Trail Runner’s Review: Gnarly Nutrition

This review was written by Sarah Barber, a lifetime resident of Boise, Idaho, who has been a Life Flight Paramedic for seventeen years, and currently works in a dual capacity as a clinician and a Quality Manager. When she’s not flying in helicopters or collecting data for continuous quality improvement, she can be found trail running with her dog and camping with her husband in the mountains of her home state and throughout the northwest. The products reviewed were provided at no charge to the author.

Let’s face it: if you’re getting less than six hours of sleep per night, training inconsistently, or subsisting on espresso and Twinkies, it’s unlikely that any amount of nutritional supplementation will compensate. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume you’re already doing everything right. Even then, most dieticians advise meeting nutritional demands by ingesting a diverse buffet of real food. However, the pace of modern society—and maybe also the pace of your workout—sometimes makes that impossible. This is where Gnarly Nutrition enters the kitchen with a new line of products categorized according to function, activity, and frequency of use. This Utah-based company wants to help you “push your possible”—in other words, Gnarly endeavors to optimize human potential through research-based nutritional powders and potions backed by science.

While the benefits of adequate and appropriately-timed ingestion of protein for endurance athletes are well-documented, the nuances of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and collagen are fuzzier. But cordyceps, reishi, and turmeric? The controversy is right up there with Vibram versus HOKA for footwear preferences.

But, I’m not here to debate whether athletes should supplement. I’m here to say that those who do should consider making Gnarly Nutrition their personal sous-chef, regardless of the sport or the season. For starters, Mother Nature is prioritized in every way, from sustainable packaging to pasture-raised peptides. Additionally, the majority of Gnarly’s products are NSF certified for sport (and labeled accordingly) to ensure zero risk of banned substance contamination—or worse. Finally, Gnarly offers pricing that’s as competitive as any podium-finisher once you subscribe and spend enough for free shipping.

Like most endurance junkies, recovery is where I need the most help (although Gnarly has product lines to cover everything from the RDA of vitamins to pre-workout kindling to in-game fuel), and their online quiz confirmed this conclusion. By asking questions about my sport of choice, fitness goals, and workout style, Gnarly came up with a clever, customized sample box geared toward building strength outside of training. My box included single servings of chocolate and vanilla whey protein powder, a proprietary collagen blend, one packet of caffeine-containing BCAAs, and one packet that promised threshold exceedance (mental and physical) with less protein breakdown during my workout. Intriguing.

Mixing up a drink with Gnarly Berry Lemonade.

There aren’t many protein powders on the market that eschew superfluous carbs and fat without sacrificing taste, but Gnarly Nutrition earned its Michelin stars with the chocolate Gnarly Whey. Miraculously, water and a quick stir produced a homogenous solution—no fancy shaker required. Protein powders generally conjure words like “chalky,” “clumpy,” and “aftertaste.” As such, I usually enjoy protein drinks about as much as I enjoy doing my taxes, but this was different. I kind of wanted more! I’m fortunate to have an iron constitution, but even those with more sensitive guts might be pleased to know that digestive enzymes are in the mix to aid with protein absorption and the management of lactose.

The next morning, I poured a sleeve of Gnarly Collagen Pro into my coffee. Full stop. If I’m honest, I only used about half of the “serving,” as it appeared to be nearly double my usual dose of collagen. And indeed it was. But that just means an entire tub of the stuff will last twice as long as the label indicates because I’d be using one scoopful instead of two. The best collagen supplements are a little bit like the famously fictional iocaine powder (minus the deadly side effects) in that they are odorless, tasteless, and dissolve instantly in liquid. Gnarly is right on target with this. They also managed to add vitamin C for enhanced absorption, as well as cofactors zinc and copper to kickstart the body’s own production of endogenous collagen in response to the supplement. Brilliant.

I saved the most exciting sample for last: Gnarly Pre-Workout. Show me a runner who’s not interested in “unmatched energy and high-caliber performance for explosive workouts,” and I’ll show you someone with their proverbial pants on fire. Once in a while, I join my decades-younger friends for a track workout, and on these occasions, I find myself desperate for anything legal that might help me keep up. Green tea leaf extract, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, ginger, and BCAAs: why not? I might be the ultimate skeptic, but if a placebo is an inert substance that provokes perceived benefits, it still works. But I don’t think caffeine and sugar and water would have had the same effect on me—Gnarly’s benefits are real. And they’re really good. With Gnarly Nutrition on my team, maybe I can subsist on espresso and Twinkies after all!

The products from this review can be found at Gnarly Nutrition.

Editor’s Note: Check out Tayte Pollman’s article, A Discussion Of Third Party Certification With Gnarly Nutrition’s Dr. Shannon O’Grady.

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