2015 is my third year with the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco half marathon. The race organizers got some things right from the first year, including runner transportation from the finish line to the start and copious amounts of pre-paid parking nearby. Some things took just a little bit of a learning curve (such as teaching newer runners what a “bus box” is so they stopped freaking out and claiming they were “diverted” or “cut short”).
This year I made the very silly decision to run the second Livermore Half Marathon on Saturday and the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco on Sunday. I’m not sure I noticed the dates when I signed up for the events more than six months in advance. Yes, wine was involved–I’ll write more about Livermore later. Livermore and the after-party demanded a post-event shower, which demanded a post-shower nap. Suddenly it was time to leave for the expo if I wanted to get there before it closed. Yikes!
A quick trip to San Francisco later, I grabbed my bib and shirt. Per usual, no line. Next a walk through the Brooks shop with Rock ‘n’ Roll themed merchandise, Moving Comfort bras, and the very best shoe porn.
I’m quite proud of escaping without a new running wardrobe, since I love the blues and greens in this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll collection. The expo had a few things that were new to me, and some of the usual vendors. To my delight (and my wallet’s demise), there were also some surprises.
True confession, I am a sucker for the Clinique bonus. Since I needed a new eye crayon and a less harsh lipstick for everyday wear, this was pretty much perfection. The best part is that it was right next to the booth I was actually looking for: Go Tape.
A friend turned me on to Go Tape. I’d tried kinesio tape a few times before, but somehow it just peeled right off around the edges so by the time the race rolled around it was less like tape and more like decorative flaps. Go Tape is sticky and stays put, so I was really happy to see them taping at their booth.
I had my shoulders taped by one of the pros taping that day. My tape-r was also an athlete. Turns out her “day job” is working as a doctor in the pediatric ER! I found out she had a sports injury while in school and was really frustrated that the kinesio tape available to her wasn’t sticky and would peel off before she was done with it. That’s why she loves to spread the Go Tape love. Clearly other runners have caught on, as people were still trying to get in line to get Go Tape-d even as the dudes in uniforms were trying to kick us all out of the expo. I grabbed a quick bite and a drink with another one of this year’s Rock ‘n’ Blog team, but naturally totally neglected to photograph it. Drat.
Thanks to pre-paid, guaranteed parking and a seamless shuttle system, I arrived at the starting line plenty early. (Earlier than I like to get up, in fact.)
The course starts right out at the beach, along the highway (which–fortunately for us–was not covered in sand as we started). That means less-than-gentle ocean breezes blowing through our bones as we waited and huddled for warmth.
It was a chilly morning, with many people opting to keep their “toss” layers instead of tossing them. It wasn’t long before we had all crossed the start and were working our way through the neighborhoods.
No bands in the residential areas, as no sane people are up at this hour (just runners). Everyone was looking forward to those gorgeous views of the Golden Gate, and we had scored some sweet, clear skies. We got a teaser look through the residential areas, before we hit…
A Hill. Not just any hill, but the great big one leading up to the smaller one that is the lead-up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Fortunately for the runners, this section of the course was OWNED by the San Francisco November Project. (If you don’t know who they are, you should.)
There were costumes, noise makers, signs, and plenty of hands to high-five, plus the bridge teasing us in the background.
These are people who voluntarily get up at obscene hours for group workouts, so they understand the special kind of crazy that is running races. Mad props, guys! You made my race.
Just past the November Project there was a designated selfie-station, complete with props and a faux Instagram frame.
Since I live close enough to go running in the Presidio pretty much any time I want to, it is easy for me to forget that this is DESTINATION race; even people who don’t stop for pictures stop for pictures.
The course went up to the Golden Gate Bridge, and over it and back again. My phone’s battery was starting to run low, as was my energy (because running back-to-back half marathons with hills was not my best idea). I feared dropping the phone off of the bridge! Since you had to run out-and-back across the bridge, I had the opportunity to wave and yell HI! to my fleet-footed friends.
The course wound down the bridge exit and across Marina Green. Even with the Bay breeze’s chill in the air, there were at least a half dozen other things going on: big cycling event, smaller charity run, farmer’s market, and an assortment of random runners, cyclists, frisbee players, and very happy puppy dogs. Past the parks and back into the urban heart of San Francisco, around mile 9 I decided that coffee was definitely in order. (Hey, it worked for me in Dallas!) It wasn’t until mile 12 I found my opportunity to buy a hot mocha from a local establishment. I even got the extra whipped cream.
Since I was seriously lagging, I missed all but the end of the concert (which is fine, as I was post-run-dazed and trying to absorb caffeine). The finish line had the usual assortment of salty things, bananas, chocolate milk, water, Gatorade, and the Michelob Light beer tent (which I skipped since I don’t do beer). There were also some fun additions, including a Sambazon mobile cafe! After thankfully accepting some bottled samples, I checked out the available açai bowls.
This was the first year I knew plenty of other people running, but didn’t traverse any significant portion of the course with someone I knew. Overall I think the Rock ‘n’ Roll crew did a great job with this race, and the gorgeous weather didn’t hurt. Now if I could just convince them to coordinate with the Livermore Half Marathon so I don’t end up with back-to-backs in 2016…
P.S. If you want to read more from the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, here are some options:
This past summer I had the good fortune to run through Napa’s wine country twice, with two different series races. Naturally I wrote a blog post about the races and then promptly forgot to post it. So here it is, to help you make your 2016 race choices. I ran the Zooma Napa Half Marathon, and the Destination Races Napa to Sonoma.
2014 was the first year for the Zooma race in Napa. In case you are not familiar with it, Zooma is a series of races aimed at women. The races are held in a variety of “getaway” locations, and are promoted as destinations for a girlfriends’ getaway weekend. Here is the promo text from the Zooma website (registration for 2015 is still open but like to sell out; the 2014 race sold out):
ZOOMA’s newest fit girlfriends’ getaway will treat you to a scenic half marathon or 10K race in the luxurious Napa Valley. The race starts and finishes near the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, our host resort, and runs on mostly flat terrain with awe-inspiring views of the vineyards and the mountain ranges that create the Valley.
You’ll be welcomed to your wine country getaway with a Fitness Expo at the host resort, then feted at the Honest Tea Mocktail Party. Walk from your cozy bed to the start line to run an unforgettable race through the vines. After the race, its time to celebrate with an After-Party Expo at the host resort, including wine tastings, live music, a pool party, food, and shopping. After a quick shower, you and your best running girlfriends can visit some of the best winery tasting rooms in the country.
For the first year, I thought the race went pretty well. The two Zooma Run Ambassadors hosted training runs from local Athleta stores, which I thought was a great idea. at the kick-off, Athleta gave the attendees headbands and tech fabric running hats, and Muscle Milk (one of the race sponsors) provided post-race hydration for many of the runs. Friends were allowed to pick up bibs, which was important to me since I ended up stuck at work and didn’t make it to the Expo and mocktail party (which I understand was small, but populated with some of my absolute favorites, including Bani Bands and Scott James Jewelry). Transportation from the host hotel to the start/finish ran smoothly. While I’m not sure the “Zooma Signature Swag Bag” contents were valued at $50 as touted on the website (hat, shirt, Feetures socks, and some Kind bars), they were all items I liked and use–even the race shirt–so I have no complaints.
I’m not likely to run this one again, as for me the minuses outweighed the plusses. First and foremost, the course was not at all awe-inspiring. For all the hype about how scenic it was supposed to be, the race was an out-and-back with the longest stretch alongside the highway. People did complain, so that might change–Zooma seemed responsive to feedback and has, for example, changed to an earlier start time (runners were melting to the pavement by the time they finished). Second, the host hotel is very expensive. Napa is not inexpensive, I’ve got it, but the race rate for a hotel room with two double beds was about $300 for a single night, and the hotel did not allow ANY late check-outs that weekend (or so the front desk told us, more than once). I suppose I could have stayed somewhere else or driven in the day of the race, but the transportation to the starting line was from the host hotel and it wasn’t clear to me where I could park and attend the post-race party. (The hotel parking was guests only, and overflowing the entire time.)
Finally, the After-Party Expo was clearly geared towards the fast runners–it was literally over before I could get to it. I wanted to shower before I drove home (an hour and a half) and the hotel wouldn’t allow any late check-outs, so I had to go from the race to the room to shower and pack up. By the time we checked out, the DJ was breaking down, there was not really any food left, and the Honest Tea was all on trolleys being moved out of the patio area (which was separate from the pool). I did not see evidence of shopping or wine tasting, though there were some empty booths. I finished the race in a little over 3 hours, waited on the bus, and went back to the hotel, showered without much lazing about, and still missed the party. My friends ended up split into two groups; one group had stayed in Vallejo (due to the high cost of the Napa hotel) and they left early, while those of us who stayed at the Napa hotel bought champagne and then ate lunch at The Habit.
If you’ve never been to Napa and are planning to make a long weekend out of it, this might be a good race to throw in. As someone who lives relatively close, this race experience did not justify the high cost. I’d rather allocate those dollars elsewhere in 2015.
This race was a last-minute addition to my summer racing calendar, and my favorite race of the year! A friend-of-a-friend had registered (the field is limited to 3,500 and only 1,800 of those are individual spots–the race sells out) but was unable to run. Destination Races allows a bib transfer for $25 plus some paperwork, so I gladly hopped in to take her place. (The transfer process was painless. It took five minutes.) The website describes this race pretty accurately:
Napa-to-Sonoma is the flagship event in the Wine Country Half Marathon Series. This popular race features a fast and scenic course starting at Cuvaison Carneros Winery and finishing in historic Sonoma Plaza in front of City Hall. The world-renowned Napa and Sonoma Valleys serve as the host of this event, offering the finest in wine country ambience and hospitality.
Other activities are scheduled around the race, so bring family and friends and plan to stay and play! You’ll also meet new friends and running colleagues at this iconic event, which draws from all fifty states and many foreign countries. This is not your typical running race, this is a lifestyle experience!
The expo was relatively small, but had a variety of vendors and sponsors in addition to a Destination Races gear shop. After getting my bib, I had my first taste of Annie’s gluten-free, vegan pizza. There was also a speakers area where runners could attend a course preview or hear Meb speak. There was an Elliptigo set up to try in the parking lot (Meb led the race on an Elliptigo).
Race day transportation was offered from both Napa and Sonoma–the race is a point-to-point, starting in Napa and ending in the plaza in downtown Sonoma–with public parking available on both ends. I parked my car a few blocks away from the downtown Sonoma plaza and hopped on the race bus, easy-peasy. At the starting point I indulged in some hand-poured drip coffee before photographing the winery pond as the sun rose.
This was the most gorgeous course I’ve run, with a long stretch through vineyards and greenery with mostly downhill-hills. I’m not pleased there was a big hill at the beginning, but the rest of the course was relatively fast (I think it had a significant drop). The course wound through pretty agricultural areas and shaded neighborhoods (and past a house cooking bacon for breakfast, to the chagrin of the omnivores in the group). This is the only race I’ve run with an “unofficial Guinness aid station” followed by an officially sanctioned wine station! I’m not sure that shot of gewürztraminer was a good idea, but it was fun! I really enjoyed the course itself and kept smiling all day. The weather was perfect (which I can’t attribute to the race organizers, but it made me smile all day).
Across the finish line, past the medals and post-race snacks (and a huge tub of bio-freeze packets) was a huge finishing festival with lots of wine tastings and live music. Team Challenge had a big tent with a post-race meal for all the team members, too. In line for the wine tastings, people were pretty social (and I invited everyone I could to join us for Run 10 Feed 10). The party lasted through the afternoon, with plenty of time for even the slowest runners to finish and still enjoy snacks and wine.
I wasn’t familiar with this race until I had the good fortune to be offered a bib. (By the way, since acts of good karma should be appreciated fully, I did send some wine and race goodies to the bib’s original owner.) You can bet I’ve marked the registration date on my calendar so I can run it again next year! I don’t know if the other Destination Races events are as wonderful, but this one was truly a lovely experience.
What is your favorite destination race? Have you run any races in wine country?
Disclosure: I was provided with a Ryte Mojo Pack (Spark, Rejuv, and Fuel) to test drive, as well as one to give away via this blog post. All opinions in this post are my own. (By now you should know I would never accept a product, assignment, or offer that tried to require me to provide a specific opinion, canned PR content, etc.) I am not a Ryte representative or employee. Also, I am an independent team BeachBody coach and drink Shakeology.
Ryte: The Company
Have you heard of Ryte? It’s a new business, a new set of supplements, a new direct sales business opportunity, and a new benefit corporation. Ryte is the very FIRST benefit corporation in direct sales, which is kind of a big deal.
As a benefit corporation, Ryte sets aside 10% of its profit for charitable or public benefit projects. Ryte also pays its team members/independent representatives with two separate checks, one for them and one (again, 10%) to be used to fund charitable or public benefit projects. Ryte also encourages hands-on volunteer efforts; during the founder’s trip to Alameda, CA earlier this year, they met with a boot camp and walked the shoreline, removing garbage. Pretty neat, right?
Initially, I was VERY skeptical of Ryte’s products and the claimed benefits. When I first heard about Ryte, the products were still in the research and development stage, so there were no products to try, and there were no ingredients lists (because they hadn’t been finalized). I heard them described as “all natural” (always a turn-off for me, as the term “natural” has zero legal meaning when it comes to food and supplements), “plant based” (appealing to me as a vegetarian, but not more appealing than broccoli), “clean,” and similar terms. No matter how awesome I think you are, I’m going to be skeptical of every product pitched to me because that’s just how I am. This isn’t to say I always make the most perfect personal choices (because every so often I do chow down on some Doritos…which are the epitome of unnatural and dirty flaming orange). The way to actually sell me on a product is to encourage me to question everything about it, field any questions you can answer, and then let me make my own decision.
I’m fortunate that I was offered the opportunity to try Ryte’s Mojo Pack even after expressing skepticism. After researching it and trying it for myself, it turns out I like the products. I can’t tell you whether they are the right products for you, but I can recommend them as a solid choice–and for various reasons a better choice than many other products out there. I can also give you the opportunity to WIN your very own Mojo Pack so you can try out Ryte for a month!
Ryte: The Products
The “Mojo Pack” is a convenient way to buy all three of Ryte’s products: Spark, Rejuv, and Fuel. The whole package is designed to last for a month (30 Spark, 30 Rejuv, and depending on which option you choose, 15 or 30 Fuel), as you can take the products every day. True confession, I have not successfully taken all three products every day during my road test. Hey, that’s reality–there are very few things I do/eat every day.
Note this was initially named “Spark,” and both the product I tried and the one I am giving away are labeled Spark. I strongly suspect that this will be Ryte’s best seller. The box states, “RYTE [PERK] gets your day started right by giving you an immediate boost of energy, curbing your appetite, improving your focus & mood, and burning fat throughout the day.” (Federal law requires supplements to also bear the following words, which of course Ryte’s Perk does: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”)
Perk comes in little packets (which Ryte calls “sachets”) that contain three (vegetarian) capsules. The directions suggest taking 1-3 capsules in the morning or after lunch, and advise against taking Perk too late in the day to avoid impairing regular sleep. A quick breeze through the ingredients makes this recommendation clear (because it has caffeine). In addition to Niacin, Vitamin B-12, and Zinc, these capsules contain a propriety blend of:
Green Tea extract (leaf) is pretty much exactly what you think it is.
Advantra Z Citrus Aurantium (30% Synephrine). Also called “bitter orange,” this is widely used to replace ephedra in weight loss supplements. Synpehrine acts as a stimulant (chemically constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure and heart rate) and appetite suppressant.
L-Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that can be derived from tea or from certain edible mushrooms. It may help relieve stress by producing a relaxing effect. According to one study, “L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.” (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328)
5-HTP is the shorthand name for 5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as oxitriptan, also a naturally occurring amino acid. In the US, it is sold over-the-counter as an antidepressant, appetite suppressant, and sleep aid. In Europe it is also marked as a treatment for depression. Inside the nervous tissue and liver, 5-HTP can be processed into serotonin. (The body can form 5-HTP as it metabolizes foods with tryptophan, such as turkey or pumpkin.)
Garcinia Cambogia (50% hydroxycitric acid) is a tropical fruit also called the Malabar tamarind. You’ve probably heard of this ingredient as it has been quite trendy in the diet market lately. The rind of the fruit contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which appears to block a specific enzyme (citrate lyase) your body uses to make fat. It also raises levels of serotonin in the brain, which may make you feel less hungry. On its own, this ingredient has not done particularly well in clinical tests, and can be dangerous if taken in extremely high doses (much more than you’d get from the capsules in the Spark sachet).
Cayenne pepper extract (as Capsimax™) If you eat food, you probably know what cayenne peppers are–red and hot, and delicious when the dry form is sprinkled on pizza. Capsimax is the trade name of the ingredient made by New Hope 360 (it’s natural, not synthetic).
Hoodia extract comes from a cactus-type plant in Africa. It is a common ingredient in weight-loss products, as a component of hoodia called P57 is believed to reduce hunger sensations. There is at least one consumer study that reported statistically significant weight loss after human use of the product; one test on rats indicates weight loss due to both fat loss and muscle loss. (Rats are not humans, of course.) As near as I can tell, in the scientific research world, the jury is still out on whether hoodia consumption leads to weight loss in humans. Hoodia is also being studied as an antidepressant.
Rhodiola Rosea Root is an herb that is used in Chinese Medicine and Scandinavian traditional herbalism. It is an anti-fatigue agent, for minor physical fatigue and for stress-related “burnout.” It is also an adaptogen. Several studies indicate it has an anti-depressant effect. The research I found was contradictory, so I can’t pinpoint how it does what it is claimed to do.
Dandelion Root extract comes from those yellow flowered plants that stage a summer takeover of Midwestern suburban lawns each year. Dandelion root is commercially available as an herbal tea. According to WebMD: “Dandelion is used for loss of appetite, upset stomach, intestinal gas, gallstones, joint pain, muscle aches, eczema, and bruises. Dandelion is also used to increase urine production and as a laxative to increase bowel movements. It is also used as skin toner, blood tonic, and digestive tonic.” PubMed indicates it is being studied for a number of reasons in addition to these.
Bioperine®. This is an extract made from the fruit of the black pepper. The name is a trademark of Sabinsa Corporation; the generic name is Piperine. According to Sabinsa, Bioperine increases the bioavailability of various nutritional supplements (read: makes it easier for your body to access and use nutritional supplements). My brief romp through the published research found varying degrees of support for that claim–I’d call it still in the debate stages, not definitively proven but with some indicators it’s true–as well as for Piperine’s potential to decrease excess inflammation caused by defective immune response, potential to prevent certain kinds of tumors, and potential to act as an antidepressant. One important side note: Piperine may affect the metabolism and absorption of prescription medications. As with ANY supplement you take, it is very important that any doctor prescribing you medication and your pharmacist both know you are consuming Piperine, as they are in the best position to help you determine whether this supplement will affect how your body uses your prescription medication.
Spark also contains vegetarian capsules, magnesium stearate, and silica. The vegetarian capsule holds all the other ingredients together, of course, so it’s not really an “ingredient” in the supplement, per se. The primary purpose of magnesium stearate is to keep the capsules from sticking to the production machinery and making a gigantic mess. While known some celebrated known anti-science quacks will try to tell you mag stearate is a nasty “toxin,” this is NOT based on science. After scouring the web, the most concise explanation I found is on the website for NOW foods (you can read it here: http://www.nowfoods.com/Products/FAQs/FAQs-on-Magnesium-Stearate.htm The Wikipedia article is also pretty good, but not as easy to read.)
My experience with Spark was great. Contrary to what you might anticipate from a product with these ingredients, Spark did NOT give me a jolt of jittery energy. Instead, when I took the capsules between breakfast and lunch I had a long, even stream of energy without a “crash” at the end. WAY better–and much more effective–than an extra mid-morning latte or an afternoon candy bag. I didn’t use Spark as often as I used Rejuv, mainly because I love starting each day off with a mug of homemade coffee (or two or three), and sometimes I like tea as well, and I don’t want to ingest potentially extreme amounts of caffeine or stimulants. Spark has a similar stated purpose and active ingredients as other commercially available products, such as Advocare’s Spark drink mix, and Max Muscle brand’s Emerge. Spark also has very few ingredients compared to similar products, and does not contain artificial flavors or dyes. Both products are essentially dry powder (just Spark is in capsules) so it is important to keep them out of the hands of children and teens–in recent years, teens and tweens have experimented with snorting powdered caffeine products (including crushed-up No-Doze tablets), which can lead to death.
Verdict: a convenient, portable, energy product with limited ingredients. No flavor, since you swallow capsules whole.
This is my favorite of the three products in the Mojo Pack. According to the packaging, “RYTE REJUV is the perfect way to end your day. Take in the evening to unwind, recharge, and get rejuvenated. Natural formula helps you relax, maximize your sleep, improve your cellular health, fight off after-dinner cravings, and minimize bloating.” (In accordance with federal requirements for supplement labeling, this product also states “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Just in case you somehow totally misread the statement that started this paragraph.)
Rejuv also comes in little packets, with three capsules per packet. The capsules contain a propriety blend of the following ingredients:
Conjugated Linoleic Acid is familiarly called CLA. Technically it is a family of the isomers of linoleic acid. The major dietary sources of CLA for humans are beef and dairy products. Like most supplements, it has been marketed for various purposes, including bodybuilding, atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries), weight-loss, and limiting food allergy reactions. I found at least one study (using lab mice, not humans) that found low-level CLA intake decreased fat tissue in mice. It’s still under study.
Acetyl L-Carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid. The human body naturally produces it, and it is a building block for protein, like all amino acids. (The body can convert L-Carnitine to acetyl-L-Carnitine, it isn’t clear to me whether the observed effects come from one form or the other.) This ingredient helps the body produce energy; it is also an important ingredient for muscle movement and heart and brain function, which is one of the reasons why researchers are studying its effects on Alzheimer’s patients. I also found some interesting studies on the use of Acetyl-L-Carnitine as a potential treatment for peripheral neuropathy and fibromyalgia. (All of those studies were on just this ingredient, and used much higher doses than are present in Rejuv.)
L-Carnitine-L-Tartrate is another naturally occurring amino acid. Like Acetyl L-Carinitine, it helps the body produce energy, and is important to muscle movement and heart and brain function. As a solo supplement, this is marketed as an aid to burn fat (because L-Carnitine helps move fatty acids into the mitochondria of the cell), boost recovery, reduce muscle damage (basically, to aid in recovery from weight-lifting and sports). I found multiple studies (via PubMed) concluding there is evidence this amino acid reduces muscle tissue damage after exercise and aids in recovery.
Slippery Elm Bark Extract The Slippery Elm is a tree, and the inner part of the bark has been used in herbal medicine for a long time. Some uses include for coughs, stomach irritation, and other digestive issues. Modern applications include cough drops and throat lozenges, as slippery elm bark contains chemicals that can soothe sore throats and increase mucus production. It is also being studied for its effects on irritable bowel syndrome. Note: slippery elm bark has been used in folk-lore herbal medicine to induce abortion. According to WebMD there is no reliable information to support the claim that taking it orally induces abortion. To be safe, Pregnant women should consult their doctors or other medical professionals before taking this (or ANY) supplement.
Dandelion Root Extract [see description above for Spark]
5-HTP [see description above for Spark]
CoQ10 the “co” stands for “coenzyme.” CoQ10 occurs naturally in the human body; cells use it to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance. The amount of CoQ10 naturally present in the body tends to decrease as you age. You’ve probably heard it marketed as an antioxidant (a substance that protects the body from damage caused by molecules often called “free radicals”), and there are numerous studies on CoQ10’s effects on oxidative stress. Humans eat CoQ10 in small amounts in organ meats, peanuts, beef, mackerel, and other foods. One of the side effects of consuming a high dose (100mg–more than you’ll find in Rejuv) is mild insomnia, so it is interesting Ryte chose to put this into Rejuv instead of Spark. That said, the Mayo Clinic website indicates that while more research is needed, it shows promise as a treatment for chronic fatigue.
Magnolia Bark Extract comes from the bark of the magnolia tree. In traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, magnolia bark is used in compounds (made of more that one ingredient) to decrease anxiety and to support sleep. Research seems to be focused on a substance in magnolia bark called honokiol, and there are a number of interesting (in a nerdy way!) studies on honokiol’s interruption of mitochondrial function in cancer calls. One study, published in the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition, concluded that: “a combination of Magnoliabark extract and Phellodendron bark extract (Relora®) reduces cortisol exposure and perceived daily stress, while improving a variety of mood state parameters, including lower fatigue and higher vigor. These results suggest an effective natural approach to modulating the detrimental health effects of chronic stress in moderately stressed adults.” Talbott, et al. “Effect of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on cortisol and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects,” J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2013 Aug 7;10(1):37.
Valerian Root is a plant that produces pink or white flowers. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine, and is sold as a dietary supplement in capsules (usually with other drowsiness-inducing herbs). Valerian root is supposed to have sedative effects, mildly depressing the central nervous system. A review of literature concluded that the currently available studies regarding valerian as an insomnia treatment have contradictory results, and some have flawed methodology (e.g. non-standardized dose, inadequate sample size) but it does seem to have some effect in mild to moderate insomnia.
Melatonin is a hormone made in the human body by the pineal gland (which is in the brain). Melatonin regulates sleep cycles, and exposure to light affects how much of it the pineal gland produces—basically it self-regulates. (Think of this as the body’s way of adapting to the changes in the amount of daylight at different times of the year.) It also occurs naturally in the herb St. John’s Wort, and in some foods such as bananas, grapes, pineapples, and oranges. People sometimes use melatonin to help compensate for jet-lag. It is also an antioxidant.
My experience with Rejuv was great. I’m one of those people who has to do something mentally taxing–like a crossword or Sudoku–before bed, otherwise my brain just keeps going in circles and I have a hard time shutting it down so I can sleep. I took all three of the capsules with a glass of water, and slowly relaxed my way into a blissful sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I had zero grogginess or hazy-tired (which I know are common side effects of many prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids). I felt pretty good. On the nights when I managed to get a proper amount of sleep–hey, I try, but 8 hours doesn’t always happen–I felt refreshed in addition. Rejuv is clearly not a replacement for sleep, but it did help me to fall asleep a little more quickly, and sleep a little more soundly. That’s a win in my book. I didn’t take Rejuv consistently (not every night) in part because I forgot or was traveling and didn’t have it with me.
Verdict: I’m going to keep this one on hand.
Ryte Fuel contains the following ingredients:
Vitamin A has two primary types, and occurs in many kinds of foods, including carrots, eggs, kale, mangoes, and some meats. It is important in many of the body’s systems, including vision, gene transcription, immune function, and bone metabolism. It is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. It is crucial to the tissue repair and growth. It helps form the proteins that make up several types of body tissues, including scar tissue. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It occurs in foods such as guava, red bell peppers, kiwis, and kohlrabi.
Calcium is an essential mineral. You probably associate it with bones and teeth, and milk. Calcium has other important uses in the body, including facilitation of the reactions that cause muscle contraction (including heart contractions) and helping blood to clot. Calcium is also abundant in leafy green vegetables (like kale and spinach), blackstrap molasses, rhubarb, almonds, brazil nuts, and many other foods.
Iron is metal that is also an essential element to human health. Blood is red due to the presence of iron, for example. Iron is present in all cells, and participates in the reactions that allow the body to use and store oxygen. Iron-rich foods include many types of seafood, lentils, chickpeas, and prune juice. Calcium inhibits iron absorption, so including them in the same supplement is a little silly (though many, many brands of commercial vitamins and fortified foods do this).
Slendesta is a trademark of Kemin Industries, Inc. Slendesta is a protein extract containing made from U.S.-grown, non-GMO potatoes. The protein extract is called PI2, and is found under the skin of potatoes.
Bromelain (from pineapple) is a protease enzyme, meaning it helps to digest protein. You can buy powdered bromelain to use as a meat tenderizer. You might remember the media coverage a few years ago when employees of the Body Shop were instructed to promote the miracles of pineapple juice enzymes in one of their facial care products; a nice idea, it turned out that not only were there no studies to back it, Anita Roddick made up the story about how she was inspired to make the product. Although bromelain is used as a folk-remedy to treat a number of conditions, the National Institute of Health has concluded there is insufficient evidence to support any of its uses (other than use in a compound with other ingredients to treat knee pain in those with arthritis). See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/895.html
Papain (from papaya) is also an enzyme that helps to digest protein, and that has historically been used as a meat tenderizer. other uses include in enzymatic contact lens solution, cosmetics, and toothpaste. All of the reliable sources I consulted indicated more research is needed to prove its efficacy for pretty much everything, though there is some evidence it can help reduce symptoms associated with shingles, and to relieve pain and swelling associated with a sore throat.
Ryte Proprietary Blend (whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate) It’s unfortunate that Ryte couldn’t make its first protein drink vegetarian, but also understandable; non-soy proteins can be tricky to formulate in a way that will also blend well. Perhaps in the next generation of Ryte products. For those who are not allergic to milk, whey protein can be an excellent choice. Whey protein is made from whey, which is the water part of milk that separates from the curds in the cheese making process (as in “Little Miss Muffett, Sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey”). Like many food products, whey protein is regulated by the U.S. government, which sets requirements for the use of certain words on food labels, and there are three types: whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate. The third type, not present in Ryte’s Fuel, is also the most expensive to make (as it is partially predigested) and rarely used in protein powders due to its expense and distinct bitter taste (making for a yucky-tasting drink). “Whey protein isolate” is 90-95% protein, 0.5-1% lactose (milk sugar), and 0.5-1% fat. It is a filtered whey concentrate, and has the highest bioavailability rating of any protein source. (See Mielke, Tim. “What’s the best whey?” On Fitness 14:4 (2014).) This is also a good choice for the lactose-interolant who are not otherwise allergic to milk, as it has a very low lactose content. “Whey protein concentrate” is 25-89% protein, 4-52% lactose, and 1-9% fat. Whey protein concentrate is the least expensive type of whey protein to make, and has a very wide range of accepted protein values (25-89!) and potentially high amount of lactose. The majority of protein powders use only whey protein concentrate for this reason. For an example of the specifics required by the FDA, search for 21 CFR 184.1979c (which defines “whey protein concentrate”).
The “other ingredients” are cane sugar (natural sweetener), natural flavors, xanthan gum, lecithin (from sunflower seeds), and stevia extract (natural sweetener). Personally, I applaud Ryte for choosing sugar over one of the cheap sugar substitutes such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium (“ace K”), or sucralose. Stevia is usually accompanied by one ore more fake sugars (as stevia itself has a bitter aftertaste), such as in the Truvia brand (which is not very much stevia, and mostly erithrytol, a sugar alcohol).
Fuel is a product I initially wasn’t sure what to do with, frankly. An individual serving isn’t very high in protein (15 grams) compared to other protein drinks, most of which come in at or above 20 grams, so I didn’t really think of it as “fuel.” (Some go as high as 80, which is just silly since very few of us do anything that would require. It doesn’t quite meet the recovery ratio for carbs to protein. (At 9 grams of carbs, it isn’t 2:1 or 4:1, the most commonly used ratios.) It’s not a meal replacement–at 92 calories, you’d have to add quite a bit of produce and liquid to it to bring it up to the caloric equivalent of a meal. Adding a cup of skim milk doesn’t quite bring it up to 200 calories.
Eventually I settled on Fuel as a low-calorie protein addition to a smoothie or green smoothie drink. It has a nice vanilla taste that isn’t overpowering, so it won’t clobber your taste buds if you put it into a fruit or vegetable drink.
Verdict: If you are looking for a whey-based protein that doesn’t have fake sugars or a bunch of seemingly random ingredients, this could be a good choice.