Dear Shannon...

Similar to the classic “Dear Abby” newspaper column, our very own CPO/COO, Shannon O’ Grady, Ph.D., is available to answer all your need-to-know nutrition- and Gnarly product-focused questions. 


If you ever have questions of your own for Shannon, please do not hesitate to contact us

Photo: Lisa Boshard

Dear Shannon...

I've been told the best time for a protein shake is after a workout. When should I take BCAAs?

Great question and you are 100% correct, but I want to clarify a bit: It’s best to consume protein (either from whole foods or a protein supplement) post-exercise. But it’s also important that the protein you are choosing is rich in essential amino acids and provides enough of the branched chain amino acid, leucine, to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Aim for 2.0 to 2.5 grams of leucine, or the amount found in 20 to 25 grams of whey protein. 


You can think of leucine as the “on” switch for MPS, but to really repair and/or build muscle you also need the building blocks for muscle. This is where all the other essential amino acids come into play. This is specifically why standalone BCAAs are not ideal post-workout; because they lack those building blocks, or essential amino acids. 


So when should you take BCAAs?


Research shows that if consumed in the 20 to 30 minutes before exercise (and even during longer training sessions), BCAAs, and leucine in particular, can help minimize muscle protein breakdown (MPB), thus reducing post-exercise soreness and speeding recovery between training sessions.

BCAAs are particularly important for vegans and vegetarians because plant proteins tend to be significantly lower in BCAAs than animal proteins. But BCAAs can also help minimize soreness for individuals that are training fasted or have not had a meal containing 20 to 25 grams of high quality protein in the 2 to 3 hours preceding their training. 

So to make a long story short…BCAAs before and protein after!

Hope that helps!

Have you tried BCAAs yet?

Dear Shannon...

What pre-workout meal or snack would you recommend for bouldering?

The purpose of a pre-workout snack/meal is to fuel your body for the training/climbing you’re about to do.  For this reason, what you eat but also when you eat it are both important.  I would recommend having a good size meal that is rich in carbs, moderate in protein, and lower in fat about 2 to 3 hours before training.


In the morning, this meal could look like eggs, potatoes, and toast or a bowl of oatmeal with yogurt and berries.  In the afternoon, consider a turkey sandwich with some fruit or a quinoa bowl with veggies and beans.  


In general, the closer you get to actually bouldering/climbing, the simpler and lighter your food choices should be. And remember: Carbs are your friends! Having something high in easy-to-digest carbs like fruit, fig newtons, graham crackers, sports gummies, juice or a sports drink in the 30 minutes before bouldering can top off energy levels so when you sit down in front of your project you’re ready to go.

Dear Shannon...

Why is Gnarly Collagen Pro not considered vegan?

Collagen protein is unique to animals, meaning there are no plant-based sources of collagen. 


Does this mean that plant-based athletes are out of luck when it comes to the benefits of collagen supplementation? Yes and no. 


While the scientific research supporting the benefits of collagen on joints was all done with either gelatin or collagen peptides, much of this research highlights the importance of the amino acids glycine, hydroxyproline and proline in promoting collagen synthesis.  There may not be a vegan source of collagen, but plant-based athletes could look to increase their intake of these amino acids in their diet either by adding foods such as cabbage and mushrooms (rich in proline) and legumes (rich in glycine) or looking for a vegan amino acid supplement.

Curious about Gnarly Collagen Pro?


Dear Shannon...

How often do you recommend taking collagen? Will it make a difference taking it on rest days as well?

Daily use of Gnarly Collagen Pro on both rest days and active days is encouraged. On rest days, be sure to take it before some activity to help get the collagen peptides and amino acids to your joints (which don’t usually get a ton of bloodflow).

Dear Shannon...

If I have knee pain, is Gnarly Collagen Pro for me?

There are a few studies – both in patients with osteoarthritis and also in athletes that generally have low-level joint pain (not necessarily chronic or arthritic) – and all of those studies have shown a reduction in that pain with collagen supplementation.


What I would say is that Collagen Pro would be helpful and I’d go ahead and take the full dose. (I would take at least 10 grams of Collagen, optimally 15 grams) in the hour before your workout. If you’re in any PT program, take it an hour before that regime.

Dear Shannon...

When is it best to take Baseline products?

Experience Gnarly Baseline


This all depends on the product!

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. So any fat-soluble nutrient, like Gnarly Baseline D3, is always better absorbed when taken with food.

As an aside, the same is true for something like turmeric, which is also fat-soluble.

Because of interactions with other nutrients like calcium or phylates (found in certain plants), and the effects of decreased absorption of iron, Gnarly Baseline Iron+ is better without food. 


That being said, supplemental iron can often cause stomach upset so taking it with a small meal may be beneficial.

As far as I know, there shouldn’t be an impact of any foods on the absorption of magnesium, so any time works for Gnarly Baseline Mg Citrate as long as you’re consistent. 

Dear Shannon...

Why did Gnarly release three separate Baseline supplements, rather than one multivitamin?

For a few reasons.

The first being that Gnarly Performance Greens is our “whole-food multivitamin.” It covers a lot of daily vitamin and mineral needs by incorporating micronutrient rich foods like chlorella and spirulina.

Another reason is that nutrients like iron are inhibited by the presence of other minerals, like calcium, and are better supplemented with using a stand-alone product as opposed to a multivitamin.

Also, multivitamins are usually a catch-all, so it’s hard to hit everything like a high vitamin D level, a high calcium level and the right amount of iron.


And you’ll usually see a low-to-moderate level of everything as opposed to effective doses of individual nutrients.

Plus, Gnarly Baseline provides an easier way to pick and choose the right supplement for you.

I don’t think a multivitamin is a bad idea, but I don’t think it’s necessary for everybody.

Having singular products helps Gnarly cover more bases for a larger number of people.

Check out Gnarly Baseline


Dear Shannon...

Should a doctor test my vitamin D levels before supplementation?

If you have the access, it’s always a good idea to have your vitamin D tested annually to determine if you’re dealing with a clinical deficiency.

When you’re tested, it will be your 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels that will be measured to determine Vitamin D status.

Usually if you’re vitamin D deficient, you’ll need to take more than 1,000 IUs to deal with that deficiency (the amount in one capsule of Gnarly Baseline D3).


Gnarly Baseline D3 was designed to help people avoid deficiency by providing the proper amount of supplementation (1000-2000 IUs daily) when lifestyle factors and environment might limit the amount of sunlight we get, and therefore vitamin D we naturally produce. 

For many this means supplementing in winter months when daytime hours are shorter and we spend less time outdoors with skin exposed.  For others supplementation may be required year round. 

Check out our vitamin d supplement

Dear Shannon...

Is the recommended consumption time frame of Gnarly Collagen Pro the same for BCAAs? I find I normally take them before and during my workout. Is Collagen effective to take during my “longer” workouts?

For the most part, yes. Research supports that having BCAAs in your system while exercising helps prevent excess muscle protein breakdown, leading to a reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness and an improvement in recovery. Those BCAAs can come from a high quality protein or a free-form amino acid supplement, like Gnarly BCAAs. The benefit of Gnarly BCAAs is that they are light on the stomach and absorbed quickly, with absorption studies showing that free-form BCAAs hit the blood ~30 minutes after consumption. Given this, we recommend taking them in the 30 minutes before you start exercising.  


Collagen Peptides should be put into that same pre-exercise supplement category, but we recommend giving yourself 40-60 minutes for digestion and absorption. So, if you push your BCAA intake out just a bit, you can combine the two and be ready to train. 


Having them both in your system as you exercise, even during longer workouts, will help ensure that collagen peptides will get to the joints that need them most, while also kickstarting recovery. 


If you are taking collagen for joint maintenance, that single dose should be enough of a benefit. If you are taking collagen for recovery of a specific injury, I would consider spacing your collagen dosages out by ~5-6 hrs and be sure you are taking them in the 40-60 minutes before exercise or PT of that injured joint.

Have you tried either of these?