#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Send In The Quest Bar Clones

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For my very first #FrugalCongressFood profile, I covered Quest bars, those portable, shelf-stable, and ever-reliable flavored chunks of protein, soluble fiber, and sugar-free sweeteners that have been the food source powering many dance congresses as well as, frequently, day-to-day life in general for me. Quest bars accomplish this while being free of the carbs, sugar, and low-grade soy protein present in many of the candy bars masquerading as protein bars that defined the protein bar landscape before Quest Nutrition came on the scene in 2010.

Indeed, Quest bars remain to this day the gold standard for low-carb low-sugar high-protein bars, with delicious new flavors such as birthday cake, chocolate hazelnut, mint chocolate chunk, and chocolate sprinkled donut (my new favorite Quest bar flavor btw) being introduced in just the short period of time since I wrote the above linked article and the time I wrote the first draft of this one in May of 2019. Undoubtedly at least one or two new flavors will have come out between then and press time. Quest Nutrition has also expanded their food offerings into low-carb high-protein chips, cookies and even pizza, which are all also quite good.

However, a bevy of clones are now vying for a place in the low-carb high-protein portable food arena alongside Quest’s offerings, and that is what we are covering in today’s article.

We will start with the budget alternative: Wal-Mart’s Equate brand. The Equate line covers a wide variety of adult nutrition products including protein bars, protein powder, and protein cookies. The bars are slightly less expensive at Wal-Mart than Quest’s offerings ($5 for a 4-pack vs. $7 for a 4-pack of Quest bars).

Equate’s protein bars are a functional alternative to Quest bars with much the same consistency and the same protein content. Taste wise, they are much blander and less flavorful than Quest’s offerings, but they use a blend of whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, pea protein, and rice protein as a contrast to Quest’s use of only whey protein isolate. Equate’s cookies, by contrast, are sweet and flavorful, but only pack 10 grams of protein to the bars’ 20, and the cookies have higher net carbs so be mindful of this when using them to hit any daily protein numbers you may have.

Switching to the higher end of the Quest clones, ONE is a new direct Quest competitor who has come onto the scene in recent years. ONE’s bars are available at Wal-Mart, Target, 7-Eleven, CVS, Safeway, Harris Teeter, and GNC for roughly the equivalent cost to Quest bars at each location. Unlike the chewy consistency of Quest and Equate bars, ONE’s bars are glazed and have a very different taste and feel from Quest bars. Still, they have roughly the same calories, protein, sugar, net carbs, and fiber as their Quest counterparts.

ONE bars come in several delicious flavors, including birthday cake, peanut butter cup, dark chocolate sea salt, maple glazed doughnut, cookie dough, blueberry cobbler, and, my personal favorite, almond bliss (which is basically a low-carb low-sugar high-protein Almond Joy bar for those who are fans of that).

Protein powder mega-players Optimum Nutrition have also thrown their hats in the low-carb low-sugar high-protein snack food ring in recent years with a diverse array of products including cake bites, protein almonds, and crispy treats, all packing the same nutritionally sound numbers as the other brands and Optimum Nutrition’s tried-and-true whey protein as their basis.

The crispy treats, available in salted toffee pretzel, vanilla marshmallow, and peanut butter crunch, are basically nutritious Rice Krispie Treats packing 20 grams of protein and only 3 grams of sugar per bar. They do contain 22-24 grams of carbs per bar, which is a bit on the high side for those on low-carb diets.

ON’s cake bites are pleasantly flavored, but the downside with them is that the different flavors of their cake bite offerings kind of taste the same to me. I’m not sure how it’s possible for birthday cake, chocolate cherry, and red velvet to taste the same, but they do. Still, the flavor is pleasant and satisfying, and ON’s cake bites are about as nutritionally sound as cake bites can be.

The almonds are delicious, and the extra fat from the almonds is beneficial in filling you up, but they only pack 10 grams of protein per bag, so be mindful of that as well.

Optimum Nutrition also offers high protein chips, wafers, energy chews, and even protein water via their website.

As I stated in my previous Quest bar profile, what essentially amounts to healthy high-protein candy should NOT form the entire basis of your diet, at dance congresses or anywhere else. But these Quest clones, alongside Quest bars in order to add some new flavors and textures, and alongside other portable shelf-stable nutritional staples such as almonds, jerky, and fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches, could be a part of the reasonably balanced dance congress diet needed to power you through your weekend! I hope this helped somebody and as always, hit the comments if you have any suggestions.

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#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Rapidfire Ketogenic Coffee

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For this, the first #FrugalCongressFood profile in quite some time, we will return to the well of ketogenic coffee to cover a new emerging alternative to Bulletproof Coffee – Rapidfire Ketogenic Coffee!

Unlike Bulletproof Coffee, which is available either as coffee grounds and other standalone ingredients, or pre-made cold brew Tetrapaks, Rapidfire is sold in convenient instant powder form in a small low-profile bag that can easily be tucked into a backpack, suitcase, or even your pocket.

Rapidfire is available on Amazon for $15 or in person at most GNC or Harris Teeter locations for $20 per bag and certain Walmart locations for $14 per bag or canister (although the canisters do not have the advantage of a low profile that the bags do). Each bag makes approximately 10-15 servings depending on how much you use, effectively making each serving of Rapidfire about $1-1.25 per serving. Depending on what you mix the powder with, you’ll effectively pay about $2-4 per cup or bottle – not bad!

The powder is a shelf-stable mix of instant coffee, grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and Himalayan salt that can be mixed into any hot or cold beverage, including hot coffee, hot water, iced or cold brew coffee, protein shakes, or even fruit smoothies (if you don’t mind adding coffee flavor to your fruit smoothie of course).

My personal preferred use of Rapidfire at work, where I use it almost daily, has been to mix a measured amount of the powder into the hot coffee offered at my job along with a scoop of collagen powder, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and some stevia and consume one cup of this mixture. On the go, I mix a measured amount of the powder into a bottled cold brew coffee beverage such as any offering from Starbucks or Dunkin’ once in the morning. I notice heightened levels of focus, alertness, energy, and attention on par with what I experience after drinking Bulletproof Coffee for several hours following consumption.

I first tried Rapidfire at the Sensual City Bootcamp in Philadelphia last February when I couldn’t get to Whole Foods for my customary Bulletproof coffee due to my schedule, and bought instead a bag of Rapidfire to try out at the 30th Street Station GNC. I found it more than capable of powering me through an intense weekend of continuous dance training, and I have also used it to help with alertness and focus in workshops at a few different congress since then with much success.

Here’s one caveat: even if you have used Bulletproof or other types of ketogenic coffee before, plan to be near a bathroom the first time you consume Rapidfire, as it takes the digestive system some getting used to, and causes minor gastrointestinal distress until then (which is common with MCT oil-based products). Sorry – that is really the classiest way I can convey this idea. Thankfully my first consumption of this product was in the morning in my hotel room well before leaving for the day. Once you have consumed it once and your body is used to it, it should not cause any further gastrointestinal distress. Don’t let this discourage you – MCT oil based products such as ketogenic coffee have multiple other health benefits and are otherwise safe to consume.

Overall, I find Rapidfire to be a very satisfactory alternative to Bulletproof that has the benefit of being less expensive, more convenient, and more portable. As always, hit the comments if you have any suggestions and I hope this helped someone.

#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Fruit/Vegetable Squeeze Pouches

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with or employed by any other company whose services I mention in this article.  Everything you read is my objective advice.  There may be affiliate links in a later update to this post, I will say so if this is the case.  Even so, I only talk about and link to products I personally use and believe in on this blog. No statements regarding the health and effectiveness of food or supplements have been evaluated by the FDA. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author. Consult your doctor before starting any dietary or exercise regimen or changing your current dietary or exercise regimen.]

I know what some of you are thinking. “You’re telling me to eat baby food out of a fricking squeeze pouch?” Indeed, when I looked up fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches on Google as part of my initial research for this article (how did you think I did research for this blog?), the very first hit was this article. “Adults, please stop eating baby food out of squeeze pouches,” scolds Emily Johnson of Epicurious.com, “you have teeth for a reason.”

I kind of see your point, Emily Johnson, but here is the thing: my readers and I are very busy people who travel a lot and live very active, on-the-go lifestyles. This is a blog for dance travelers, after all.

We all know eating a certain daily allotment of fruits and vegetables is essential to a healthy, balanced diet, and in previous discussions of how to eat at dance congresses, I have stressed the importance of eating healthy. There’s a lot of activity involved in dance congresses and many of you are letting sleep fall by the wayside (all the #TeamNoSleep hashtags and jokes about how the bed is quicksand have much truth behind them), so eating well is doubly important.

Solid fruits and vegetables are not always ideal on-the-go foods though. They’re perishable. They’re messy. Some of them have to be refrigerated. There is preparation necessary with some of them, and they take a relatively long time to actually eat. This is all well and good when you’re at home in your kitchen but in a hotel or dance studio far from home, in some cases without the solid base of a hotel room, or even on a plane, bus, or train, it becomes more of a problem. The squeeze pouch is a very handy and convenient solution here.

Squeeze pouches are exactly as the name would suggest they are. They are shelf-stable small pouches with a small spout and a twist-off cap and once the cap is off you squeeze the food inside into your mouth through the spout. The food itself is usually a sweet and palatable fruit and vegetable puree that provides all the nutrients and minerals of the respective solid fruits and vegetables with no added sugar (sweetened exclusively by the sugar in the fruits) and both natural and added fiber (to offset the loss of natural fiber from the pureeing process).

Squeeze pouches aren’t limited to delivery of fruit and vegetable puree, of course. They can also be delivery systems for almonds, protein, sunflower and chia seeds, espresso, oatmeal, and even meat products. For the sake of keeping this article at a reasonable length, and because I personally usually use squeeze pouches as an on-the-go fruit-and-vegetable delivery system, that is the capacity in which I will be examining them.

I’m going to examine a few of the more visible and well-known brands of adult fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches in the next few paragraphs. I’m mostly limiting my reviews to squeeze pouches marketed specifically to adults, to remove the stigma of “eating baby food” as much as possible.

One very prevalent, fast-rising brand in this market is Fruigees, whose name is a portmanteau of “fruits” and “veggies”. Fruigees was first conceived by two cousins in Los Angeles, CA and their flagship squeeze pouches are now widely available online and in grocery stores all over the US. Fruigees is currently available in three flavors: “24 Carrot Orange” (orange and carrot), “Kaleifornia Grape” (grapes and kale), and “Nothing Beets Cherry” (beets and cherry). Each flavor is very pleasing to the taste buds, and amazingly you can not taste the kale in the “Kalefornia Grape” flavor at all. Fruigees squeeze pouches are all organic as well as GMO and BPA free, and are essentially a mix of fruit and vegetable juice concentrates with tapioca starch and carob bean gum giving them their pleasing pudding-like consistency. Fruigees pouches are available on Jet and Amazon in 26-count boxes for about $27 or about $1.03 per pouch, and offline in stores such as Safeway, Whole Foods, and CVS at a slightly higher markup.

Noka is another solid brand of these pouches. They are available in blueberry/beet and sweet potato/goji flavors, both of which amazingly manage to retain the sweet fruity flavors of their respective fruits, at Whole Foods for around $2.85 per pouch. Each flavor also contains vegan protein and flax seeds.

Mamma Chia, the makers of their flagship eponymous chia-seed-infused beverages, also have recently expanded into their own squeeze pouch offering called Chia Squeeze Vitality Snacks, a mix of fruit juice concentrates and chia seeds.

Target sells Go Gourmet’s Organic Slammers brand of pureed superfood snacks filled with bananas, apples, blueberries, strawberries, beets, acai, and amaranth (a nutrient-rich grain that is also high in protein) for $3.79 for a 4-pack or about 94 cents per pouch.

7-Eleven also makes their own fruit squeeze pouches under their 7-Select brand, but these are not available at every 7-Eleven.

If packaging and marketing aimed at children doesn’t bother you, GoGo SqueeZ pouches are available at Wal-Mart for about $6 for a three-pack and at Harris Teeter for a slightly higher price.

Once the stigma of “eating baby food” is gone, squeeze pouches can be a very easy and palatable way to get some fruits and vegetables into your congress diet easily. Granted, they will always cost more than regular solid fruits and vegetables and juices; that is a given. The key aspects of squeeze pouches that make them attractive to active on-the-go people such as dance congress attendees are shelf-stability, portability, and non-perishability, and those three traits always come at some kind of premium.

That’s all I got for this profile. As always, hit the comments if you have any suggestions or additions and I hope this helps someone!

#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Bulletproof Coffee – The Brain Elixir

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I am not affiliated directly with or employed by Bulletproof, I am merely a loyal user of their products.  At the time of this writing, I also am not directly affiliated with or employed by any other company whose services I mention in this article.  Everything you read is my objective advice.  There may be affiliate links in a later update to this post, I will say so if this is the case.  Even so, I only talk about and link to products I personally use and believe in on this blog. No statements regarding the health and effectiveness of food or supplements have been evaluated by the FDA. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author. Consult your doctor before starting any dietary or exercise regimen or changing your current dietary or exercise regimen.]

Anyone who knows me knew this profile was coming at some point.  For those who don’t know what Bulletproof Coffee is, it is coffee with some form of dietary fat in it, usually a combination of grass-fed butter or ghee and MCT or coconut oil, with an optional addition of collagen powder for joint and skin health and usually stevia and cinnamon for sweetness and flavor. I sometimes like to add chocolate greens powder as well, but this isn’t considered an official ingredient of Bulletproof coffee.

Although I will be using Bulletproof Coffee as a Xerox/Kleenex-like catch-all term for any coffee with butter and oil in it, there is actually a company called Bulletproof, started by entrepreneur and butter-and-oil-coffee pioneer Dave Asprey, which sells its own Bulletproof-branded coffee products (beans, grounds, and pre-brewed coffee), ghee, MCT oil, and collagen powder and markets their offerings as technically superior to more generic similar products. The jury is out on this to me, but I will be conducting a comparison experiment between Bulletproof’s products and generic alternatives at a later time and will chronicle this experiment on the blog.

As I have alluded to in previous posts, I am a fan of Bulletproof Coffee for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost is the cognitive benefits.  The proven “brain food” ketone-synthesizing cognitive benefits of dietary fat combined with the wakefulness and energy of caffeine combine in Bulletproof Coffee to increase mental alertness, clarity, focus, and concentration.

Let’s face it: congress workshops are an exceptionally tough learning environment.  Many workshops are crowded, you’re fatigued from a long night, there’s a lot to learn in a relatively short time and time for review and practice is limited, you’re managing many different partners’ individual skill and comfort levels while trying to learn complex turn patterns and/or body movements at the same time, lead to follow ratios are frequently askew, people don’t know how to rotate, people have conversations while the instructor is talking making it hard to hear them, that one f**king dude is trying to get every girl’s number and disrupting the class (he’s in every damn workshop it seems), and so on.  It is understandably hard to learn under such conditions, so anything that gives a mental edge will help a lot with learning in the typical congress workshop environment.  I frequently drink a large cup of Bulletproof coffee right before beginning workshops for the day at a dance congress and it helps. It’s not a magic bullet, but it helps.

Another benefit is that dietary fat is proven to be filling and dull the appetite throughout the day, which prevents overeating and has obvious benefits in that regard at a frugal congress.  Additionally, the fat in the butter and the MCT oil has the effect of smoothing out the caffeine buzz and making it last longer, rather than a sharp spike and crash.

Clearly, this is a good drink to have for dance congresses overall for a variety of reasons.

There are a smattering of restaurants and cafes that sell pre-made Bulletproof Coffee around the US, such as Bon Vivant Cafe+Farm Market in Alexandria, VA, but these places are few and far between and tend to sell their Bulletproof Coffee at a high mark-up, so mostly you will be purchasing the various ingredients of Bulletproof coffee and making it yourself.  Alternately, Bulletproof has just begun selling a cold-brew grab-and-go ready-to-drink version of Bulletproof Coffee, but it is very expensive, at almost $60 for a 12-pack online, or $4.99 per individual container at Whole Foods, so making Bulletproof Coffee yourself is still the optimal #FCL strategy (although I’ll indulge in a few containers of Bulletproof Cold Brew every so often).

In this post, I will take a look at Bulletproof Coffee’s different ingredients in depth and offer some more frugal alternatives to Bulletproof’s official offerings, which can be a bit on the expensive side.  All these ingredients are shelf-stable and do not need to be refrigerated unless otherwise noted.

Bulletproof’s branded ingredients as well as their more frugal substitutes can be found locally at Whole Foods or online on Amazon or various online retailers.

Coffee:

The most obvious component.  Bulletproof offers their own grounds, beans, and instant coffee. They claim that their coffee has a reduced amount of the mycotoxins supposedly found in regular coffee.  As someone who has lived and worked in mycotoxic environments and had some mild ill health effects as a result, I can intimately appreciate the dangers of mycotoxins, but the jury’s out on whether paying the premium for Bulletproof’s coffee products makes an appreciable difference in performance.  To be honest, I usually get the coffee component of Bulletproof Coffee I make at congresses from the nearest Starbucks or from the hotel’s free coffee dispensers, if they exist in that particular hotel.

Ghee:

Ghee is a type of clarified butter prepared by churning, simmering, and preserving the clear liquid fat from butter or cream, and is composed of almost entirely fat, most of which is saturated fat (Wikipedia).

Bulletproof’s ghee, which Bulletproof advertises as coming from grass-fed cows, comes in a 13 ounce jar that lasts for close to a month with normal daily usage in Bulletproof Coffee and averages about $25 for a jar.

If you use Bulletproof’s Ghee, be sure to regularly clean the lid of the jar and don’t fasten it too tight.  The ghee in Bulletproof’s jar can harden and make the lid very difficult to get off (even for a longtime weightlifter) if there is ghee on the lid or the lid is fastened too tightly.

Organic Valley also sells 7.5 ounce jars of ghee that last about 2 weeks with normal daily usage in Bulletproof Coffee for about $8 on average, and its lids don’t have the hardening issue that Bulletproof’s ghee jars do and are always easy to get off.

You can also use grass-fed butter purchased from a grocery store for about $3 as a substitute for ghee, and that will last you about a week of normal usage, but keep in mind that butter, unlike ghee, is much more perishable and needs to be refrigerated.

MCT oil:

Medium-chain triglyceride oil is a fatty oil that is frequently distilled from coconut oil and is a concentrated and high-potency form of the essential fatty acids found in coconut oil.  These are many of the fatty acids that drive ketone synthesis and are therefore an essential component of Bulletproof Coffee. (Wikipedia)

Bulletproof’s MCT oil offering is called Brain Octane Oil, and a 16 oz bottle sells for about $25 and will last for about a month and a half of normal daily usage in Bulletproof coffee.

Do not use Bulletproof’s MCT oils without butter or ghee – using the oils by themselves will cause gastrointestinal distress, why I do not know exactly.  Pairing MCT oil with butter or ghee seems to alleviate the GI distress caused by MCT oil by itself.

There are other less expensive MCT oils averaging around $15-25 for a 16-32 ounce bottle.  I can not comment on their effectiveness as I have mostly stuck with Bulletproof’s MCT oil.  Sometimes MCT oil causes gastrointestinal distress in some people, so start with a little bit and go up from there until you figure out what you can or can’t handle, and always pair it with butter or ghee.  Eating a lot of other healthy fats, such as avocado, salmon, and almonds, in your diet is recommended as making MCT oil your only source of fats will amplify negative side effects.

Coconut oil is an acceptable substitute for MCT oil in Bulletproof coffee and you can include it by itself without gastrointestinal distress, unlike MCT oil.  Make sure you use unrefined extra virgin coconut oil.  A jar that will last you for close to two months with normal use in Bulletproof Coffee can be purchased for as low as $10-15.  It is not as concentrated or potent as MCT oil, but it still gets the job done.

If you are trying to pack light, Kelapo sells coconut oil and ghee mixed together in one jar, or in packets.  The packets are pretty expensive, at $25 for four packets, but they are convenient on the go.  A 13 ounce jar that will last you about 3-4 weeks can be found for about $20, but keep in mind the jar has the same issues as Bulletproof’s ghee jar and should be cleaned regularly and not put on too tight.

Bulletproof also sells “InstaMix” packets containing a mixture of their ghee and Brain Octane oil for on-the-go mixing in coffee at a cost of about $35 for 14 packets.

Collagen powder:

Collagen is a structural protein found in animal bodies, skin, and tissue, and collagen powder is a purified form of collagen extracted from the body, skin, and tissue of animals, usually cows.  When collagen in this form is ingested by humans, it has the effect of helping to rebuild joint tissue and cartilage, making it an excellent cure for aching knees and shoulders, and also has the added benefit of rebuilding skin, nails, and hair, providing anti-aging benefits.  (Wikipedia)

I like to add a few tablespoons of collagen powder to my Bulletproof coffee to help alleviate joint pain and as part of a regular anti-aging regimen, but this is optional.

One of my favorite collagen powders is Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate, which comes in a 16 oz container that lasts you a little over a month with normal daily usage in Bulletproof Coffee for about $25.  It has a slightly beefy flavor to it in its raw form, but this can barely be tasted if at all once it is in the coffee.  You can only find this brand of collagen online as far as I know.

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides can be found at Whole Foods or online for about $25 for a 10 ounce container that will last you about 2-3 weeks, and is completely flavorless.

Bulletproof also sells their own collagen powder for $39.95 for a 16 ounce container. I recently got a tub of their chocolate collagen powder on sale and it adds a very pleasing chocolate flavor to Bulletproof coffee, and is very effective as a collagen supplement as well.

Cinnamon:

Cinnamon in Bulletproof Coffee is strictly for flavor.  Not much that needs to be said about cinnamon, it’s cinnamon.  If I am getting my coffee at Starbucks, they provide cinnamon for free, as well as chocolate, vanilla, and nutmeg powder.  Otherwise, cinnamon can be found at any grocery store for about $2 and will last you a very long time.

Stevia:

I like to add sweeteners to taste to sweeten my coffee, and stevia, derived naturally from a plant of the same name, is the sweetener I favor.  Boxes of about 50 packets of stevia can be found at any grocery store for around $2-3.

Optional – Chocolate protein or greens powder:

I like to add some kind of chocolate powder to my Bulletproof coffee for chocolate flavor, but this is entirely optional.

Barlean’s Chocolate Greens powder, which provides a concentrated dose of several essential green vegetables and has a sweet, rich dark chocolate flavor, would be a good addition to your Bulletproof coffee.  Add one small scoop of this powder.

Any chocolate protein powder would work well for this purpose as well.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 of a scoop to taste.

How to make Bulletproof coffee:

Warning: do not prepare Bulletproof Coffee in a styrofoam cup or attempt to drink it out of a styrofoam cup.  The MCT oil has some kind of chemical reaction with styrofoam that causes the styrofoam to dissolve quickly and spray your drink all over the immediate vicinity.  MCT oil melts styrofoam, avoid putting Bulletproof Coffee in a styrofoam cup.  This reaction does not occur with any other material.

When it comes to making Bulletproof coffee, the common wisdom is that a blender is the best method for mixing the ingredients, but I personally do not do this as I frequently do not have a blender on hand and do not recommend putting hot coffee in a blender, particularly a high-end one.

My favorite method for making Bulletproof coffee without a blender is as follows:

– Put cinnamon, collagen powder, optional chocolate protein/greens powder, and ghee in bottom of coffee mug first

– Add MCT/Brain Octane oil

– Stir vigorously until mixed together into sludge

– Fill cup to about 1/4 full and stir vigorously until mixture is fully mixed with coffee

– Fill cup to top with coffee and stir until fully mixed

I find this method is the best way to mix the ingredients and yields the best-tasting and most potent Bulletproof coffee, and that if you pour the coffee and mix the ingredients in after, some of the powders (particularly the cinnamon) end up on the bottom of the drink and it doesn’t taste as good nor is it as potent.

Obviously, this will not be the optimal method if you are buying coffee from, for example, a hotel coffee shop on the go where you get the cup with the coffee already in it.  One possible workaround for this is to mix the Bulletproof ingredients in another small paper or plastic cup (as long as it isn’t styrofoam) and bring the mix down to the coffee shop to add to their coffee.

Here is a picture of a cup of Bulletproof coffee I made using this method:

That’s it for this food profile. Look for my Bulletproof experiment where I compare my performance in a dance class after drinking coffee made with Bulletproof’s products vs coffee made with generic ingredients at a later time. Hit up the comments if you have anything to add and happy coffee drinking!

– Owen

#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Quest Bars – The Realest Protein Bars Out There

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I am not affiliated directly with Quest Nutrition, I am merely a loyal user of their products.  Everything you read is my objective advice.  There may be affiliate marketing links in a later update to this post, I will say so if this is the case.  Even so, I only talk about and link to products I personally use and believe in on this blog. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author. Consult your doctor before starting any dietary or exercise regimen or changing your current dietary or exercise regimen.]

For this new series on #FrugalCongressLife, I will be profiling a specific food that I bring to congresses as a staple food item for daily eating on a budget outside of my one restaurant meal.

Since I promised y’all a Quest bar profile in this post, my first #FrugalCongressFood profile will be on Quest bars.

When we think of food we buy beforehand to be frugal and bring to a dance congress where time to eat may be limited if you are trying to do a lot, portability and non-perishability are two very important qualities we look for.  We want food that won’t spoil and that we can eat on the go.  Nutrition bars and protein bars fit this bill perfectly, but the problem with this is, from an actual nutritional standpoint, most nutrition bars and protein bars are terrible.  The vast majority of protein bars on the market are basically candy bars with a little bit of low-grade soy protein sprinkled on to up the protein content.  So are there any good nutritionally sound protein or nutrition bars?

Now, I lift weights, as most of you should for a multitude of reasons, but that’s a different post probably for a different blog.  But since I lift weights, I aim for a daily protein intake of at least 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass (muscle and tissue minus body fat) in order to grow and maintain lean mass.  I have a lean mass of about 175 pounds, so I go for about 175 grams of protein daily.

Obviously, it’s hard to get all of this protein from what we traditionally think of as “real” food without eating every second of every day, so I have been eating protein powders and bars in addition to my regular meals to hit my necessary daily protein numbers for years now.  Obviously, protein powder is not the most portable food ever and takes some preparation to make into a drinkable protein shake, and sometimes a more portable and on-the-go protein solution is called for.  Enter Quest Nutrition‘s flagship product, Quest bars.  I was eating Quest bars long before dance and dance congresses came into the picture, but they make perfect sense as portable and non-perishable dance congress food too.

Quest bars are available in various flavors including but not limited to chocolate chip cookie dough, s’mores, mint chocolate, double chocolate brownie, white chocolate raspberry, apple pie, and, more recently, birthday cake.

What sets Quest bars apart from the legions of other protein bars is their ingredients.  I often say Quest bars are the realest protein bars out there, and the ingredients are why.  The protein used in Quest bars is high quality whey protein isolate.  Whey protein isolate is a processed form of whey protein, a fast-digesting protein favored by weightlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes for its fast delivery of protein to the muscles and originating from whey, a liquid material created from milk as a byproduct of cheese production.  Whey protein isolate is processed to remove the fat and cholesterol and is 90% protein by weight.

Quest bars also contain soluble corn fiber, which is a form of prebiotic fiber that helps digestion, as well as giving the bars their trademark pleasing chewy texture.  They are also low in sugar and are sweetened with sucralose, and stevia, two of the best types of artificial sweeteners.  Various natural ingredients and flavors (such as unsweetened chocolate and sea salt) form the basis of each bar’s individual flavor.  The fiber and the sugar alcohols work in tandem to give Quest bars an average of only 4-6 grams of net carbohydrates per bar, making them an ideal portable food choice for those on low-carb diets as well.

To sum it up, unlike the “candy bars with protein” out there, Quest bars are essentially huge chunks of whey protein and fiber that are made pleasing to the palate by natural sweeteners and ingredients.

Quest bars are available at 7-Eleven and CVS, but are very expensive there at close to $3 per bar.  The best place to get Quest bars offline is Wal-Mart, where they sell for $1.77 per bar or $7 for a box of six bars.  Online, they sell on Amazon for $22.37 for a 12 count box or on Bodybuilding.com for $24.99 per 12 count box.  Yes this is still a lot and foods you have to prepare are much less expensive, but this is portable on-the-go food we’re looking at here and that always comes at some sort of premium cost-wise.

Now, obviously, you don’t want to eat nothing but Quest bars.  Protein and fiber are the only daily nutrients they cover, and a balanced diet that does not make.  You still need to eat some fat and at least a small amount of carbs, and you’ll need to get fruits and vegetables in your diet too.  However, as a filling and nutritionally sound portable food item to eat on the go in between workshops and provide some of your daily protein and fiber on the fly, you would do very well indeed to pack a handful of these bars into your dance bag.

– Owen