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It’s Celiac Disease Awareness Month. As a gluten-free consumer, I find myself asking other companies, “What does gluten-free mean to you?” Many companies are embracing the “gluten-free fad diet.” At the Natural Products Expo this past March, I walked through the aisles, my eyes wide at all of the products labeled “gluten-free.” Gluten-free breads, muffins and cakes! Gluten-free chips and drinks! If it can be labeled and it’s gluten-free, companies will do it. YET, a gluten-free label must be looked at skeptically.
For a few reasons:
(1) The product could be made in a facility that handles non-gluten ingredients, such as wheat and other grains. Cross-contamination in a “plant” or “kitchen” is very easy.
(2) The ingredients in a product could be gluten-free, but the manufacturer isn’t educated enough to know that a certain ingredient may contain gluten. For instance, brown rice syrup is created using melted barley enzymes. Barley isn’t gluten-free and brown rice is usually perceived to be so. Always check to see if there are any “hidden” gluten ingredients.
(3) The ingredients in question may come from a supplier that also handles other ingredients. Say, for instance, our energy bars. We source quinoa from a supplier and put it in the Sweet Lemon Rain Dance! Epic protein, gluten-free seed! YET, we have to make sure that the quinoa comes from a source that doesn’t handle any gluten products. Luckily, we make sure of this. Unfortunately, other companies do not!
Here at Thunderbird Energetica, gluten-free is more than a label. We take excellent care to make sure that every ingredient in our kitchen is not only gluten-free, but also grain-free. We have also asked each ingredient supplier about chances of cross-contamination. We haven’t allowed gluten sources to come near our kitchen equipment.
Why is gluten-free important to us? To explain this, I have to go back.
I’m trying to imagine where I was on this day last year. May 14th, 2012, I may have been studying for an Arabic final. I was most likely stressed and anxious, hunching over stacks of notes in the University of Texas library. Where may I have been the year before that time? May 14th, 2011? Maybe a similar situation, yet with a slight tummy ache. And May 8th 2010? There’s a good chance I was at home with a cramped stomach or laying on a bed at an emergency clinic, having an IV push fluids into my body for the second time in a month.
I was sick and I didn’t know why. Doctors thought they did, as I received many diagnoses of “gastroenteritis” and “irritable bowel syndrome.” The cure for abdominal cramping, nausea, occasional vomiting and the constant “D” word (I’ll spare you guys), is that I needed more medications.
In May 2010, I was still sick despite these “diagnoses.” At that point, I had stopped eating meat. Everything made my stomach hurt, from apples to lettuce to coffee to almonds. I adopted a vegan diet, because “meat was bad,” right? I mean, if Alicia Silverstone wrote a book about it and swears by it, I must be clueless and that’s what’s making me sick! Wrong. I still suffered. And so I stopped eating all together. I think there were days where I’d go to class and only drink coffee and gulp down water so that I’d just be able to make it home and eat 1 meal that day. I saw a nutritionist to help me with my “issue” but she wouldn’t believe that I didn’t want to eat because everything caused pain. She suggested that I just, “Live a little and eat a snickers.” I think if I saw this woman on the street now I would punch her in the face.”
Ironically, it was during my sessions with her that I discovered what might be wrong. After talking one day, I went home and opened a magazine. Inside, on one of the pages, was a little 1” snippet of a girl talking about her “gluten allergy.” I remember thinking to myself, “What on earth is gluten?” So I researched it. I went back to my “nutritionist” (if you could call her this) the next day and she informed me of gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease. She swore that I couldn’t possibly have either. I got up and left.
I took matters into my own hands. I cut out gluten and within days my stomach pain was gone. After an entire year, this discovery was life altering. I went to a GI doctor and they ran tests – they were positive for Celiac Disease. I slowly began eating more “gluten-free” foods and gained a healthy 10 lbs. I started shopping at Whole Foods because of their wider “GF” options. Yet, the life of a college student with food allergies is still as lonely as the life of a student who is constantly sick. Social situations never improved. I went from always sick to always needing to explain why I couldn’t eat pizza at every event gathering. Oh, you want to volunteer for an organization? Here’s free pizza, now you can explain to everyone why you’re just chilling there, starving.
I’d sometimes eat foods I know would make me sick, just so I wouldn’t have to explain to people why I was different. So, I continued to suffer occasionally. I would have nights that were similar to those before my diagnosis, only now they were more rare. Then, there were those times where I believed I was eating “gluten-free” and I’d be hit with a wave of sickness from cross-contamination. Or, I’d simply just react to a food that “cross-reacts” with gluten, like grains or dairy. It was a double-edged sword, one that left me with similar outcomes.
Yet, the days did become a bit better as I began to read more about my condition. Anything I could get my hands on, from Celiac Disease websites to articles in magazines to Gluten-free bloggers – I read it. I connected with people on forums and got advice about certain products.
As a runner, I searched for fuel sources for longer distances. I began to use gels and they would make my stomach cramp. I eventually decided to ditch them all together after a bad bout with a Honey Stinger. Imagine being stranded on mile 10 because you can’t run home – your stomach hurts that much that you have no choice but to stop.
I began to search for an alternative fuel source. If everyone was using gels, what would I use? What would be easy and not make my stomach hurt? Enter Castle Hill Fitness, the greatest gym in Austin. I was a member since 2010 and once diagnosed with Celiac began to discover all of the healthy foods they had to offer in their Food4Fitness Café. One day, a bright red wrapper on the counter caught my eye. It was nothing other than the great Cherry Walnut Crunch. I grabbed it and saw that it was labeled, “gluten-free” and “vegan.” No gluten, no dairy, let’s eat it! I still remember having it that day. It was the most fantastic, delicious, sweet and savory and crunchy energy bar that I’d ever tasted. But here’s the best part: it didn’t hurt my stomach a single freaking bit.
TOP SHELF = THUNDER @Food4Fitness Cafe (Thanks Amy!)
And so I began to eat these bars very frequently. Almost religiously, I shunned any other gluten-free bar and dedicated myself to eating Thunderbird Bars. I was the original Thunderbird-fan-girl. I used them before my runs, during my runs, after my runs. I also finally had a snack that kept me full in between my classes. At that time, in 2011, there were very few choices on my college campus (now they have tons of gluten-free options, including our bars, as well as a juice bar within walking distance – I’m quite bitter about it – I'm looking at YOU Juiceland).
So what does a “Celiac” do when she finds a product that she loves so much? She tells everyone how much she loves it. She demands that the owners of the product hire her and let her tell everyone how much she loves it. Now, one year later, in May 2013, I’ve reached one year since this journey began. Since that time, I’ve had the most rewarding job, where I talk with so many people about their food allergies, intolerances, preferences and choices. It’s incredibly fulfilling to introduce someone to our product who is struggling with food in any way. I have met many people who have asked me, “Should I get tested for gluten intolerance? Everything is making me sick.” I’ve been able to relate to so many of them and I hope that I’ve helped them in some way.
Two years from my Celiac Diagnosis and my life is 100% different. No more severe depression or uncontrollable anxiety. I don’t have mystery rashes on my arms. I don’t have chronic stomachaches and pains and issues. I don’t question whether or not I can have something. I’ve switched to a completely grain-free diet that has enhanced my quality of life to such a degree that it’s heartbreaking to think about how I suffered, silently, for so long.
So, what does gluten-free mean to Thunderbird Energetica? It’s what gluten-free means to me, someone who suffers from Celiac Disease. It means no cross-contamination, no gluten-ingredients, and no chances of getting sick.
Happy Celiac Awareness Month!
Meet Cycleast, the newest face in bicycles on the East Side as well as the sponsor shop of the Thunderbird Tribe of Sport! They are our good friends and we wanted to tell the world about them, their history, and their beloved founders!
Cycleast was founded on the principles of collaboration and inclusivity. Forged in the city streets on two wheels and polished on the open roads of Texas. They believe in the bicycle in all its forms and are passionate about getting people on two wheels and helping them go fast.
Cycleast is a full service shop specializing in repairs, restorations and custom bicycles. If it has wheels and pedals, they'll put a wrench on it. Whether it's your racing rig that gets a beating every weekend, your commuter that takes the punishment of the road every single day, or a long forgotten stallion that's been collecting dust in the garage for months, Cycleast loves the romance of making your ride functional and fabulous.
They adore breathing new life into an old frame. Whether it's reinventing a classic, upgrading an old whip with new parts or just sprucing up a slightly worn vintage frame, Cycleast restorations are all about making your dream a reality.
Cycleast also provides a full compliment of fitting services. Helping costumers discover exactly what they want out of a custom bike and who the right builder is to manufacture it. They have created partnerships with a handful of carefully selected bike manufacturers including, Festka Bicycle Company, Dorbox Bikes and Gallus Cycles. These collaborative relationships allow Cycleast to efficiently guide customers down the path of creating a completely personalized ride from beginning to end.
Co-founders and Co-owners Russell Pickavance and Jessica Wurtzebach are so happy to be the sponsoring shop of Team Thunderbird. Not only because we believe in the product and food philosophy of Thunderbird Energetica but because of the high caliber individuals involved with the organization. They race fast, love hard, and have stunning beach bods.
"Cycleast couldn't ask for more," says Jessica Wurtzebach, "although we are hoping sponsorship responsibilities will include sunscreen application to the sculpted quads of team racers".
Make a trip to Cycleast today! You will not be dissapointed!
Happy April to all!
It's EARTH MONTH! For that reason, we've decided to hold a mega competition that showcases our compostable wrappers! As you know, we were the very first energy bar company (and company, ever) to choose a compostable wrapper. Many companies choose plastic or other materials rather than biodegradable material for many reasons. First, a compostable wrapper is far more expensive than the .10 plastic wrapper. Second, a compostable wrapper decreases the shelf-life of your product. That is, since our bars are in a compostable wrapper, they do not last as long as they would if they were wrapped in plastic.
Yet, we consider ourselves environmental warriors. We didn't want to settle for a plastic wrapper or a recyclable wrapper OR a "terracyclable" wrapper. I mean, what does "terracycling" have on composting? Sure, the idea of turning a plastic wrapper into flooring is admirable, but then that flooring isn't going to turn into anything else. It will stay in the environment for thousands of years, much like plastic watterbottles or plastic bags. We even turned down the idea of having a recyclable wrapper! Why would we want to use the trees of the great Mother Earth when we could give back to her? We chose a compostable wrapper because it isn't only beneficial for the Earth, but it actually gives back to her. How so?
Benefits of Using Compost
- Improves the soil structure, porosity, and density, thus creating a better plant root environment.
- Increases moisture infiltration and permeability of heavy soils, thus reducing erosion and runoff.
- Improves water-holding capacity, thus reducing water loss and leaching in sandy soils.
- Supplies a variety of macro and micronutrients.
- May control or suppress certain soil-borne plant pathogens.
- Supplies significant quantities of organic matter.
- Improves cation exchange capacity (CEC) of soils and growing media, thus improving their ability to hold nutrients for plant use.
- Supplies beneficial micro-organisms to soils and growing media.
- Improves and stabilizes soil pH.
- Can bind and degrade specific pollutants.
To celebrate our compostable wrapper, we're holding the competition of all competitions! You'll need two very important things!
One: A Thunderbirdbar wrapper! (Found after eating any delicious Thunderbird bar of your choice!)
Two: A compost! If you have a compost, you're all set! Yet, you can always buy one from Amazon, Wheatsville Coop or TreeHouse (if you're an Austin local).
TO ENTER: You document your compostable wrapper from Day 1-5 to Day 30, to showcase the bio-breakdown! You MUST post your photos at least 5+ times throughout April on to our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, and/or our instagram! You MUST use the hashtag: #COMPOSTHUNDER or #THUNDERBIRDENERGETICA #COMPOSTABLE
TO WIN: Each entry that completes all of the above rules will receive a MEGA discount code for your own personal use! YET, the person who posts the MOST FREQUENT content will be entered to win a MEGA PRIZE PACKAGE that celebrates Thunderbird Energetica and Mother Earth!!
GET GOING! You have until April 5th to enter!!
- Leslie Thunder
We are so stoked to announce that at the beginning of this year, we sealed many epic deals to take over the United States! While we are in many small stores across the country that we LOVE, Thunderbird-goodness will be coming to you via our Whole Foods regional expansion! If you live in the Rocky Mountains Region, the Northern California and Nevada Region, the Pacific Southwest Region, or the Midwest Region, Thunderbird WILL BE in your Whole Foods store! Check out a list of Whole Foods regions here.
This past week, I spent time in the cold land of Denver, Colorado (the helm of the Rocky Mountain's region), where I met many Thunderbird lovers and then converted the rest of the population! In all seriousness, the response to our bars was fantastic! Colorado is well-known as one of the core locations for natural product growth – and there's a solid reason for it. Coloradans (is that how you refer to people who live in Colorado?) know the true definition of natural. During demos, I had so many great customers loving us for our true nutrients – our ingredients, the true focus – rather than the nutrition facts. Yes, both are important, but when it comes to creating a raw product, our focus has always been to give people 100% real food that is from quality-sourced organic and non-GMO ingredients.
At each Whole Foods demonstration, the reception to our product was fantastic because the locals know the importance of our ingredient label! They also dug our compostable wrapper, which is also extremely important to us as a company. It's puzzling that we were the first energy bar company, or natural products company, to make that choice! Why would we use plastic when we have the option for a biodegradable source, one which not only has a negligible effect on the environment but actually gives back to the Earth. Plus, the highest-quality ingredients should always come in a high-quality package!
Hands down, people in Colorado were wonderful! Everyone I met was genuine and nice, especially those who went out of their way to help me into stores or find my way around Denver (I may have gotten lost every day…. shamefully). Overall, the biggest stores – Whole Foods Cherry Creek (Denver) and Whole Foods Pearl (Boulder) – were AMAZING! The Pearl store even rivals the Whole Foods Lamar store in terms of awesomeness! The view of the Rockies outside is also MEGA! Check it!
YET, I also had a chance to visit with the Lakewood store, where I met a few staff members who appreciated our product! Shirts will be coming at you guys, especially YOU Jeffrey, who can't stop telling people in the Whole Body section that our bars are the highest quality on the shelves!! And while in Boulder, I stopped into the small Ideal Market, which was taken over a few years ago by Whole Foods. It has the feel of a small co-op like Wheatsville, but it's location in Boulder on Alpine Ave. is absolutely picturesque. Check it!
Ideal was one of my favorites, but I also spent a Tuesday driving out to the Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak store, where I met an amazing Whole Foods Team Member named Kyle. If you see him, tell him he better be wearing his Thunderbird shirt! Anyways, Colorado Springs was SO HYPED on Thunderbird that I sold 4 boxes in 2 hours. That's not bad for a first-time product! The drive to and from the store was absolutely gorgeous. If I could go back, I'd definitely visit Colorado Springs again!
To celebrate the end of the most mega trip, I drove back to Lakewood, CO and ran Green Mountain. I ran into many friendly trail runners with their long beards (many had informed me this is the norm for Colorado guys), but the majority of my 4 mile run was perfectly quiet. I had time to think about all of the amazing people I'd come across the past few days and how blessed I was to be able to give out great food to so many stellar people – it's truly awesome to Feed Others as You Wish to be Fed!
What a way to end a beautiful trip – did I mention that the park around Green Mountain is a land that used to be roamed by buffalos?! I felt the spirit and dare I say… it made me run faster! If we didn't get a chance to meet you in Colorado, I hope that one of our new representatives will be able to feed you thunder!
Next stop: Expo West. Stay tuned.
Our brand ambassador program is quite possibly my favorite part of the job. Over the past year, we've had three epic gentlemen out of nowhere. They proclaimed their love for Thunderbird, some through poetry and others through interpretive dance, and I scheduled Skype sessions to ensure they weren't axe murderers (or undercover brothers, hehe). Our second brand ambassador, ever, is Clark Simcoe. While each of our ambassadors have amazing stories, Clark's is quite possibly one of the absolute BEST. Check it out:
In undergraduate I studied geology. This subject fit my personality perfectly and was able to support my love of outdoors, travel, exploration, and adventure. However, this does not mean I was in the best health physically, mentally, spiritually etc. During short periods in my college education I attempted to make positive fitness/health changes in my life. However, these were mostly short-lived and had no real direction or firm motivation.
In July 2011, shortly after my graduation from college, I decided to commit and make a change to get in better physical shape and in turn improve my health. At the moment, my definition of health was quite simplistic – not eating fast food, running more miles, and possibly doing more pull-ups and push-ups. To improve upon this definition of health and fitness I purchased and began the home exercise program P90X. As cheesy as this beginning may seem, I would not be where I am today if this stepping stone were not conquered. I lost weight, gained muscle tone, felt better…and could do pull-ups. At the time, this was a huge success and step to improving my health. For nearly one year I continued to be active in this manner – mostly cross training with weights and running. For the moment, my definition of positive health was fulfilled.
However, this feeling changed in May 2012, when my wife and I adopted a plant-based vegan diet. This change was made in an effort to further improve our health and wellness. I would not realize until after making the change that it would jump start and explode my athletic/fitness goals. With this change in nutrition, my physical performance and all-around health and wellness went through the roof! I felt amazing and I felt able to conquer any goal and challenge. During this past six month period I developed and fine-tuned my passion for nutrition and dietetics. This passion for balanced and wholesome diet/lifestyle has helped enormously in the improvement and enjoyment of all my physical activities.
When I interviewed Clark, he was in Houston on business for the engineering firm he was working for at that time. He told me how he lost over 80 lbs going on a plant-based diet and the struggles of being a 23-year-old college graduate who has a passion in nutrition. For the first time, I related to someone my age! It was awesome. I knew that I had to pick him for our program. Since then, he has quit his job and gone back to school in New Orleans and he's studying to be get a degree in Nutrition. He and his wife are dedicated to one day combining her medical degree and his nutrition degree to form a private practice. Knowing Clark, I have no doubt that he will go to great lengths to fullfill his dreams! He's so passionate about Thunderbird, he won't let us pay him to construct demonstrations in-store at Whole Foods. Last Saturday, he stayed at the Whole Foods Arabella Station and demo'd our product for 7 hours. I have done many 7 hour demonstrations and they are hardcore. Standing on your feet for 4 hours is hard enough and it leaves you extremely depleted for the rest of that day – 7 hour demos are a whole new experience. To do it unpaid is absolutely nuts! I guess we know how to pick our ambassadors.