Review: “Evolution”

I read Joe Manganiello’s book “Evolution” at the start of the new year. For many, he is most well known for his role as Alcide, the werewolf on HBO’s True Blood. For my sister and her girlfriends, he is the big guy from Magic Mike.

No matter how you know him, everyone can agree the guy is a total beast. At 6′ 5″, he towers over the leading actions heroes of Hollywood and based on reading his book, he could outrun and out lift them all.

If his book were just a memoir, I probably would have skipped it; but it was generating good buzz for actually being an informed diet and fitness guide.

With about 100 pages of exercise descriptions and photos that certainly is the case. Coupled with that is a 6-week transformation program he used to build strength and muscle while losing fat.

Common sense tells us that most professional actors look good on screen because they have a lot of time and money and CGI. Joe’s narrative doesn’t keep any secrets.

He tells exactly how he transformed from a tall, lanky kid in high school to one of the most fit men in Hollywood.

In addition, he discusses how he came back from a failed career and years wasted chain-smoking and drinking heavily. It is a story of humility, hard work and mental toughness.

Joe explains that no one walks into the gym ripped one day. You have to start somewhere. He writes, “You’ve got to enter the gym devoid of shame and comparison…Once you walk through those doors, no one is going to make fun of you for not lifting enough or doing something wrong.

The gym is a community of people working together to become better, instead of accepting their fate as predetermined: ‘I’m built this way or that way, and nothing I do is going to change that.’”

With that spirit of community, Joe’s book aims for a higher purpose rather than pure self-promotion. He genuinely is interested in the reader achieving a life of better health and wellness.

He shares everything he knows in a concise text that does not get distracted by tales of movie sets and awards shows.

The biggest name dropping is Joe Weider and his personal trainers. And whether or not you decide to follow his exact programming, you can at least take inspiration from his story.

Lastly, there is a great introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is fun to read just so you can practice your best impersonation of The Governator.

But more importantly, Arnold sets the right tone by saying, “This book does not promise any magic spells or gimmicks.

That’s why I love it. But if you start reading today, you will be better tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.”

Review: Blonyx HMB+ Creatine

One of the extra benefits in my life of competing and this blog is that my network of like-minded athletes, friends and supporters continues to grow.

One clear example is my burgeoning relationship with RxNetworking.com, a social media platform designed for CrossFit enthusiasts to meet and connect.

The founders have been showcasing some of my interviews on their blog. This all led to me being introduced to Blonyx, a supplement company based out of Vancouver, Canada that sells clean, Paleo-friendly products.

They asked me if I wanted to do a month-long “test” of their HMB+ Creatine product.

I was hesitant at first because creatine always sounded off-limits to the amateur athlete like myself. In a Men’s Fitness article on the topic, it states, “In the professional world, reports found that 25 percent of pro baseball players and up to 50 percent of footballers use creatine supplement.” It seemed out of my league.

But in a conversation with the owners of the company, given my training mix of CrossFit and weight-lifting, I was a perfect candidate.

According to Blonyx, their HMB+ Creatine is “proven to increase strength, muscle mass and recovery with training.”

That seemed right up my alley and so I said yes. They sent me a 30-day supply, which sells for $60 on their site.

So what is HMB+ Creatine? Well it really is just those two ingredients. Without too much science-speak, HMB is a metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine and is synthesized in the human body.

According to the Journal of Nutrition, “it enhances the effects of exercise on muscle size and strength.”

To complement this, creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps supply energy to cells in the body, primarily muscle.

It helps bring water to these muscle cells. which increases overall muscle mass. The Blonyx website gives a much more in-depth explanation and the product label also provides further detail:

Now quickly before I provide my review, let me just recap for those who might have missed it what I have been doing in my training.

I workout 5-6 times per week. This always includes three CrossFit classes and one personal training session, which is heavily focused on brute strength and core work.

I also have been regularly lifting at least once per week (back squats, bench press and deadlifts). Basically, I have been going heavy since the beginning or March and all this time using the HMB+ Creatine product.

First thing first, the HMB+ Creatine comes in powder form and is intended to be taken twice a day. Since the product only consists of two ingredients, there is nothing to mask the fact that it doesn’t taste great.

And Blonyx will tell you the same. There is no artificial flavoring, no added sugar, nothing in the least to hide the slightly chemical, metallic taste. But that really wasn’t that big of an issue after the first day or two when you are just starting to use it and are inherently more aware of it.

I would either just mix it some water and quickly chug it or put it in my whey protein shake. I can deal with the taste as that is much preferred to it containing a bunch of added junk just to please the senses.

It is also recommended to take it while having a meal. I always had it with my breakfast and my dinner and felt fine.

Second, creatine alone usually causes some weight gain and this was absolutely true of my experience.

The weight gain typically comes from a mix of water retention and increased muscle mass. In my case, I gained 6 pounds over the past month, going from 170 pounds to 176. (On a side note, this is from a low in early January of weighing in at 161 pounds).

For me, it was a welcome surprise as I wanted to pack on some pounds this spring in anticipation of my upcoming competition in Fargo in June.

The weight gain will probably level off or I might even lose a few pounds now that my month-long trial is over, but the net gain, especially the added muscle, is excellent.

Besides the added pounds, the really other noticeable difference was how much it helped with recovery.

While it is hard with all the variables to attribute the supplement to my success at certain lifts or new PRs I have had over the past 30 days, I can say with certainty that it definitely helped me recover more quickly with such an aggressive training schedule.

My arms are typically so sore during and immediately after my personal training sessions due to heavy sets on the bench, weighted pull-ups, cleans and the like. But by the next day I would always feel good as new.

I really experienced little soreness throughout the month-long trial of Blonyx and that made it a lot easier to get right back after it in the gym each day.

The clear impact of Blonyx HMB+ Creatine is felt in comparison to not taking it. The effects – increased muscle gain and quicker recovery time – to date have been great.

I am going to go the next month without using it to see and feel the difference. After that, I will be able to make a more sound decision in term of my overall training what role it will play.

At the very least, I now realize it is not a supplement reserved for the elite. It has benefits for an athlete of any caliber or size.

Review: Blonyx HMB+ Creatine

One of the extra benefits in my life of competing and this blog is that my network of like-minded athletes, friends and supporters continues to grow.

One clear example is my burgeoning relationship with RxNetworking.com, a social media platform designed for CrossFit enthusiasts to meet and connect.

The founders have been showcasing some of my interviews on their blog.

This all led to me being introduced to Blonyx, a supplement company based out of Vancouver, Canada that sells clean, Paleo-friendly products.

They asked me if I wanted to do a month-long “test” of their HMB+ Creatine product.

I was hesitant at first because creatine always sounded off-limits to the amateur athlete like myself. In a Men’s Fitness article on the topic, it states, “In the professional world, reports found that 25 percent of pro baseball players and up to 50 percent of footballers use creatine supplement.” It seemed out of my league.

But in a conversation with the owners of the company, given my training mix of CrossFit and weight-lifting, I was a perfect candidate.

According to Blonyx, their HMB+ Creatine is “proven to increase strength, muscle mass and recovery with training.”

That seemed right up my alley and so I said yes. They sent me a 30-day supply, which sells for $60 on their site.

So what is HMB+ Creatine? Well it really is just those two ingredients. Without too much science-speak, HMB is a metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine and is synthesized in the human body.

According to the Journal of Nutrition, “it enhances the effects of exercise on muscle size and strength.”

To complement this, creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps supply energy to cells in the body, primarily muscle.

It helps bring water to these muscle cells. which increases overall muscle mass. The Blonyx website gives a much more in-depth explanation and the product label also provides further detail:

Now quickly before I provide my review, let me just recap for those who might have missed it what I have been doing in my training.

I workout 5-6 times per week. This always includes three CrossFit classes and one personal training session, which is heavily focused on brute strength and core work.

I also have been regularly lifting at least once per week (back squats, bench press and deadlifts). Basically, I have been going heavy since the beginning or March and all this time using the HMB+ Creatine product.

First thing first, the HMB+ Creatine comes in powder form and is intended to be taken twice a day.

Since the product only consists of two ingredients, there is nothing to mask the fact that it doesn’t taste great. And Blonyx will tell you the same.

There is no artificial flavoring, no added sugar, nothing in the least to hide the slightly chemical, metallic taste.

But that really wasn’t that big of an issue after the first day or two when you are just starting to use it and are inherently more aware of it.

I would either just mix it some water and quickly chug it or put it in my whey protein shake. I can deal with the taste as that is much preferred to it containing a bunch of added junk just to please the senses.

It is also recommended to take it while having a meal. I always had it with my breakfast and my dinner and felt fine.

Second, creatine alone usually causes some weight gain and this was absolutely true of my experience.

The weight gain typically comes from a mix of water retention and increased muscle mass. In my case, I gained 6 pounds over the past month, going from 170 pounds to 176. (On a side note, this is from a low in early January of weighing in at 161 pounds).

For me, it was a welcome surprise as I wanted to pack on some pounds this spring in anticipation of my upcoming competition in Fargo in June.

The weight gain will probably level off or I might even lose a few pounds now that my month-long trial is over, but the net gain, especially the added muscle, is excellent.

Besides the added pounds, the really other noticeable difference was how much it helped with recovery.

While it is hard with all the variables to attribute the supplement to my success at certain lifts or new PRs I have had over the past 30 days, I can say with certainty that it definitely helped me recover more quickly with such an aggressive training schedule.

My arms are typically so sore during and immediately after my personal training sessions due to heavy sets on the bench, weighted pull-ups, cleans and the like.

But by the next day I would always feel good as new. I really experienced little soreness throughout the month-long trial of Blonyx and that made it a lot easier to get right back after it in the gym each day.

The clear impact of Blonyx HMB+ Creatine is felt in comparison to not taking it. The effects – increased muscle gain and quicker recovery time – to date have been great. I am going to go the next month without using it to see and feel the difference.

After that, I will be able to make a more sound decision in term of my overall training what role it will play.

At the very least, I now realize it is not a supplement reserved for the elite. It has benefits for an athlete of any caliber or size.

Review: Boxrat Gear

BOXRAT is a mission-based apparel company that was established by Al Navata earlier this year. Al was looking for opportunities to incorporate his love of design to various aspects of his life, and it all came together when he was in the middle of putting together some fundraisers for his local box.

He was blown away by the generosity of his fellow CrossFitters, as they came together for a common cause.

At the same time, his son was on a travel soccer team that had three refugee kids that were playing on scholarships provided by a local organization.

Al was inspired that there were people who cared enough to provide some financial support for these kids that had next to nothing.

After bouncing the idea around with his wife and a few friends about selling shirts to help raise money for more kids, he was encouraged to pull the trigger and make it real, thus resulting in Boxrat Gear.

Now, a few months in, the process is pretty simple. On the first of every month, BoxRatGear.com releases a new shirt design and makes it available for fifteen days.

At midnight on the 15th of each month, sales close and the orders get printed. Once the printing is complete, the shirts ship so that they arrive before the end of the month.

After they pay their bills, BOXRAT uses a portion of the revenue to provide athletic scholarships to underprivileged youth in the Chicago area.

The shirts are tri-blend (50% polyester / 25% combed ring spun cotton / 25% rayon jersey), super comfortable and perfect for any WOD. BOXRAT also sells hats and tanks for both men and women.

Al designs all the shirts. We connected through website and got the chance to discuss his process. He told me, “My inspiration comes from people, places, and experiences.

Each shirt design starts with a concept that drives a message.

Whether it’s inspiring, motivational, or an event, it will always have a purpose and meaning behind it.

It also helps to have a wife who is in the modeling and fashion industry who advises me on what styles and color combinations are in fashion.

I also draw inspiration from what other mainstream sports and fitness leaders are doing and see what new innovations they are working on.”

As mentioned, the BOXRAT mission is to create opportunities for our youth through sport and fitness.

Participating in sports and fitness helps young kids create opportunities for themselves and also build valuable life skills that helps them overcome the many challenges in life and stay out of the negative influences that come along the way.

To date, BOXRAT has announced that their first donation will be going to Victory Sports Camps in Wheaton, IL, which is a ministry based organization that has been involved in the refugee community in the area for many years.

They will be hosting a week long soccer camp this summer for underprivileged kids and their donation will be helping them fund this camp.

With the help of the fitness community, Al and his team hope to grow and expand to help out as many kids as they can.

Review: Flow Fitness

The “Mill City”. The “Mini-apple”. Minneapolis is known by many names but none rings more true during the summer months than the “City of Lakes”.

Five city lakes — Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet — are connected by a 12-mile system of walking and biking paths.

And, if you have the sea legs, one of the best way to experience them is stand-up paddle boarding with Flow Fitness.

I first tried stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) in 2012 on the weekend of my 30th birthday. I met up with Tina, the owner of Flow Fitness and fellow CrossFit athlete, for a lesson along with a few friends. It was a warm, sunny Sunday morning but the winds were strong on Lake of the Isles.

Failing to find my balance, I fell into the water at least a half dozen times, though successfully never lost my sunglasses in the process.

Thankfully, in addition to teaching us how to paddle (proper technique, how to turn, etc.), Tina showed our class how to properly fall off the board and how to get back on.

She offers clear instruction but at the same time maintains a casual environment to help everyone stay relaxed, especially as it is a new sport for most.

A few weeks later, a second lesson and less wind on Cedar Lake made for a great dry morning. Tina led the group across Cedar and down the canal that connects it to Isles.

Everyone was in good spirits as we smiled and waved to the many passing kayakers and paddle boats.

In addition to the entertainment value it provides, stand-up paddle boarding offers a complete full body workout because it activates the core.

Trying to keep balanced and stable depends on your core muscles the whole time.

It’s also excellent in developing specific muscle groups in the shoulder, upper back and chest region thanks to the basic paddle stroke.

Now, for the past two summers, I have been taking the SUP strength class with Flow Fitness. It’s a mix of strength, cardio, balance and yoga.

Over the course of an hour, besides paddling, you do push-ups, sit-ups, squats, plank holds, mountain climbers, lunges and more all on top of the board.

If you think it’s hard to maintain your balance while paddling, just guess what it’s like doing burpees.

Last year, I was lucky enough to win a quality inflatable SUP board. I bring it to class with me now; but, thanks to Flow Fitness, I also take it out on my own and have made stand-up paddle boarding a fun part of my summer training routine.