In California, it’s state law to have a tree that you hug, a bird that your protect, and a natural disaster that you’ve lived through (preferably an earthquake, wildfire, or mudslide) …otherwise, you’re not considered a true CALI (exceptions are made for those who grow marijuana for medicinal reason). At least, that’s the stereotype…and that’s the first thing I thought of when Twinlab sent us some of their new “No Artificial Colors, Flavors, or Sweeteners” line of supplements. ”Really?”, I thought. “99% of me only cares that it WORKS…then 1% cares about artificial this and that.” Oops…I shouldn’t say that out loud…they might kick me out of California.
So obviously I’m a skeptic at heart. I know there’s a big market for “Natural and Organic” and I can’t blame Twinlab for going after it, but I don’t have to give them extra credit for it either. Thus, my review is from the coach’s/athlete’s perspective who cares about performance first. And, I’ll have to admit, this Clean Series held up pretty well for one product — at least as far as I can really test without a lab and a hundred subjects.
We received three products: Whey Protein Isolate, Veggie Protein, and Pre-Workout Activator. When we started the review, Twinlab had 5 total products. Now they have 6, adding Gainer 600, which really fills a gap that I’ll mention later. I’m assuming more are on the way.
The scientist in me has to come “clean”. In only a couple of months I can’t really make “any” scientific claims. So, I won’t. With the two protein supplements all I can really do is read the label, mix up batches, and give it a taste. I’ll have to quote studies to give you a feel of how it “should” work. For the Pre-Workout Activator, I’m going to give this a true anecdotal test (and anecdotal evidence means $#^&…so take it with a grain of salt). One of the ingredients “should” show a difference after about 6 weeks of use. More on that later.
There’s a bunch of cool looking labels on their site. TwinID Tested, Non-GMO Tested, NSF Gluten Free… Most of these I ignored. But one stood out: NSF Tested and Certified. Unlike the Forest Gump quote, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get,” in supplements you wanted to know “what you’re gonna get.” You want to KNOW that what you paid for is really in there. The NSF certification means that what is on the label is accurate. In an unregulated industry like supplements the lack of quality ingredients is a serious issue. Twinlab’s CleanSeries definitely gets extra points for getting this certification.
Whey Protein Isolate
If you’ve ever done research on supplements then you know Protein…and especially the Whey Isolate version to some…is the Mother of All supplements (making Creatine her prodigal son…but that’s another topic). There are a million studies, done a million different ways, that support protein as critical to athletic improvement — from body building, to sprinting, to long distance cycling…all have some amount of protein supplementation study that supports its merit. That’s not to say you need protein powders. You can use real food and should in most cases. But there are times when a powder or shake is way more convenient and appropriate — post workout being the most supported. Conventional thinking says you need a high protein, high simple carbohydrate meal/drink quickly after a workout (some studies suggest caffeine and creatine also being beneficial at this time). Ratios of protein/carbohydrates vary based on study and on workout/activity. Regardless, it’s much easier to have a properly measured powder in a shaker bottle ready to drink at the gym/track/trail, then it is to pack a sack lunch that meets the appropriate ratios. Another appropriate use for Protein Powder is just adding additional protein to the daily diet. When doing a lot of high intensity workouts, you need a pretty substantial amount of daily protein…and it’s actually pretty hard to get it with real food (for some of us).
So, how does CleanSeries Whey Protein Isolate stack up? Well, that’s really a loaded question. What you need, based on your sport/intensity/duration, is going to be different from what I need. Since I’m an egotist, I’ll just tell you what I wanted…and how CleanSeries Whey Protein Isolate did.
Ratios — I do high intensity workouts…sprinting, lifting, bounding…so my needs are for a good amount of protein and a good amount of carbs. Most studies suggest that between 20-30g protein is in the ideal range for post workout of this type. One scoop of CleanSeries Whey Protein Isolate has 23g of “Whey Isolate”. Why did I quote “Whey Isolate”? Do I just love punctuation? No, it’s because not all proteins are create equal. Each has a different amount of bio-availability…a different digestive rate…and a different way the body responds to it. Whey Isolate became very popular as a post-workout recovery option because its relatively fast absorption and anabolic response, but the reality turns out to be less than clear. So, let’s just say Whey Isolate is a good choice.
Conventional thinking says you need a carb-to-protein ratio appropriate for your training. As a pre-workout drink, a 1-to-1 ratio is pretty solid. In post-workout, it depends on the intensity and duration. 1-to-1 up to 4-to-1 may be appropriate. CleanSeries Whey Protein Isolate has only 4 grams of carbs. Which means, by itself, it’s not appropriate for pre or post workout. This is quite typical for many protein powders — they are more designed for meal replacement or as a way of bulking up on your daily protein quantity. But to the athlete needing pre/post workout supplement, they are going to need to add carbs — Dextrose, Maltodextrose, Waxy Maize or a combination of those is typical (or if real food oats is common). This is where CleanSeries Gainer 600 needs to be mentioned. Gainer 600 has a 2-to-1 ratio making it a better option for post-workout (and would be okay for pre-workout). Their other product, CleanSeries Sports Protein, doesn’t have enough carbs either, so don’t look there.
Taste — OMG. The Vanilla Blast is the BEST protein powder I have ever tasted. Mix it with milk and it taste like you’re at Foster Freeze’s.
Mix — With water, it mixes fine…but doesn’t taste as great. With milk it can get clumpy…but man when mixed well it’s awesome.
Price — $45 for 21 scoops. More than $2/scoop, plus you have to add sugar for pre or post workout. Not great, but not horrible either. If you really want “clean” then it’s fairly priced. Gainer 600 is $45 for 10 scoops…but one scoop in Gainer 600 has 40g protein. So, if you use half a scoop, you get 20 doses for $45 which makes it pretty equivalent to Whey Isolate.
I was pretty excited to try the Pre-Workout Activator. It had one ingredient that I was jones-ing to try, specifically Beta Alanine. Studies suggest that Beta Alanine, when taken consistently for several weeks (6+) can create a buffer for certain kinds of fatigue (specifically fatigue from all-out type exercises of 30-120 seconds). However, the studies aren’t perfect and it’s quite possibly bogus…but I was willing to try, especially given that a lot of my workouts should be helped (running repeat 300m at 40s is a perfect test case).
Unfortunately, I cannot say it worked. I can’t conclusively say that any of my runs got faster (and I use an electronic timing system). Still, a lot of people believe in it…partly because you “feel it”. About 15 minutes after taking a large dose, many (including me) get itchy/tingly. Definitely makes you “think” it’s doing something…but the clock hasn’t support it for me.
Yellow Pea Isolate, really?
Who in the hell wants to drink “Yellow Pea Protein Isolate” (now there’s a bad joke waiting happen)? I can barely gulp it down. But I guess if you’re a stereotypical tree hugging, bird loving, veggie eating Cali…then maybe it’s for you. So no review here…besides blah!
The Whey Isolate was great, but a bit expensive compared to buying other brands in bulk (you can’t get this is bulk…maybe someday). Of course, other brands aren’t “Clean”…so if that’s what you’re looking for…look no further…use Whey Isolate for adding protein to your total daily intake and Gainer 600 for pre/post-workout. And though not reviewed, add creatine before and/or after your workout. There isn’t any creatine in any of these supplements and it’s just too proven to ignore (except for long distance runners who may not like the additional water weight that creatine brings). As for the Pre-Workout Activator — may work, may not. Sorry can’t say more.