If you had asked my eighteen-year-old self what I ate before hitting the gym, I would have told you one of two things; either three eggs with spinach or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on ezekiel bread.
Spirulina rose to mainstream popularity when NASA proposed that it could be grown in space for use by astronauts. Since then, spirulina has quietly been infiltrating health food stores everywhere—and for good reason. While consuming the blueish green cyanobacteria may sound odd at first, it happens to be one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
As Larry Dressler, Co-Founder of SNACK told Ladders in an email, “We often compare foods by the amount of protein, calories, fat and carbohydrates, but a key component overlooked is the digestibility of foods and the body’s ability to utilize the beneficial nutrients. Spirulina is the Super Superfood because not only does it have many positive attributes such as high plant-based protein, nutrient-dense, and anti-inflammatory benefits but it also averages over 90% digestibility.”
According to Beyond Coffee, A Sustainable Guide to Nootropics, Adaptogens, and Mushrooms, “Spirulina is thought to be rich in B-vitamins, protein, iron, and has been employed for a variety of conditions including cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, ADHD, PMS, stress, depression, anxiety, and more.”
I first tried spirulina (randomly) at a local cafe in Washington DC. The Instagram-worthy bright blue hue of blue majik, an extract of spirulina’s pigment, was a staple ingredient in their most popular smoothie.
Since then I have consumed it in every way imaginable, from superfood clusters and smoothie boosters to tablets and dehydrated powders. And I can honestly say that adding spirulina to my diet has come with some seriously amazing health benefits.
For the coffee drinkers
A popular goal right now is to reduce caffeine intake. Especially as we dive deeper into the world of remote working, the glistening coffee machine on our countertop is more appealing and accessible than ever before.
Some people are going cold turkey, giving up coffee entirely. Others (like myself) are simply trying to avoid dependence. Either way, if you want to neutralize your daily coffee without sacrificing the focus and energy, spirulina could be the answer.
When looking for energy, productivity, and focus boosting compounds, Beyond Coffee recommends thinking about several key areas including sleep, exercise, diet, and stress-management.
As stated in Spirulina in Clinical Practice: Evidence-Based Human Applications, “Spirulina has been promoted as “the food of the future” with “exceptional constituents” that contribute to high energy levels. A few of these constituents such as polysaccharides (Rhamnose and Glycogen) and essential fat (GLA) are absorbed easily by human cells and help in energy release.”
Spirulina increases healthy lactobacillus in the intestine, enabling the production of Vitamin B6 that also helps in energy release. For athletes, research shows that spirulina supplementation reduces muscle fatigue and postpones the point of exhaustion.
In my experience with spirulina, you aren’t going to get the same kick and focus that a cup of coffee provides. However, I have noticed more balanced and sustained energy levels throughout the day without added jitters since introducing spirulina supplements and products into my diet. Plus, I can consume spirulina in the evening without disrupting my sleep. I still drink my morning espresso—but I don’t feel like I need the caffeine as much for peak cognitive performance.
That’s not all. Algae emits few greenhouse gases and requires ten times less water than other vegetables. Spirulina specifically can be harvested year round while withstanding extreme temperatures making it a far more sustainable option than other energy sources.
How to consume spirulina
1. Superfood snacks and tablets
The market for spirulina based products is growing, often combining multiple superfoods for a holistically healthy approach to snacking. For example, SNACK offers two different blends containing 5g of protein and 140 calories per serving. The first is engineered for enhanced focus and long-lasting energy.
The other promotes relaxation and recovery combining spirulina with other beneficial ingredients like dried tart cherries and cinnamon. Tablets are another effective and nutritious option to add to your diet. You can sprinkle them on top of yogurt or throw them into an acai bowl.
The market for spirulina based products is growing, often combining multiple superfoods for a holistically healthy approach to snacking. For example, SNACK offers two different blends containing 5g of protein and 140 calories per serving.
The first is engineered for enhanced focus and long-lasting energy. The other promotes relaxation and recovery combining spirulina with other beneficial ingredients like dried tart cherries and cinnamon. Tablets are another effective and nutritious option to add to your diet. You can sprinkle them on top of yogurt or throw them into an acai bowl.
2. Beverages and mixers
GTS’s “Multi-Green Kombucha,” which includes a blend of Blue-Green Algae, Spirulina, and Chlorella, is a great option if you enjoy kombucha. If not, there are plenty of boosters out there at your local Vitamin Shoppe or health food store.
I personally like having a dehydrated power in my supplement cabinet when I want to add spirulina to my protein shakes. One cost-effective option is Earthrise Californian Spirulina. While you can mix spirulina powder straight into water or juice, be aware that it may turn your beverage to a dark greenish/black and can leave blue-green clumps at the bottom of your cup.
The bottom line: Spirulina lives up to the hype
Whether or not you want to try spirulina as a sustainable coffee alternative, the potential long-term health benefits offer enough reason to consider blue-green algae as a weekly supplement. If you’re looking for more of an on-the-go, pre workout, or general snack, then SNACK Brands spirulina clusters are the best option I have tried.
Even if you don’t like the taste of spirulina, which has been called “galactic, funky, and savory” by chef Fernando Aciar of Feel Food, the spirulina taste is masked by dried fruits and nuts.
If you’re interested in trying it, remember two things. First, there are a myriad of different spirulina options to test. Make sure you do some research to narrow down sources that are high quality and recommended. Second, balance is more important than supplementation.
If you’re running on two hours of sleep and McDonalds, spirulina isn’t going to change your life. The best results will come if you find the right spirulina product in addition to a healthy diet, exercise regiment, and getting enough sleep.