In our ever-expanding search for optimizing the athletic performance of humans, sometimes we forget that Mother Nature has billions of years of research that we will never catch up on. In this case, we are talking about spirulina and chlorella algae, plants that have grown on the earth for over 2 billion years and are only recently being exposed to the mainstream for their amazing benefits. As nature tends to do, it has created an efficient source of vitamins and minerals in a wonderfully simple package. Founded by Catharine Arnston, ENERGYbits' mission is to bring a healthy snack to athletes and everyday people alike by capturing this “super-food” in a small handful of “bits” that pack a punch. Pound for pound, these little bits are beating the competition in every department.
Our first test was around the self-titled product, ENERGYbits, made from spirulina algae. This powerful form of algae has been discovered to be constructed of 63% protein, roughly 3x the amount of protein that makes up beef, and the protein content is only the beginning of the story with spirulina. This mega plant also contains more than 40 vitamins and minerals, omega-3s, and over 2x the amount of antioxidants as its closest competing superfood, Goji Berries. The kicker is its nitrate concentrations (which I go into greater detail in my review for Beet Performer elsewhere in this issue). Simply put, a strong dose of nitrates in the blood have been shown to increase athletic endurance and performance by reducing the necessary oxygen content for equivalent energy output.
ENERGYbits are an extremely efficient source of Vitamin B, containing 100% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B12 and 33% RDA of Vitamin B7. All of those vitamins, and you are only consuming 35-99 calories of algae. If you are not convinced of the requirements for Vitamin B, an Oregon State University study recently confirmed the negative effects on athletes who suffer a Vitamin B deficiency, specifically B6 and B12, which assist in the transport of proteins and sugars into energy used during exercise. Even a marginal shortage of B vitamins can reduce an athlete's performance.
Opening the package I found 30 dark green bits looking extra, um, algae flavored. Despite my curiosity (who doesn't want to know what crunchy algae tastes like?) I resisted the urge to chew them and instead washed them down with a couple gulps of water. During my ride, I actually felt light on my feet and the benefits promised were manifested right away. In the mid-day heat of Central Texas, I never lost focus or felt the dull edge of dehydration. My body was not weighed down and energy came in sprints and endurance throughout the day.
The second product I had the pleasure of testing were the RECOVERYbits, made from chlorella algae and intended to increase immune function, remove toxins and assist in recovery from athletic performance. A healthy dose of RECOVERYbits contain zinc, B – vitamins, electrolytes and chlorophyll, all of which work together to help flush your system of antioxidants and speed up recovery. They also boast 60% protein, 2nd only to the spirulina algae. These claims were confirmed upon my field test after a particularly rough day on the trail.
It was climbing day, an evening spent out in the hill country working hard to clear the toughest ascents. My hydration routine has fallen off lately, and today was no exception to my bad habits. During the ride, I felt the effects of dehydration and gulped at my Camelpak, managing to get through the ride without too much discomfort but none-the-less quite exhausted. After riding until the sun fell, we pulled out of the trail and I went immediately for the RECOVERYbits. These bits were a much lighter shade of lime green compared to the darker ENERGYbits, but just as inspiring concerning taste. That sense of curiosity about the flavor returned before I yet again tossed them down the hatch and followed up with a gulp of water. As before, I barely noticed any difference right away, but within a half an hour, my body felt amazing. My energy levels and muscles felt fresh the rest of the night and the morning after. It felt as though I had spent the day hydrating to the max despite my lack of doing so.
Comparing them to other energy supplements I have used, I would say the energy performance was equivalent but had the boosted effect of being natural. This alone made for a positive mental edge and a clean and healthy recovery. The samples I was testing were small packages of 30 bits or 1 serving size. Unfortunately, I could not find any sample sizes for sale but only bags of 1,000 bits for $115.00. By my math, at 30 bits/serving, you will be spending $3.45 per ride if you go this route. Though a bit pricey, this is comparable to some of the other high-end biking snacks currently on the market. As usual, the added benefit of being natural tends to come with a higher price tag unfortunately.
As the search for great nutrition continues, more and more impressive products emerge to answer the demand. With ENERGYbits, you are getting exactly what Mother Nature prescribes and nothing more. No caffeine, no sugar and absolutely no banned or harmful substances. The algae used by ENERGYbits is all grown organically and sustainably, packing a double punch for both body and the environment. After my experiences with these products, I will certainly be switching from high sugar gels to the homeopathic benefits of algae. The natural and clean feeling empowers motivation and helped me feel like I was nurturing my body while getting in a killer ride.
Check out the products and the message of ENERGYbits here: