UPDATE: I am not supporting this product due to a decision they’ve made on their marketing during the Olympics. I feel it’s offensive and demeaning to women. The product works, but I feel you should support good products from good companies. I’d pass on these.
ENERGYbits are a spirulina pill that you down to get a load of protein (64% protein) and nutrients with basically nothing else to help power you for exercise and contribute to your health. I’ve had my eye on them for a while, and have been really curious to try them as I myself have added spirulina to my diet for its various health benefits. I was lucky enough to be offered a free trial for the purpose of this review.
what it is & how it works
Spirulina is an algae that is a ‘super food’. Not to over-use an over-used buzz word, but spirulina is a nutrient-rich plant that grows naturally in the ocean but can be cultivated hydroponically and organically, which is how ENERGYbits grows theirs. It is loaded – loaded – with various nutrients and vitamins. It also happens to be high in protein for what it is. Word in the healthy eating scene is that the protein in it is more bio-available (available for your body to absorb and use) than protein from many other sources (nuts, meat, soy, etc).
It’s highly absorbable and rich in nutrients your body thrives on. What it isn’t is tasty. Spirulina has a very ‘green’ flavor, as the marketing material ENERGYbits sends out says.
The product comes as little tablets, and they recommend taking 30 of them 10-15 minutes before your workout. I made the mistake of taking a bite at one point, and was left with the very ‘green’ taste for a couple of hours (not the few minutes that the marketing material mentions – swish all you want, them suckers stick to your molars like cement…very gross tasting cement).
A key thing that the team at ENERGYbits tried to stress to me is about the quality of their product. Spirulina quality varies greatly by how it’s made (or harvested), when it’s dried, etc. Ocean-harvested sounds natural (like free-range or grass-fed livestock), but actually it can be less ideal since the spirulina is exposed to pollutants in our oceans from trash or the Fukushima nuclear fall out (spirulina is native to Pacific waters). ENERGYbits grows their product organically and hydroponically, and dries it when they’re going to make the pills, so it stays fresh longer. They also recommend refrigerating the tabs (not necessary, but better if you can), and trying to consume them within 3-5 days of pulling them from the fridge. You get a bag of them, plus a little tin that you can put a serving into to take with you so the main stash can stay in the fridge.
They have four varieties, spanning energy, recovery, vitality (really immunity strength) and weight loss benefits. I have the original ENERGYbits that are 100% spirulina. Some of their products add to or replace the spirulina with chlorella (another algae).
I definitely didn’t like taking them (I did them 5 at a time since I figured trying to swallow 30 at once would be problematic), but that was over within a minute. What I found on my run (6 miles in just over 50 minutes with a pre-existing injury) was that I wasn’t lacking for energy, nor was my energy ever spiky. I have used Gu, Recovery Beans and Honey Stinger Gummies, and definitely notice how the energy ‘comes on’, but then fades. I wouldn’t usually need to take something for a 6 miler, but I wanted to test the product, and I have been dragging lately.
For reference, my injury is thought to be tendonitis in my left big toe, but I’m finding my joint is full of blood when I take my shoe off (inside – my joint is blue – not outside with blood staining anything), and my skin is all leathery. I think my shoe is rubbing on the joint way too much, and its gotten to a point where it’s really injuring me. It feels like a stress fracture, but it isn’t (I’ve had x-rays and been checked). Anyway, enough about that, but you can imagine how that might be impacting my performance.
Setting aside the impact of my injury, I definitely had the energy I needed to keep up. I had some negative split action as I warmed up, rather than the flat splits I usually do with a morning run like this where I don’t use any energy.
Aside from the energy delivery, I was also really curious about how my stomach would do. I have friends who are triathletes who talk about the issues you face when you have a stomach full of water and Gu after going for hours. With something like Gu, you need to keep sucking the stuff down every couple of miles (if you follow their advice), and my own use has backed that up since the sugar-based energy runs out pretty quickly. Since I didn’t find that with ENERGYbits, those 30 tabs were enough, and then my stomach wasn’t stuck processing all kinds of sugars, and thus my blood supply didn’t have to be directed toward digestion.
So I’d say my stomach was ok from this. That said…
I often end my runs and get a stomach ache. It generally passes after an hour or so. The day I did this run with ENERGYbits, I was a bit nauseous all day. That could have nothing to do with the product as my allergies were kicking up and I felt kind of miserable in general. I’d have to test them again to know if it was the bits or not. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt here, and assume it isn’t them, so maybe rather than calling this section “my depressions” I’d call it “my potential concerns”. I have a standard review format I’m trying to stick with, though, so here we are with depressions.
UPDATE: I used them again yesterday before some speed work, and was totally fine. I’d say I’m sure that the energy bits had nothing to do with how I felt after my first use. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make running on the treadmill non-soul-crushingly-boring, but they did help me keep my energy levels consistently where they needed to be. I cranked a quick run slightly quicker than I usually do – and that’s with my foot injury, so good stuff. I was aiming for two 7-minute miles, but did 2.1 miles at 6’42”. I tend to run in the low-to-mid-8s, so this is a quick pace for me.
to buy or not to buy?
So, what’s the verdict. Pending confirming whether they caused my gastric issues (which I’m doubtful of), I’d say I’m very positive on them. I’d be curious about a longer run or something like a century ride where you could be out there for 6+ hours (depending on speed and course). You may need to re-up. But I really did like how even the energy was. It was nice not to think about it or crave it.
That’s really what fueling strategy is about. Find the fuel that works for you to keep you going without feeling weird or spiky, and let the exercise enlighten.your.body.
As you saw in my update at the top, while I’m good with spirulina, I can’t recommend ENERGYbits to people because of some really demeaning marketing they’re doing. Call me prude, but it’s not about that, the slogan they’re using is just offensive to women and reminds me of college days with guys trying to get girls drunk to have their way. What on Earth does this have to do with a natural energy product? Nothing.