smoothies

Raising The Bar

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I started week two of C25K this week. So far it’s noticeably easier this time around and I feel that’s a testament to how my level of fitness has increased over the years. It’s also a huge help that I’ve kept up with a daily yoga practice. My legs were sore last week but daily stretching with yoga, plus a longer class on Thursday night, has really helped make the soreness barely noticeable. This week I also upped my speed in half of the segments that I’m running. The program this week has me alternating running for 1.5 mins and walking for 2 mins for a total of about 29 minutes. I was excited to break the two mile mark yesterday and will try to up my speed when I run again tomorrow. I will say I’m missing my HiiT workouts. I had to shift things around to make room for running so I’m taking a break from HiiT and Kettlebell 2-3 days/wk to running 3 days/wk. While running is great to build my cardio, it’s also a bit boring (especially when compared to HiiT), and it’s not dynamic so it’s uber-focused on legs and core so the rest of my body is just happy I’m continuing to climb and do yoga to keep it active.

I reached a new height in climbing today by killing a 5.9+ route. Regular climbers may not find this impressive, but for me it was a big deal. I specifically chose the route because it had very few jugs and was mostly slopers, pinchers and globes. I hate all of those, though slopers and I have become friendly lately. I’ll also admit the two globes thrown into that route proved to be really nice resting points. But pinchers? We’re still not cool, pinchers. For the non-climbers that read my blog I will eventually explain more about those different holds so sorry if you feel left in the dark for now.

I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new smoothie recipe, so here’s my current favorite:

Pineapple Mango Smoothie
Pineapple Mango Smoothie

Pineapple Mango Smoothie:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk (recipe here)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 tbsp flax seed (if your blender won’t pulverize this buy it ground)
  • handful fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen mangos
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Blend it up in the mixer of your choice! I still love my Vitamix and make smoothies for myself and my partner every morning. If you’d like to indulge in the rest of the meal pictured above, make yourself some Scrambled Eggs with Spinach!

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach (yes, this may sound simple but I’m posting the recipe because I believe my scrambled eggs are recipe-worthy)

Ingredients:

  • two eggs (preferably free-range organic, even better if they’re local)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut milk (recipe here, omit vanilla and sweetener)
  • handful baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or fat of your choosing)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Melt oil in pan over medium-low
  2. Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper until slightly frothy.
  3. Add eggs to pan and move continuously. This is the biggest trick to making light, fluffy eggs; keep them moving constantly. I like to use a heat-safe silicon spatula to keep folding them in on each other.
  4. When eggs are barely firm (maybe 20-30 seconds in the pan) add the spinach.
  5. Continue moving constantly until they reach desired firmness and spinach has wilted.

Now have your smoothie and scramble and go take over the world! 😉

35 Days, 3150 Burpees, 15 Miles and Hot Hot Yoga!

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I’d love to tell you that the 90 burpees a day are getting easier, but they still seem like a chore I do three times a day.  The one thing that’s really getting better is my form.  I used to really struggle with pushups and I feel like I can do them gracefully now and even slow it down so I can really focus on working my muscles.  I suppose my endurance is also getting better but I definitely still sweat every time!

Running is getting better.  My times are getting shorter as my speeds are getting faster.  I’ve been taking things very slowly with running and I tend to alternate between speed walking and sprinting.  I’m making my sprints longer and am starting to set firmer goals so I get to a point where I can run the entire time.

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My latest love is Hot Yoga, closely related to (and sometimes synonymous with) Bikram.  I had tried Bikram two years ago and had a really poor experience.  I’ve been practicing yoga for *counts* 16 years (!!) so I have a solid foundation, though I’m definitely still learning and am not a “pro”.  That said, I feel comfy in most intermediate/advanced classes.  I went in on New Year’s morning, which was a poor choice after drinking champagne the night before.  The temperature and humidity of the studio immediately triggered my acid reflux, giving me pain in my esophagus and I quickly got nauseous.  I managed to stay in the class for 75 minutes, having to drop to child’s pose on occasion.  I then felt like I really was going to puke and I left the class quietly and ended up crying in the hallway.  I am not a woman who often cries, especially in public settings, this was a really low moment for me.  I swore off doing Bikram again.

Flash forward to a couple weeks ago when I had a really bad day and was meeting friends late in the evening so I had some time to kill in town.  I wanted to do something to help me get over my bad mood and the only yoga class I could find that fit into my schedule was a 6pm class at Geezum Crow Yoga.  This was called “Hot Yoga”, which the teacher said is similar to Bikram but the certification is different.  The room was HOT (~108ºF with 30% humidity) and believe me I dripped with sweat the entire time but…I did it!  It was hard but the teacher was really encouraging, the class was small and I felt comfortable.  I felt like I could really work through my shit and focus on my body and my space.  I pushed myself to places I had never been with yoga before and I left feeling both energized and exhausted all at once. 

I think the main difference was that I was well-hydrated for this class and also I’m physically in better shape now.  Since the experience feels like running a marathon, I didn’t expect to go back any time soon but I found myself craving that feeling of catharsis and accomplishment (hello endorphins!).  I went back this past Friday and had another amazing experience with a different teacher.

Once again I began lusting after that amazing feeling.  Plus, when I saw that my calorie counter told me I was burning almost 700 calories in the class I really wanted to go back!  I decided to once again brave the Bikram studio near me, Bikram Yoga Stowe.  I attended a class there yesterday and unfortunately it’s not the studio for me.  We all have different needs in yoga.  For me, I love to push myself and explore but I appreciate a teacher who’s soft (but pushes me) and flexible in their teaching. I also appreciate smaller classes when I can get them.  Bikram Yoga Stowe was like walking into Yoga bootcamp.  It wasn’t a full class but there were still about 25 people there.  It felt much hotter than Geezum Crow, despite them saying the temperatures are the same.  I expect it was just more humid in there.  It also didn’t help that I managed to be right next to the heater.  

The real turnoff for me was the teacher, she was just not right for me.  The room was filled with what looked like athletes.  While there were many body types and age ranges, the predominant crowd was younger, thin and with chiseled bodies.  They were loud and social before class and had obviously been going there for a while; so it’s clear that the teacher is right for some people and the practice is effective.  The teacher came in like a drill sergeant.  While she had a nice demeanor, I felt like she was barking orders at the speed of an auctioneer.  She never stopped talking.  Constant, monotone instructions interspersed with hand claps to prompt us into the next pose.  Her instructions were also colored with back-handed insulting remarks that surprised me.  Things like, “If your head isn’t touching your knee you’re not even beginning to do the posture”.  Instead of the encouraging comments that I’m used to like, “Try to touch your head to your knee to get into the posture”.  There was a definite sense that things were her way or the highway and with her constant chatter it was difficult for me to mentally get in the zone.  Again, I know this works for some people but it’s not why I come to the mat.  Friday I will be back at Geezum Crow.

Finally, I made such a delicious smoothie this morning that I have to share it with you!

Chocolate Almond Delight

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp spirulina
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp flax seed oil
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1 scoop Fat Flush Body Protein (or protein powder of your choosing)
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 tsp raw cacao powder

Chocolaty, fruity, nutty, AMAZING!!! Give it a go!

32 Days, 2880 Burpees, 12 Miles and Wearing Too Much Weight!

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I’m excited that I’ve made it over a month in my 90 day burpeee challenge!  I’ve also kept up with running a mile every morning and I’m already seeing my speeds improving and my legs are becoming shapelier.  I’m also excited to say that after five days of calf pain, I’m no longer feeling terribly sore from running, just dealing with some minor aches and pains.  I’m just about finished with the current Zuzka ZWOWs that are up on her site so as a present to myself for completing them I purchased her ZCut Power Cardio series and I’ll let you all know what I think of it.  On top of all of this I’m finally finding joy in doing hot yoga and the two sessions I’ve done have kicked my ass, made me sweat more than anything in my life, and made me feel AWESOME!!  This is a huge change from the first time I tried Bikram, when it triggered my acid reflux and I left the class with 15 minutes to spare and cried in the hallway, seriously.

Now I have to get into a topic that I know is seriously overdone on the internet.  I fully expect most of you to zone out right about now.  Oh wait, let me tell you the topic: Body Image.  Ok, now you can zone out. 😉

I’ve been blessed that for most of my life I haven’t struggled with real body image issues.  I’ve had minor issues but for the most part I’ve been confident with my size and shape.  I was stick thin for most of my childhood, to the point of being teased.  Then in high school my Swedish genes kicked in and I suddenly had some junk in the trunk and a small belly.  College rolled around and I was living a very unhealthy lifestyle, practically living off of taco bell and alcohol.  My weight skyrocketed to 180 and I was wearing a size 14.  But somehow I never felt large.  I’m a tall woman, just shy of 6′, which allows me to conceal my weight well. My arms and calves generally remain thin even when my hips, butt, gut and thighs expand.

It wasn’t until I moved to Boston, fresh out of school, and started working a retail job where I was on my feet all day, that I realized how unhealthy I had been.  Just by living a different lifestyle (normal schedule, steady income which led to good food, and walking all the time) I dropped down to a size 8.  I was also doing yoga regularly then but really wasn’t exercising aside from that.  When I then attended school for massage I began lifting weights and building muscle.  That’s when I started paying more attention to my body and I kept my weight around 165.  Not fantastic, but with the muscle and staying at that size 8 I felt good and I think I looked good.  The one thing I really never lost was that gut; my belly always protruded and I have an over-emphasized lordotic curve (curve in the low back) which often means lack of abdominal strength.

Flash forward a few years.  I eat well, I exercise regularly and I even went through training in Kickboxing and Insanity.  I have to say the Insanity program is AWESOME!  It’s HARD, but that was the first thing that really kicked my core strength into gear.  I know I have a great core now, and I’m constantly improving it, but I still have that gut and curve.  I’ve tried not eating within a few hours of bed, eating several small meals instead of a few large ones, cutting out gluten and dairy, even doing full food elimination diets.  Nothing really seems to help.  Then this past November my boyfriend and I really fell off the wagon, as one tends to do around the holidays.  I wouldn’t say it was a worse year than usual but suddenly that 165lbs became 175lbs.  In mid-January I got back on the horse and have been eating healthy and exercising. As you all know in the past 32 days I’ve upped my exercise routine quite a bit.

So guess what?  Want to know how much weight I’ve lost?  I mentioned my legs are looking more cut.  I didn’t mention that my arms are more muscular, my face looks thinner, my shoulders and back look like I could punch through a wall.  So how much weight did I lose?  None.  I gained weight.  As of this morning the scale say I’m 183lbs.  I shit you not.  I’m pissed.  I now have body issues.  Apparently I’m a late bloomer but I’m working my ass off and that gut is going out instead of in.  I use MyPlate so I know what my nutrition is and I’m well within the appropriate range.  I also can’t be gaining muscle this fast, and when I took “before” pictures yesterday it’s apparent that there’s quite a bit of weight around my mid-section.  Even in yoga I found myself self-conscious of the fact that the other women in the room were so much thinner than me.  Wtf?!  I know full well we all come in different shapes and sizes and the point is that I’m healthy so why am I freaking out about this?!

Well, I am.  For the past two days I’ve switched to two smoothies a day.  I was having one for breakfast and now I do one for breakfast, one for lunch, an afternoon snack and a reasonably-portioned dinner.  I don’t feel I personally have much more time to exercise, since I’m already doing about 90 minutes a day, so I have to look at diet.  I also had food allergy testing done and I get the results back in a week so I can see if it’s possible that something I’m eating is bloating me up (the testing was also done for other digestive issues I have).

So….blargh!  But enough venting about my odd weight issues.  Lettuce talk about snacks (yes, punny, but most of you stopped reading ages ago so…):

ImageThis was today’s afternoon snack.  It’s a whopping 108 calories with 8g of protein!

Ingredients (which you can all see pretty clearly):

  • Romaine lettuce leaf
  • Small handful of snap peas
  • Small handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 hardboiled egg, sliced

I rolled it up like a burrito and it was surprisingly delicious and filling enough to get me to dinner, which will be steamed salmon and brussels sprouts.

For now, it’s time to find new exciting smoothie recipes.  I will share that my local health food store offers frozen wheatgrass shots.  I’ve been adding those to my smoothies and it’s pretty good. 🙂

 

24 Days, 1980 Burpees, 5 Miles, and so many smoothies!

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Let me tell you, 1980 is A LOT of burpees.  I’m trying not to remember I have 6120 to go before my 90 day challenge is up.  I’ve also completed 5 days of adding a one mile run to my workout routine.  I’m shocked by how much I sweat from running only a mile!  It’s definitely a good piece of cardio to add in.  I’ve also been keeping up with my Zuzka workouts and am about to do #50 (woo-woo!).  Speaking of Zuzka, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she did a vlog showing how to make healthy “ice cream” in her Vitamix.  Great minds think alike. 😉  I’ve been experimenting with more creamy treats in my Vitamix and will have to try her recipe (subbing in coconut milk for the almond milk).  Check it out:

While I’m a little wary of following up Zuzka, I wanted to debut my burpee “how to” video.  I’ve now joined the ranks of hundreds, if not thousands, of people on YouTube demonstrating a burpee.  Want to see what’s been kicking my ass for three weeks?  Here you go:

I’ve also found two new protein powders to try out.  I’ve used the first one for two days now, let me share my favorite recipe:

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Berry Good Day (featured on the right):

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 handful frozen blueberries
  • 1 handful frozen strawberries
  • 1 handful frozen raspberries
  • 1 handful frozen peaches
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate cranberry juice
  • 1 scoop Plant Fusion Vanilla Bean protein powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp flax seed oil

Protein powder aside, this was hands down the tastiest smoothie I’ve made.  While it doesn’t include some of the green goodness I love (like spinach and spirulina), there’s something to be said for a pretty pink tasty smoothie.

Now let’s talk about Plant Fusion‘s protein powder.  I ran into it at a local health food store, where I spent far too long scouring their wall of protein powders.  They had an entire end-cap of vegan powders and I was sure I’d have plenty of great choices.  Unfortunately, I was bowled over by the ingredient lists and most included things I really wasn’t looking for.  Plant Fusion was the closest thing to what I wanted but I still think it’s a bit overkill.  The good, I love the mix of proteins used, including pea protein isolate, artichoke protein, sprouted organic quinoa powder, and sprouted organic amaranth powder.  Great mix, all GMO-free.  It also includes a blend of enzymes and amino acids, which is probably a good thing but to be honest I don’t know enough about them to speak intelligently to that.  What I didn’t like is that it includes TWO sweeteners, fructose and stevia.  I wish there were more choices of good protein powders without added sweeteners; I get plenty of sweet from the fruits I add in.

The texture was much lighter than all of the other powders I’ve tried.  It’s very fine and airy, so much so that when I threw it in the vitamix a fine misty powder puffed out the top.  It also  smelled sickeningly sweet.  I’ve got to say I normally wouldn’t get a flavored powder, but they were out of the unflavored and it turns out even unflavored has two sweeteners in it (wtf?).  Yesterday my smoothie had less ingredients so I could really taste the protein powder.  By that I mean I could taste what I can only assume is stevia.  It’s a very strong “fake sugar” taste, so the only ingredient that matches that is stevia.  In today’s smoothie that was dulled enough to make me mind it less but there is definitely a stevia aftertaste in this mix, much more-so than the other two mixes I’ve tried with stevia in them.  I will end on a positive note and say that the texture was great, very smooth and not gritty/mealy like some other powders.  Overall I’ll give it a B+ and I’ll finish out the bottle…which is better than I could say about Warrior Food.

I have one more protein powder to review soon so watch for that and wish me luck on the ZWOW I’m about to do!

900 Burpees in 10 days and brown smoothies to boot!

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That subject is a lie.  It’s only 11am here so I’ve only done my first round of burpees for the day, making it 840 burpees so far.  But by the end of the day it will be 900, even though I’ll be  kicking and screaming the whole way.  I am SORE!!!  Yesterday I completed Zuzka’s ZWOW #43 (on top of the 90 burpees for the day) and it was a total killer.  She apparently recorded it right before Thanksgiving so it was a particularly hard workout.  I woke up in the middle of the night with a stomach ache only to realize my abs are just that sore.  I guess in the grand scheme of things this is a good thing.  But let me tell you, I was NOT excited to do those first 30 burpees this morning.  I think I see 90 minute of yoga in my future to try to stretch this body out!

This morning I made a delicious tasting smoothie, despite it being brown.  Check it out..

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Brown Rice Smoothie

 Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of NutriBiotic Brown Rice Protein
  • 1 Banana
  • Small handful of frozen strawberries
  • Small handful of frozen pineapple
  • Small handful of frozen mango
  • Handful of spinach
  • 1 tbs of chia seeds

I had picked up one packet of the brown rice protein at my local coop and decided to give it a try.  I’m a huge fan of the fact that it only has one ingredient and it’s 80% protein.  It’s also soy/gluten/GMO-free.  I’ll say that the smoothie tastes delicious but it is a little thick, though not as thick as the Warrior Food or Peaceful Planet powders.  It’s about the same texture as the Warrior Food, so grittier than Peaceful Planet or Fat Flush.  Overall, I’d use it again but I’m not madly in love with it.  I’m still searching for that perfect protein powder.  Let me know if you have any suggestions!  I’ll give this one an A-.

 

720 Burpees in 8 Days and Smoothies to Spare!

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While my urge to run has ebbs and flows, my love of fitness and nutrition lives on and I’d like to start sharing my latest obsessions with you.  2013 has brought me two things so far: burpees and….

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I FINALLY BOUGHT A VITAMIX!!!  More on that in a minute.  First…

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Oh, burpees, you’re the exercise everyone loves to hate!  Eight days ago we started a new challenge at work.  Well, two challenges to be exact.  You could pick either a 90 or 100 day burpee challenge.  The 90 day challenge is 90 burpees a day for 90 days.  The 100 day challenge is one burpee on day one, two on day two, three on day three and so on and so forth until you’ve reached 100 on day 100.  Naturally, I chose the 90 day challenge and have been in sweet pain ever since.

One might ask, “What is a burpee?”  Well, if you’re lucky I’ll post a video sometime soon but today is not that day.  There are literally dozens of burpee variations.  Two of the most basic are:

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Squat, jump out to plank, jump back to squat, jump up.

And…

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Squat, jump out to plank, do a pushup, jump back to squat and jump up.

The latter is called a “Competition Burpee” and that’s the one I’m doing.  So, I’m basically doing 90 squat thrusts, 90 pushups and 90 jumps a day…on top of my normal workouts.  Yes,  it’s a bit much, but I have to say that after only 8 days I’m noticing much more definition in my arms and legs so, hey, I’m going to keep it up.  Speaking of “normal workouts”, ZuzkaLight is the latest woman kicking my ass.  If you haven’t seen her YouTube channel before check it out!  I try to do one of her workouts 3-4x/wk.  I’m on #40 as of today.

Ok, enough about burpees, let’s talk about my new beloved Vitamix.  I’ve wanted a high-powered blender for a very long time and after doing my taxes this past weekend (oh the luxurious life I lead) I decided to use some refund money and invest in my health.  After watching far too many videos and reading reviews comparing the Blendtec to the Vitamix to the Kitchenaid to the Ninja to the etc. etc. etc., I decided to go with the Vitamix which honestly was my first choice to begin with.  So far I’m not disappointed.

To honor my new toy and give me something to think about aside from burpees I thought it’d be fun to share some of my creations with you.  Here are some of the first smoothies I’ve made.  I should note I also made brazil nut butter (brazil nuts, raw honey, sea salt, flaxseed oil) before learning how high in saturated fat brazil nuts are (damn shame since it tastes just like cookie dough) and a caper-parsley sauce but since I didn’t photograph either I’m not putting them in here.  I should also note that while I have some strong beliefs about nutrition, I am not a nutritionist, nor do I purport to be.

Smoothie #1

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Ingredients:

  • Frozen strawberries
  • Frozen peaches
  • Whole banana
  • Flaxseed
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Coconut Milk
  • Protein Powder*

This was fruity and amazing and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Green Smoothie

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Ingredients:

  • Pomegranate-Cranberry Juice
  • Spinach
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Frozen mangos
  • Chia seeds
  • Spirulina

Again, another winner.  VERY fruity. VERY green (thank you spirulina). VERY nutritious.  It was my after-workout smoothie and not only did I get to enjoy it, but my boyfriend kept gulping it down saying, “This can’t be healthy!”.

*Why is there an asterisk next to protein powder?  Well, I’m in the “testing” phase of powders right now and I’d love to open up some discussion on that.

Protein Powders

Generally I’m a big fan of whole foods and I try to use whole foods over processed foods as much as possible in my diet.  I ALSO have a strong desire to have ton of protein in my diet so I do want to use a protein powder in my morning smoothie.  I have some ground rules for protein powder:

  1. It must not contain soy, whey or animal proteins. There’s a lot of controversy over soy but aside from the concern that it could increase my chances of breast cancer if I ingest it regularly, I can say from my personal experience that it’s very slow for my system to digest and, frankly, it makes me gassy; so no thanks, soy! 
  2. It must not contain a bunch of chemicals, stabilizers and preservatives because it just doesn’t have to.
  3. It must be at the very least 17-20g/serving of protein and no more than 100 calories per serving.
  4. No GMOs. Period.
  5. It must be sugar free.
  6. It shouldn’t taste like crap.

I have four contenders so far (pictured above): Fat Flush Body Protein, Peaceful Planet Supreme Meal, Warrior Food, and plain Rice Protein, and can review two so far.

Fat Flush: A friend of mine who is a nutritionist highly recommended this and gave me a scoop to try.  Normally I’d stay away from things that say “Fat Flush” because it sounds too infomercially and I’m looking to be healthy, not emaciated.  That said, the ingredient list is pretty good: Pea protein concentrate, Rice protein concentrate, French vanilla extract, guar gum, inulin, and stevia.  So, not a ton of crap.  I will say stevia isn’t my favorite but I couldn’t taste it much in this, and I’m really picky about the stevia aftertaste so I was impressed that I only noticed it a tad.  It was a little grittier than I’d like, even in the vitamin (which turns flaxseeds and chia seeds into dust).  I give it an “I’ll think about it”.  Which probably equates to a B+

The Supreme Meal: I found this at my local coop.  You might be surprised I bought it considering how many ingredients it has: Protein blend (non-GMO pea protein isolate, organic Hawaiian spirulina, rice protein concentrate), freeze-dried sprouts blend (quinoa, millet, amaranth, broccoli), organic flax meal, lecithin, natural vegan flavors, horsetail herb, proprietary FOS fiber blend (fructooligosaccaharides, sprouted mung bean extract), bioflavanoids concentrate, vitamin D2, vitamin B12.  Ok, so a lot of ingredients but a lot of GOOD ingredients.  So far this one is my favorite.  It has poor reviews if you just mix it into liquid with a spoon (it clumps).  I had no problem in my Vitamix.  It was smooth and tasty.  The spirulina makes it dark green, which doesn’t bother me one bit but bothers some people.  I also love that there’s nothing in there pretending to be sweet.  It was just yummy.  Unfortunately, it’s 140 cal/serving but I may overlook that due to how much I liked it and how many nutrients it has. A-

I picked up the Warrior Food from Vermont Fiddle Heads, who I tend to trust as Linda is our local raw foods extraordinaire.  I haven’t tried it yet and I’ll be fully honest that the bottle is filled with so much homeopathic new-age propaganda that I almost didn’t buy it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty crunchy chick, but this was over the top.  That said, I trust Linda and it’s the only protein powder that she sells and I was impressed by the ingredients: Sprouted, Raw, Non-GMO, Organic Brown Rice Protein, Organic Hemp Protein, Organic Actual Vanilla Bean, Wildcrafted Nopal Cactus, Organic Whole Leaf Stevia.  I love that it’s 100% organic and doesn’t have much in it.  I’m wary of the stevia but I’ll let you all know what I think.

What protein powder do you love and why?