein synthesis, and decrease fatigue during your workout: this is responsible for your ability to push through a difficult workout. It is also the cause of the strange tingling sensation you will get when you take pre workout supplements!

Why Should I Take Pre Workout Supplements?

Pre Workout supplements are particularly effective at ensuring that you are able to push through a tough workout even if you are tired. They pump you full of energy, and make you feel like you can lift anything. Of course, lift with caution to prevent injuries (says me, clearly the expert…). Pre Workouts can also enhance focus and endurance during your workout, which helps you to push out more reps, support blood flow to the muscles, and create the pump that many bodybuilders crave. Pre Workouts can enhance results due to its ability to help you push through harder and further.

What Makes N.O. Xplode 2.0 Special?

I was initially terrified to try N.O. Xplode. I used to be very sensitive to caffeine, and I initially only purchased pre workout supplements that did not contain caffeine. I received a sample of N.O. Xplode, and decided to try it during Kris Gethin’s DTP leg workout, because I clearly knew I would need something to put me in another place. It was intense, but it worked. The first thing I noticed was the intense tingling feeling, which in itself made me want to work harder, just to get rid of it! I was able to push through a really intense workout, focused, and enjoying every step of the way. I have noticed that the formula has changed in the 2.0 version, and it is not as strong as it used to be, despite claims that it is stronger. Even the flavor is slightly reduced.

I did notice a pump, particularly in my forearms. They felt like they were going to pop even after only three sets of my first exercise. I do notice a difference in the quality of my workouts without it, but I find that I can’t take it any later than 5:30 p.m. if I want to have a chance to sleep before 3 a.m. It does achieve its desired result, it keeps me energized, and I find that it maybe goes a bit too far. It doesn’t give me the shaking feeling of an energy drink, but it has been known to make me quite angry at times, but that makes for a stronger workout.

By the way, N.O. stands for nitric oxide. BSN explains its purpose here: “N.O.-XPLODE™ 2.0’s key ingredients support nitric oxide production, oxygen delivery, working capacity and electrolyte balance, helping you create show-stopping muscle pumps and vascularity and experience more rewarding workouts and performance.” 

I have only tried the Fruit Punch flavor, and it is very good. Most other pre workout supplements I have had have been absolute torture to drink. I would dread drinking them, sitting on the bench at the gym sipping them for up to 10 minutes just trying to get them down. This one is much more tolerable, I have never had an issue with it. I do recommend stirring it rather than shaking it, because I have had it pop the top off of my bottles before and everyone thinks the noise is something a lot scarier than a pre workout!

Shake and take with caution!

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Where to Buy Xtend?

N.O. Xplode is extremely popular, and should be carried at most supplement stores, like Popeye’s in Canada. I ordered mine off bodybuilding.com, typical.

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Back Pain Getting You Down?

Injuries are a part of life, especially for those leading very active lifestyles. Injuries and bodybuilding seem to go hand in hand, a simple google search provides 1,970,000 search results for the keywords combined, which should be a clear sign that it can be a dangerous sport. I have certainly been injured, and am injured, and these injuries get me down. I tend to really freak out when I feel an abnormal amount of pain after a workout that is far from the usual pain of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). So what do we do when we get injured? One option is giving up bodybuilding temporarily, but this is an unhappy choice.

A few months ago I seriously injured the lower left side of my back doing squats on a smith machine. I had heard about how dangerous this was, but my gym did not have any other options for weighted squats, so I took my chances. It was an unusual day, because this usually empty workplace gym actually had someone who was doing their entire workout on the smith machine. I waited, and went through my entire hour long workout and she was still not done with the smith machine. So I alternated with her, and she was doing dead lifts. I am not sure if I injured my back on my squats, or lifting part of her dead lift weight back up to start my squats. Either way, my back is still painful five months later. I have temporarily fixed it with massage therapy, but it needs a lot more work. I was working around this injury, avoiding squats and dead lifts, and other exercises I wasn’t confident with. I recently started doing squats again and it has become slightly more painful as a result.

Last Thursday, I was doing my regular workout and I injured the middle of my back, in between my shoulder blades. I presume it was from the wide-grip lateral pulldowns, since when I complete this motion weightless, I feel a lot of pain. During the workout, I did not feel any pain, I felt nothing out of the ordinary. I did not even notice any back pain until two hours after I finished my workout, and the exercises that caused the pain were my second and third of the day! I skipped the gym and cardio on Friday and Saturday to give it a rest, and did only cardio on Sunday. I went back to my usual Chest/Tricep workout today and noticed something truly terrifying: I was a lot weaker than last week. Last week I was benching 65 pounds, 4 sets of 12. This week 6 reps was a serious struggle, and I was significantly weaker on the right side, almost dropping the bar. This, and a few similarly terrifying examples showed me that I clearly injured my back worse than I thought, and that it is more injured on the right side, which failed much faster in a few exercises.

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Needless to say, I am seriously concerned about this injury. I have 6 massage therapy appointments booked over the next month, which I am hoping will help work out the injury. If not, I will  have to start to visit a physiotherapist. Since I am still determined to get back into shape and live a healthy lifestyle, I am going to try to train around my injuries. I will likely remove all back exercises from my workouts, as well as squats. I have been looking into training around injuries and I found this excellent article on bodybuilding.com. I will definitely be reducing my weights and upping my reps, as this seems like a logical thing to do. I may also add more cardio, and focus more on burning fat rather than building muscle. It is definitely better to take things slowly rather than continue to train hard and end up unable to train for months. I am going to watch my injuries closely and see if they start to subside. Tomorrow is my first massage therapy appointment, and I will be checking with her to see if she suggests going to physio. Fingers crossed that things will get back to normal again soon!

My Test Kitchen: DIY Quest Bars

I recently discovered Quest Bars after reading all about how incredible they are, and I certainly agree with all of those rave reviews. My favorites are White Chocolate Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, in that order. They are to die for, especially warmed in the microwave. They are a dieters dream come true. Nothing is perfect, but they beat every other protein bar out of the water.

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Needless to say I am in love with them. They are a little bit pricey, but that is to be expected with supplements. Bodybuilding can be an expensive hobby and I have no quarrel with that, but I do enjoy cooking and baking myself, so when I found a DIY Quest Bar recipe I had to try it. My verdict on them is positive, but they are not the same, which is to be expected. They are much better than most protein recipes I have found, though, and they are definitely better than the protein muffins I have been living off of, but I will eventually quit using the honey and try them with sugar free syrup once I have to start cutting a few more calories. I do suggest giving these a try though. Make them your own masterpiece.

Here is the recipe!

Here is how I made them:

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Gathered in the image above is everything you need to make your own variation of the popular Quest Bar. I made two different kinds of bars to keep it interesting. These are a perfect ‘meal 2,’ and I am eating them every day around 12 pm with a glass of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey in Chocolate Coconut. There is no better way to indulge in protein. To make these protein bars, you will first need a protein powder. For the chocolate, I chose Myofusion Probiotic, which is the best protein for baking that I have ever found. For the Cinnamon, I chose ISO Sensation Vanilla, which is my favorite protein to date. I made my own peanut butter in my amazing food processor, simply by throwing in a container of peanuts, pressing the on button and waiting five minutes. It’s fail proof, and perfect in every way. I did the same thing with oats to make the oat flour. Lastly, grab a sweetener, like honey, and additives: for the chocolate recipe you need cocoa powder, and for cinnamon you need cinnamon, obviously 🙂

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The recipe is pretty simple, you mix all ingredients together. The chocolate bowl is on the left, and cinnamon bowl is on the right. Here are the ingredients:

 Ingredients ~for the basic dough~ (makes 5 Bars):
4 Scoops  Protein Powder 
1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter (If you don’t like peanut butter, you can use sun butter, cashew butter, or almond butter, anything will work!)
1/2 cup of honey, agave nectar, or stevia (If you choose to use stevia, you will need more water)
1/4 cup Oat Flour (or fiber powder or ground flax seed)
*A few Tbsp of Water (depending on what sweetener you use, you will need more or less water)

Variations:
Depending on the flavor, you will need to add a few extra ingredients to your dough.
~Cinnamon Roll Quest Bar: add 1/2 Tbsp of cinnamon to your dough
~Chocolate Brownie Quest Bar: add 1-2 Tbsp of cocoa powder to your dough
~Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest Bar: add 1/4 cup of chocolate chips to your dough

The original recipe calls for a lot of organic ingredients, which I simply do not buy or care for, so I used what I had, which is equally healthy and saves you money at the same time: WIN.

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I mixed up all of my ingredients, sans water, and added the water in the end, since the recipe did not specify how many tablespoons of water were needed. I used three tablespoons of water, which made the bars so sticky that they stuck to my hands, and the pan, and made a huge mess. Next time, I will use less. Lesson learned.

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Mix your ingredients together, kneed them into a ball that is one consistency. Place ball on a plate of cookie pan.

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Since my bars were so sticky, I covered them with plastic wrap before rolling them out, to prevent another huge mess with my rolling pin. This worked great, and served as a cover for them. Once they are flat, the recipe says to put them in the fridge. They do not require any baking, which is great! Leave them in the fridge for half an hour, or overnight, and cut them into bars whenever you want them.

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I left them overnight, and cut them in the morning before work. They were still a bit sticky, so I will be leaving them in the fridge until I want them.

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Voila!

They are actually really good. The big difference between these and regular protein muffins, brownies, cakes, etc. is that they are sticky, and use much less flour. Since they are not baked, they don’t expand, and remain flat and dense like Quest Bars. I love them, they provide variety to what can be a very basic bodybuilding diet. Since they are so high in calories because of the honey, you can sub in another sweetener. I have not tried this yet, but I certainly will. I also find them a lot easier to eat than most of the other protein desert concoctions I usually make, which may be attributed to the honey. These will definitely be a huge part of my diet for the next few months, and I suggest giving them a try. They break up the monotony in the diet and give you something to look forward to, and since they are so sweet, they are great for people who work in offices, like myself, since they keep me away from the vending machine, which is always a huge plus 🙂 Enjoy!

Nutrition Info

I did a quick calculation of the nutrition info, and the macros are below. This is for the chocolate version with cocoa powder, honey, creamy peanut butter, and myofusion protein!

DIY Quest Nutrition Info

RIP Favorite Protein Shaker

You know you have a problem with fitness obsession when you legitimately mourn the loss of your favorite protein shaker bottle. One would think that all protein shaker bottles are created equal, but that could not be further from the truth. This is meant to be funny, but for real, I am sad.

So yesterday, I used my favorite protein bottle for my pre-workout shake, because it doesn’t pop like other lesser bottles. I took it with me to the gym, filled it with xtend water and used it all workout, finished up and made a protein shake in it, as seen in the lovely post-workout, pre-hot tub image below.

In typical post-workout fashion, I brought my seriously scuffed up, favorite protein shaker from Power Gym to the hot tub, where I slowly drink my protein shake in peace. After finishing said shake, I put the empty bottle on a chair, took a shower, got changed and went home. This morning, I woke up and went to prepare my favorite bottle with my protein powder for lunch when a horrible realization occurred: I LEFT MY FAVORITE, UGLY, MESSED UP, OVER USED PROTEIN BOTTLE ON THAT CHAIR BY THE HOT TUB IN THE GYM. EFFFFFFFFF. EF. EF.

Naturally, I am going to get a new one ASAP. This bottle is unlike any other bottle. It has a super awesome piece that mixes your protein seamlessly into the water. Better yet, if you cut up lemons and place them in the water, it mixes them in too! Love it. It never breaks, never leaks, never fails, my fabulous Walmart bottle. I got it in Regina, Saskatchewan when I was doing my Masters, the first protein shaker I ever bought, before I realized protein should not be mixed with a spoon.

So RIP favorite protein shaker bottle. Perhaps I will find you tomorrow, then I will have two 🙂

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