Bronze Colored Waters

North Carolina native Clay Aiken may have said it best:

“On my way here, where I am now, I’ve learned to fly I have to want to leave the ground; I’ve fallen hard but I’ve been loved, and in the end it all works out. Faith has conquered fear. On my way here […] I’d rather try and fail, 1000 times denied at least whenever you feel pain, it lets you know that you’re alive.”

 The beautiful shores of Hawaii. Is there any site better on this planet?

Best view of Hawaii!!

Best view of Hawaii!!

 

Today,  I do something I never thought I would. I conquer my swim fear. I’ve already posted the story of how the fear came to be. And how it’s stayed with me. What I haven’t done is talk about what it means to get rid of it. It’s official for me. I signed up for lessons. And my first one is today. I have my swim trunks. I’ll probably buy goggles later. I even have my sandals.

You see I’m a runner. I run. Running is calming. Running is safe. Running is an old habit that I am prepared to do at any minute. I haven’t run in months, yet earlier this evening I told myself that I was going to run due to the stress from school and the fact that I do miss working out daily. I’ve given myself visions of racing in and winning a 10K. A half-marathon. Who knows how far I could take it if I really submitted myself to daily training, and a strict diet. I could take running far, because I’ve done it for years. Well over a decade. But as I ran this morning, a thought occurred to me. Running is a lot of things to me.

But running is also a crutch. It doesn’t require work. It requires almost nothing from me save the investment in a new pair of nikes, which I absolutely need at this point (Orange preferably, size 11-12… in case anyone is keeping score… ). I run a distance of 5K pretty much whenever I want to and to be completely honest, in 3 weeks prep, I could run a 10K. Easy. When I lived at the beach, I would come home from school and run that distance nightly. In life both figuratively and literally, running is always the easiest option for me. Always. Just put foot to ground and keep it moving. I can use running to hide. You see, I will tell myself that I am doing it to get fit. That I am doing it to train for a future race. I’ll deceive myself that I am doing it to start my day off on the right foot. Or end my stressful day that I just endured. I might even post a picture to Instagram because well, fitness selfies are in vogue right now.

But the truth is, I’ll be running is the best way for me to control the anxiety that goes with thinking about swimming. this morning I got up early and ran because it’s the last chance I’ll have to run away from what I have to face. It’s not everyone’s challenge. But it’s mine. To put on swim trunks and walk into the recreation center, and meet a trainer. That is exciting yet difficult all in the same breath. I have to face the one thing I’ve been running from forever. The water.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken pictures like this at the beach or at fancy hotels:

Managing the Water...

Managing the Water…

Me nervously smiling while my legs dangle in the water. In a pool that’s 3 feet. What the picture doesn’t reveal is that by the time I’ve sat down on the edge, I’ve already calculated how deep the pool is, and how far out I can walk in it and still have my arm on the guardrails, as well as the location of all 4 lifeguards in attendance. Just in case stuff goes south.

A funny memory: Senior Beach Week in Myrtle Beach, SC. My friends and I had rented out a hotel for a weekend. It was awesome! But I remember we also had a large pool in the back. Not very deep at all. I had walked out and somehow in the actual pool had tripped or lost my footing. I remember I began to panic and I said, “I’m drowning!” My guy friends all looked at me and laughed, deservingly so… one of my friends simply said, “Why don’t you try standing, Calvin.”  Sure enough, the pool was about 4 feet deep…while I was 5’10 tall. “Oops…right,” I remember squeaking out. It was all in good humor but I remember being incredibly embarrassed.

So there I sit always on the edge, but never quite in the deep end of the pool. Always with my head above water, never holding my breath and going under. How does one maintain two identities that simply don’t go together: I absolutely love the beach. I LOVE the Beach. The beach is my element, it is my home. And yet I don’t go in the ocean. A deep desire of mine I’ve never really shared is that I want to learn how to surf one day. You can have the skateboards (especially since every day on campus at least 5 of them crash into me or into each other). But to put on a wet suit and ride the waves across Hawaii, Bermuda, the Carribean. Wilmington. Miami. That is my dream. Now I understand that I might not look as hot as my baby here crashing surfing on her boogie board…

 

"That's dangerous...!"

“That’s dangerous…!”

But I think I can come pretty damn close!

I refuse to live with regret. I refuse. It’s why that line, “I’d rather try and fail— 1000 times denied” is so powerful to me. I have to try to swim because the only alternative is never to learn to swim and miss the joy of swimming in a pool with my family. I can’t imagine never kissing my baby in the open ocean, especially given the choice of places we want to go for honeymoon. Never enjoying a cruise for fear of what I would do if we had to abandon ship.  Never really enjoying the reality of purchasing a house on the beach. Not really having an alternative as I know one day my knee is going out on me and running won’t be something I can do as often.

Never crossing the finish line of a triathlon with my baby’s hand in mine. Or never finally going scuba diving or snorkling, both of which I have admired and dreamt of doing since I was a kid.

Who wouldn't want to get in the water with that pretty lady in green?

Who wouldn’t want to get in the water with that pretty lady in green?

The easy thing is to run. I can run past the recreation center as I have done since I was 13. As I have done everyday since being on campus. I can run. I can run forever. But running won’t cause me to grow. The water will. So to steal a phrase from my very best friend, my support system and the woman that pushes me harder than any PhD program ever could…

It’s not time to jump. It’s time to swim.

 

 

Fears that Swim

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been meditating on the best way to write this one, so it’s been swimming in my head for the longest. I think with some of these posts as a blogger, the best thing to do is just to start writing and let the words try to form a coherent structure with which we hope we can express ourselves. Tonight is one such post.

So I have a fear. I don’t have too many of those really. But here’s one that the time has come to finally conquer.

This all began when I was 13. You see I had went to Myrtle Beach, is sunny South Carolina with my family for what was supposed to be a day trip. I will never forget it for as long as I live. I admit it was foolish to go that far out to sea but then again, what 13 year old boy doesn’t take risks on a day to day basis? My mother and sister sat on the beach soaking up the rays while I decided to get my feet wet. Well at first it was my feet. Then my knees. Then my stomach. What the hey, if the water comes up to my chest I’ll be fine, really.

I’m playing around flapping in the water (happily, I might add). For some reason, almost suddenly, the brightness of the sun was blocked. It got really dark, really fast. My back was turned and I was still having a great time. But I look over at my mother and sister. My mother, who had beautiful caramel colored skin, was suddenly pale white. My oldest sister, sitting beside her had her jaw drop with only muffled sounds coming out. I caught enough of a glimpse of her to see her pointing at me. What on Earth had grabbed her attention so much?

It was when I turned around that I realized she wasn’t pointing at me. She was pointing at behind me. And it wasn’t a solar eclipse that had blocked out the sun. It was the biggest wave I had ever seen in my life. It had risen so high, it seemed higher than the great wall of China. It was monstrous.

I didn’t get long to stand in its awe. In fact, it wasn’t long before I wasn’t standing at all. Down on me it crashed.

The force of water is awesome. It felt like a ton of concrete had been dropped on my head. It literally felt like bricks or mortar being flung at me. It slapped me in the face something horrible. I was knocked completely off my feet, and sent underwater, completely submerged. It wasn’t long before sand filled water over took my eyes, my nose, my lungs. I gasped for air. I tried to stand up and almost made it, but another almost equally as powerful wave came directly behind it sending me to the bottom of the water again. My head hurt. I couldn’t breathe.

What I also neglected to mention is that I also couldn’t swim. I was wading in the water for a bit and over estimated my ability to run back on land should a problem arise. Momentarily I floated, all four limbs above my body. I was completely powerless against the might of the Atlantic ocean. As the reality set in that today I might perish, I regretted not being smarter. Panic set in.

As a great, Pretty Lady might say, “Welcome to Fear”.

Time stopped. I remember that although I couldn’t breathe, I saw little particles of sand floating by me. Where there was light, a growing darkness started to overcome the light. The brown colored water began to get darker…and darker…

But the darkness can never overcome the light!

With a last bit of strength, resiliency and willpower, I steadied my body for one last fight. One last push. One final attempt. I will never go down unless I’m going down fighting! And I fought! Somehow I turned myself over and was able to grab something. Was it a rock, a reef, some poor swimmer’s leg? The hand of God? Whatever it was, I pulled on it and was able to flip myself over and pull myself back to far enough to my head could get out of the water and I could breathe. My strength began to grow and I righted myself enough to get out the water onto the land.

The last thing I saw was my mother and sister running towards me at full speed. Before they got there though, the next 10 minutes was spent upchucking salt water and sand from my stomach and lungs. My lungs hurt like someone had stepped on them! I was in pain. I had aches and pains a full week after. The memory of my sister and mother holding me to make sure I was okay, and my mother shouting obscenities at me for being so careless fills my head to this day.

I haven’t went that far into the water since.

I mean I lived in Wilmington for two years. I went to the beach and still got my feet wet. But I almost never went in beyond my hips, even after puberty hit and I got a couple growth spurts.

Today, I’ll sit in low pools. I’ll sit in jacuzzi’s. But that’s it.

And I have decided that that is not enough. This year is a year of freedom. A year of breaking old chains. A year of breaking any bondage that has kept me down.

I need to get over my fear of swimming. I no longer want to sit in the water. Or put my feet in it. I want to swim in it. Actually enjoy it!

IMG_5452This is the destination.

I’m signing up for swim classes. I’ll be mid 30′s soon. Very soon. It’s time to get over an almost 20 year fear. If I can do it, anyone can. Maybe we don’t have to be slaves to fear. Maybe we don’t have to fear love, life, hurt, pain, failure, loss. All the negative of life.

Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe I can inspire someone. And if not, maybe I can inspire myself. But I want for someone who loves life and the beach as much as I do, the fact that I don’t swim is an abomination. It makes no sense.

So maybe I wrote this more so to myself than to the readers. But I think that if there’s any fear in your life you need to conquer, NOW is the time to do it.

Just do it. Do it SCARED if you have to. But just do it.

Love. Live. Ask that person for forgiveness. Forgive that person. Take that money risk (as long as it’s calculated). Ask him / her out for lunch. Finally pay off that debt that’s been plaguing you for years. Attack life by the horns. Show the world how beautiful you are…and don’t worry what they say about you.

That’s what really being heroic is, to me. It’s not realistic to avoid fear. But the true show of strength is to face it head on.

That’s what I’m doing from here on out. Starting in the swimming pool!

I’m actually conquering two fears. I’m super frightened of even posting this on a public forum. I’d like to keep my vulnerabilities and private fears…private. But that doesn’t serve me, my readers or those who look to me for inspiration. So instead, I proudly display those fears. For the world. And I say enjoy them while they last.

They won’t be here forever.

Go Heroic.

 

Lab to 10K

There’s no question on this site how much I love running. None. I’ve decided to take it to the next level.

Over the years, I’ve left the gentle feel of the trails and ground for the hard iron of the weight room. Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit stagnant on what to write about on the site though. And I realized something.

I’m a little bored with it all. The bodybuilding stuff that is. The massive muscles, the supplements, the wild hours in the gym. It’s just all so… monotonous. Lately, I had been feeling the fitness bug and thought that maybe my dedication was lacking. Well, it’s not that at all. It’s that I needed to keep inspired. And counting how many sets I spent on the incline bench just wasn’t doing it anymore.

Boredom is disaster for me. I put running down because I was a little bored with gaining the mileage. But lately, it’s all I’ve wanted to do. Running, unlike bodybuilding, has a very STRONG spiritual / religious aspect to it for me. The prayer I do while hitting the pavement, and the endorphins that arise in my body… it brings me closer to the Lord moreso than any iron ever has. That’s why I can never, ever let it go for long. I’m ready to lace up my sneakers again. But this time, I want to add a new dimension to an old favorite.

I want to compete.

You heard it here folks. I want to run. Like so many of my friends do like Krysten, Hollie and Christina.

As I’ve thought about this more and more, I realize that running and blogging go hand in hand for me. I wasn’t running. So I stopped blogging became lost as a writer and seriously contemplated deleting this blog. I had no purpose in the blogosphere.

As it turns out, running gives me a purpose and part of that purpose is writing. Which brings me to my goal of giving my running a new purpose (I sure hope that wasn’t as confusing to read as it was to write. Oh my I have a headache now!)

On my “regular” runs, (which are cheaper than therapy as my baby would say) I normally run a distance of 5K. I’ve admitted this before, but the fact is I am a S L O W runner. My average 5K time is around 40 min. I’m a bit of a wonderer, so if I happen to take notice of butterflies, cardinals, flowers (I’m a sensitive guy, ya’ll!) It could easily take me 45 min or so. I don’t try to run fast as I don’t want to miss anything. But the way my mind works, “training to run a 5K race” doesn’t compute. That’s silly to me because 5K is for sight seeing, viewing nature and getting a quick workout in.

I used to run 10K distances in grad school. There was a place in Wilmington called “the Loop”. I would head there usually after class, some nights very, very late around midnight and run around twice. That distance was approximately 10K. I lost a lot of weight doing that. The sounds of the beach waters would just amaze me.

I can train to run a 10K race, but I can’t train to run a 5K. So…I’m training to run a 10K. There’s not that many in and around Raleigh, but one thing I have found is this little gem:

This is a 5K at the Fairgrounds on Sept. 13. See all the bright lights? People having a good time? Neon colors traveling at the speed of light? New friendships being forged?

It’s a very, very, very Calvin race.

I think my plan, which was imparted to me by the best woman ever, an athlete in her own right, is to train for 10K. But run a few 5Ks for fun until I can find a 10K to compete in. I have my eyes on an 8K in the area near Thanksgiving.

In short, I hope to use this blog for talking about my great love for the Lord, and all the wonderful things He’s done for me (even today, I got wonderful news!), talk about how in love I am with my baby, and hopefully posts pics from upcoming races. I’ve already started training by running a few 5K practice runs. I’m cleaning up my diet while learning what foods will work best.

What gear will I need? What energy candy will be the best for me? Can I make a personal record? Then beat it? So many things to think about…

My ultimate goal with this? I’m not sure. I think… I think… I want to run a half marathon within 1 year. We’ll see. But that’s the goal. A year from now, as I am really hitting my mid 30′s, I want my life to continually get better.

Here’s a start. Returning to my first love. And competing in it.

Supplement Review: BSN Dessert

I have found it.

The mother load.

I have my all time favorite protein ever.

This is it. THIS is the big one.

The one I’ve been waiting for.

If there is such a thing as having a staple supplement,as in something you will always find in my kitchen, this is it.

BSN Lean Dessert. This has got to be the best Protein on the market. Seriously. Let’s get right into this.

This is a protein blend product that has 6 forms of protein in it. It’s made a little thicker than their staple Syntha –  6 product. If you’re someone like me who struggles with sweets, this is the perfect supplement. I have a problem with balance when it comes to sweets. I either eat the whole bag of peanut butter M&M’s or I swear off all sweets for 3 years! I can’t seem to get the proper moderation that is necessary.

Also, I’m one of those people that gets hungry at night time: which is one of the worst times to ingest a lot of carbs. I have the stretch marks to prove it.

How does one get a great taste of sweets while remaining fitness and nutrition minded? I’ll tell you how. By calling up your local BSN Rep and saying, “BRING ME SOME DESSERT…ON THE DOUBLE!!!”

And that’s what I did…

IMG_3900

 

Where’s my manners? Before doing anything, you always need the proper gear. And this time, it would be the limited edition BSN Shaker Cup, brought me by the greatest girlfriend a guy could be blessed with. I love you, sugar, with all my heart!!! Armed with her love and this shaker bottle, it’s time to conquer Earth life!

The Pour. 

IMG_3898I like to add a packet of Quaker Oats, just to make it even thicker. It’s a great quick meal replacement, especially if you add a banana to it.

IMG_3892 IMG_3894

I elected to try the Cinnamon Roll flavor.

IMG_3895

 

Incredible.

To say the taste is fantastic is an understatement, that’s for sure. This fills me up for a few hours and keeps me going through the night time. Also, on those days at school, where I know it might be longer than I wish before I can get my next meal, I usually opt for this instead of the Syntha 6 since I tend to burn through that quite fast. This is just a great supplement, and the price? Almost unbeatable. On Amazon, this hovers around $25.00 making it one of the cheaper proteins. The quality is great for the price and will last about a month.

I’m really surprised. Normally with protein shakes I suffer gas or some type of gastrointestinal issues. I’m amazed that with this? Nothing. I fully expected that my stomach would be bothered, but not at all. As part of a nutritionally rich diet, I can say that I will be ready for this summer as long as BSN (and the love of my Pretty Lady) are around.

Thank you baby for helping me to Finish First!

 

 

Identity Crisis

I’ve had a struggle with this blog lately.

The truth of the matter is, I am having a crisis of identity of what to actually do with this blog. I don’t know if it’s writer’s block, so that I can’t get the words my from head to the blog. I don’t know if I need to scale back…if there’s actually the opposite problem where I have TOO much I want to write about and not sure how to move forward.

Lately, whenever I log onto this thing and begin to write, I inevitably have the same problem.

Somedays, I want to post meals I made (yes…I actually eat more than protein shakes, believe it or not).

Other days, I think about posting about workouts or new fitness routines.

Some days, I just want to post about the love of my life. Because really…nothing else matters more.

Still other days, I want to go on rants about the fitness industry. There’s a post that’s been rotating in my mind for weeks about how bikini models are overtly objectified in the fitness industry.

India Paulino Nude

Of course, that speaks to a bigger problem about the objectifying nature of bikini competitions. But to a further point, seriously, though, do I even have the right to write such a post? I’ve read the article behind this latest picture of the current Bikini Champion, India Paulino, in this months Muscular Development. She’s worked hard for that body so she should be able to place photos of it wherever she likes.  Who am I? Plus, I don’t know anything at all of her “real life” and where she learned that her value comes from how well her body looks or her ability to turn others on. Or maybe it’s far simpler— maybe she just likes taking pictures!! So I can’t really write that post or write it fairly. She indeed takes nice pictures, but at the end of the day, I don’t know her “story”.  Not to mention the other problem— she probably is a very nice person and just signed with one of my favorite supplement companies. Conflict.  Of.  Interest. I’m not trying to burn any bridges right now, since I don’t know what opportunities might lie ahead.  Not to mention a post like that is just begging to raise the ire of my feminist readers. Put your guns down ladies. I come in peace.

I’ve recently figured out that my body is very carb intolerant. I need less carbs to function and higher protein and healthy fats. A simple change and acknowledgement of this would see me drop loads of weight in less than 3 months. Does anybody actually care about that? Why would someone care that I ate an avocado today instead of the cheese pizza?!

If I’m going to be honest, (and I always am!!!) the truth of the matter is, that all these things…seem done before. I’m not sure what the “unique” thing is that I bring to the plate of fitness blogging anymore. This could be the result of all the time I spend at school (it’s Friday, I am supposed to be working on several various papers. I’m taking a short break right now to write this post before spending the rest of the night crying over analyzing my data). Somehow I have lost my way, the owner of a blog that is trying locate or perhaps revamp its voice.

I’m just not sure what to write about anymore. I don’t know what to say on here that you can’t just find on Youtube said in a far superior way. I’m not sure what to say on here anymore that you won’t find on Twitter or Facebook. I don’t know what my “THING” is, to where someone would be online and think to themselves: “I need to check the Orange Mask…that’s where the answers are that I need.”

So besides the crazy hours of work at school,  I have a blog right now searching to find its place. It’s niche.

Even supplement reviews are becoming a little troublesome— I’ve made the mistake of having several favorite supplement companies now. SO spending $$$$ to test out other lesser products to see if they work seems silly, and not financially smart (especially given that I’m a graduate student). Also, my hunch is that for Supplement Reviews, most prefer to watch them online on Youtube.

We’re coming upon the 2 year mark of this site, so maybe that’s why I feel I need to shift gears and change focus. I’m not trying to figure out what to do in the gym anymore. If I’m going to be mature, I already know what foods to eat and not eat. I just need to adhere to that. I have a good idea too, which supplement companies are good and worth your time as a consumer and which are using you. I’m not a newbie starting out anymore going to Planet Fitness. I actually want to “bring it” with the big boys at Gold’s Gym.

On an even more personal note, I’m not under the faulty assumption anymore that my value comes from how my body looks. When I started this site that was a basic premise. It was actually a basic premise in my life.  “My body looks bad, I will work out, it will look good and you will like my stories of how I made it good. Then you will like me.” But my belief in myself comes from something a little more sterner. As my baby says it best,

”In all honesty there is really only one answer I have for that, and its: God. God is a very important part in my life. He is the Love of my life. And it wasn’t until I got to a place where I realized that beauty DOES NOT come from the outside, but from within. No amount of makeup or fitness can create it. I had to open up the Bible and read what God said about me. He created me. He said I was beautiful. He said that everything He created was good. When I started to believe THAT, that is when I found my confidence. But remember my confidence is not in MY LOOKS. So on my bad days, which I have— I have cellulite, I have acne scars, I have stretch marks—even on those days, I still know I am beautiful. Because I know that God created me. That Jesus loved me so much He died for me. My confidence is in the God who gave me my looks, not the looks I was given. Time and age will quickly put an end to what we define as “beauty”.  Apart from the Lord, I would still be struggling. The idea of “beauty” will always change. So what you base your confidence in needs to be something that is unchanging. For me, that is God.”

Whether my bodyfat % is 30% or 10% (which I may reach one day…maybe), I’m still loved and still valuable. My baby loves me so well, she loves me perfectly, better than I have ever been loved before. In the time we’ve been together I’ve fully learned and accepted it’s not the gym that defines how good I am or how great a personality I have…OR how deserving of love and respect I am. Until I met her, I was pretty convinced it’s what a person does that merits all that stuff. And when you stop doing stuff, you’re no longer worthy of love. She taught me, it’s who a person IS. That’s a long winded way of saying, God loves me for me…not for how many macros I ingested today. So does my Queen. If I show up bloated from too many carbs? My baby says, “I love you”. If I show up fitness model ready, looking like a million bucks with abs you can bounce a penny off of? My baby says, ” I love you”. It is unchanging and for that I will always love you, sugar.  Truly, deeply and eternally. So it’s hard for me to write a post detailing how many lbs I lost, or how many inches I gained on my biceps these days. It just seems superficial.

A freshness needs to be added here. A new direction. A change of pace. An Orange Mask 2.0, if you will. Still fitness related…but what? And that’s my central problem right now. I don’t know the next evolution of the site.

This could be a reflection of a larger issue with life. Maybe I need to add some new things in to get inspired to write. Enter a bodybuilding competition? Enter a triathlon? Enter some 5K, 10K and train for that? Attend a competition and live report from there (that’s actually something I DO want to do, with my baby sometime in the future…I would love to turn this into a fitness news site at some point. Whenever I can get out of my lab, haha).

I’m still around. The site will always be around in one iteration or another. There will always be an “Orange Mask” around to inform you, defend you, and give you fitness insights. It’s just that my “heroically superior adventures in fitness”, don’t seem grandiose enough to write about at the moment.

I need to figure out where my place in fitness blogging / bodybuilding blogging is now.

Wednesday “Win”spiration: Mighty Warrior edition

Super Fit woman

 

I think about all the ways that there is to describe her. And this picture pretty much covers it all. You all know I love super heroes, right? Well, she is mine. She’s so brave. So strong. So tough. So wise. So knowledgeable.

She can perform permutations and combinations in under 20 seconds!

She can without the use of a calculator, determine the variance, standard error and confidence interval for the population!

She even knows when child psychopathology was first entered into the DSM (even I couldn’t figure that one out)!

She can eat as much cake as she wants and still sport a mean set of abs!! (by comparison, merely writing the word “cake” has given me 5 extra pounds AND 2 new stretch marks!!)

In short, when I am weak, her bravery inspires me. When am sad, her giggles, bring me joy. When I feel bad about that extra slice of pizza I had…she joins me and offers some southern style dishes…just because!

She knows that fitness isn’t something that you just get in the gym. It’s your inner beauty. And I’ve never seen anyone more beautiful on the inside than her.

I just finished stats about 4 hours before pulling yet another all nighter. But I had to write this before going to sleep. I had to. At her best, and with whatever so called “flaws” she might find with herself, to me, is and could only ever be perfect.

I love you, baby. You’ll always be my Mighty Warrior. You’ll always inspire me. I know you have a big day ahead, baby. But we go through it together. Afterwards, we should do some cookies and cream ice cream, with caramel on chocolate cake. Then to pretend we’re really healthy, wash it all down with a Protein shake :-)

Seize the day, my love. And know that with prayers backing you, you will conquer all. I love you!

Supplement Review: MHPStrong Dopamite

Here it is, a long awaited supplement review, my first in forever. I spent some time on this one because quite frankly…my heart was involved. I have to start out by saying that this particular supplement review would not have been possible without the love and support of my baby. Thank you, sugar for your undying support and unwavering encouragement. I love you! We’re partners so I fully dedicate this post to you and the strong presence of love, faith, truth and joy that you place in my life. Thank you for all that you are…and for never forgetting to wear your invisible crown. You are a princess.

Let’s get right into this.

This year, I wanted to change the focus of the site some, with less emphasis on just pre-workouts but also with other stuff: Proteins, BCAAs, and also Fat Burners. Fat Burners have long enthralled me, and this goes back to my days as an obese 20 year old, entering freshman year at college. The very first fat burner I ever tried was Hydroxycut by MuscleTech. I had long been a reader of Muscle and Fitness as it was my first fitness magazine (trivia point: today I do not read this magazine because I consider the men in it to be too “puny”. This is what happens when your mother’s favorite comic book super hero is the Hulk).

I tried Hydroxycut for a bit in the early Hey days of MuscleTech. Man, that formula was awful! It was like 95% caffeine, 5% other stuff you can’t pronounce. I didn’t lose a single pound on that stuff. Instead, I broke out into a cold sweat, and I started having heart palpitations.  Then of course, there was Stacker and Stacker 2. That stuff was filled with Ephedrine and it was the worst stuff on the market. I’ll never forget, my 2nd week of taking it (this was I’d say near the middle of my first semester of grad school),  I suffered a crazy reaction. I started being able to see sounds and after a few days, I could see about 4 seconds into the future.

Not. Making. That. Up.

So in having the thought of reinstituting fat burners into a supplement stack, I searched long and wide to find one I’d be interested in trying. Sure enough, in looking at the companies that I really love, MHP Stands out. I wondered if they made a fat burner, and sure enough…they did.

I give you, Dopamite.

Going on the company’s site, MHP has uploaded a Youtube video that tells us:

To find more scientific information, you can go to a website, I’ve linked…here!

In layman’s terms, unlike most fat burners which raise your heart rate and resting metabolic rate in order to burn your adipose tissue, this pill works by stimulating the release of dopamine into your system, and activating your pleasure center. Additionally, a feeling of energy is supposed to overtake you as well as reduce cravings. You’ll hear that a lot in the Youtube video above. This in turn is supposed to help you not eat as much since eating is such a pleasurable thing though being on a cut is not. I wondered if those claims were really true. Sure enough, a happy, giggly angel decided to quell my curiosities and before I knew it, Dopamite was in my hands.

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To give basic stats, I’m 5’11 (hold up, now I’ve been 5’10 forever but I come up at 5’11 on trips to the doctor. I’m claiming it, give me my 1 inch!!!) and about 190-192 pounds before taking this stuff. Now, I’m not the delusional type (regardless of the fact that I named my site after a super hero and sometimes I wear a costume at night. Let’s just ignore this, ok?).  It’s unrealistic to take a fat burner and then hope for the best. Instead not only did I take Dopamite, but I am on a bit of a cut right now. I lowered my calories by 500, cleaned up the diet (no more Crown and Cokes, I’m afraid) and increased my cardio. Remember folks, it’s a supplement. It’s supposed to support what you’re already doing, not do everything on its own.

I started by taking one pill a day for a week. By week two I couldn’t “feel” the pill working anymore. So I started taking 2 pills every morning before heading off to school. There’s  a great mood enhancing quality to this supplement. I would almost qualify this as more of a mood enhancer than a fat burner. It felt like I had eaten a whole chocolate cake for breakfast and could come back for seconds. Funny since really, I’m not a fan of dark chocolate. From a starting weight of 192 lbs, my off season weight, I am currently down to 187. That’s remarkable. Cutting calories always is hard. You have to meet your nutritional needs, while not starving but still having enough energy to get through 20-40 minutes of cardio, which in my case was running on a treadmill. I definitely think the mood enhancing qualities helped out a lot. Dropping calories usually makes you grumpy but I felt good all the way through.

Now, here’s the downside. This pill has caffeine in it which is designed to promote your metabolism and give you energy. But I honestly didn’t feel a thing. I flirted with the idea of taking 3 pills at a time to see how it would feel but then thought better of it since this was a gift and I didn’t want to run through the bottle. This is definitely not for someone with a high caffeine tolerance. Also, it’s not for “body sculpting”. It’s to help you get over the mental hump of lowered calories. I didn’t find my alertness or focus anymore increased than before I took the product. Another downside is just basic physiology: if you keep releasing high levels of dopamine, you’re going to need to reduce larger and larger amounts to feel the same amount. So I don’t think this is the kind of pill you take for a long period of time. I think you cycle it and I’d be conservative: maybe one bottle every 4 months if you were just sticking with the MHP Brand.

The price of this is competitive: You can find this on Amazon for around $20-$25. I almost never recommend buying directly from any supplement company if you’re on a budget. In this case if you do, the price jumps to $40. Try to be smart with your finances since supplements can be expensive but I’d say it’s worth the Amazon price.

Overall, you can’t go wrong here unless of course you don’t have a sweet tooth.

MHP will long be one of my favorite brands just because they have superior athletes, great supplements, fairly priced items and was one of the first brands given to me as a gift from the love of my life. So they will always be special. I say give this a try. It’s one of the lower intensity fat burners out there and is probably good for a beginner.

As with all products though, you only get what you put in. Workout, clean up that diet and get 8 hours of solid sleep. Adding this into the mix will easily help you achieve the body you want. Then, like me…you’ll be happy and giggly.

Supplement Review: Jack3d Micro

So the last time USP Labs made an appearance on the blog, things didn’t quite go so well for me. So of course, I was very skeptical about giving this supplement a try. But alas…my body is for you to gain insight (and laugh at hysterically, in some cases). So I present to you, Jack3D: The Sequel… Jack3d Micro.

I wanted to try a pre workout but to be quite honest, I’m a little sick of Beta Alanine. There’s nothing more distracting than trying to lift heavy, but it feels like someone surgically installed a pin cushion into your body. It’s hard to get in your fat burning zone when it feels like a colony of fire ants is attacking you. So needless to say, I’ve taken a long break from Pre Workouts that include this amino acid that every one swears by. I just haven’t wanted it.

When I realized that there was a new Jack3d that didn’t have either Beta Alanie or 1, 3, DMAA in it, I had to give it a try.

With my normal schedule right now, normally I pull all nighters on Tuesday nights, work all day Wednesday and don’t get to sleep until late Wednesday night, before sleeping in a little on Thursday mornings. So the best way to test this out was by trying it on a cold, rainy Thursday morning when I didn’t want to get up early or out of bed. To me, that’s the best measure of a pre workout: if I can feel like it’s 4:00 pm even though it’s 7:00 a.m.

At 7:00 a.m. no one wants to be at the gym. I don’t care what any one tells you, no one wants to be at the gym that early. You HAVE to be at the gym that early so you can get other things done during the day. But no one wants to be there. The conditions were great for me to try this out.

It was an “easier” day for the gym with me. Arms and treadmill. I took 1 scoop for the first week, before having to go up to two the next week.

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As you can tell from the pictures, Jack3D micro retains the original small scooper from the first Jack3d. I grabbed the Lemon Lime flavor. Let me tell you…the taste of this product was, as grown folks desperately trying to hold on to the last few vestiges of their coolness like to say “Amaze-balls”.  (By the way, because I actually am a grown man with a modicum of self respect, that is both the first and last time you will ever see me use, say, write or refer to the phrase “amaze-balls”.) This could easily be the best tasting supplement I have ever tried. It says lemon lime, but I would describe the taste more as sour apple.

The product kicked in about 20 minutes after drinking it on an empty stomach. I felt a little more awake but it wasn’t obvious at first.

The good thing is that my running went so well, I didn’t want to stop. I had to literally say, “I have to stop running or I will be late for other stuff!” I never knew the meaning of  when other people say a supplement gives you “clean energy” before. But I do now. It was light, it worked and I got through my workout effectively.

The bad thing is this product is wicked weak. I was maybe more alert than entering the gym, but I think it’s because I was on a treadmill and didn’t want to fall off…not because of this product. It does have caffeine but this stuff is way weaker than the first Jack3d. People who love the first formula really shouldn’t even bother picking this stuff up. Also, although I took two scoops, it became apparent that by week 3, I would need 3 scoops, though it says on the container “don’t take more than 2 scoops”.  I think this is the kind of product for someone with a low caffeine tolerance, and is just beginning supplements and maybe needs an extra “kick” in the morning. But if that’s the case, I think I would just try a cup of coffee or maybe the new B4 by BPI Sports, which is a pre workout and fat burner all in one.

I think this stuff is great IF you can get it for free or as a gift. I just can’t recommend buying it. I think there’s better pre workouts out there for the price ($34.49 on Bodybuilding.com). I just hope the industry moves toward releasing products that don’t have Beta Alanine or least Beta Alanine free versions.

There are those people who swear by USP Labs. I think they are a great company with great products geared towards the advanced bodybuilder who wants a hardcore experience with usually powerful ingredients. But I can say now that for whatever reason, USP Labs and my biochemistry do not seem to mix. I may possibly try Oxy Elite pro…there’s a new 1,3 DMAA free version of that product. But really, I think it might be a while before another USP Labs product appears on the site. That’s just my thinking.

What are you favorite USP Labs products? Why? How long have you been a user of them? What USP Labs products do you not like? 

My BSN Care Package

This is too cool to put into words, so I will just show it in a picture.

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As I arrived after midnight to home (which is common for me) this was waiting on me from BSN. A care package of their top supplements: Their BCAA Amino X, their fat burner, Hyper Shred; Their Protein Syntha-6; and their pre-workout that I’ve wanted to try for over a year: Hyper FX.

Slowly but surely they are changing my mind about them for sure. These are all new products for me, so I am hoping that I was wrong about my statement that their products don’t tend to mesh well with my biochemistry. I’m hoping for the best. If nothing else, this is one of the greatest acts a supplement company has done for me.

Expect four separate blogs on each of these products. Summer time is coming, I need / want abs and maybe, just maybe BSN will be the ones that give it to me. That and a lot of time spent in the gym and eating right in the kitchen.

Thank you so much BSN. Thank you, so much.

Learn more about IF

Here’s a copy of an email I just received regards Intermittent Fasting:

Hiya,

Was just browsing around, and I saw that you linked to LeanGains.

I thought you and your visitors would be interested in the LeanGains FAQ we wrote up: http://examine.com/leangains-faq/

We actually created it as part of http://www.reddit.com/r/leangains/ and Martin himself endorsed it via his Twitter account.

Any questions, don’t hesitate in asking me.

Cheers.

Lily

Might be useful to check out these sites and learn more about IF. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but more knowledge is always useful.

Notice too, that she was really respectful and nice. That’s more likely to convince me to listen to what you are saying then comments such as “You’re a dumbass, go get some knowledge you ignorant n___er” which obviously are not going to be approved on the site.

I totally welcome disagreement— both of us learn that way. But seriously, no need to be so sensitive about my opinion, bro. Just keep it clean.

My opinion can be changed but if you’re stuck on disrespect, I immediately take that to mean you have no real argument.

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