Product review: Performance nutrition with ENERGYbits

This little can contains a couple of serving of ENERGYbits. (ENERGYbits photo)

This little can contains a couple of servings of ENERGYbits. (ENERGYbits photo)

A lot of times when we’re discussing fitness, sports and performance, the talk drifts to training methods and gear. But let’s face it: your training is often only as good as your diet.

If you’re trying to lose weight or cut fat, it’s often been said that 80 percent of your success is what you do in the kitchen.

And really, athletic performance of any kind is directly related to how well you fuel.

I could stand to be more disciplined in this regard. For the most part, I fuel well. But I like to eat. And like most of you, that’s code for “I like to eat big, fatty, carby, tasty things in large quantities.” Still, I put in a pretty good effort to get my fruits, veggies and lean proteins in.

I was talking about fueling online not too long ago when the folks at ENERGYbits contacted me about trying a sample of their product. Hey, I’m game for trying new stuff, so I agreed.

The package I got gave me enough for about two servings. My test would be to use them as part of a pre-workout or pre-race fuel strategy. We’ll get to that in a second.

About the product

ENERGYbits are made from spirulina algae. That’s the only ingredient, and the company notes that it is organically grown and no GMOs or outside chemicals, colors or fillers are in the product.

Algae is commonly eaten in east Asia (seaweed dishes) and has been long known as an excellent source of nutrition. For this company’s purposes, the algae is grown, dried and pressed into small pellets the size of a baby aspirin. It’s recommended that you swallow the pills, but they can be chewed. I find that for taste purposes, it’s just easier to swallow them with water or some other drink. They go down easy enough.

Nutritionally speaking, each bit is about a calorie. One serving is 30 bits. Each serving contains about 5 grams of protein. ENERGYbits also have 40 vitamins and minerals and are a source of Omega 3. So what you’re getting is a nutrient-dense, low-calorie food.

So far, there is a lot to like about this, and honestly, I think the American diet could use more seaweed and similar foods. There is just a lot of bang-for-the-buck nutrition there.

But how did they help me?

Putting them to the test

My tests would be pretty rigorous. The first would be during a long training run, which in this case would be 20 miles, including a few miles on some pretty rugged trails.

Part of the struggle of long runs like this during a training season is cumulative wear-and-tear/fatigue. It’s one thing to pop out a long run, but it’s another thing to bust out 20 miles after 15 weeks of tough training and high-mileage.

So down went the ENERGYbits with breakfast. For the first half of the run (which included that trail section), I was pretty energetic and fast (or faster than normal). I probably could have used a second dose for the back half, because I slowed considerably on the last six miles or so. But those first 13 went pretty well, especially during the road portion. Most notably, I was faster on the front portion of that run than I was on my last 20-miler, and not far off my best half marathon time. So far, so good.

The next test came during a race. In this case, it was the 15K Tulsa Run. Last year, I ran it pretty slow. I’ve become a much stronger runner since then, but I wasn’t sure how much time I could peel off my 2012 showing.

Just like with the long run, I downed a serving with breakfast pre-race.

I started fast and set a pace that was much quicker than a year ago. When it was over, I’d shaved 15 minutes off my 2012 time.

There are a lot of factors in that improvement – a year’s worth of training, 10 fewer pounds, etc. But despite a poor night of sleep and some muscular tightness caused by dehydration (I’d gone out the night before with friends and had a few; not the best pre-race strategy), I was quick and energetic. A 15-minute improvement in a 15K race is significant.

What I’m saying is what you do pre-race or before a workout matters, especially with nutrition. Are the ENERGYbits solely responsible for my performance improvements? No. But did they help? I think so.

In conclusion, I’d say this: If nutrition is important to you, it would be hard to find more nutrient-packed foods then algae. Getting algae in pill form makes ingesting and storing it easy enough. Check out their website, look at the nutritional information and then see if this is an area of your nutrition you want to invest in. There’s a lot of junk out there; ENERGYbits are anything but.

Price: ENERGYbits clock in at about $3.25 per serving; you can buy a bag of 1,000 bits for $115.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088