vega sport performance protein: protein worth slurping

I went to law school with a guy who kept a massive tub of whey protein in his library carrel. It sat there - an oversized, red, plastic, shiny thing, boasting it's high, fast-acting protein content - among sterile piles of papers and books. I never saw him consuming any of it in the library, but got a front row view of his increasing body fat percentage over the course of Con Law II. After graduation, when I would hit the local gym for a terrified pantomime on the treadmill of what it felt like to have the bar exam take over your life, I saw him on the elliptical, sweating and sipping from a shaker cup. In the same clothes he'd been wearing all week. Suddenly his increasingly bad B.O. every time finals came around started to make sense. I ran home to tell my best friend all about it.
My casual, deliberately superficial exposure to this classmate - there are many things I can forgive, but bad hygiene isn't one of them - turned me off protein shakes for the next few years. Ironically, after moving back to Tokyo, I've found myself gravitating towards the people that my law school classmate probably looked up to. The guys that lift heavy and hard, have massive biceps, and sometimes sip protein shakes during their workouts. The gym rat persona appealed to me, but chewing real food always sounded more...delicious. And besides, I'm lactose intolerant. Whey would blow my intestines apart.
But once I added squats to the miles I was putting on my legs, I started to consciously crave meat on my rides. At the same time, I noticed that by the time I got home, the last thing I really wanted to do was chew. Still wary of whey, and more than a little guilt-ridden by the animals I was enthusiastically consuming, I took a chance and invested in a tub of Vega Sport Performance Protein, a vegan, plant-based protein powder. In chocolate, of course.

A blend of pea, saviseed, alfalfa and brown rice protein, Vega mixes up easily in water and tastes like your run-of-the-mill protein shake; chocolate-y enough but you can definitely taste the Stevia. As much as I detest calories [or more accurately, my undying love for calories, preferably of the empty variety], I've never been a fan of sweeteners devoid of those kCals. Artificial sweeteners are, to me, kind of like having a fuck buddy; the concept is nice but the reality is a little disappointing. You try to like it, like a little something sweet is better than nothing at all, but your heart just knows that something not quite right is going on here. It doesn't even matter if you're a heartless jerk, either, because in the end, even your body starts resenting the deprivation of unconditional caloric love.
Which is where I sigh, with a hand over my heart, look at my bike, and thank endurance sports. And bananas.

The addition of a half to a whole banana, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, and the right amount of water and ice can turn Vega into the only protein shake I'll ever chug straight out of the blender. It's so good, I'll scrape the sides of the blender out with my finger while licking chocolate off my face. It becomes a dark chocolate sludge worth slurping after hitting the gym, or between a somewhat rushed intense ride and going into the office on the weekend. It can be an alternative to chicken or tofu, but the best part of protein powders, I've learned, is that they're convenient. I use it for those times I don't have time for a real meal [because are you really allowed to eat lunch at 11?], but I want something in my stomach so I don't start turning into a diva [I'm allergic to peanuts so the Snickers bar option is out]. It tastes like a total indulgence, is completely digestible for those with unpredictable stomaches that aren't capable of digesting anything, like mine, and I feel like I'm doing something good for the planet. And my muscles. Win, win, win, and win.

Like my law school classmate's tub of protein, mine usually lurks quietly in a corner of my kitchen. That guy still serves as a kind of cautionary tale against the myth that pounding protein shakes [or protein bars; Vega makes a pretty addictive one, as my thighs could probably tell you] three times a day will magically get you ripped. But when I pull or lift heavy enough to scrape some skin off my callouses, or when my hamstrings ache for three days straight, or when I consider blending my chicken so I can get it into my stomach faster, I reach for that big black tub, a banana, some cocoa, and a little water. I blend, sit back, and bliss out.

sweating changes

I am a creature of habit. Or at least, I strive to be. I like to unconsciously stumble to the bathroom and reach for my toothbrush with most of my brain still asleep. Have my feet lead me to my computer to turn it on while I boil water for coffee. Grab a mug from the cupboard on the right side of the sink, my hand knowing exactly how high to reach without a visual guide, much less conscious thought.
All of which meant that I was slightly afraid to wake up this morning. Because after three years, I’ve moved.


Not to a different, exciting city, not even to a different zip code. I schlepped my stuff [with the help of a few movers] a staggering ten blocks, two bikes in tow and more clothes than one girl should ever really own. After unpacking 80% of my things, pacing in an unfamiliar room, it finally hit me that things are changing - like really fast - and the anxiety crept up like that super commuter that hangs onto your wheel in all of his glorious neon. The one you can’t really seem to shake, making you be all like shit, is this really happening?
Unfortunately, [for me,] it is. My bar review course has started [before graduation!] which means 8-10 hours of studying a day, six days a week. Which wouldn’t be such a huge deal if I wasn’t so used to being so goddamn lazy, rolling out on 2 hour rides whenever I wasn’t expected to be in class. And trying to figure out how I was going to get those precious minutes and miles in, between studying and unpacking, I’ve been staring at my rollers with a mixture of relief and exasperation. Thank God I have those things so whenever I have time, I can jump on the bike and really savor indoor riding in the summertime!
It doesn’t help that I’m on a fourth floor apartment now, currently with no AC. Because it is fucking hot outside, people. A few days ago, I did a sweaty 2 hours in the saddle, inhaled lunch, went to meet my law school bestie for coffee, got nearly knocked out by an iced Americano [my first this year], and then almost passed out later. As in like fainted, not like spontaneously fell asleep as I'm prone to do. I forgot how much I suck at dealing with heat, even if I spent at least half my life in swelteringly humid Tokyo summers.


All of which led me to purchase a neon colored drink yesterday in an attempt to restore the electrolytes I was losing. Wait, don’t [mis]judge. I am not one of those people who insist on keeping protein powder in their library carrel because studying really flexes that big muscle in your head and obviously you need 100 grams of protein every other hour to keep that engine running. I just sweat. Like a lot. More than can be deemed normal or sexy; once temps hit 23C/73F+, I start not only feeling, but actively looking like turkey jerky.
So electrolyte supplements are sort of making a delayed entrance into my life. Mike’s a big fan of Nuun, and I love how you can carry it with you and only use it when you need it. I have two packs of Japan’s infamous Pocari Sweat and curiosity finally getting the better of me, I bought a sample pack of Vega Sport. But after my recent discovery that anything sugary quickly translates into acne [gross, I know], I’m a little hesitant to rely on any powders or shakes or what have you. Yeah, yeah, I know you can mix up a little ghetto fabulous electrolyte drink by mixing salt in a glass of water but I’m just not that into drinking straight up salt water on my rides [yet].


It did occur to me that the Master Cleanse formula of lemon juice, water, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper might do the trick as well. Might even make my rides a little more caliente. And then I realized I would probably end up on my hands and knees on the side of the road, gripping the grass or gravel with my hands while I tried to hack ground pepper out of the back of my throat. That is not caliente, even if I was in full Capo.
But like my incompetent fumbling with the hot water in the shower yesterday, which I’m confident will soon turn into an unconscious flick of the knob to get it just the way I like it, I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Hopefully harden up in the process, too. Because I have a date in a few weekends that’s going to involve a few good hours sweating. And passing out is probably the last thing I want to do.