I Tried Algae for Energy—Here’s What Happened
If you’ve ever seen a freshwater pond lush with a carpet of green algae, you know how pervasive it can be. What starts as a small floating patch can quickly spread to the water’s edge, dashing any hopes of swimming, fishing or floating in the water for fear of being covered in green sludge. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for intentionally ingesting the stuff, right? But in the late 1940s and 1950s, chlorella—a single-cell freshwater algae containing fats and protein—was deemed a hopeful source of renewable nutrition for a global hunger crisis directly related to the human population boom of the time. Fast forward to 2018, and chlorella has enjoyed a resurgence among the wellness community for claims that it enhances energy, detoxifies the body of heavy metals, boosts immunity and can aid in weight loss, glowing skin, lowering blood sugar and fighting cancer. All of this from a single-cell organism!
Though liquid chlorophyll has been a part of my daily wellness routine for quite a while, I had stopped short of going full bore on green plant matter supplements. Until, that is, I found myself reaching for that 3 p.m. cup of coffee—in addition to my first cup in the morning, second cup mid-morning, and on some days, even one after lunch. I was dragging on a daily basis, and needed to find more energy in a caffeine-free form—so I tried algae for energy, and here’s what happened.
The Concern: Low Energy Levels, Distraction + Brain Fog
Working from home definitely has its advantages; sneaking in mid-day naps to ward off migraines is one of my favorite perks. But when I began noticing that my midday power nap was taking place earlier in the day, and often to abate my overall sluggishness instead of headaches, I started to pay attention. I was plodding through my days, beginning tasks and getting sidetracked within minutes, and I was struggling to find clarity through the fog that I couldn’t shake upon waking.
Most disconcerting was my inability to locate the right words when I needed them–not a good situation for a writer to find herself in. When my caffeine habit no longer lifted me up but instead, started to burn a hole through my stomach, I began researching energy-boosting superfoods to incorporate into my pescatarian diet.
The Solution: Chlorella
Chlorella has become a darling of the wellness community for its energy-boosting reputation, and as I am constantly trying to up my greens ante by way of veggies, it made sense to me to take the plunge and add one more dark green element to my daily routine. To begin my budding relationship with algae, I turned to NOW, a supplement company I’ve had good luck with in the past. Because chlorella has a hard cell wall that humans can’t digest, NOW chlorella supplements feature a broken cell wall to aid in digestibility. They also boast “naturally occurring chlorophyll, plus beta-carotene, mixed carotenoids, vitamin C, iron and protein.” I heeded their caution that chlorella may cause GI discomfort and made a mental note not to take them on an empty stomach.
The instructions on the NOW bottle suggest taking one tablet, three times daily. My first tablet—did I mention they’re not coated?—got lodged in my throat, releasing an earthy, slightly gamey flavor that I wasn’t expecting, like when you take a bite of your sushi roll and get too much seaweed in a single bite. After gulping water, it was down, and I had officially undertaken my algae journey.
By lunchtime that first day, I was better prepared to swallow the tablet; I swallowed it with chlorophyll water with lemon, so all I could taste was the bright citrus and slightly minty flavor of the liquid chlorophyll. This was a much more palatable solution, and one that I repeated often as the month went by.
After a month of taking chlorella tablets, I can’t say for sure if my energy level has improved. I have noticed, however, more clarity in my thought processes and improved focus overall, which comes close to an energy boost because I’m more productive. This may be a placebo effect due to the mindfulness that comes with instilling a new habit in one’s life; I am present when I take the chlorella, therefore (perhaps) I am more present in the task at hand. Overall, I feel a bit “brighter”—the sluggish brain fog that was plaguing me before I started seems to have ebbed, at least for now.
A few times, I did make the mistake of taking chlorella on an empty stomach, and was greeted with nausea and a few gas-like pains on each occasion. I recommend taking it with food—always. While I never got used to the taste of the tablets, taking them with lemon water was a huge help.
As my quest for more energy continues, I will keep the chlorella tablets as a part of my daily routine. I’m willing to keep trying to see if longer term, this simple algae is the answer to keeping my energy levels up throughout the day. In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my coffee habit in control, and to cherish those power naps whenever I’m lucky enough to indulge in them.
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