Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Quest bars via Best Supps

March 15, 2014

Have you tried Quest bars? If you haven’t tried one yet I’m sure you’ve heard of them. They’ve been big news in the USA for a while and have slowly made their way over here. One UK stockist – Best Supps – kindly sent me some to review.
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First of all, why is the fitness community going crazy for Quest?

Aside from the taste (more on that later!) the nutritional stats and ingredients are pretty fantastic for a “store bought” bar. Very few ingredients, no nasties, no chocolate coating. In short, they’re not one of those protein bars which are basically a chocolate bar in a hench wrapper. Quest bars are the real deal. High in protein and very low in carbs (most of the carbs are soluble fibre) – in fact most of the bars have around 3g net carbs, and they’re all from nuts.

Here’s what the various flavours contain:

Whey protein isolate (WPI) and milk protein isolate
Isomalto-Oligosaccharide (IMO) (a plant-derived fibre)
Natural nut butters (peanut, almomd)
Peanuts, almonds, cashews
Sea salt
Lo han guo (a plant-derived sweetener)
Stevia, erythritol and sucralose

Sucralose is probably the “worst” thing on the ingredient list. Not too shabby!

Quest bars are famous for their flavours. Here are my top three:

Banana nut muffin
Amazing! Not too sweet, a true banana bread taste. Warm the Quest bar up in the oven for a few minutes and it’s even more authentic.

Chocolate brownie

The chunk-factor of this is amazing! I don’t quite know how they do it. Big, soft chunks of chocolateyness in a slightly chewy bar. Delicious.

Vanilla almond crunch
I was really surprised that I liked this one so much (more than the Cinnamon Roll or the various Peanut Butter flavours!) I thought it would be too mild and bland but actually it’s a lovely taste, subtle but so moreish. Not many chunks in this one (you want the brownie bar for that) but very soft.

I have to say that the bars I was sent are definitely softer and nicer to eat than the two Quest bars I’ve tried in the past (from elsewhere). It’s really noticeable. I asked Mike at Best Supps why this might be and he said: “We do turn them over quite fast, so theyā€™re never on our shelves for long.”

Why buy Quest bars from Best Supps rather than anywhere else? Two good reasons that I can see: you can buy individual bars (rather than an entire box of one flavour) and delivery is free, even for one bar. So if you want to try a bar or a new flavour but you’re not sure about it (or if you don’t want the temptation of a dozen bars in the house!), it’s ideal.

One last thing: don’t just eat your Quest bars straight up. That would be wasting a ton of opportunities! Check out the official Quest youtube channel for some amazingly creative “15 second recipes”, or use my favourite method (it takes about 5 minutes):

– unwrap the bar, pop it in a warm oven for about 2 minutes til it soften
– roll it out thinly with a rolling pin or bash it with something to flatten it
– turn the oven up a bit
– slice the flat bar with a sharp knife into strips or squares
– you could add a berry or a smear of nut butter on each strip/square at this point
– put the bits back in the hot oven for 2-3 minutes
– leave them to cool slightly

Voila. Quest bar mini-cookies (or thumb-print cookies if you did the berry thing).

Yum Yum!

Thanks Best Supps – find them online here or at the Best Supps Facebook page or follow them on Twitter for offers and deals.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Quest bars via Best Supps is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: new barenakedfoods protein noodles

January 29, 2014

I’ve reviewed the noodles (and protein noodles) from Ross at barenakedfoods on this blog before, but I wanted to give the company another shout out after trying their new, improved products.

I’m sure most of you remember Ross Mendham’s emotional, edge-of-the-seat-stuff appearance on UK TV show Dragons Den last year?

There have been several positive changes to the business and noodles since then (as you’d expect, with Peter Jones’s input and support). The success of the partnership is clear in the new packaging, clearer labelling, great taste, and extras on the website (recipe ideas, fan stories, reviews).

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The protein noodles still get the biggest thumbs-up from me. The new, improved version was released just a few weeks ago. They’re low cal and almost zero carb, and can be used in place of noodles or spaghetti. Because they’re made from konjac flour, they’re gluten-free (this doesn’t matter to me but it might to you!) I tend to either stir fry them with veg and strips of meat, or prawns, or make a sauce and pour it over the noodles, but there are some very yummy-looking recipes on the barenakefoods website.

Oh! And if you did watch the Dragons Den episode, you’ll remember the very real, sad reason behind Ross’s tears. Good news: Ross and his wife were joined by baby Oliver Jude earlier this month. Congratulations, guys šŸ™‚

Here’s my original review of the Bare Naked Noodles and also the Protein noodles.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: new barenakedfoods protein noodles is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Smartshake neon

June 29, 2013

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Have you seen Smartshake’s new neon collection? So fun and Summery – and, since today it’s actually sunny here for once, I thought I’d bust out the neon Smartshakes I was kindly sent to review.

If you haven’t come across Smartshake shaker bottles before, here’s the low down.

They’re DEHP- and BPA-free shaker bottles with two clever screw-on sections to store protein powder, supplements, snacks and personal items. Freezer/dishwasher safe and non-leaky (I promise!)

This new neon range comes in white, orange, green, blue, pink and a citrus yellow and you can mix and match the sections of the bottles to create a fun look.

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I am firmly of the belief that having fun in life is a serious business šŸ˜‰ And that extends to the gym. So if you can have a bright shaker bottle which makes you smile, rather than a scratty old leaky one where the logo has long since rubbed off, then do so!

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(Yes, I am fully intending on doing my nails to match my neon shaker bottle šŸ™‚ )

All the design features of the existing Smartshake are there. The three stacking sections which screw together: a larger container on the bottom (ideal for a scoop of protein), a cross-sectioned container to go in the middle (great for pills and capsules, or nuts, or even your jewellery or spare hair grips) and then the actual shaker bottle on top, complete with a mesh and a lidded spout. You can also do away with the middle section if you don’t need it, as the bottom section also fits directly on to the bottle. And you can hang your key on the dangly hook. Back in the day when I wore rings šŸ˜‰ , I used to take them off when I was lifting, and hang the rings off the hook for safe-keeping.

Thanks for sending me the Smartshake neon bottles to try out, Smartshake people! (I gave the pink one to my sister: she comes to the gym with me and is a sucker for neon pink!)

UK readers – find them online Smartshake website or Smartshake UK on Facebook or follow Smartshake UK on Twitter.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Smartshake neon is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: ImuPro food allergy blood test

June 14, 2013

imupro food allergy test

Have you ever wondered if you’ve got any food allergies or intolerances? Ever wished you could know whether or not you ought to be eating certain foods in order to optimise your health, physique or performance in sport?

A few weeks ago, I was offered the opportunity to have a full food allergy lab test done using a sample of my blood. The test – ImuPro – is incredibly in depth and so I quickly and gratefully took them up on their offer. It’s not often you get the chance to get data like this about your body!

The ImuPro food tests (there are several options or levels) give you a personal immune system profile. Lots of coaches and athletes are already using the test, but it’s just as interesting for anybody interested in health and wellness, particularly nutrition.

They base their tests, and resulting recommendations, on three principles:
1. Avoidance of foods with a positive reaction.
2. Rotate the foods that make up your new diet.
3. Reintroduce the avoided foods.

The ImuPro 300 – the one I took – does involve getting your blood taken by a nurse, but it’s made as simple as possible.

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I was sent the kit in the post (absolutely everything the nurse needed to take the blood, and all the packaging I needed to send it back). I had to make an appointment at my GP surgery, but the procedure was very quick and painless. I then made arrangements with the courier, using the paperwork provided, and they picked it up within hours. My blood whizzed off to a lab in Germany (IgG antibodies are stable in transit unlike other blood components). All I had to do was wait for my results!

(Not all of the tests need a GP’s appointment and ImuPro Lite is a home test)

The blood analysis identifies high levels of specific IgG antibodies. The personalised immune profile is delivered to you – a huge amount of information, presented in a pack, so you can read and refer back as you make the dietary changes recommended to improve your health and wellbeing.

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Here’s what I received
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– individual short report giving me recommendations
– the list of 270 foods tested, ranked by strength of reaction (detection of IgG antibodies)
– list of what I should definitely be eating
– list of what I ought to avoid
– a little cut-out-and-keep list of my “trigger foods”
– a blank rotation plan template to use
– a much longer “patient findings” report, extending the info in the short report to explain what level of allergy I have to each food, potential reasons behind this and how to use this info
– recipe suggestions – 54 pages of recipes suited to the recommendations given in the report (everything from breakfasts to meat dishes, one-pot dishes, sides, cakes and desserts)
– a 67 page booklet about food allergies, digestion, food labelling, hormones and a food encyclopaedia

Phew! What an immense amount of info!

I found it very interesting that most of the foods on my “avoid”/”trigger foods” lists are things I eat a great deal on a bodybuilding diet. Hm… In future, I’ll pay more attention to food rotation! I do consider that I eat a varied diet – within the realms of bodybuilding prep/contest prep diet – but perhaps I need to work harder on variety, food rotation and even excluding some foods and then reintroducing them after a period.

All very useful and interesting stuff!

ImuPro’s Joanna Wilki explained that the procedure analysed my reaction to nearly 300 different elements and created the personal food immune profile I now have here. “Now you’ve got that information, you can can self-adjust your nutrient intake. I know you’re already very conscious of the importance of diet. With the results of your ImuPro 300 test, you have the advantages of knowing which foods you should avoid and, just as importantly, which foods you should enjoy.”

I love learning about nutrition, digestion, and how/why different foods affect the body in certain ways from inflammation to healing. What I particulalry like about these test results is that they’re so in depth. It’s fascinating, and it helps me know more about my body and be self-sufficient when it comes to knowing what works for me.

ImuPro would love you all to take a look at the ImuPro website and learn more about the various tests. “We are happy for you to give an honest critique of the process and the test,” they said. “We are happy to help anyone who buys one of our tests because we do recognise that they are expensive and support is paramount to the whole process. We like to make sure that everyone is happy with the end result.”

I must say that every member of the ImuPro team I had contact with was very helpful, very knowledgeable and very passionate about this product. Thank you, ImuPro people!

Find them online ImuPro website or ImuPro on Facebook or follow ImuPro on Twitter.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: ImuPro food allergy blood test is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Nature’s Best Verdesse green coffee supplement

May 29, 2013

A while ago, Nature’s Best sent me a generous package of their green coffee extract supplement, VerdesseĀ®.
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It’s no secret that I love coffee, but the active ingredient in VerdesseĀ® isn’t caffeine. The roasting process involved in the coffee we drink destroys lots of the natural compounds, and the coffee extract used in VerdesseĀ® comes from unroasted coffee beans. This supplement uses a decaffeinated green coffee extract called SvetolĀ® which contains high levels of chlorogenic acids – in particular 5–caffeoylquinic acid, an active compound which occurs naturally in coffee beans and could help control blood sugar levels and boost metabolic rate, helping anyone looking to lose/control their weight.

A two-tablet serving contains 400mg green coffee extract (the same amount you could get from three cups of green coffee – but it’s an acquired taste, so this is a very easy and convenient way of getting high levels of the active compounds into your diet).

VerdesseĀ® is marketed as a dieting/weight loss aid, although Nature’s Best are at pains to point out that it’s not a miracle product (as a company, they are always very careful to steer clear of any claims which could be misleading – they’re very fact-based and straight down the line).

From the blurb

“In order to lose weight there is no alternative to restricting your calorie intake so that you consume fewer calories than your body is using. The body therefore has to make up the difference by burning fat. And anything you can do to reduce your calorie intake, or increase the rate you burn fat (such as exercise) will therefore help speed up the process of losing weight.”

What did I think? Well here’s the difficulty – I’m dieting for bodybuilding shows and I take a few dietary supplements already, so it’s very hard to measure the effectiveness of this green coffee extract. However, what I can say is that I have a lot of faith in Nature’s Best as a company and I know that a great deal of research and know-how goes into all of their products. So, if you’ve heard about green coffee extract and are interested in using it as a supplement, I can recommend that you give VerdesseĀ® a try.

As an aside, Nature’s Best have recently launched a range of sports supplements which has its own website – head over and check it out at Nature’s Best sports.

Thank you, Nature’s Best! Find them online here Nature’s Best.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Nature’s Best Verdesse green coffee supplement is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Sativa Shakes non-dairy protein powder

May 12, 2013

I’m always especially pleased to review products from small, UK companies – so I’m happy to introduce Sativa Shakes: a friendly, growing protein supplement company who, it turns out, are local to me here in Kent. They produce non-dairy, plant protein powders including hemp protein and a plant protein blend.

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They specialise in lactose-free (and vegan-friendly) protein powders. There are two main product lines – “Viva Sativa” hemp protein and “Viva High Pro” plant protein blend (hemp, pea, rice and soy). At the moment, there are four flavours across two product ranges: toffee, chocolate caramel, strawberry and banana, and kiwi and lime. They are all non-GM, organic and naturally sweetened with Stevia (a calorie-free sweetener derived from a plant – rather than from chemicals) and use raw plant protein, minimally treated and processed. Take a look at the ingredients lists – teeny!

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I tried them all: straight-up as shakes, with my PWO banana (mashed up and frozen, like icecream) and stirred into my porridge oats. All were great! Because they’re plant proteins, the powders are rich and creamy and so they make quite thick shakes and go particularly well with oats. I loved all the flavours except for the kiwi and lime – I hoped to love this one as it’s unusual and not a flavour combo I’ve come across in any other protein powder, but I’m afraid I didn’t like it. This might be because, at the moment, this is the only one in the range which contains artificial flavour (the Sativa Shakes folk tell me they are working to find a natural replacement). I thought all the others were absolutely delicious, though.

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The strawberry and banana, chocolate caramel “Viva High Pro” plant protein blend is a mix of pea protein isolate, soy protein isolate, hemp protein, brown rice protein, flavouring, cocoa powder (in the choc version) Stevia and xantham gum (a thickener) with citric acid.

Per 30g serving you get around 105 kcals, 22.3g protein, 1.3g carbs (0.4g sugar) and 1.2g fats (including a good mix of omegas). The amino breakdown is different to whey, as you’d expect with this being a plant protein – check out the full nutritional stats on the Sativa website. The stats are very slightly different across the flavours.

The “Viva Sativa” toffee flavoured hemp protein is simply raw hemp protein, natural flavouring, xantham gum and Stevia. The kiwi and lime version of the hemp protein does – at the moment – contain artificial flavour. Per 30g serving: 130 kcals, 13.7g protein, 4.5g carbs (1.6g sugars) and 3.7g fats. Again, you get a good dose of omegas and fibre, and of course no lactose – these being dairy-free protein powders.

They’re ideal for vegans but you don’t need to be a vegan to try them! I really did like these, particularly the toffee and chocolate caramel flavours, I think because the taste goes really well with the rich, earthy, nutty flavour of plant proteins.

I’m not indulging in any protein-baking at this stage in my prep diet but I think that I’ll try these in a cake or muffins at some point. I reckon they’d be a great ingredient with the rich flavour and the thick nature of the powders.

If you’ve been looking for a non-dairy, vegan-friendly, lactose-free protein powder, or if you just fancy trying a new protein product, I recommend giving Sativa Shakes a go. If you’re not sure which to try – here’s a handy guide!

Keep an eye on Sativa Shakes on Facebook as they often run offers and discounts. There are some special offers here, too.

Thank you, Sativa Shakes people! Find them online here Sativa Shakes website or on Facebook Sativa Shakes on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Now I’ve made myself hungry so excuse me – time for dinner! šŸ˜‰

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Sativa Shakes non-dairy protein powder is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: BioBees Royal Jelly Elixir

February 19, 2013

I was recently sent some of BioBees royal jelly elixir, a zingy little pick-me-up which I thought would be great for this time of year when we’re all dragging a bit as we wait for Winter to finally be over.
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BioBees by Bioceuticals has brought out a whole range of royal jelly products, including skin care and bee pollen, but it was the elixir which I tried out. The ingredients: fresh royal jelly, korean ginseng, guarana, bee pollen, ginger, liquorice, and extracts of damiana aphrodisiaca and sarsaparilla, have all been selected for their energising properties.

These little vials (which contain just enough to “down in one”) are therefore a great blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, helping give you a boost in concentration and focus, as well as helping your body fight off infections. Great for anyone needing instant energy (for the gym, for instance… !), people who seem to catch every cold going, and anyone generally running themselves ragged because of kids/work/life in general.

Royal jelly is a natural substance, produced by worker bees to feed and nourish the Queen Bee, and give her a healthy and long life. Sounds about right to me chaps! Bring it on. It’s high in amino acids, carotenoids, and vitamins B, C, D, E and K, it has been found to help boost the immune system, improve collagen production and increase cell rejuvenation. BioBees uses only fresh royal jelly in their products (not freeze-dried like you’ll find elsewhere).

My verdict? It was really tasty (very spicy, you can definitely taste the ginger and liquorice) and it did give me a definite energy boost before the gym, making me feel revved up and focused.

BioBees royal jelly elixir is priced at Ā£23.54 for box of 10 vials and you can find stockists here.

Thank you, BioBees people! Find them on Facebook here or Twitter here.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: BioBees Royal Jelly Elixir is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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