About two years ago, a study at UC San Diego indicated that the effervescence of carbonated beverages could mask the sour taste naturally found in no-sugar-added protein drinks. This intrigued David Jenkins and Shawn Sherwood, who like many were frustrated with the way protein drinks tasted. The body needs protein after an intense workout, but whey protein in powder form is almost always awful, and not everyone is into chocolate milk.
Think of it as a mild, carbonated version of Hawaiian Punch that won’t give you diabetes.
Armed with this new information regarding the positive effects of effervescence on flavor, Jenkins and Sherwood began adding seltzer water to their post-workout protein drinks and were blown away with the boost in taste. A problem remained, however, because the bubbles caused much of the powdered protein to turn into a foamy mess. The solution came when they were able to work with a supplier to create a liquid whey isolate, which yielded a remarkably clean taste when mixed with seltzer.
A few months later Jenkins and Sherwood created XAPP, an effervescent protein drink with 25 grams of liquid whey protein, only 100 calories, and not a whole lot else. Not fat and no carbs. You have your choice of a caffeine-free version or one that kicks in about as much as a cup of coffee. Both versions are fruit punch flavored. For the bodybuilders, XAPP also offers an enormous can (710 mL) boasting 40 grams of protein.
I gave the 25-gram, caffeine-free version a try after a hard ride. First things first: XAPP looks a lot like one of those terrifying energy drinks you see occupying 50 percent of the fridge space at your local convenience store. Unlike those drinks, the list of ingredients doesn’t take up half the can. There are only eight ingredients, and the first two are carbonated water and liquid whey protein isolate. It’s not 100-percent natural, but at least you won’t feel like you’re drinking a science experiment gone bad.
Onto the important part: the taste. There’s a lot of it. It’s very flavor forward, and there’s no mistake that you’re drinking fruit punch. Think of it as a mild, carbonated version of Hawaiian Punch that won’t give you diabetes. There’s no sugar here, but the Surcralose (Splenda), combined with the carbonation makes is plenty sweet. If your stomach is a little touchy after a hard workout you might find the flavor too intense, but my taste buds seemed to enjoy it. It goes down smooth and it’s considerably more pleasant after a workout than any powdered protein drink I’ve ever tried.
When compared to something like Muscle Milk, XAPP stacks up well, especially for someone who’s looking to lose weight (it has 120 fewer calories than regular Muscle Milk and 70 fewer than Muscle Milk Light). It’s as low in calories as you can make a drink with 25 grams of protein, although we still suggest drinking it along with some form of carbohydrate if your workout was particularly hard or long. We’re not about to advocate a low-carb lifestyle around here.