Following the original post, Scivation was kind enough to send over a care package that contained a tub of each of the new flavors: Crisp Apple and Mixed Berry.
There’s hardly any options as far as naturally sweetened BCAA products available, but there’s clearly interest in it as more and more users are seeking them out on our Best BCAA Supplement buyer’s guide. Having spent the past few weeks putting Xtend Free through various taste tests, workouts, water ratios, and even temperatures, we’ve got our full review!
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This is really a tale of two reviews, Robert vs. Mike.
Ultimately, it comes down to setting expectations and understanding the right demographic. The fact is that BCAAs taste (and smell) notoriously awful. Sucralose (ie the stuff in Splenda) is the secret weapon in sweetening BCAAs, but if an all-natural product can’t use it, what’s to be done?
The answer is that stevia is getting there, but it’s not there for the general consumer/bro out there who’s used to sucralose and doesn’t care about artificial sweeteners.
The good news is that for the first time ever, we finally have an acceptable BCAA powder option for anti-artificial sweetener consumers.
There’s not much to say about the profile outside of what we covered in the original blog post. Xtend Free has the exact same BCAA / electrolyte content as the original Xtend, except there’s no artificial colors or sweeteners in it. You still get 7g of BCAAs in the clinically-backed 2:1:1 ratio along with glutamine, citrulline malate and hydration agents.
The big selling point obviously is that there’s NO artificial colors, sucralose, or ace-K. Now, for some, this may entice them to buy the product, but I’m not put off enough by artificial sweeteners to buy a product simply based on the fact that it’s all-natural.
Still, the profile is essentially the same from the original Xtend, which is the important thing, so we’re off to a good start!
Mixability (**when shaken)
FAIR WARNING: It may have helped if Mike told Robert that it’s best to *stir* these, rather than shake them. Sorry!
The initial trial with mixing Xtend Free was somewhat unsuccessful. I added one scoop to 20 oz of water and began to shake. Immediately upon shaking, I was rewarded with a volcano of foam at the top of the shaker bottle!
I tried it several more times with 10, 12, and 16 ounces of water and still each time ended with the same massive head of foam on top of the water. This isn’t an issue I’ve ever had before when using regular Xtend (and I’ve gone through quite a few tubs of it), so something is clearly different with Xtend Free.
Maybe it’s a side effect of the stevia included in Xtend Free, but I’m not quite sure. But, you’ve been warned, expect a massive head of foam when mixing this product!
If you don’t mind grabbing a spoon, try stirring instead and see what happens in Mike’s portion below.
Prior to this I’ve only tried one other stevia-sweetened supplement (Jacked Factory’s Altius). That product was incredibly effective as a pre workout, but as I mentioned in my review, left A LOT to be desired in terms of taste.
So, my expectations weren’t too high going into this taste test, but given how much I LOVE the original Xtend (Pineapple being my favorite), I thought Scivation just might make me a believer in these “all-natural” products.
Sadly, I was disappointed…
Crisp Apple: 5/10
Of the two flavors I tried, Crisp Apple was the most bearable. Initial taste testing was done with 20 oz of cold water, and after taking a big sip of it, there’s hardly any apple taste at all!
There’s none of the “tartness” that I remember with the Green Apple flavor of regular Xtend. The only thing I could really taste was a very prominent stevia aftertaste.
I then tried using 12 and 16 oz of water to see if that improved the flavor, which it did, mildly. 12 oz. seems to be the right amount to limit the stevia aftertaste and get somewhat of a crisp apple flavor.
Mixed Berry: 4/10
Based off my reaction to the mixed berry flavor of Altius, I was expecting something quite similar with Scivation’s version of it. Initial taste test was done with 20 oz of water just like crisp apple, and the same result ensued. Very little to no berry flavor, and a big hit of stevia!
Ok, so backed the water down to 12 and 16 oz, and the flavor improved somewhat, but the stevia aftertaste still dominated. 12 oz seemed to be the most tolerable. That amount yielded a very mild berry-fruit flavor, but it’s not something that I necessarily enjoyed drinking. Truth be told, the first time I took a sip of it mixed in 20 oz of water I spit it out, the stevia taste was the bad.
This the worse of the two flavors we tried, with a more pronounced stevia bite than crisp apple had.
While it’s admirable that companies are trying to make a better, more “natural” product, until there’s a vast improvement in taste quality, I’ll be sticking to the original Xtend and others that use artificial sweeteners.
I’m a huge fan of the original flavoring system in Xtend and regularly go through tubs of Pineapple, Mango, and Lemon Lime. So, as long as Scivation continues to make OG Xtend, I’ll be A-OK.
If you’re a nut for all-natural products, then this may work for you, but it’s painfully obvious that Xtend Free won’t be winning any awards for best-tasting BCAA product on our Best BCAA Supplement buyer’s guide.
Robert’s not completely wrong… but he’s also just not right.
Let me just state right off the bat that this isn’t going to be as good as the regular Scivation Xtend. No way, no how. That stuff is loaded with sucralose and fake color.
I’ve had the “privilege” of trying other all-natural BCAAs, such as MRM’s from a few years ago. Oh my dear. It was literally undrinkable, even for the worst of the organic/vegan/vegetarian crowd who’s used to eating processed cardboard soy.
So I came in with what I’d call more realistic and more experienced expectations.
Getting into the right reviewer frame of mind: Mike gets pregnant
I didn’t drink these from the frame of mind where I’m some sucralose-loving bro just trying another supplement.
Instead, I drank it from the frame of mind of someone who’s sick of all this artificial nonsense, and refuses to have any more sucralose than necessary.
I considered myself a pregnant woman who doesn’t want to deliver Splenda and Blue #9000 or whatever to my child.
Mixability: 10/10 with spoon!
Yes, it’s not good when shaken, and I should have told Robert that Scivation said to try mixing it. Take a look at what happens when you stir it with a spoon: It’s perfect!
Now here’s the truth. I still shake it because I hate using more silverware than necessary and I’m lazy and I love shaking shaker cups. Mixability isn’t important to me.
So if this is important to you, take it stirred, not shaken.
This won’t be helpful to you. I’m the flip of Robert’s:
Mixed Berry: 6/10
This has honestly grown a lot on me. It’s not extremely strong like other Scivation products. But it’s more fun that drinking water, and it’s a zillion times better than the stuff I’ve tried before.
Right now I’m liking 1 scoop per about 14-16oz of water.
There’s clearly some tartness (from the malic acid?) but I enjoy it. Enough that I’m using it consistently.
Blind test with m’lady
So for the real test with someone in the target demographic, I gave it to my lady and told her, “This is stevia-based and has no artificial colors/flavors. Try a sip.”
She closed her eyes, drank it, and said while nodding, “Acceptable.”
See, to her, that’s worth the taste sacrifice. Women even moreso than men are tiring of the endless colors and sweeteners. This is literally the first solution that’s even remotely acceptable, and it does a great job at that.
In short, the pros are starting to outweigh the cons. Or at least, they’re coming close.
But is it like Xtend Watermelon? Of course not.
Crisp Apple: 5/10
Somewhere along the line, I stopped liking green apple. Not sure why, maybe turning 30 did something to me.
To me, this isn’t much worse than any other green apple. If you’re a green apple fan, then I would try this one, because it’s close enough to the sucralose stuff that you might as well go natural.
Not that I hate it though. If I accidentally grab this tub instead of mixed berry, I use it and drink it and don’t really complain.
So, if you’re not a green apple fan, then go with mixed berry. But green apple lovers might as well try it!
On top of these two things, I must say that mixed berry smells awesome. BCAAs often stink up the pantry, but I love the smell of these!!
Overall: Beats Capsules for the Natural Crowd
If you don’t care about sucralose, then you don’t need to be here. I think we’ve made that clear.
But if you’ve been taking costly BCAA capsules (or just nothing) because you hate all the artificial stuff, I’m here to tell you that Xtend Free is good enough that you have to give it a try.
Scivation was the first company to make BCAAs taste good, and now they’re the first company to make stevia taste good for BCAAs. They’re only going to get better at this.
If this is v1.0, this family line holds some promise as stevia continues to get refined and the bitter notes get cleaned out.
Below is an interesting video. This guy was in prison for 44 years, and when he got out, it was effectively as close as we’d ever get to seeing a time traveler (with the exception of meeting Ethan Hawke).
Now skip to the 4:30 mark where he’s in the grocery store. The man is now trying “all this crazy stuff they got”. He goes to point out all the colors we have now! The colors amaze him more than nearly anything!
You have to remember, all these artificial colors are new to humans. We really don’t have tons of actual long-term data on it because it’s that new, and it’s basically impossible to control for in a long-term study.
The same goes for sucralose. Sure, it’s safe in small doses, but what about the continually high doses everyone gets anymore? Who the hell knows what will happen when we’re 70 after 50 years of eating this stuff?
Because of those unanswered questions, many people are simply opting out. But certain things, like BCAAs, have always been impossible to mask… until now.
So if you’re one of those people who’s opted out of artificial coloring and sweetening, yet want some aminos for your muscles, Scivation finally has an option for you. But the red and blue bombsicle bro’s who don’t care should step aside.
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