The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of NOW Foods.
We have used NOW Foods products in our home for a few months, and really like them for their quality and focus on what goes into their products (and, equally, what doesn’t go into them). As a FitFluential ambassador, I had the opportunity to try some of their NOW Sports line of products and write a review of what I think. Full disclosure – these products were all provided to me by NOW Foods for the purpose of this review. All thoughts contained are my own, though.
You can find all of these products on NOW’s website (products are linked below), use the “find a retailer” link to find where to buy (they’re sold nationwide by health food retailers), or get them from many online retailers like Amazon.com.
The only one that was a new idea to me was the MCT oil, but I’ve used all the other products in the past, though never from NOW. I’ve also never used a liquid form of L-Carnitine.
Product by product, let’s see what my month with them has shown.
Sprouted Brown Rice Protein
This is a basic, staple product. If you haven’t seen how I feel about protein, then you need to (check out my YouTube video or read the various blog posts I’ve done on it). It’s important, and you should be starting your day with it. A great way to do so is via a protein shake. There are lots of options out there, including dairy and egg proteins, and vegetable proteins. This is a vegetable protein, and it’s in a very pure form. How pure? There’s only one ingredient, and it’s the thing that it is – sprouted brown rice protein. That’s it. That means this is vegan, soy free and gluten free (though some people don’t take well to rice protein even though it isn’t technically gluten).
Here’s what NOW Sports says about the product:
This GMO-free vegan protein powder is ideal for those with allergies or sensitivities to the natural compounds found in whey, egg, soy and other protein sources. Natural and pure with no added ingredients, each tablespoon offers four grams of protein and mixes easily with a smooth texture.
It’s easy to use – just dump a table spoon into water, almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, goat milk, sheep milk, milk milk, etc. You get the idea. You can also mix it with coffee, though I’d suggest you only do cold beverages for a variety of reasons. Hot or warm protein shakes are gross. Unfortunately, NOW doesn’t include a scooper, but I have like 50 laying around, so I just reduced/reused/recycled a solution. I rarely find a protein powder that lacks a scooper, so this was kind of surprising, but not a deal breaker.
For me, the taste is horrible, but I expect and accept that. I’ve never liked the taste of rice protein, and because this is just straight rice protein powder with no added flavorings, you get that full on rice protein taste. It’s strong and maybe the best way to describe it is bitter, but that’s not quite it either. So I tend to add some things to calm it down. I add cinnamon, cayenne, turmeric, stevia, shredded coconut, vanilla extract (1 tsp) and a mix of 50/50 water/unsweetened coconut milk. All of those additions are organic, by the way. The cinnamon is for sugar regulation in addition to flavor, the turmeric is for inflammation (definitely not for flavor – I don’t care for it, but it’s hard to taste if you add about a half a tablespoon), and the cayenne is for a lot of things, including metabolism boosting. I then add a few ice cubes and blend it into a smoothy. It’s still gross, but not too bad, and definitely drinkable. Coffee would probably be a nice addition to help overpower the strong brown rice protein flavor.
Another way I’ve been using it is adding a half a tablespoon to slow-cooking oatmeal. You can still taste it a bit, but it’s not too bad.
One other issue I have with it is that, as a protein supplement, it doesn’t have much protein. Four grams per serving. Protein supplements should do something for your protein intake, and 4 grams isn’t doing much. For someone who is looking to add a bit more protein without looking to amp their protein intake, this might be the kind of thing to look for. It isn’t what I would use as I generally want more protein in my shakes, and I’d probably eat some nuts or a bowl of lentils to get the same or more protein instead. For comparison sake, a serving of cashews (1/4 cup) has five grams of protein. Gram for gram, the powder wins (a serving is five grams, four of which are protein, vs five out of 28 grams in a serving of cashews), but I think eating a handful of cashews is easier and tastier. You might have other dietary concerns that mean you are in need of something that’s basically pure, vegan protein without the fat of nuts or fiber of lentils or beans. Or you might just want a different protein if you’re already heavy on beans and nuts. This might be a good choice then, but the protein is so low, and the taste is so strong (and unenjoyable) that I’d personally look for something else (like Garden of Life RAW protein).
So why bother? Well, you may be allergic to nuts. Or you may be vegan/vegetarian, and want to diversify your protein sources. I think that’s what NOW Sports is going for here. They suggest adding it to a relatively small amount of liquid (six ounces), and don’t talk about using it as a sports supplement. That is weird since it’s part of their Sports line. I think it would fit better in their NOW Foods line instead. I think it’s really about rounding out or diversifying your protein sources and getting a bit more into your life. For that, I think this is fine, but I’d think about non-drink ways to add it, too – like my oatmeal idea.
I would mention that it isn’t organic, which I wish it was. It is, however, GMO-free, which is awesome. I’m very much against GMOs and the engineering of our food supply, so a big thank you to NOW Foods for caring about that, too. The question is just one of fertilizer and pesticides keeping it form being organic, but at least the crop wasn’t created in a lab bent on profits over safety and health. There are organic options, so if that matters to you (it does to me), this is a brand to skip. If not, I’d definitely give a thumbs up to NOW Sports Sprouted Brown Rice Protein for those vegans looking to have a more diverse protein profile in their lives. If that’s not you, maybe the next product is more up your ally.
Vanilla Pea Protein
If my issue with the taste of brown rice protein turned you off of vegan proteins, don’t swear them off yet! There are other options, and this is one that blew me away. Other common vegan proteins are hemp and pea protein powder, and this one is pea-based. I’ve generally found pea proteins to taste other than good, so I was concerned. Here, NOW Sports has added flavor via natural ingredients to create a sweat and delicious protein powder. It’s sweet thanks to a mix of stevia and xylitol. No sugar, no sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Nutrasweet), sugar alcohol (stomach pain), etc. These ingredients will also not cause a spike in insulin production, which is great (whereas the other sugar substitutes do). Xylitol also has an added benefit of tricking bad gut flora into thinking its sugar. When these bacteria eat the xylitol, they can’t process it, and explode. Seriously. Xylitol is administered by some naturopaths as a treatment for overgrowth of bad gut flora for this reason.
OK, so enough about exploding gut flora. This powder mixes very well in the same kinds of liquids as the rice protein (or other protein powders), but you don’t need to worry about hiding the taste. In fact, you’ll probably want to relish the taste and ensure you don’t mask it. It is a bit strong, but it’s good. I love vanilla and I love toffee. Put them together, and you get a really indulgent flavor that you swear is bad for you. But it isn’t. No sugar. 25 grams of protein (that’s the most of any vegan protein powder I’ve ever used, and gets you almost all the way to 30 in the first 30, as I recommend – 30 grams of protein in the first 30 minutes of waking up).
Here’s what NOW Sports says about the protein:
Got allergies? No way you’re doing whey? NOW® Sports Pea Protein contains no soy or dairy, just 25 grams of easily digested, non-GMO vegetable protein. It’s pure and natural, hypoallergenic, has a smooth texture and mixes easily into your favorite beverages.And it comes in Vanilla Toffee. We’re pretty sure all the best things come in Vanilla Toffee.
NOW Sports even remembered to put a scoop in there! But the scoop is huge. I mean humongous. It’s so big, I actually had trouble getting the powder into my blender bottle because of how wide the scoop is (it has a wedge shape that’s wider in the front, which makes it harder to use but cool looking). My preference would be to use a half-sized scoop and recommend people use two scoops per serving (as ViSalus does). It just makes the logistics easier to deal with. I know, I’m picky, but the little stuff matters.
My only other comment is that the taste is a little salty. By ‘a little’ I mean ‘very’. A serving has quite a high sodium level – 540mg, which is 23% of the recommended daily allowance. The unflavored version has only 330mg. ‘Only’ being used loosely here, but I will just say I really notice the saltiness and actually detracts from the drink. If they could tone it down closer to 400mg, it would still be high, but not overpowering. I’m not concerned with my sodium intake, so this doesn’t matter to me beyond taste, but I would be uncomfortable recommending the product to someone who is hypertensive (I have a client with hypertension, and I couldn’t suggest she use this), and I think they went a little overboard unnecessarily.
So, save for the sodium, I love this stuff. Same deal as the brown rice powder in terms of being natural and not organic, but I like it. If you’re cool with the sodium level, go for it. You won’t be upset with the flavor. I would suggest mixing in some coffee (if you drink it) as that might detract from the salty flavor a bit.
In high school, I used to take L-carnitine pills thirty minutes before eating (along with chromium picolinate), so I have had experience with the product. It is an amino acid that helps your body make energy.
Here’s what NOW Sports says about their L-Carnitine liquid:
L-Carnitine is carnitine in a highly absorbable liquid form. What’s carnitine? An amino acid that helps transfer fatty acid groups into the mitochondrial membrane to produce energy.* It naturally occurs in red meat and other animal-source foods, but for those who supplement NOW® L-Carnitine is the purest form (containing no sugar, salt, starch, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or artificial colors/flavors), clinically tested, and vegetarian. It comes in Tropical Punch or Citrus Flavor.
I can’t really say a ton about how the product works or whether it works, but I’ve had good experience with L-Carnitine in the past, and have no reason to think this isn’t working the same way. I will definitely comment about the flavor. It’s awesome. I was hesitant to go with a liquid approach as I tend to prefer to pop a pill (it’s easier if you travel or are on the go a lot), but I’ve really loved this stuff. They also make a tropical punch flavor, which I bought myself after running out of the citrus flavor I got for this blog review. It’s good, but I think I actually prefer the citrus – it’s a little fresher tasting and less heavy-sweet. They’re both super tasty, though. I start and end my day with it (since you are best off taking it on an empty stomach), and love it.
Medium Chain Triglycerides, which is what MCT stands for, are fats found in coconut and palm kernel oil (perhaps other places, but I don’t know). They’re fats that are more easily digested than other types of fat. As a result, they are known to increase your body’s ability to burn fats rather than store them (think of priming a flue in your fireplace to get a fire to burn better). The idea is to substitute MCT for other fats so you do a better job of burning the fat you are taking in, and thus end up promoting leaning out your body.
You can add it to foods, but need to be careful with heat. MCT oil doesn’t do well with medium to high heat since it has a low boiling point, so it’s better to be a replacement for oil in salad dressing, or perhaps in place of butter or olive oil added to bread or potatoes (I eat neither, so I feel funny recommending this). I’ve been cooking with non-stick, ceramic cookware and then putting some MCT on the end product after it’s plated to bring some richness back into the dish, and it’s really nice. I have also put some into quinoa, and would do it with rice (if I eat it, it’s only brown), and like how it makes the dish taste and eat – smooth and decadent. The dose is a table spoon, and they suggest using it about three times per day. You can take a straight tablespoon of it, or add it to a drink, too, but then you’re not replacing other fats with it, so that sort of defeats the purpose.
Here’s what NOW Sports says about their MCT Oil:
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) are fats that are naturally found in coconut and palm kernel oil. MCT’s are more easily and rapidly digested than other types of fats, as they require lower amounts of enzymes and bile acids for intestinal absorption. MCT’s are metabolized very quickly in the liver and are reported to encourage energy expenditure, and not fat storage. Numerous studies suggest that substituting MCT Oil for other fats in a healthy diet may therefore help to support healthy weight and body composition.
I like the product, but am not sure if it’s doing anything. Your mileage may vary, but I don’t see any issues with it, and do like how it’s made meals taste and feel richer – like I’m indulging – without necessarily being a bad thing.
Extreme Men’s Multi
This is a multi-vitamin aimed at men. It has a pretty good nutrition profile, including a little MCT oil. The only things it doesn’t have much of are calcium, magnesium and fat. I wouldn’t expect my multivitamin to have fat, but this one has a little bit (2.5g across three pills (the daily dose), which I’m sure is just due to the MCT oil).
There’s not much to say here beyond it being a good looking (not aesthetically, but ingredient-wise) multi-vitamin. It is a fairly big soft-gel-type pill, and you have to take it three times a day. If I could, I would make it one pill you take once a day. I have a feeling it’s so large to accommodate the MCT oil, so I’d skip that ingredient and consider just using the MCT liquid. The benefit of having the dosing split across the day is that you may do better absorbing the nutrients than if you got more of a dose all at once. I don’t know what bioavailability testing on these nutrients has been done, whether the doses are high enough in one pill that it’s irrelevant, etc, but that could be a benefit. Slow and steady wins the race, right? Unless you’re fast and can endure. That’s my question here.
So, a fine multi-vitamin. A month’s supply is about $35, which isn’t terrible but isn’t cheap, either. The multivitamin I take (Rainbow Light Men’s One) costs $20 for a 3 month supply and is a one-a-day option. I haven’t found any issues while on the NOW Sports multi, but I haven’t noticed any clear benefits, so I plan to go back to the Rainbow Light product for just over an 80% savings.
NOW Foods, a family-owned company since 1968, is a leader in the nutritional supplements industry and dedicated to providing customers with a comprehensive approach to wellness by offering a variety of high-quality, natural and affordable products. Founded on the belief that natural is better, NOW Foods is proud to offer more than 1,400 natural products that are specifically formulated to help support optimal health through good nutrition. NOW Foods product offerings range from nutrient-rich foods and supplements to personal care and sports nutrition items.
Visit www.NOWFoods.com for more information on NOW Foods products and local retailers.