I am not sponsored by Baddass and as you can imagine, as a Managing Editor, I get a lot of drink samples that come my way. I used to hang on to them thinking I would eventually be in the mood to give them a shot, but the truth is, I was just too lazy to throw them away. I stuck with what worked for me, and as long as it was working, I saw no need to try anything new.
I trust my trainer's judgement implicitly, but when she handed me samples of Baddass Stack pre and post workout supplements, I nearly handed them off to the athlete behind me. Out of respect, I tucked them in my jacket and thanked her. She told me that she'd tried many things over the years and none had been as effective in training and racing as Baddass. "It's not a stimulant " she said, "it provides nutrition and oxygenation for your muscles." I was intrigued.
A few days later, I decided to give them a shot for a group ride/pool swim. With no stimulants added, the effect doesn't feel immediate like you get when you down an energy drink. I gradually noticed, over 15-20 min. on my ride, that I started to feel like I do on a really good training day; not Super Human, just Super Jen.
The most noticeable difference came when we hit the pool for hypoxic training. I should preface this by telling you that I am a new swimmer; I learned to swim in my 30's. I've picked it up pretty well, but I have some weaknesses and breathing is a huge one. The training set was: 4 x 100m as seven strokes, breathe, five strokes, breathe, three strokes to the wall. Normally, I'm lucky to get four strokes before I come gasping to breathe. This time, I began the set and found myself breathing on the ninth stroke. I wondered if I counted wrong. Couldn't be. I felt very little urge to breathe at seven strokes and continued the set with the higher stroke count. I was floored, so I immediately called my trainer over to the pool-side to explain. She looked at me with a knowing grin and said, "What did I tell you? It's the Baddass."
I was hooked. Originally created for body-builders, the product has begun to find it's way into the hands of endurance athletes. I contacted Baddass and continued to train with it for the next four weeks, being sure to add in the post-workout drink for recovery. My next race, I posted my fastest swim time yet (however modest) and was the first out of the water in my division. Certainly, other factors contributed, but I am convinced that training with Baddass was a large part of my leap in performance. My muscles fatigued slower on the bike/run and with the recovery drink, I wake up the next morning without severely sore muscles. The difference, for me, was significant.
I use the pre-workout stack in 8 oz. of water about 15 min. before exercise on an empty stomach. If I'm doing a workout or racing longer than 2 hours, I put another pre-workout in with my water to sip. The pre tastes like a sugary tropical punch and I found myself craving the grape flavor post as I neared the end of my workouts. It's sooo tasty.
At $4 a workout, for pre and post, it's a bit pricey for everyday training, especially two-a-days, but well worth your break-out workouts and definitely races. For a competitive age grouper, I would even recommend using it through race season, and giving your wallet a break in the off-season. There was NO crash or dizziness with Baddass, and I have used it for evening workouts without any sleeplessness. Baddass Nutrition also offers a range of training supplements, including Premium Hydrolyzed Protein- a subject for another day- that are worth a look.
I'm not the only one who tried a sample, but at the time, the Baddass Stack was not yet available for purchase. One by one, training partners and friends began asking me for extra samples, or any inside connections on purchasing. Sadly, I had none, but it was hilarious. I felt like I was carrying contraband in my gym bag. Here's what a few friends who tried it had to say:
Laura- " I would say the thing I've noticed the most about using Baddass is that I can maintain a higher threshold, for a significantly longer period of time. I also feel like with super high-intensity workouts I don't feel any drag during the workout. The stuff is amazing, I feel like a powerhouse on every workout, it's the best feeling! Love the stuff! "
Amber- " Every time I have used it, I have had a great workout! I feel like I can push myself harder. I really enjoy using it on speed workout days when I know that I am going to be pushing myself as hard as I can. It allows me to do that. "
Ryan- " I used Baddass on Mt. Rainier at 11,000 ft. It seemed to negate the effects of altitude and I felt great; no fatigue or headaches like I would normally expect. I felt fully-recovered for my summit push. "
Brtittany- " Baddass was recommended to me by my triathlon coach because, I was looking for a sports supplement that could supply me with energy without loading me up with extra calories and sugar. The first time I tried it, I knew I would need the extra energy boost, I was doing sprint intervals and speed work. About halfway into my workout I realized that my body wasn't as tired as I usually was and I was running faster and longer than I usually do. I noticed that my lactic threshold was significantly improved. More importantly, I didn't experience jitters or dizziness that usually occur with other supplements I've tried on the market. I was so happy with the results I gave some to my husband to try. As a body builder, he is now an avid believer in Baddass! "
For more information or to purchase Baddass, go to: www.baddass.com
Amino acids are the building blocks of the body that make up protein, and protein is the base that makes up muscles, tendons, organs, glands, nails and hair (to name a few!). On top of that, the growth, repair and maintenance of all our cells is dependant upon amino acids. Did you know that next to water, protein makes up the greatest portion of our body weight? So, I would venture to say that amino acids are pretty, mighty, super, duper important!
There are 20 amino acids that regularly make up proteins. Our bodies are capable of making 9 of those amino acids, but we must get the remaining ten from outside sources- specifically our FOOD and supplements. These 10 amino acids are known as Essential Amino Acids. Amino acid supplements fall into two basic categories: Essential Amino Acids (EAA's) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs.)
ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
A quick overview of each of the Essential Amino Acids will give us a better understanding of why each is SO important.
- Phenylalanine is traditionally marketed for it’s analgesic (pain-killing) and antidepressant effect, and is a precursor to the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine, two feel-good brain chemicals. This could be good because elevated brain levels of norepinephrine and dopamine may actually lower your “RPE” or Rating of Perceived Exertion During Exercise, which means you could be happier when you’re suffering halfway through a killer workout session or Ironman bike ride. Food sources include dairy, almonds, avocados, lima beans, peanuts, and seeds.
- Valine plays double duty because it is BOTH an Essential Amino Acid and a Branched Chain Amino Acid. Valine is an essential amino acid. It can help to prevent muscle proteins from breaking down during exercise. This means that if you take Valine during exercise, you could recover faster because you’d have less muscle damage. Dietary sources of valine include dairy products, grain, meat, mushrooms, peanuts, and soy proteins.
- Threonine is shown to play a role in liver function as well as assists in creating collagen. Because it is an EAA it will work in conjunction with the other EAA's to help decrease indicators of muscle damage and inflammation. This basically means that if you popped some essential amino acids, even if you didn't eat anything, you might not 'cannibalize' as much lean muscle during a fasted workout session. Dietary sources of threonine include dairy, beef, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that can suppress pain, and if you’re taking some before bed at night, even induce a bit of sleepiness. The main reason to take tryptophan would be to increase tolerance to pain during hard workouts, games or races. But studies to this point go back and forth on whether or not that actually improves performance. Tryptophan can be found in oats, bananas, dried dates, milk, cottage cheese, meat, fish, turkey and peanuts.
- Isoleucine is another BCAA/EAA combo, has some of the same advantages of Valine (we'll learn more about this in a minute). Isoleucine is found in eggs, fish, lentils, poultry, beef, seeds, soy, wheat, almonds and dairy.
- Histidine is a precursor to histamine and could help you fight off the cell damaging free radicals you produce during exercise, and carnosine helps you get rid of muscle burn more quickly, and helps turn lactic acid back into useable muscle fuel. So hooray for histidine, it gets a gold star sticker.
- Arginine- most of the studies on arginine show that it really helps folks with cardiovascular disease improve exercise capacity, and like tryptophan, the studies go back and forth on whether it really helps with the athletic population – but it has a great deal of promise.
- Leucine is yet another BCAA/EAA combo (more on that below). Leucine is found in cottage cheese, sesame seeds, peanuts, dry lentils, chicken and fish.
- Lysine may assist with growth-hormone release, which could vastly improve muscle repair and recovery, although if you take lysine in it’s isolated form, the amount you’d have to take to increase growth hormone release would cause gastrointestinal distress. But combined with all the other essential amino acids, there may be a growth hormone response in smaller doses, and there is some clinical evidence that essential amino acid supplementation could stimulate growth hormone releasing factors. Lysine sources include green beans, lentils, soybean, spinach and amaranth.
BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS
Now, let's talk about the Branched Chain Amino Acids which consist of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine (which are also part of the Essential Amino Acid group) BCAA's are interesting because they are metabolized in the muscle, rather than in the liver. What this means is that BCAA's can be relied on as an actual energy source DURING exercise, and could actually help prevent premature muscle breakdown. Several studies have shown that BCAA's could actually help increase red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and serum albumin, which basically means, less inflammation, better red blood cell formation (more oxygen), and better formation of storage carbohydrate (more easily obtained fuel). BCAA studies by researchers Sugita and Kraemer also show that BCAA supplementation after exercise has been shown to cause faster recovery of muscle strength and the ability to slow down muscle breakdown even during intense training. In addition, when you supplement with BCAA’s they help maintain higher blood levels of amino acids which can make you feel happier even when you’re suffering during exercise. So as you may have guessed, low blood levels of BCAA’s are correlated with increased fatigue and reduced physical performance.
A study titled "Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion", by Gualano, et al. that showed that when taken prior to a fasted exercise session, BCAA’s could increase fat oxidation. Hmm... burn more fat while exercising? I'm on it!If all of the essential amino acids are present, muscle repair and recovery can start before you’re even done with your workout – and when you’re mentally stretched toward the end of a tough workout, game or race, high blood levels of amino acids (i.e. from the BCAA’s in sports gels) can allow the body and brain to continue to work hard instead of shutting down. So, if we want to have enhanced mental focus during a workout, keep our bodies from cannibalizing muscle during fasted morning workout sessions, burn more fat during those sessions, and decrease post-workout muscle soreness. We should be supplementing with BCAA's- but, how?
When racing triathlons or going out for a longer training day, GU has a product called Roctane that also has BCAA's. There are other products as well that have BCAA's; Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. You can even look at the ingredients of different products and determine for yourself which one you will use.
There is a product out there called MAP (Master Amino Acid Profile) that I have not used, but am considering trying because it would be an easy way to get the BCAA's pre-workout. I've been eyeing it for some time now, and after reading up more on this topic, I just might incorporate it into my training. It comes in capsules, so it is easy to take some right before your workout. I have also really liked a product called BaddAss Nutrition that offers many of these BCAA's in a pre-workout drink. I used this product ALL winter as I prepared for both Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico and Ironman St. George and have to say it was awesome!
You can also buy powdered BCAA's at pretty much any nutrition store (Good Earth carries them and I even have some at my studio along with the Whey Protein Isolate). This is a super easy way to just scoop some of the powdered form of these into your pre or post workout drink or smoothie. If you are struggling with feeling weak, tired, not making progress in your weight loss or athletic goals, or recovery, perhaps you should analyze what you are doing and eating and then consider adding some Branched Chain Amino Acid and Essential Amino Acid supplementation! It might just be the missing puzzle piece that you are looking for. Of course, this is all based on the assumption that you are already making those healthy food choices and getting in your quality FATS (omega 3 in particular), PROTEINS, CARBS (in the form of veggies, fruits, and complex carbs) and getting sufficient WATER (96 oz.+) and REST (7+ hours every night!) Ideally, you want to incorporate BCAA's before and during workouts and then utilize EAA's +whey protein AFTER your workout to ensure full recovery and absorption of the EAA's.
Just to clarify: Essential Amino Acids and Branched Chain Amino Acids are necessary for EVERYONE! This is not just for athletes looking to get faster, stronger, leaner, etc. (although that sure is a bonus). These are crucial for every living being! So, if you are just trying to live a healthier more vibrant and energetic lifestyle, be aware of your amino acid intake and ensure you are giving your body every advantage you can.
Coach Keena is a regular contributor at TriEdge and has 15 years experience coaching and training hundreds of individuals. She is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and holds additional certifications from the National association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council of Exercise (ACE) as a certified personal trainer. If you would like to contact Coach Keena go to: www.coachkeena.com.