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Twisted Prey - John Sandford

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - John LeCarre

UNSUB - Meg Gardiner

A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps

How It Happened by Michael Koryta

The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

Star of the North - D.B. John

The Sinners - Ace Atkins

The Outsider - Stephen King

Spymaster - Brad Thor

The Other Woman - Daniel Silva

The Man Between - Charles Cumming 

Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre 

Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap by Paul Grant 

Berlin Game - Len Deighton (for the Spybrary book club)

Desolation Mountain - William Kent Krueger

Podcast Favorites . (The life and Legacy of Ian Fleming, with author and historian Jeremy Duns, always an excellent and entertaining interview) . (the true story of Oleg Penkovsky, regarded by many as the greatest spy of the Cold War era - with Jeremy Duns, whose book on the topic, Dead Drop, is a classic) (wonderful history of Ian Fleming's involvement at Bletchley Park during WWII, and Anthony Horowitz making a presentation about his new James Bond novel, Forever And A Day. "How I Nearly Started World War III" with Mark Valley, host of the Live Drop Espionage podcast


Entries in #arnoldclassic (2)


Ultimate Nutrition Iso Gold Protein

At the early March Arnold Classic Expo, I happily bought two 5 lb jugs of whey isolate from Ultimate Nutrition. Yeah, this was my gateway purchase for tickets to meet and get signed photos from Dexter Jackson and Phil Heath, but hey, ten pounds of quality whey isolate for $50? I was in. 

Today the second jug was emptied. Anne and I went through the 10# in a month, more or less. Probably our standard pace. But how much protein powder we consume isn't the point. five pounds of chocolate goodness

Ultimate's Iso Gold mixes in a Blender Bottle well (even with BCAA at the same time). Not superbly, not on the order of, say, a Progenex or Gaspari or even the thicker BSN, but nicely. We didn't get lumps or have problems mixing it by hand. No chunks of Iso Gold were clinging to the inside of the Blender Bottle.

In the Blendtec, clearly there were no mixing issues. Nothing slows down the Blendtec (don't believe me? watch this video!). I mixed Ultimate Iso Gold in various combinations with Fiberlyze, fruit, almond butter, Carbolyze, Real Food, Build, various BCAA powders, and Vitargo. All came out smooth, creamy, and frankly delicious.

That's right, Chocolate Creme Iso Gold from Ultimate Nutrition tastes great. Not too artificial at all, a good chocolate. I had it on vanilla ice cream one time, just to give it the texture test, and it passed.

Mixing Iso Gold into oatmeal was the only place it stumbled. The flavor was fine and wasn't altered, but the protein powder seemed to get lumpy in the hot oatmeal and didn't mix as nicely via spoon as I wanted it to. Certainly this wasn't a stumbling block and I continued to use it in oatmeal (along with a half scoop of Fiberlyze, sometimes a scattering of nuts or a few raisins, even a smattering of granola on top when I was heading for a big workout). I'm a texture guy and I had no problem with how Iso Gold acted in oatmeal, but some like it smoother or creamier.

For the money, I consider my investment in Ultimate Nutrition Iso Gold to have paid off handsomly!

@UNutrition, @arnoldsportsfestival, #arnoldclassic, #blendtec, @Blendtec, @BlenderBottle


Complete Nutrition Expands with New Product Line

One of the busiest booths at the Arnold Classic in March was the Complete Nutrition booth. Centrally-located, these ambitious first-time attendees had four lines going at all times, giving away bags of product (in return for names and emails, of course). Pre-Arnold, Complete Nutrition told me they were bringing 180,000 samples to the show! That’s serous commitment. I was impressed with the consistently happy-to-see-yoy attitude displayed by their employees throughout the exhausting three-day run.

Complete Nutrition has a new, extensive line of products, all announced at the Arnold and handed out in massive quantities. Their new Charge On Bars enter a crowded marketplace of all-natural, whole-food protein bars. I like the first ingredient in their proprietary protein blend: whey protein isolate. Also included is milk protein isolate, whey protein crisps, whey protein concentrate, tapioca starch, calcium carbonate, and sunflower lecithin. Basically, traditional protein bar label reading. Charge On Bars taste good, I like the relatively soft texture and mouth feel. The 16 grams of fiber in each bar is a good thing, balanced with the relatively small 5 grams of sugar. Each bar contains 28 grams of carbs. As protein bars go, Charge On bars seem as viable as any others. Keep in mind, real food and protein powder is always superior to bars in most situations, in my opinion.

Moving into the pre-workout market, Complete Nutrition does so with Liquid NX6 Shots. This 4 fluid ounce bottle is a single serving, believe it or not (it’s pretty big). Included is Beta-Alanine, arginine silicate, Amla Fruit extract, taurine, l-arginine, l-citruline malate, and vanadyll sulfate. The taste is good.  I’ve experimented with using Liquid NX6 pre-workout with a breakfast containing only protein/fat, and with a carb-heavy oatmeal breakfast. My pump was superior following the oatmeal, naturally, no surprise there, but even in a near-ketosis situation, I could feel myself filling out during the workout when I drank the NX6. I used it in the gym, right before beginning the session.

Also part of the new line are Charge On RTD Protein Drinks, in big 16.9 fluid ounce bottles. Each contains 20 grams of protein, and in the words of Complete Nutrition, “The 20 grams of isolate protein is supercharged with Velositol, an innovative new ingredient shown to double the power of protein.” Frankly, I have no idea what that is and whether it can possibly have such benefit. I’m not a fan of RTD protein, in any case. I much prefer blending quality protein powder with BCAA and creatine and MCT oil, trusting my choices for going into the blender.

Amino Uptake is a packet of 5 grams of amino acids, dosed with green coffee bean. The standard for many BCAA blends today is to add caffeine in one form or another. I’m not sure why. I consume plenty of coffee and espresso on my own and don’t need it in my amino acids, but it’s there all the time, it seems.

Pre-X7 is a powdered pre-workout supplement. Each serving has 3 grams of creatine, 750 milligrams of a nitric oxide (Nitrosigine), 3.2 grams of Carnosyn (glucose to help get through your workout strongly), and an unknown amount of AGmass, which Complete says enhances glucose uptake. I’ve not tried this yet, and I think I only have one packet, so I’ll not really know how it compares to other similar products.

Muscle Recovery RX4 interests me; each jar contains 120 softgels, 3 per serving. These have CLA, L-Leucine, MCT oil, ashwaganda root, a fancy form of calcium, and tart cherry powder. I’ll use these for a month along with my post-workout shake. 

Citrine is the “weight management” product, 120 capsules per jar (60 servings). This is their empty stomach fat burner, I assume. In each capsule is Vitamin B6, B12, caffeine, Theacrine, Huperzine, Casicum Extract, citrus avantium 6% synephrine, rhodiola rosea extract, ashwagandha root & leaf extract, and ginkgo bilobo extract. I’ll use this Citrine the same month I use the RX4, on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Citrine bottle label

I find this new lineup of products interesting, but not ground-breaking and innovative. However, I’m not looking for magic. There’s already enough snake-oil merchants selling easy solutions. As a group of health and fitness supplements added to the existing Complete Nutrition line, this appears a worthy addition to their stacks and existing lines.

Why was Complete Nutrition investing so much money and time at the Arnold Classic? Their primary competitors, GNC and Vitamin Shoppe, no longer consistently set-up. GNC has gone from a major sponsor of strongman events, with a large interactive booth, to no visible presence at all. I’ve no inside information at all, but I’ve heard enough rumbling the last couple of years that GNC is hurting. Perhaps Complete Nutrition is taking a run at GNC itself, hoping to carve a bigger piece of the ever-expanding pie.

@completenutritn, @arnoldsportsfesitival