Schiff Melatonin Ultra Discontinued at Costco

Schiff Melatonin Ultra
What happened to Schiff Melatonin Ultra?

In short, it was discontinued.

Looking for a Schiff Melatonin Ultra alternative? 

I have switched to Vicks ZzzQuil.

Backstory: Today I was at my local Costco and I was looking for one of my all-time favorite sleep aids, a specific version of Melatonin made by Schiff called Melatonin Ultra. This product was made exclusively for Costco and sold over the past several years but has recently been discontinued. The proprietary blend of Melatonin featured not only 3mg of Melatonin, but also 25mg of L-Theanine, 25mg of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and a blend of Chamomile and Valerian Extract totaling 8.5mg. The product really does work wonders and other Melatonin just isn't the same. 

Anyway, after coming up empty-handed at Costco I figured I would just order it from Amazon as I have ordered it this way before. For those that are not aware, there is an entire cottage industry of people who purchase products in bulk from their local Costco and then resell them on Amazon. This appeals to both people that don't have a Costco membership or simply don't want to visit the store for a single item. Tonight I went to Amazon and was astounded that the price, almost like the infamous pharma-bro Martin Skirelli's Daraprim, had risen over 2000% to $149.95. My last purchase which from Amazon was $9.99 shipped via 2-day prime, and I have purchased it at a Costco store for $7.99 from Costco. It was even $4.99 when it was on a Costco coupon promotion. Given the discontinuation, I wasn't exactly surprised that it had increased but I was shocked by how large the increase was in a short period of time. 

For those that doubt that this is selling or is just a temporary pricing error think again. According to eBay completed sales, which is public knowledge, it shows that these bottles are selling for north of $200. It is safe to say that I will be looking for a new brand but it goes to show how much we as a society value our drugs, products, and our brands and at any cost. 

Completed eBay Sales of Schiff Melatonin Ultra 

I have to imagine that Schiff will make this product again if there is enough interest, but I have switched to Vicks ZzzQuil for now. Because supplements are unregulated I prefer to go with big, stable, and trusted brands. With ZzzQuil you get 2mg of melatonin + the valerian & chamomile. You also get some lemon balm and lavender which was not in Melatonin Ultra.

Vicks ZzzQuil
My replacement for
Schiff Melatonin Ultra

For those that are unfamiliar with melatonin. Melatonin is what your body produces in the Pineal gland to put itself to bed naturally. I have used a 3mg tablet 30-60 minutes before bed as an effective way to help set the bedtime process in motion. 

Relevant Links

Pedal the Perimeter - Matt "BikerBroshat" EPIC USA Cycling Trip

Pedal the Perimeter Bike Trip
For readers who may be interested, my cousin, Matt  "BikerBroshat" Broshat, is attempting to bike the Perimeter of the USA #PedalThePerimeter. His trip is starting today, August 8th, 2018, and he is planning on taking about 6 months to complete his journey. This will be a self-supported ride with a bike that is built to carry all his gear and camping equipment - it is not a fast bike but he hopes to ride 60 miles a day.

I am sure he will need plenty of help, a wash of clothes, and a place to stay on his route. Being the athlete myself, I know what this is going to take logistically, solo, so there are no hard dates about where he will be, and when, but follow his Instagram account for updates. I am sure he would be appreciative of any support. Matt is a very religious person and kind person who has committed, even in cold and blustery Minnesota winters, to commuting and traveling by bike. His goal is to raise $25,000 for a youth group for special needs kids. Matt has been involved in helping these kids live a better lives through his own donation of time. Stay safe Matt!



Links:
- Donate to Matt's choice of charity

Gen 2 Normatec Pulse Review - Gen 2 Pulse vs Gen 1 Pulse (2015-2017)

Enjoying the new 2018
Gen 2 Normatec Pulse System
Although on the surface the 2018 Normatec Pulse looks and functions just like the original Normatec Pulse (2015-2017), there are some nice upgrades to the new unit that are not clearly visible and marketed, but nonetheless are beneficial to the customer. Normatec has been shipping what I am calling the "Gen 2" 2018 Pulse since at least November 2017 so if you bought one direct from them you probably have it, but I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight a few key benefits of the new 2018 system.

My thoughts on this 2018 unit are my thoughts after 6+ months of use with 80+ hours of runtime. I can definitely say that this is the best Normatec Pulse unit yet and fixes the battery issue which was the one gripe I had with my original Pulse. It is worth mentioning that while I discussed the battery limitation in my original review of Normatec vs Air Relax, I have since updated that article to reflect the improved battery. This isn't a complete detailed review of the Normatec system akin to the likes of DCRainmaker's Garmin reviews, but I am happy to answer any questions you have.

2018 Normatec Pulse vs 2015-2017 Normatec Pulse

While the changes to the 2018 Pulse may not seem obvious, there are some significant changes in the 2018 model. The biggest include:
  • Improved Battery - The old Normatec Pulse had a battery that was always in a "low-power" mode even when off.  This led to situations where you might charge the unit but it was dead when you went to use it. This was highly annoying if you were traveling and didn't have access to power outlets such as in an airport, in the car, or on a soccer field. This issue has been fixed in the 2018 Pulse.
  • Enhanced Durability - The legs have been reinforced further making them stronger to handle the continuous cycle of expanding, holding pressure, and decompressing, and then doing it over and over, for weeks, month, and years. This may not seem like much, but every pro athlete I know depends on their recovery compression boots to get them thru their biggest training blocks. Failures do happen and it is nice to know that Normatec has worked on increasing durability.
  • Increased Warranty - With the durability enhanced, Normatec was able to extend the warranty from 1 year to 2 years. However, if you have an AMEX card then I highly recommend using it for this purchase. AMEX will double your warranty for free which increases the warranty to 4 years. I have gone thru their claim process a couple of times (usually with Garmins) and it is a great benefit to cardholders.
  • Decreased Price - Despite the improvements, the new 2018 Normatec Pulse is more affordable than ever. Normatec has been reducing the price of the Normatec Pulse over the past few years. While originally it was priced at $1695, it is now $1495. With a readily available discount of $100 that makes the standard pricing effectively $1395.
Battery Testing - 2 hours 51 minutes at level 5 with standard size leg boots

Along with testing the battery to make sure it held a charge over extended periods of time, I also wanted to test battery life. This test was conducted after many months of use and charge/discharge cycles. Battery life will vary on boot size, pressure level, and your own leg size. Personally, I got 2 hours and 51 minutes at level 5 (max is level 7) from a standard set of legs. Normatec claims 2 hours of battery life. 


Leg Fluid Edema Testing - 90 minutes in the boots at level 5, 6, and 7 reduced my calf diameter from 41mm to 39mm

Baseline (top) / After 90 mins (bottom)
Normatec was originally designed for patients with leg edema (swelling). I don't suffer from edema, but I figured I would test how much difference it made on otherwise healthy legs.

For this test, I took a baseline measurement and photo and then sat in the boots for 60 minutes at level 5. I photographed and measured them again and then I got back in the boots for 30 more minutes with 18 mins at level 6 and 12 mins at level 7. I used a Sharpie on the front of my legs to draw support lines to make sure the tape measure was being placed in the same spot for consistent measurement. The results are as follows:

Baseline: 41cm  (left) / 40.6cm (right)
60 minutes at level 5: 39.5cm (left) / 39.6cm (right)
30 additional minutes - 18 mins @ level 6 & 12 @ level 7: 39.0cm (left) / 39.1cm (right)


Normatec Leg Sizing

As a reminder, Normatec leg sleeves come in three sizes. Keep in mind it is not only the leg length but also the width that is affected.
  • Short for under 5' 3"
  • Regular 5'4" to 6'3"
  • Tall for people over 6' 4"  

Tall / Regular / Short



Identify the 2018 Normatec Pulse (Gen 2) vs the 2015-2017 Normatec Pulse

One can easily determine which Pulse they are getting via a sticker on the back of the unit. You want to see a manufactured date of 2017 or later, plus a sticker at the bottom, with a "Rev 2".

2015-2017 Normatec Pulse vs 2018 Normatec Pulse



Final Thoughts

Lebron James in his Normatec MVP

The 2018 Normatec Pulse is a nice upgrade to a system that was already very nice. Never in my life has a product category been embraced by so many professional athletes in so many sports, including triathletes, marathoners, cyclists, cross-fitters, NBA, NFL, NHL, golf, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, track and field, and even Hollywood celebrities (Snoop Dogg included). The overwhelming majority of these athletes aren't being paid for their endorsement. Lebron James is probably the biggest sports name and it was reported he spent $3 million dollars in 2017 on his recovery.

Personally, as a tinker but minimalist, I have been surprised by how often I am willing to travel with recovery compression boots. They simply go everywhere with me and I write this as I am in them. While there is still a place for many other recovery modalities in the athlete toolbox, no tool is as convenient and relaxing as recovery compression boots. They are just too easy to get into and I really do believe they help athletes recover faster and feel fresher. I believe the best recovery tools are the ones that don't seem like a chore and recovery compression boots are definitely not a chore to me.

For those that are looking for a more affordable set of boots please take a look at my original Air Relax vs Normatec review. Air Relax is a competitively priced system that has also become the choice of many champions and in many sports. Some triathletes using Air Relax include Ironman Champions Romain Guillaume, Jozef Major, Guy Crawford, Kate Bevilaqua, and Susie Cheetham (6th at 2017 Ironman World Championship).

When companies have competition the consumer wins. Normatec, Air Relax, and Rapid Reboot will all help push the boundaries of what the human body can accomplish.


Relevant Links
Normatec on Amazon - $1495 and ships via Amazon Prime
- Normatec ($1495) vs Air Relax ($370) - original review
Normatec.com
Amazon Basics Zero Gravity Chairs - $39.99 - great chairs for lounging in Normatecs
Normatec on eBay - Used and New (Various prices generally $700-$1200)

Competitors
- Air Relax - $400
- Rapid Reboot - $995

Athlete Blood Test - Q1 2018 Blood Biomarkers For Professional Triathlete Thomas Gerlach

My body / my blood on January 11, 2018
This post discusses my Q1 2018 Athlete Blood Test. I have links to all my previous posts/tests below. You can save 10% on your own Athlete Blood Test with coupon code: bloodtest10.

Athlete Blood Test (ABT) specializes in blood work for endurance athletes. They have worked exclusively with endurance athletes to understand the specific blood biomarkers that affect performance. They then apply that learning to help athletes proactively manage levels before it can negatively affect training.

Their process is simple:
(1) Order a test online (mine was the Gold panel + add-ons)
(2) Go to a LabCorp facility (at your convenience).
(3) Get the results and analysis via email.

With that I present my Q1 2018 blood report: Thomas Gerlach Q1 2018 ABT Report.pdf

Analysis - My take on MY blood work


As endurance athletes, we push our bodies beyond what they are designed to do and it is important to be proactive and identify deficiencies. Too often as athletes, we are reactionary and dig ourselves into holes before we finally capitulate and seek answers. The reality is that it can take weeks, months, or even years to fix those issues. The goal of my blood testing is to stay proactive and identify minor cracks before they become holes. Hopefully, by reading this, you are also taking the first step in being more proactive. With that here is my analysis:

By and large, everything looks good. It should be noted that I took this test after a solid afternoon swim. Hydration is supercritical and anyone that knows anything about kidneys will see the BUN is a little high. I will keep an eye on this for sure, but it is a reminder that although I usually don't drink during swims, maybe it isn't a bad idea. 

I want to briefly touch on a chronic health issue. Many people don't know this but I was diagnosed with ETD (Eustachian Tube Dysfunction) this past summer via a Type C Tympanogram. This means I have negative ear pressure in my right ear. It is a modern miracle that I was even able to compete last year but that is a story for another post. However, I mention this because I started a few different OTC allergy meds to reduce symptoms of the ETD. This may play a role in some biomarkers.

- Testosterone - this number is going to be affected by the midday test as T is highest in the morning. Total Testosterone was slightly lower than the last test. Free T is quite low and is the important T number as it represents the bioavailable T that can be used by the body. Unfortunately, Sex Hormone Binding Globulin is there in excess which literally binds to Free T and inactivates it. 

Last test I indicated I reduced both a calcium supplement and Benadryl (at night) which can have a negative effect on this area. Unfortunately, I went back on both of these due to the ETD. 

I also continued three supplements recommended by another triathlete who has chronicled his story with low-T. They are supposed to help with natural testosterone production in the body and include:
  • Pregnenolone, a naturally occurring building block needed by the body to create testosterone. It is legal today. Here is the current USADA status.
  • Gaia HPA Axis - various natural herbs & plants that are known to help support adrenal health and natural testosterone production, including Ashwagandha Root
  • Zinc - I switched from MgSport's Magnesium to their new product ZMG which has a very bioavailable form of zinc included in it. 
I will continue to supplement with these along with working to increase my Vitamin D levels and Magnesium levels. Both of these can help reduce the amount of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin which binds all that Free T. If I can reduce it then I should have more Free T circulating.

- B12 back down - I was low in Q1 2017 so I started supplementing with a specific B12 pill. Then I was high on my next report (Q2/Q3 2017) and I went to a standard B pill with a lower total B12. I am lower in B12 again and I will go back to a normal B12 pill in a reduced quantity.

- Iron levels back up but Ferritin high. On the previous test this was low, but with Iron supplementation, reduced workload, and an increased meat intake, I was able to significantly raise it. However, my Ferritin is a little high. This can be dangerous, hence why you have to be careful with Iron supplements and should only take them if you are deficient. This is a great example of how being proactive allows me to adjust my Iron levels to better levels. Although my numbers are still in the optimal range, long-term high levels could lead to liver damage.  

MgSport's new ZMG
Magnesium + Zinc
- White Blood Count back to normal. For the prior test, I was on the tail end of Amoxcillian for 10-days for a middle ear infection. I assume that was the reason for the low WBC and it is nice to see my WBC is back in my normal range as a chronically low number could be an ominous sign.

Magnesium Low!!! - this was my first year training in a southern climate in summer. I have warned people about losing Magnesium stores training in tough conditions and there is no tougher place than Central Florida in the dead of summer. While my Magnesium is still in the normal range, this number fell outside of the optimal range. It takes a long time to build stores so it pays to stay on top of your Magnesium levels before they are a problem.

Vitamin D Low - Within the normal range but not optimal for an endurance athlete. I spent an inordinate amount of time this off-season working on home-improvement projects and staying indoors. This could explain the Vitamin D level being a little low despite living in sunny Florida.

Folate Low - Within the normal range but not optimal for an endurance athlete. Again home-improvement projects may have played a role as I would assess my quality of diet as being sub-par given the lack of availability of a kitchen for proper food prep. This should get fixed naturally with more vegetables in the diet.

Action Plan / Changes:

  • Athlete Blood Testing - Continue quarterly tests.
  • Iron - Switch to every other day iron supplementation.
  • B12 - Switch back to straight B12 pill and consider every other day usage.
  • Vitamin D - Add a 2000IU capsule to midday supplements for a total of 6000IU a day. Consume with fat.
  • Magnesium - Ensure I am taking two capsules every night.
  • Folate - Should be an easy fix without the need for supplementation. I simply need to eat more vegetables.
That is it for Q1 2018. I look forward to seeing progress on my biomarkers and revisiting the BUN in my next test.

Athlete Blood Test Report History:
- January 2018 - Blog Post - Test Results
- June 2017 - Blog Post - Test Results 
- January 2017 - Blog Post - Test Results 

Links:
Athlete Blood Test - use code bloodtest10 to save 10%.
Why MgSport Magnesium by Thomas Gerlach

Supplement Links:
MgSport Magnesium on Amazon - use code  TGMS2017 to save 20%
MgSport ZMG on Amazon - use code THOMAS77 to save 20%
Heme Iron on Amazon
B12 on Amazon
- Life Extension Pregnenolone on Amazon
Gaia HPA Axis

Amazon Zero Gravity Recovery Chairs for Air Relax and Normatec Recovery Compression Boots

With the popularity of recovery compression boots I occasionally get asked about those chairs you sit in at Ironman triathlon and marathon expos while relaxing. Those chairs are called Zero Gravity Chairs and can be seasonally purchased at your local Wal-mart, Target, and Costco but they are also readily available year round from Amazon with free shipping for Prime members. The price is usually $30-$40 for one or two for $50-$60.

Zero gravity chairs are actually really nice comfortable chairs that you can set up in your home gym and patio, but are also very portable and can be brought along for camping or sporting events. They do work great for lounging in your recovery compression boots, and while lifting your legs up certainly does not hurt, they don't make recovery boots any more or less effective in my experience. Personally, at home, I prefer to lay in bed or on the couch with my boots.

Links

Amazon Basics Zero Gravity Chairs - $39.99
FDW Zero Gravity Chairs 2-pack - $53.99
- Normatec vs Air Relax Review
- Air Relax Carry Case Review 

Athlete Blood Test Coupon Code - Save 10%

I am working with Athlete Blood Test again in 2018 to increase awareness of wellness blood testing. This isn't blood testing for sickness and because it is wellness testing it usually falls outside of insurance reimbursement. However it is the perfect solution for those that are: time-crunched, may have high-deductible insurance, or just have a desire to be more proactive and less reactive in an otherwise complex health care system.

With ABT you get the tests you want and the process is simple. Just order your test at AthleteBloodTest.com - save 10% with Athlete Blood Test coupon code: bloodtest10.

Dr. Rock and ABT will submit your blood draw request after you order. You head to a Labcorp at your convenience - either walk-in or schedule an appointment - and get your full ABT report sent to your email in just a few days. You can also add on a phone consult if you would like for an additional cost.

I wrote two blog posts in 2017 that included my test results.  Each post also explains a little more about the process. Those posts can be read here:

Q1 2017 Thomas Gerlach Blood Test
Q3 2017 Thomas Gerlach Blood Test