I responded to an email that sounded interesting. Increase your energy with a high protein all natural food. After Energybits said they would send me a sample of their product to review I started my research. The marketing materials were impressive. “ENERGYbits® are tiny algae tabs so nutritionally dense, they eliminate fatigue and hunger instantly. Want a healthy, natural way to fuel your game or fire up your brain? ENERGYbits® are for you! NO caffeine, sugar, chemicals, gluten or soy, just pure, plant based nutrition, all for just ONE calorie per tab. ENERGYbits® have just ONE ingredient – organically grown NON GMO spirulina algae – a super food endorsed by the United Nations and NASA as the most nutritionally dense food in the world. Spirulina has been a favorite of gold medalists for decades.” OK I’ll give them a try.
Any website you look at that talks about the virtues of spirulina says it is endorsed by NASA as a perfect food for astronauts and a true super food. The Energybits site says (and many other web sites) that NASA found 1 kg of spirulina had the nutritional equivalent of 1000 kg of fruits and vegetables. I searched the NASA site and found a lot of information about research the agency is doing around algae growth and biofuels. As far as what the astronauts use most of the NASA site talked about “thermostabilized” (heat processed), rehydratable and natural-form foods. There has been a fair bit of research done on spirulina since the 1970s, but most of it has been done on cats, mice, rats and fish. I could not get to the actual text of the human studies. Some of the findings in the animal studies have been impressive.
- Boost the Immune System
- Improve Digestion
- Reduce fatigue
- Build Endurance
- Nature’s Detoxifier – Cleanse the body
- Boost Energy Levels
- Control Appetite
- Maintain Healthy Cardiovascular function
- Support the Liver and Kidneys
- Reduce Inflammation
- Benefit People Who Suffer from Allergies and more
Many of the web sites who tout the benefits of spirulina also say that The Cuban Ministry of Sports gave it to their athletes to intensify training before the ‘96 Olympic games. Stating that Cuban track stars have consumed it for many years. They say it helps create and mend muscle mass and helps iron retention. It improves endurance and wards off cramping for marathoners. When training increases appetite, spirulina curbs hunger. (I could not find the source of this info, but every spirulina site touts it, so it must be true, right?) With all that I decided to try some of the Energybits capsules. I decided to take them before an early morning TRX session. I usually have by 98% caffeine free hot cocoa as I head over the the Y, so I figured if this gave me an energy boost I would feel it (already tired and wanting to head back to bed). I opened the packaged and poured out the little capsules. There were about 30 in the package. The directions said to take them with water, a good thing for me since I typically need to up my water consumption. You can also chew them, but it seemed like they might be a very acquired taste! I swallowed them easily and headed off. I can’t say I ever felt a real energy rush. I had a pretty normal workout then came home to a regular crazy day.
Since it is touted as a food I would imagine it takes some time for your body to digest and absorb the nutrients (and it is chock full of nutritients). The fact that the capsules are smaller should help with quicker absorption. I did more research before taking the next batch. Spirulina is 64% protein making it the most protein dense food. The Energybits website says it is a food, so safe for everyone. In the nutritional details it does say that some people react to the high concentration of niacin (which may cause a temporary flushing in the face) or have a sensitivity to the high concentration of beta carotene (which may cause temporary nausea). The site also says that you should stop taking a week before surgery since the fatty acids in spirulina may prevent your blood from clotting after surgery. This means that people on prescription medications like coumadin should avoid. They also say you should drink plenty of water since the protein concentration is so high. Based on some of the research I read you would want to avoind popping these all day as there is a max limit of spirulina recommended per day of 2-3g according to the University of Maryland.
According to Medline Plus; “Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider. Spirulina appears safe, even at high doses. However, it can be contaminated with other substances that can be toxic. It is important to buy a reputable brand of spirulina.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before taking spirulina.
People with a metabolic condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid taking spirulina. People with this rare condition cannot metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine. Spirulina is rich in all amino acids, including phenylalanine.
If you have an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, you should avoid spirulina. Theoretically, it could stimulate your immune system and make your condition worse.
It is possible that spirulina might interfere with drugs given to suppress the immune system, including:
Many of the medical sites say there still is not enough research to substantiate the many claims. Is it a source of protein – absolutely, but it does come at a higher cost. If you are going to take it make sure you get it from a reputable source. Blue-green algae are commonly found in tropical or subtropical waters that have a high-salt content, but some types grow in large fresh water lakes. The natural color of these algae can give bodies of water a dark-green appearance. The altitude, temperature, and sun exposure where the blue-green algae are grown dramatically influence the types and mix of blue-green algae in the water. Some blue-green algae products are grown under controlled conditions. Others are grown in a natural setting, where they are more likely to be contaminated by bacteria, liver poisons (microcystins) produced by certain bacteria, and heavy metals. Energybits says their product is organically grown, so should not have bacteria and metal issues.
So I decided to try the second pouch on a day before a run of 8 miles. I had read a lot of the testimonials and people rave about the product. Maybe I was missing something. I didn’t get a caffeine rush of energy, but I did have sustained energy throught my run. I am focused on getting my diet cleaned up and eating real food, limiting GMOs, processed foods and sugar. Energybits fits that bill. Is it the next super food? I don’t believe so based on the cost. It is a higher cost way to get protein in. I will try some on a long run training for Boston or maybe an Ironman training ride. The challenge there will be getting in a serving along with the water! I’d be interested in your thoughts.