For many years I’ve resisted using supplements, believing, hippy that I am, that I could get all the nutrients I needed from the foods I ate. I refused recovery drinks, gels, isotonic fluids, sports bars, and raced on Vegemite sandwiches and water. Lots and lots of sandwiches…
But being a hippy, I’m also a vegetarian, and no matter how much tofu and peanuts I eat, no matter how much greek yoghurt and lentils, it’s been next to impossible to get enough protein, let alone the right balance of amino acids, into my body to recover properly.
I may have been alone. These days every chemist, corner shop, and health food store offers vast and confusing ranges of protein supplements, from ‘Massive Mega Bulk Gain’ for the young men, to ‘Perfectly Full’ for ladies who want to suppress their appetite. Even my local Woolworths now has an entire aisle dedicated solely to ‘Protein’, right between the shampoo and the quinoa.
Now this hippy is also an endurance athlete, and a quick look at my race plans illustrates the demands I’m putting on my body and the trouble I’m headed for, sandwiches in hand. Riding for the Subaru-MarathonMTB.com team, I’ve committed to many mountain bike stage races – often racing at least four hours a day. What all this means though, is that recovery is essential, and to recover properly I’m going to put a lot of energy into getting enough protein and carb. Carb is easy. Protein is not.
The opportunity to test and write about Pure Edge Pure Native Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) came about at the right time, when I had just finished a seven-stage race and was backing up for another four-stage race just a few days later. I was hungry, recovering poorly, and desperate to change my ways. I’ve tried powders and potions before, but always been turned off by the taste, or by the unfamiliar compounds lurking in the ingredients list (Potassium polymetaphosphate, anyone?), plus I’m pretty obsessive about what I eat, like most athletes… So it’s not surprising that I only agreed to test the product after I’d read about 25 pages of background material!
In a nutshell, the product is 100% natural, gluten-free, and reasonably simple, consisting of just six ingredients, and sweetened with Stevia (which I won’t analyse here, but it’s a natural, low-carb sugar substitute derived from the Stevia plant). ‘Native’ whey means that it comes straight from milk, rather than as a by-product of cheese production, and as a result is free from peptides that ‘cut down the nutritional assets of soluble proteins’. Native whey is not heated to high temperatures that your cheesy whey is, which can reduce the nutritional value of the protein, too. I read several pages of data explaining this, and it appears that native whey really does have higher percentages of essential amino acids than standard whey protein isolates and concentrates.
One of the most impressive things is how low in calories and carbohydrates this mix is, owing to the use of Stevia and very low lactose content (2%). Now, carbohydrate is not a bad thing, in fact, I think athletes should completely ignore the abysmal treatment good old CHO has received in the popular diet press over recent years (read this excellent article from the TORQ Australia website by Dean Clarke (@torqaus) if you’re curious to hear about how important CHO is, even if you’re trying to lean up) – but what I do like, obsessive that I am, is the simplicity that this supplement provides. I know that if I’m drinking it I’m getting plenty of protein (about 25 grams), but just 92 calories and almost no CHO, leaving my mind and body free to enjoy these in ‘real food’ form. I usually had my protein drink after a ride and chased it with some healthy home-made muesli. If you want to really free your mind though, Pure Edge suggest mixing in some of their Re-Load Energy mix, with 25 grams of carb.
But my philosophy is that neither simplicity, nor even quality matters if I can’t enjoy something I’m putting in my body. Especially if I’m quaffing it every day and spending my coffee money on it. I’m pleased to say that with a little tweaking I really looked forward to my protein drink after every ride.
Here’s how I made it:
After trying Pure Native WPI as directed once, I started to tweak it for flavour. I really love malted milk (the stuff they used to put in your milkshakes when you were a kid) and sometimes use it mixed with milk as a recovery drink, so I added a tablespoon of malted milk and a big dash of milk to the 300ml water and protein powder, blended, and voilà! Delicious.
I also tried it with half a banana, but didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the full-on sugar hit of the malted milk. Milo has also been a good flavour enhancer.
One note of caution is that the powder mixes up much better if you blend it. I’ve had a stick blender I was given for Christmas in the cupboard for years, but have just kept it plugged in on the bench while testing this product. Makes a nice smooth consistency in seconds and just like and old-fashioned milkshake.
And did it work? Depends what you mean by ‘work’. I got through my races and did reasonably well in them, and since then training’s been going well, and I’ve had excellent power values. I can’t prove any correlation between the supplement and my performance, of course – there are simply too many other variables at play in any athlete’s life to make ad hoc trials like this into ‘evidence’ – but I will say that, each busy day, rushing home from a ride and back out the door again to work or study, I’ve been very glad to have a quick hit of some essential nutrients. I’ve been even more glad when dinner rolls around to know that, with the boost of 25-odd grams of protein I had in the morning, it’s less important that I guzzle truckloads of tofu and I can focus on a more balanced (and delicious) meal.
Pure Edge products are Australian-owned and made, and only launched in 2013. I’ve been really impressed with their dedication to using only extremely high-quality, natural, and organic ingredients in their products, but most of all, the prices they can sell them at. I haunted the shelves of my chemist and local health food store today and could find little of better value, though plenty of lesser quality.
Pure Native WPI
1kg RRP: $78AUD
Available online at www.pure-edge.com.au