First let me take care of the disclaimers – I was provided with free samples of Energy Bits for the purpose of trying them out and giving an honest review on my blog. I have not been compensated in any way, shape or form for doing this review and the opinions I offer here are one hundred percent my own. The review is based on trying Energy Bits two times – once before a workout and once before a race. This is admittedly a small trial period, but I feel that I gathered enough information from these experiences to give people an overview and let them decide for themselves if this is a product worth further exploration.
The first relevant question for people who may be from around here (here being Atlantic Canada) is – what the heck are energy bits? Excellent question! In a nutshell, Energy Bits are algae. 100 percent spirulina algae to be precise. They are 64% protein and contain 40 vitamins including antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acid.
Any food/energy source that I consume, I always look at the ingredients first. Why? Allergies. For some reason, I have developed several food allergies as I have gotten older which makes dining out or eating things I’m unfamiliar with a bit like roulette. My latest allergy is shrimp and as I’m not sure how generic that particular allergy is for me, I have to avoid shellfish altogether until I can risk a day or two of vomiting (or worse) by trying out crab or lobster, etc etc. Did you know that Stingers (another very popular energy product for runners) may contain shellfish? I didn’t either until I checked the label just before buying some. I have quite a few runner friends who swear by Stingers, but it’s something I can’t risk even trying.
The “bits” themselves are small 250 mg tablets and a recommended serving is 30-40 tablets. This seems like a lot, but the pill form is just to aid in intake and you should really think of them as small pieces of food – because that’s what they are. My single serving pack had 22 tablets, so that’s what I went with both times and it really wasn’t difficult. I popped a few bits into my mouth at a time and with a small sip of water swallowed them without any issue. You can chew them if you want to but even the literature included says you’ll probably want to avoid doing that as they “taste green” and also colour your teeth and tongue. I had to chew one just to try. Yeah. You probably don’t want to do that. I love me some truth in advertising.
For my first test, I decided to try them on a mid-range run (about 8 km for me). I had done a tempo run two days before, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a hard workout and was probably a good time to try the bits out. I got some water and popped a few of the bits into my mouth and swallowed them without chewing. Two more mini handfuls and my sample was all en route to my stomach. If I fuel at all prior to a run, it has always been with a GU energy gel, which I have gotten used to, but can be sweet and sticky. I definitely didn’t have that issues with the bits as I really didn’t taste much of anything and there was certainly no residual in my mouth.
I waited about 15 minutes and set off on my run. I can’t say that I felt any different than I normally do when I set out, which I took as a good sign. Having an annoyingly sensitive stomach means that something new is always a risk. So far, so good. It was cold and sunny out, with no wind, which is always nice. The first time I looked at my watch to check my pace I noticed I was right around 5:30/km. I know this isn’t a blistering pace for many runners, but it’s right around my marathon pace. It was a little faster then I intended for the run, but not by a huge amount, so I decided to roll with it and just run by feel.
By the time I finished my run, I felt nice and relaxed. At no point did I feel like I was pushing at all and when I checked my average pace, it was 5:23/km. Checking my splits, I saw that they were consistent and the second half was actually a little faster. All good signs, as was the fact that I felt great and had no stomach issues!
Test two was going to be a little more strenuous as I decided to try a second serving of bits before my first half marathon of the year, the Hypothermic Half in Moncton, NB. I took the same sample size as the first time (22 tablets) about 15 minutes before the gun and got to the start line. My goal for the race was to go sub 1:55 which wouldn’t be a PB, but would be faster than I had achieved on the same course last year. Anything around a 5:20/km pace would do it comfortably.
Once the race started, I felt great. I know part of this was the conditions (sunny and dry, although FREAKIN’ COLD!) and another part was my training. I tend to come out of the chute a little fast, so being aware of this I tried to hold pack to a very comfortable pace. When I heard my watch beep for the first kilometer, I checked and was surprised to see I was just below five minutes. I felt great and, once again, just decided to roll with it. As kilometer after kilometer rolled by, I was consistently around that 5:00/km mark. I knew that not only was a PB likely, but I was going to be close to my season goal of sub 1:45. I did take a GU just past 10 km (I couldn’t figure out the logistics of popping the tablets in -22 temperature) and stayed pretty strong. With a few kilometers left, I faded a bit but managed to get back to my earlier pace for the last couple. I crossed the line in just under an hour and forty-seven minutes – a new PB by over four minutes!
Overall, I was very happy with my Energy Bits experience. It’s certainly a product that I find very intriguing and the number of elite athletes who are part of Team Bits speaks to its popularity. Performance wise, I can’t really say that I could find much in the way of drawbacks, albeit with a small sample size to base that on.
No bad taste or sticky mouth feeling (unless you chew them, then it’s your own fault)
All natural and no additives
Easy on the stomach
The company is SUPER responsive and very active on social media
Lots of peer reviewed research on the product (the algae, specifically)
Positive (certainly no negative) effect on results.
Availability – This is picky, as the delivery time certainly seemed very quick, but it would be awesome if I could pick some up locally.
Taste – Acquired taste is certainly a fair statement. I’m sure some people wouldn’t mind the taste. I’m also sure that many, many more people would rather just swallow the tablets whole.
Cost – Again, this is something that is a little on the picky side. The cost of 1000 tabs is listed at $115. At the recommended serving (30-40 tablets), this is 25-30 servings or so. However, based on a slightly smaller serving size or breaking it down to a cost per serving price, it does match up comparably to energy gels. There are also a lot of discounts available by searching on twitter, which can help reduce cost as well.
Convenience on the Run – I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this one, especially during the winter. The carrying case would be fine to put in my belt, just as a GU was, but a gel pack is easier to open while on the move. Add in gloves and the fact that I hate to stop, even to take in fluids and I may have to stick with gels during races – for now.
If you are always looking for an edge, or even just open to trying new things, then this is really a product worth trying out. The fact that this company seems to be so open to review and all of the reviews I’ve seen previously have all been positive speak highly to the product. Add in the positive relationships they have with many athletes (they have LOADS of Team Canada Olympians on their roster) and it adds to something with a lot of potential! For more information, visit www.energybits.com or find them on twitter @ENERGYbits.