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5 ways to make your protein powder more versatile

   Let's face it, dieting sucks. When we downsize on our carbs and calories, we all sneak those fun little deserts more frequently than we'd like to admit! Our diet can leave us with something to be desired. Most, if not all of us have a sweet tooth that can come on strong and stay there. Our will power and conscience go out the window when our guard is let down. I have a sweet tooth more times than I'd like to admit. While sneaking a Reese Cup or an Oreo here and there won't necessarily kill my diet, I'd rather enjoy what I'm eating AND get some benefits from it at the same time. When that sweet tooth comes knocking, I try chewing gum or brushing my teeth if I can to curb that urge. I've tried some different recipes with my protein powders to switch it up while satisfying that annoying need for something sweet. Some are more extensive and time consuming than others, but I'm going to show you all some of my favorite protein powder recipes that you can try yourself!


1.

Protein Mug Cake

( 5 Minutes to prepare)

Ingredients

- 1 Scoop Protein Powder of your choice

- 1 Egg or 1/4 Cup Liquid Egg Whites

- 1/2 TSP Baking Powder

- 1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour

- 1/4 TSP Vanilla Extract

- 1/2 TSP Cinnamon

- 1/4 Cup Milk of choice (I use Fairlife or Carbmaster)

-  1 Mixing bowl and Greased Cereal Bowl

*You can add an artificial Sweetener if you prefer*

Directions

1. Mix all dry ingredients into the dry cereal bowl or mixing bowl

2. Add liquids and egg

3. Mix all together with fork until the mixture is all one consistency (There may be a few lumps from the egg/flour)

4. Pour mixture into the greased cereal bowl *So it wont stick after you microwave* (I use a rubber spatula to scrape easier)

5. Microwave for 1 to 1:30 minutes and let sit for a minute (or until top of cake is spongy to firm)

6. Pour some no fat whip cream on top if you want and enjoy !

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2.

Protein Pudding

( 1 Minute to make)

Ingredients

- Scoop protein powder of choice

- 2 TSP Peanut Butter, PB2, or almond butter of choice (I prefer crunchy)

- Water or Milk

Directions

1. Add Protein Powder and Peanut Butter to a bowl or Tupperware

2. Add Milk or water slowly until the mixture is thick enough to your liking, or a "pudding" consistency. 

3. Enjoy immediately or put in fridge/freezer and enjoy later!

 

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3.

Protein Pancakes

(10-15 Minutes to prepare/make)

Ingredients

- Protein Powder (some are thicker than others so I would start with one scoop) 

- 1 Large Egg

- Milk

-Greased Skillet (I use coconut Oil)

*Optional to use baking powder*

Directions

1. Heat Skillet over medium heat

2. Whisk ingredients together until consistency is to your liking

3.Use 1/4c to measure mixture and add to skillet to make your pancakes

4. Cook until bottom of pancakes are not sticking to the skillet and flip

5. Cook opposite side until not sticking

6. Add toppings of choice (I use WALDEN FARMS maple syrup and Fat Free Whipped Cream)

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4.

Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients

1 cup of your choice of milk (milk, coconut milk, nut milk)

1 scoop protein of choice

5tbsp chia seeds

Honey or sweetener can be used if you prefer!

Directions

Mix milk and scoop of protein together, add chia seeds, mix well and leave in the fridge overnight! 

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5.

Protein Ice cream pops

This recipe depends on how big your popsicle molds are! 

Ingredients 

Protein powder of choice

Milk or water

Directions

Add water to your protein powder until it's liquid enough to pour. I start with 1 scoop of protein and slowly add water until its a good consistency and if i need more to fill all my molds, I mix more! Its a trial and error until you know what will fill your molds. We have really small silicone molds and all 6 of them only hold about 1.5 scoops of protein and water making them about 5g protein per popsicle! 

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   These are 5 of my most common uses of protein powder other than chugging a shake all the time. There are definitely options out there so you may utilize your protein powder more diversely. You may obviously tweak the recipes to your liking by adding oats for extra carbs or PB2 for the peanut butter lovers out there! Whatever protein you prefer, use it up. All of them can have either milk or water, except the chia seed pudding (milk makes it more of a pudding consistency). If lactose makes you lean towards water, there are quite a few milks out nowadays that are lactose free!! Fairlife milk, Kroger's carbmaster milk, and of course any variety of nut milk!  Hopefully these recipes will help you stay on a healthy path to your individual journey!

What does your BCAA product say about you?

I've tried so many BCAA products in my fitness journey. If it had a catchy flavor name or it was produced by a reputable brand, I just had to have it! Needless to say, I've tried them all. I never paid much attention to the label at the time. I just started taking BCAA'S during my workouts because I heard that it was one of the building blocks of muscle repair and recovery. While part of that is true, just consuming BCAA's weren't necessarily cutting it for me and I felt as if I were wasting my time and money. I'm going to break down what BCAAS are and how they react to our bodies!

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Branch Chain Amino Acids

It sounds like something you would learn about in your chemistry class. When your body runs low on glycogen levels after intense workout, it relies upon Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine to replenish those levels. When working out, the muscles in our bodies tear slightly and the repair process can vary. That's where the recommendation of BCAA supplements come in.

So just drink that patented BCAA product during your workout and you'll never be sore again, right? Not so much. Even though you may prefer drinking something other than water during a workout such as a fruity BCAA drink, you receive all 3 of the BCAAS from foods as well. Chicken, Lean Beef, Cod, Haddock, Canned Tuna, Turkey Breast, and eggs contain all the BCAAs that are contained in your BCAA drink. I would prefer to get these three BCAAs from my food items, as it is from a natural source and should be a part of your regimen. 

So if not BCAAs, then what?

As I previously stated, I tried a lot of BCAA products, and within the past two years I was introduced to EAAs, ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS

There are over 80 amino acids, but our bodies only use 20 of them. Of those 20, 11 are non essential amino acids, meaning that they are produced by the body naturally. The other 9, 'Essential' amino acids need to be consumed by food or supplementation. Those are

Histidine

Isoleucine

Leucine

Lysine

Methionine

Phenylalanine

Threonine

Tryptophan 

Valine

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Why are EAA's more beneficial than just taking BCAA's against EAA's and vice versa. The pro BCAA believers say that our diets are varied regularly and we already receive enough EAAs through food sources. While on the other side of the coin the EAA enthusiast believe that EAA's can do wonders for preserving muscle while in a fasted state and keep fatigue way down during fitness activities. If you do not get enough EAAs in your diet, the body will not extract the maximum nutrients from the protein sources that you consume, and the result will be that those nutrients will be stored as fat. SOURCE 

In short, BCAAs only consists of 3 of the 9 essential amino acids that are used primarily for muscle repair and growth. BCAAS are not a complete protein, while EAAs are. Studies have shown that EAAs are much better when utilized pre-training and a high requirement for BCAAs are needed post-training to speed recovery times. 

If I'm going to consume an intra workout supplement (during my workout) then I am going to stick with EAAs as they offer a more complete profile that I will need. I typically sip on my EAAs during my workouts and can definitely notice my recovery times are much faster than if I had not taken any. 

 

Do you wish sleeping was your Superpower?!

   I started researching cortisol due to the fact that I was not sleeping very well along with feeling as if my immune system was not where it should be. I also noticed that it was affecting my energy levels throughout the day as well as hindering my exercise routine. I found out about cortisol levels in our bodies and how it can affect us on a daily basis and why it is important to keep those levels optimal. I've since gotten a better grasp on how to keep my levels more appropriate and have seen improvements in several areas.  My sleep has gotten better and I have been more cognizant about making time for myself to relax when I can. I also started taking my multivitamins again along with a cortisol reducing/regulating supplement that has appeared to help me. There's a numerous amount of things that cortisol can affect and knowing what they are can definitely aid in helping control the levels in your body.

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   First off, Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body, commonly referred to as a "stress hormone." It is referred to as a stress hormone due to the fact that the body produces more of this during a "fight or flight" moment. Hence, a more stressful situation or reaction. The body also has the most cortisol present in the mornings and will reduce the levels as the day goes into the evening. 

   I've seen a lot of commercials/ads that are talking about how to reduce cortisol and keep the levels in our bodies at an optimal level. Optimal level meaning that we do need some Cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol does bring something to the table.  SOURCE It helps reduce inflammation and it is produced as a medication called hydrocortisone to be used to treat as an anti-inflammatory. Cortisol also helps regulate proper glucose metabolism, immune functionality and blood pressure.

Why should I lower my Cortisol Levels? 

   With the positive aspects, there are also negative aspects of Cortisol. These are the more popular, in my opinion, reasons why I even started researching cortisol, the negatives. Too much cortisol in our bodies can be produced by high levels of stress, lack of sleep, and improper "relaxation" periods.  When we have too much, or non optimal amounts of cortisol in our bodies, it can cause increased belly fat, higher levels of cholesterol, decreased muscle tissue, or lowering of immune system. Stress is something that we cannot control as our lives can be hectic day in and day out. The key is to counteract these stressful moments with more positive cortisol reducing activities, its worth it. 

How do I reduce my Cortisol levels?

- Meditation or Yoga (Quiet Time) - No TV, no distractions
- Exercise and aerobic activities
- Go for a massage (treat yourself!)
- No caffeine before bed time
- Limit distractions while going to bed (TV off, Phone on Silent, Use ear plugs)
- Take Naps if time allows!
- Have some fun -  Go involve yourself in something you enjoy and unwind
- Maintain healthy relationships
- Eat healthier - Whole foods, fruits, veggies, limit empty snacks and sweets
- Supplement properly - Fish Oil, Vitamin C, Glutamine

    It is one of those things that may seem difficult to control on a daily basis, but by being in the know you can improve so many aspects of your life. It's easy to say that you're going to lay down for a nap, do 30 minutes of yoga, or even make it to the gym to lower your levels. Life gets in the way and stressful options take precedence over taking care of your body. Along with lowering cortisol levels by sleeping, your sleep quality will improve, which in turn will help improve the quality of life overall. You don't have to have bad cortisol levels (high or low) to want to reduce your stress. No one WANTS to be stressed. Take 30 minutes to unwind and possibly change your life for the better! 

How to judge a Pre-Workout by its cover!

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   It's time to hit the gym, and your coffee isn't cutting it for you anymore to give you that extra motivation in your workouts. Maybe you're not the coffee connoisseur and your go to is grabbing an energy drink to chug before you hit the weights. While the caffeine rush is what you're seeking out with these choices, that's all you're going to be getting out of them. You'll likely crash in energy half way throughout your routine, minimizing the precious time you've taken out of your day to make it to the gym. Even if you're not into stimulants (caffeine, green tea, etc) and are looking for that extra push to get you motivated, you have options, and I'm here to educate you on them. 

   When I first started my fitness journey, I wasn't supplementing with anything in my diet other than drinking pre made protein drinks. I've learned a lot over the years and supplementation is something I will never go without. My first initial thought of taking a pre workout was a little intimidating for me, because I didn't know what I'd be getting myself into. I didn't want to feel that crazy rush of energy and not know how to handle I. My first instinct was to stay away from anything containing creatine in it due to the negative talks about it before I had even done any research. In retrospect I was just a beginner and didn't know any better while the only thing I was concerned about was the caffeine content. I noticed a difference after the first time taking a "pre" and I haven't gone a workout without one since.

   If you've taken a pre workout before, what did you like about it? Energy? Tingling? Muscle Pumps? Endurance? Focus? I'm going to elaborate on which ingredients give you these experiences and what you should be looking for in your pre workout. Also, I cannot emphasize how important it is to have an "open label." I've touched on this in my previous blogs, and knowing how much of each ingredient is crucial no matter what you're consuming, from a jar of pickles to your multivitamin. Some companies will put something along the lines of "focus matrix, energy matrix, pump matrix" on their label and list 500 things under it without telling you, the consumer, the exact dosage of each of those ingredients, not cool dude. I'm not bashing on those companies whatsoever, I just prefer to know what I'm putting in my body. I'm going to go over the most popular and key ingredients that you'll find in most pres and what they can offer you.

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Caffeine-

     This is the most obvious and popular choice in choosing a pre, but definitely not the most important in MY opinion. Yes, energy is great to give you that extra motivation, but sometimes too much can hinder your workout experience and leave you feeling jittery and uneasy. Moderation is key when it comes to caffeine, and knowing how much is right for you is by starting your dosage at a certain level and assessing what is right for you. For instance, if a scoop of pre has 250mg of caffeine and you're unsure on if that's too much, don't take the whole scoop, it's better to know your limits early on and then go from there. Moderation and knowing your limits is key.

( I prefer 200-300g per scoop in my pre workouts)

Teacrine-

   This is another ingredient in the same realm as a stimulant, which increases energy, heightening your mental focus, and provides improvement to mood and motivation. It also mellows out other stimulants in your product working cohesively to make your energy last longer so it feels more smooth rather than an insane rush of caffeine.

Beta Alanine-

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    Wait, my forehead is itching and I feel tingly all over, am I dying? No, you're not, Beta Alanine has entered your system and you're feeling the effects. Some people don't like this feeling, I'm not one of those people, I quite enjoy it. When beta alanine enters your body, it reacts with another amino acid in your body, histidine , forming carnosine. Beta alanine has been proven to reduce muscle fatigue, enhance athletic performance, and hasten recovery time. It also is amazing when combined with creatine by helping your body reduce fat and building lean muscle faster. And just as a disclaimer, even if you're not feeling the tingle of your beta alanine, that doesn't mean it's not working, you've just built up a tolerance. 

( I look for at least 2 to 3.2g per scoop in each of my pre workouts )

L-Citrulline-

    A non-protein, special type of amino acid that bypasses the stomach and enters the kidneys, shown to have amazing athletic benefits. It boosts blood and oxygen into the muscles, giving you that "pump" and fullness in targeted muscle groups. It also helps in maintaining white blood cell counts, keeping your immune system strong and reducing the time it takes for your muscles to heal. 

( I look for around 4-6 g per scoop )

Creatine-

    I've already discussed the benefits of creatine in my previous blog. In short, creatine will give you strength benefits, hasten muscle growth, better endurance, and aid in recovery time. 

(I look for around 2-5 g per scoop)

Agmatine Sulfate-

    This helps with muscle fullness, pumps, and increases fat loss.

 ( I look for 1g per scoop)

   These are the main ingredients that I look for in a pre workout. There are other ingredients that companies will put in their products that can also benefit you, but I stick with these and they have not let me down so far. I have a pretty high caffeine tolerance, so 200-300g per serving is what I look for. These are some of my favorites.

Where can I find these...

Kraken- HERE

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        Ghost Legend- HERE or HERE                          

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Pre Cre- HERE or HERE

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White Flood- HERE, HERE, or HERE

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You could also buy these ingredients separately to make your own pre workout, its your world! I also take some NON-STIMULANT pre workouts if I am just looking for endurance, focus, etc, without the rush of caffeine. 

Body Octane- HERE or HERE or HERE.

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Outlift Stim Free- HERE or HERE

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        If you're on the fence about taking a pre workout or are looking for something new, I highly recommend taking a look at your label and checking off the boxes so you know what you're getting out of them! Enhance your workouts the right way and make the most of them!

Do you know what's in your protein?

   I want to preface this blog with the understanding that by supplementing your diet by using protein powders shouldn't always be your first option. You should always strive to get your protein sources from whole foods as to reap the benefits from natural sources ; eggs, chicken, tuna, lean meats, etc. I've relied to heavily on taking protein shakes more than I should at times and it does add those extra calories and carbs to your day if you're not careful. I prefer to drink them whenever I have a sweet tooth, or with my breakfast to help me get my protein requirements for the day as well as keeping me fuller for longer.  
   Protein powders are more popular now than ever with brands across industry and choosing which one is right for the money can be overwhelming. I'm going to delve into why protein powders can be beneficial in your regimen, what the different types of protein are and how to distinguish what they offer us as consumers. Protein is vital in aiding the rebuilding of muscle tissue after the tissue is broken down through strength training and other physical activities.   

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Types of Protein

   All protein powders are not the same, I'll explain why that is. I highly recommend checking out the label before purchasing that 'Banana Chocolate Milkshake Madness' protein that you just saw on an ad somewhere, with said ad spouting "fast gains, no fillers, yadda yadda." You're wanting an open label on every product that you buy, meaning you, as a consumer, has the right to know EVERY amount of each ingredient that is listed on the tub. A lot of companies will use bcaa's, sugars, and other amino acids to reach their said amount of protein that's on the label. The industry refers to this term as "spiking." It's a means the companies are adding free form amino acids into protein powders without giving you, the consumer, that information on their product. This is something to look out for when purchasing protein powders, you may only be getting 17-20 grams of protein per scoop as opposed to the 25 that in on the label due to spiking.

   You may see a deal on a 5lb tub of protein that is significantly less expensive to another tub you were looking at. Chances are that the inexpensive protein is using cheap fillers, and while it seems like you're getting a deal, you're cheating yourself. When purchasing a protein powder, even though you'll want an awesome flavor, that shouldn't be your only assessment in choosing. These are some proteins that you'll need to know about before making a smart purchase.

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WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE- A food ingredient that can be found in protein powders that goes through a process by separating the components from milk. SOURCE. Whey isolate is a favorite by those who suffer from lactose intolerance due to the removal of milk from this ingredient while still yielding the benefits of the protein itself. Products containing protein isolates usually have a lower carb content and are a bit costlier due to the ultra filtering process of removing the milk from the profile. It is also said to be easier on the stomach and not cause bloating as some protein powders tend to do with some people.

WHEY PROTEIN- A soluble protein found in milk. It offers the same benefits as Whey Isolate, but contains milk.  

WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE- The cheapest and most common form of whey protein.   

CASEIN PROTEIN- A slow digestive protein. It is the most prominent protein found in milk. While Whey Protein quickly absorbs into the body's tissue and     rapidly increases protein synthesis, casein slowly absorbs into the body and blocks protein breakdown. SOURCE 

MILK PROTEIN ISOLATE- Contains at minimum 90% protein and offers very little fat and carbs. This type of protein is what you'll usually find in your protein "blends" or protein bars.

EGG WHITE ALBUMIN- Dried Egg whites, offering high protein content with almost no fat. Another type of protein found in "blends"

PLANT PROTEIN- From Brown Rice, Pea, Hemp, and Pumpkin sources, they offer the benefits of Isolates as to not have to deal with the lactose aspect. Although plant proteins are popular and can be beneficial in your regimen, they are typically considered "incomplete proteins," because they lack in some of the 20 essential amino acids required to reap the full benefits of the protein itself. 

   What protein is right for you?

While flavor does play a big part in the protein powder selection process given that it's usually a 2-5lb tub that you'll have to go through, you also want to consider what you're consuming. I prefer "blends," which is usually Whey Protein, Milk Protein, Casein and either egg or isolates all combined in one container. I have tried more protein powders than I would like to admit, but since I started my fitness journey, I've had the chance to experience what worked for me and what didn't. I've had a few of the "proprietary" blends, basically not knowing what I'm getting per serving of the powder at hand. I didn't have pleasant experiences with those and they seemed to upset my stomach with all the fillers that aren't mentioned on the label. While I'm not sponsored, I will say that Pro Jym offers everything you'll want in a blended protein, and tastes incredible. It has 7.5g Whey Isolate, 7g Casein, 7g Milk Protein Isolate 2.5 Grams of Egg White protein. You can find it HERE if you want to check it out for yourself. I also enjoy using PES SELECT PROTEIN which you can also find HERE. GNC also has quite a few of my favorites.
GNC also has quite a few of my favorites.

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    When is the best time to drink my Protein shake?

   A common saying in the bodybuilding world is to get all of your supplementation in your "anabolic window," which is said by some to only be around 30-45 minutes post workout. Although there are other experts that say that this "window" can be up to 24 hours post workout. I'm a proponent for the latter, and I haven't seen much difference in rushing home to drink a protein shake as opposed to drinking one before bed time long after my workout. I would just try and get a shake in between waking up in the morning and going to bed, don't stress about when in the day you're consuming one.

Why I prefer blends...

   I prefer blends because of the offerings of different types of protein available in them, mainly from the casein and whey protein and how they compliment each other so well in the protein synthesis process. My wife prefers Whey Protein Isolates because she is sensitive to milk proteins and it is easier on her stomach.  I would recommend staying away from concentrates, but to each their own.

Still on the fence with Creatine?

   Before I delve into it, what is creatine? By definition, it is a compound that is formed in protein metabolism and exists in living tissue. It aids in supplying energy for muscular contraction. It is a nitrogenous organic acid that is found naturally in vertebrates (living creatures). It is formed of three amino acids: L-methionine, glycine, and L-arginine. It is said that around 95 percent of creatine found in the human body is in skeletal muscle while the other 5ish percent is in the brain. 

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How does it effect our bodies when used in "clinical" doses?

I use the term "clinical" loosely because studies are still being done to determine said effects and within the fitness community what the dosage is recommended to be, which is 3-5 grams daily, in order to maintain elevated creatine stores in our bodies. The usage of creatine and its recommended dosage has not yet been approved by the FDA. Scientists are constantly studying creatine and is one of the most researched sport supplements to date. I will be saying this quite often in my blogs, but every body is different, unique, and has its own genetic makeup that will react differently to taking supplements, eating, and doing anything fitness related, but I do believe creatine has helped in certain areas in my journey.

    So how can one benefit from using this sometimes scrutinized supplement?

Although there have been loosely based negative connotations with creatine, there have been many proven benefits in testing. Here is a list of the proven benefits of creatine usage:

1. Resistance to fatigue when doing high intensity training.

Creatine can provide benefits regardless of one's fitness level. You don't have to be a professional athlete for your body to receive the benefits of using creatine. A review has found that it can improve high intensity exercise performance by up to 15%.

2. It can haste muscle growth.

This is what a lot of us in the fitness community want,  Right? We're in a day and age where information, technology and nuances are coming at us so fast we can't even process most of it. Although creatine isn't the "magic" game changing supplement that will instantly make you "swole", it definitely will speed up the process when taken properly. Its been shown that in as little as a week, taking it can increase lean body weight and muscle size.  In a long term, it helps in muscle fiber growth. Creatine pulls water into the muscles, and when lifting and breaking down the muscle fibers, it helps rebuild those fibers more rapidly than if you weren't taking creatine.

3. It can boost testosterone.

Once you reach your 30's, you natural test levels drop, resulting in fatigue, endurance, strength, among other things. According to a New Jersey study, participants in a ten week training program who consumed creatine and beta alanine (I'll do a post about this supplement soon) on a daily basis increased their testosterone levels. You should also consult with your doctor if you are ever concerned about your test levels. SOURCE

4. Its inexpensive.

We all work hard for our money, and whether you're just starting to take supplements or you're on the fence, its always a smart move to make sure you're educated on what is in the supplements that you're purchasing. There's an awful lot of companies out there to choose from, but when you think about it, knowing what's on the label is 90% of the reason you should be buying said item. The other 10%, in my opinion, would be flavor choice. I'm a sucker for new crazy flavor ideas. Creatine can be in pre workouts, intra workouts, post workouts, and even protein powders, more now than ever. But since we're talking about creatine as a singular ingredient, it can be purchased for around $10.00 on its own. I'm not sponsored, but I do have my preferences in brands and will be doing supplement reviews very soon.

5. It can help in cognitive functions.

It plays a pivotal role I brain energy, and aids in memory capacity and influencing brain performance. In my experience, I can attest that creatine does help me with more mental focus while I'm in the gym as opposed to consuming a product that does not contain creatine.

Why I choose creatine...

    I would highly recommend consuming plenty of water while taking creatine. For instance, if you're drinking 16-20 ounces of water daily, I would add another 20 ounces or so. Even if you're not taking creatine and are working out in any capacity regularly, water consumption is crucial in a variety of aspects. As previously mentioned, I have noticed the differences in my workouts and physique while supplementing with creatine and without. While taking creatine daily, my strength definitely increases in the gym and I feel that noticeable "pump" feeling throughout the day. This isn't a supplement that you need to "cycle" off or cycle on unless you're hardcore cutting and want to shred any extra water weight. At the end of the day, I would highly recommend throwing this into your regimen and at least giving it a try if you're looking to add some strength and size.