[00:19] Kimera Koffee
[01:53] Organifi Green Juice
[04:36] What exactly is Algae?
[07:46] All about Catharine Arnston
[10:31] How Catharine get into Algae
[13:19] What Algae means to be endorsed by UN, NASA, and Carnegie Institute?
[15:16] More on what is Algae
[16:26] Two kinds of Algae
[18:42] The specific Algae that works best for workout and the appropriate dosage
[25:42] The form of Algae that has the identical nutritional profile to mother’s milk
[30:00] Where to get Spirulina?
[32:24] What is a “cracked” Chlorella?
[38:42] Is GMO an issue with Algae?
[42:25] Are Algae similar? Or How to grade Algae?
[45:26] The blue-green pigment form of Algae
[50:26] The difference between Chlorella and Spirulina
[54:12] Algae as a potent anti-aging food on the face of the planet
[1:01:07] How chlorophyll slows body to produce ATP even in the absence of calories
[1:03:56] How chlorophyll acts as a natural source of sun protection and prevention of radiation damage
[1:05:43] The difference between Energy Bits and Recovery Bits
Ben: Hey, what’s up! It’s Ben Greenfield. Hey, there’s two things that I really dig: coffee and algae. We’re gonna talk about algae later on, as a matter of fact, this whole podcast you’re about to listen to is all about algae.
But right now, we’re gonna talk about coffee, and one of my favorite blends of coffee on the face of the planet, it’s called Kimera Koffee. You can check it out at k-i-m-e-r-a-k-o-f-f-e-e dot com. If you’re a regular podcast listener, you’ve probably heard me talk about Kimera Koffee before, but if you haven’t tried it yet, then you’re a fool, because you have no clue what it feels like in terms of the difference between a regular cup of coffee and a cup of coffee that is charged with nootropics.
As a matter of fact, right now, I’m not on Kimera Koffee. I’m on a regular old cup of black coffee ‘cause I just got home, and I’m out of Kimera Koffee, which means I’m drinking regular coffee. It doesn’t have that alpha-GPA and the taurine and L-theanine and the DMAE in it. You hear that? I can barely even talk. My brain is not spinning. I’m stupid. Kimera Koffee, it is like smart drugs except it’s safe. These are all natural compounds, they blend ’em into this really tasty blend of coffee that’s growing at a high altitude, it’s mold free. You know, it’s one of those woo-woo healthy coffees, you know, sustainably grown, etcetera. But the cool thing that I like about them, honestly, is there’s a bunch of nootropics inside. So you can check these out at kimerakoffee.com, that is k-i-m-e-r-a-k-o-f-f-e-e dot com, and you use discount code Ben to save 10% when you get your coffee from kimerakoffee.com. That’s discount code Ben.
The other tasty beverage that this podcast is brought to you by is Green Juice. This green juice is called Organifi Green Juice. It has coconut and ashwagandha infused into it and a ton of other compounds. You have to go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi, and read the list of compounds of the stuff it has in it. It’s mind boggling, how much they can get into like one teaspoon of this gently dried superfood powder. It’s got turmeric in it too, so it can help with pain, it can help to turn on your brain. Yes, you could do like this in the afternoon, the Kimera Koffee in the morning, if you wanted to engage in better living through science, and you get a discount on this. It’s organic, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free. No shopping, no juicing, no blending, no clean-up. You get it at bengreenfield.com/organifi. That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi, and if you use discount code there, that gets you 20% off.
So you’ve got your coffee, you’ve got your green juice, and now we’re gonna go talk about algae. Get ready to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about chlorella and spirulina. Let’s have some fun.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“In Japan, when babies are born and they cannot digest mother’s milk, they give them spirulina in water because it is the only thing that keeps them alive.” “We’re not going out there just to sell this stuff. We’re trying to educate people and help them be healthier, help them be the best athlete they can. I’m very conscious of the fact that people are putting my product into their bodies or into their children’s bodies. So I have a responsibility to ensure that everything we do here is good for them and also good for the environment.”
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield here, and as I think I’ve mentioned on a podcast before, one of the things that I’ll often drop into my morning smoothie for a little added crunch and goodness is algae. I’ve got these little spirulina algae tablets that I keep in my refrigerator and I’ll take a handful of ’em, I’ll put them in there and then, in the evening, rather than doing popcorn, which is all my wife eats, my wife does popcorn with butter and Tabasco sauce. That’s her thing, but I do these chlorella tablets.
Same thing, they’re these little algae tablets, there’s like one calorie in each one, and I grab a handful of ’em, and sometimes I’ll put them in a cup and mix them with coconut flakes, sometimes I’ll just pop ’em into my mouth like popcorn to satiate my appetite. And I do have to be careful because my wife refuses to kiss me after I eat these and so I gotta rinse out my mouth with water to make myself kissable, or if I want to get lucky that night, I gotta make sure I wash the algae out of my mouth, but why do I do this?
Well, regardless of whether you think that we as land dwelling creatures at some point evolved from ocean dwelling life, which is actually something a lot of people do believe and that’s why they think that people and seaweed and algae, and stuff like that mesh so well, or whether you just look at things like fishes and turtles and millions of other creatures in the water that rely on algae for life sustenance as their primary source of nutrition, it really can’t be denied that this stuff is very nutritionally dense and especially for vegans and for vegetarians. Pretty much the only way to get absorbable, brain-building, what is called DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, from a plant-based source ‘cause stuff like chia seeds and flax seeds don’t get converted into DHA.
So algae is cool. I’ve written about it before. It’s got like 40 different vitamins and minerals, it’s got more protein than steak, it’s got more iron than liver, it’s got more calcium than milk, it’s got more chlorophyll than kale, it’s got more antioxidants than blueberries. It’s got some cool properties to it, even though it does indeed turn your mouth green, and it’s hard to wrap your head around how to use it, and it’s got weird names like spirulina and chlorella, and that’s why I wanted to do this podcast because I consider algae to be right up there with, you know, like I’ve I talked about like eating insects before, right, as one sustainable source of protein as an alternative to, say like cattle.
I consider algae to also be a really eco-friendly, sustainable crop. It actually makes oxygen while it’s growing. It produces like 100 times more protein per acre than beef and it’s, like I mentioned, a really good source of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s great for the oceans ecosystem too, and better yet there’s one calorie in one tab.
I wanted to get somebody who’s an expert on algae on the podcast for you, and my guest today puts my own algae consumption to freaking shame. She has told me that she has 75 pieces of chlorella and 75 pieces of spirulina every day. Her name is Catharine Arnston, and Catherine has a formal education in business and geography. She’s also a board-certified health counselor from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is a Reiki master, which just sounds cool. I need to work on my own resume to add Reiki master to it, and then she studies algae, that’s what she does. She’s a CEO and the chief scientific officer of this company called Energy Bits, this nutrition company that makes algae. They make these little algae tablets, the same ones that I use at night, and she’s been using algae for years and years, and studying it. And whenever I have a question about algae, she’s like my ‘go-to person’ to ask about algae, and now she’s here to share with us how to use it, how not to use it, what you actually get out of it, whether you can overdose on it, what it does to your body, etcetera, etcetera. So Catharine, welcome to The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show.
Catharine: Hi, Ben. (chuckles) I hope you didn’t wash your mouth out before the podcast and have some little remnants of green maybe in your mouth.
Ben: I did wash it out. I do, I have to wash my mouth. Like, what I do is I’ll eat it and then I’ll kind of like dig at it with my fingers a little bit, you know, like you dig it out of the back of your teeth ‘cause it’s got this salty taste to it. It’s weird. Like, to me, it’s like popcorn. It’s the closest thing that comes to popcorn, and I just can’t get myself to sit on the couch and eat popcorn. I don’t know if it’s like the GMO corn or the fact that it’s just like not nutritionally dense no matter how much Tabasco sauce and butter you add to it like my wife does, but what I wanted to ask you, ‘cause it was really weird when you sent me a bag of algae, I don’t remember when this was. It was a few years ago ‘cause I’ve been using the stuff for a few years now and it was weird for me. Like when I first ate it, I held one little tab in my hand for a few minutes before I was finally like, “Okay, I’m gonna put this in my mouth and see what happens.”
Ben: But you, when did you first start to get into this stuff? Like how did you go from being somebody who was studying geography and business to getting to algae?
Catharine: Well, and first before I get into that, I just want to assure your readers that, actually most people swallow these tablets, Ben and I are the brave ones that chew it because it is an acquired taste and doesn’t have any sugar in it.
Ben: Most people swallow ’em like pills? Really?
Catharine: Yeah, almost everybody swallows them. Yeah, because they don’t like it ‘cause it’s very green and very chewy, but we can talk about that later on. Yeah, I can’t believe I’m becoming known as the algae lady here in America, and it certainly wasn’t my intention to do this. It chose me rather than me choosing it and it was a complete circumstance, unpredictable. My, I had a career doing international economic development and I’m actually Canadian and my younger sister in Canada developed breast cancer and her oncologist told her she should change her diet to an alkaline diet because it would help her heal. She didn’t know what that was so she called me and I’m very pretty good at research, so I said, “I have no idea what it is either, but I will find out.”
And basically it’s a diet based on plant-based foods which are alkaline, and because the alkaline nature of greens and, actually almonds and green tea are also alkaline. They provide your body with oxygen and phytonutrients, all of which support your immune system, and when you’re going through something like chemotherapy, which really hurts your immune system, it’s really strong to age your body in every way that you can.
So I gave her some tips, she changed her diet, she went through chemo, eight years later she’s still free of cancer. However, in the process I learned about the power of green nutrition. I read about 20 books and I thought, “My gosh. I think I’m changing my career because other people need to know about this.”
So I did give up my career, I have an MBA and 30 years work experience, went back to school, studied nutrition and to get this board-certified, certification, and then I taught nutrition for a year trying to get people to eat greens. But I learned in that process that most people don’t either like greens or it’s too much work, or whatever. So then I thought, “Okay, I’m not moving the needle. I need to find a way to help people get this green nutrition in them because if you have the proper alkaline balance in your body through your diet, it’s less likely that you will get any kind of illness of any kind, whether it’s new cancer or heart disease or anything. Diabetes, acne, you name it.”
So, I started researching more things and one of the things along the way I had found for my sister was algae, but I had never given it a second look. It was just one of many things I had found for her, but then I started digging into the research and I couldn’t believe what I found. It was the most alkaline food in the world, has more chlorophyll than liquid chlorophyll, has all the 40 nutrients, it’s endorsed by the United Nations, it’s endorsed by NASA, endorsed by the Carnegie Institute. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry (crosstalk).
Ben: Whoa. What’s that mean “it’s endorsed”?
Catharine: That they have spent time researching it as well, and written white papers about it as well, and have publicly declared through various mediums, whether it’s the newspaper at the time, or television, or whatever, or reports, that it is the most nutritionally dense food in the world. So, for example, the United Nations, I think it was in 1974, they held a world conference on spirulina, and I have the proceedings from that conference and their conclusion in 1974 0r 1976, I can’t remember the exact date, was that spirulina algae was the answer to world hunger because of the incredible nutrient density that it held, particularly the high concentration of protein because that was what causing so much illness and so much devastation globally, this lack of protein. Whenever you see a child, like those pictures of the children with the distended stomach, that condition is a result of insufficient protein.
Ben: Yeah, there’s a name for that.
Catharine: Yeah, I can’t remember the name of that.
Ben: I forget what it’s called, but I know what you’re talking about.
Catharine: Right. So that’s what I mean by endorsement, that they have declared that this is what it is.
Ben: Okay. I wanna get into this first ‘cause I had a hard time wrapping my head around this. I used to do the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon every year and part of the fabled portion of that, or not the fabled, but the famous portion of that course is when you run through what’s called the Energy Lab in Kona, Hawaii. And I learned later on, this is where they actually grow algae in this Energy Lab, when we run through it. But I’m curious like, what is it exactly? Like what is algae in terms of how it grows and where it comes from? ‘Cause it’s not like a seed that you plant in the water, what is the root of algae?
Catharine: Sure. Well algae, first of all, is the first plant life on Earth, almost, and they’ve got fossils to prove it. So it’s about 3 Billion years ago and, as you had mentioned in the introduction, it releases oxygen when it’s growing and it also captures carbon dioxide out of the air. So 3 Billion years ago, the Earth was just a bunch of gas and water and then nobody really knows why, but algae started growing and released, over a few millions of billions of years, enough oxygen so that other plant life could grow and so we have life on Earth and it continues to provide over 80 to 90% of the oxygen on Earth.
Ben: So, compared to plants and oxygen release, all plants release oxygen, right?
Catharine: That’s true.
Ben: Why does algae release more?
Catharine: You know what? I actually don’t know. That is a really good question.
Ben: But basically, algae releases more, so it would be like the logical first plant and then once it releases all the oxygen into the air, that allows other plants to be able to flourish more readily? That’s basically the idea?
Catharine: I guess so. Yeah.
Ben: Okay, so what exactly is it? How do you classify it?
Catharine: So, there are two algae, there, first of all, 15,000 strains of algae, so let me tell your listeners: don’t go into your swimming pool or local whatever and scoop up a bunch of algae that’s growing in your pond because almost all of them are poisonous and all of them will, if they’re growing wild, the algae absorbs whatever is in the water so they will absorb and create something called microcystins which are poisonous. But our algae and any algae that sold in the marketplace is grown under controlled conditions in freshwater tanks.
So this stuff doesn’t come from the ocean, although originally billions of years ago, it came from the ocean, but the harvested algae is grown under very, very stringent growing conditions. The water’s tested daily. And so of those 15,000 strains of algae, there’s only a few, two or three, that you can actually eat that are not poisonous and that’s what we sell. The two main ones, one is called spirulina algae and the other one is called chlorella algae. We call our spirulina Energy Bits because it gives you energy, and we call our chlorella algae Recovery Bits because it helps you recover from anything. It’s really a health-based algae, and spirulina is really an energy, nutrient-dense, satisfies your hunger, gives you mental and physical energy.
Ben: What’s the difference between the two?
Catharine: Spirulina is blue, with color blue green algae, and technically it is actually a bacteria because it was the very first plant life on Earth and it doesn’t have a nucleus and it doesn’t have a cellulose wall like every other plant including chlorella. And the reason why it’s important for your listeners to know about this is because that is one of the many reasons why it gets absorbed into your body so quickly to provide you with all the nutrients and the protein and the energy because there is no cellulose wall for your body to break down to be absorbed. So it gets 99% bioavailable, instantly absorbed within five minutes if you swallow it and instantly if you chew it. It’s that fast. So it’s quite remarkable and so it’s…
Ben: So, even compared to like chlorella, for example, spirulina gets broken down really fast?
Catharine: Almost instantly.
Ben: Okay. So that’s something you could eat like during a workout or before a workout, like if you were looking like at ingredient labels of different algae and stuff out there, if you were doing it just for a workout, you’d want to choose spirulina?
Catharine: You definitely want to use spirulina, and that’s why we, almost all of our customers, not all them but a very large number, use them for endurance at sports, workouts. So you take it before your workout and if it’s a long workout or you are doing a marathon, or an Ironman, you would continue to take 15 or 20 every hour to sustain yourself. We have so many ultra-runners that use just spirulina and maybe some raisins. That’s it. That’s all they run on. So this is a complete, natural, plant-based, vegan, Paleo replacement for gels and bars.
Ben: How do you quantify that? ‘Cause you said like 30, you said you do X amount of like tabs per hour. Is there like a milligram dosage or like a gram dosage per hour? ‘Cause I know with, for example, I’ve talked about the use of essential amino acids before, and what most of the research shows is somewhere in the range of like about 10 grams per hour is what’s been shown to be beneficial for staving off central nervous system fatigue, like fights for tryptophan, ‘cause when you exercise, your muscles break down and they release tryptophan and that crosses your blood-brain barrier and it makes you sleepy. And so you can take in amino acids to help to combat that. I know algae has some amino acids in it.
Catharine: Right. Well, in fact, it has 18 of the 22 amino acids. It’s a complete protein because of its amino.
Ben: Yeah, but is there a gram dosage per hour?
Catharine: Sure! Well, we recommend 30 tabs as a single serving and, in fact, we just started going to retail and we sell them in single packets that have 30 tablets and those 30 tablets will give you five grams of protein.
Catharine: So generally, you should take the full 30, which is five grams, prior to your workout and then at least 15, or even 30, if you, you know, depend on what you’re doing, every hour after that. We have NHL players that put 75 of these, both the spirulina and the chlorella, which I’m going to talk about next, into their smoothies before their game because they have very fast spurts, so they need the energy and they need the lactic acid pulled out quickly. So, and as you mentioned jokingly, yes, I do take 75 of both every morning. I have them in the morning and I have them whenever I’m hungry or tired and you can’t overdose on this stuff because it is a plant, a type of plant, it’s a type of vegetable, and it’s just like having a salad. So you’re giving your body a real treat when you take this stuff, but you can never have too much of it. I don’t think you’d want more than 200 a day, (chuckles) but I don’t think many people will get to that point. (chuckles)
Ben: I wanna dig into chlorella too, can you be allergic to algae? Like have you run into that at all?
Catharine: In the six, almost seven years we’ve been selling this, you would never be allergic to algae, which we’ve run into probably in the six years about, four or five incidences where people have had a reaction to one of the nutrients in algae, like we said it’s the most nutrient dense. For example, it has a very high amount of beta carotene and so we had one person, in fact I think you had a, I thought you initially had a reaction to the beta carotene.
Ben: That’s it. That’s why I’m asking ‘cause when I first started eating spirulina, I got itchy, and it didn’t happen anymore, it didn’t happen to me with chlorella though. My mouth got all itchy and didn’t happen when I swallowed it, and I was trying to wrap my head around whether I was allergic to it, and you and I had a conversation. Sounds like it may have been like the dense amount of beta carotene, but it’s kind of weird. It doesn’t happen anymore. Maybe because I, micro-dosed with it.
Catharine: Well, it’s ‘cause your body, yeah, you’ve become desensitized to that high concentration. Another thing we had is something called, it’s only happened twice, it’s called a niacin flush because there’s a lot of niacin in the spirulina again, and that opens up your pores, or the blood vessels and so what happens is your face will get a little flushed and it’s kinda, a little disconcerting. There’s nothing dangerous, it goes away, it happens even if you took too much niacin just from any source, so…
Ben: Well, a lot of people who actually use niacin before workout for the vasodilation. Like beet juice, for example.
Catharine: Right. Exactly.
Ben: That’s the other cool thing, is if you don’t wanna use like a niacin supplement for detoxification, like a lot of people will use this biohack where you take a bunch of niacin, and then you do a sauna because the presence of niacin enhances lipolysis from infrared radiation in like a sauna, or heat in a sauna. You can also use something like spirulina in a similar way if you didn’t want to use niacin.
Catharine: Right. Well, that’s an interesting point because it’s not only loaded with niacin, but it’s also loaded with nitric oxide, it’s a nitric oxide-based algae, so it’s a vasodilator as well because of the nitric oxide…
Ben: You gotta tell my wife that ‘cause it’s like viagra.
Catharine: It is! (laughs)
Ben: I have to get it washed out of my mouth. No, I’m serious too. Like she literally, she will not kiss me if she even sees that stuff near me, so I have to rinse it out.
So spirulina, you mention that it’s got 18 to 20 amino acids. It’s got a lot of amino acids and it gets broken down more quickly than chlorella, and that’s because of the way that the cell wall is created, but another thing I wanted to ask you before we get into chlorella, ‘cause honestly, I do more chlorella than I do spirulina, and we’ll probably talk about why in a second, but I wanted to ask you about this whole idea behind docosahexaenoic acid that I talked about, the DHA, and the difference between something like this and like flax seeds or chia seeds because this is a huge issue with vegans and vegetarians, you know.
They found that, for example, creatine deficiencies are rampant in people who follow a plant-based diet. Another thing that you tend to see deficits in are vitamin K and then among a few other things include DHA. You see a drop in this really important fatty acid for nerve sheets and neuronal health. Now, can you explain like the biochemical difference between the breakdown of something like spirulina and like chia seed or flaxseed when it comes to providing the body with that particular essential fatty acid?
Catharine: Well, I have to admit that I haven’t sort of done a deep dive in the different aminos in chia versus spirulina, but what I will tell you about spirulina which is quite remarkable, and nothing else can be compared to this is that’s why it’s so fantastic, that the nutrient profile of spirulina particularly the amino nutrient profile, and I can send you these charts to show you exactly, is almost identical to mother’s milk. Almost identical. It’s like…
Catharine: It’s amino acid per amino acid in the same proportions, so it’s not just the amino acid, it’s the proportions of the presence of that amino acid, and so that’s unbelievable and you know Mother Nature knows what she’s doing ‘cause the baby’s brain doubles and triples in size in the first two years, and so the brain development is critical.
Ben: Can you send me that study ‘cause I’ll link to it in the show notes.
Catharine: Yup, yeah.
Ben: And by the way, if you’re listening in right now, I’ll put all the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/algaepodcast. It’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/algaepodcast. So this mother’s milk thing, that’s spirulina or chlorella?
Catharine: That’s spirulina. So, let me just tell you one more thing about that. So the other critical thing that’s in spirulina that is not in chlorella is this essential fatty acid called GLA. Now GLA technically, it’s omega-6 but it behaves exactly like an omega-3 which is the brain development, and there is nothing else in the world that has as much GLA as spirulina, except mother’s milk.
So the amino acid profile and this GLA just blows everything out of the water, whether it’s chia seed or flaxseed oil because, and by the way, neither of those have the additional nutrients such as chlorophyll or iron, they do have some protein, but spirulina to a lesser extent. Chlorella are the only nutrients in the world that have such an amazing blend of things that are good for you. So, it is truly remarkable and in fact…
Ben: Well, that’s where fish, I think a lot of people don’t realize that there’s this idea behind fish being high in omega-3 fatty acids and that’s where a lot of omnivores will get their brain building DHA in fish, but fish actually get the primary concentration of their omega-3 fatty acids from eating algae.
Catharine: You got it.
Ben: It’s really interesting. So even if you don’t eat fish like I mentioned in the intro, and you’re a vegan or vegetarian, this is what I tell all the vegans and vegetarians who I advise, like chia seeds and flax seeds do have some nutritional value and they’re tasty and as long as you get them from, they’re not heavily heated or rancid, like the stuff you get from roasted flax seed powder, stuff like that, they’re decent sources of, for example, EPA and even a little bit of that GLA that you talked about, but the body converts, I think it’s something like 2% of that into DHA.
Ben: And that’s why I tell the vegans and vegetarians, especially who I talk to who don’t do like eggs and fish and stuff like that, that they have to use spirulina and chlorella.
Ben: And I believe spirulina, if I’m not mistaken, that’s the one that’s higher in the omega-3.
Catharine: Yes, absolutely. And before we switch over again to chlorella, the other interesting little factoid I found, I can’t remember what my source was but in Japan, where this is very, very big in Asia, it’s almost as big as the beef industry is here, this whole algae industry, in Japan when babies are born and they cannot digest mother’s milk, they give them spirulina in water because it is the only thing that keeps them alive. They have tried everything, almond milk, rice milk, nothing keeps the babies alive except spirulina. So…
Catharine: Isn’t that fascinating?
Ben: Yeah. Yeah.
Catharine: Anyways, I just can’t believe this little plant, it’s just remarkable.
Ben: I mean, well actually, I wanted to ask you about this. ‘Cause it is expensive, but then I’ve seen it for pretty inexpensive like on Amazon, for example, they’ve got some, you know, like bags of spirulina that are not that expensive.
Ben: And I wanted to ask you about this ‘cause you’ve talked to me a little bit about where you get it from, and the sourcing, and I do know you wanna talk about chlorella, but can you fill me in on the sourcing of algae because there are some points I’ve used for that spirulina where I’ve tried to order them and they’re on back order, or you can’t get them because they say they’ve run out of their specific form of spirulina that they use, so talk to me about where you should get it from.
Catharine: Sure. Well, like everything, you get what you pay for and this isn’t like just eating, you know, growing broccoli. It’s quite a complex plant to grow and there are multiple steps along the way, and when I started the company, I decided I was going to do this, everything we did had to be the very, very best. So there are different strains of algae that have different levels of protein and nutrients, and we pride ourselves on having the highest strain. There are different ways to dry the algae and those cheaper algaes probably are grown in China where there is not such high quality control. We grow ours in Taiwan which is world-renowned for high quality standards, all the international standards are met, it’s GMP, ISO-9000.
Ben: What about Hawaii?
Catharine: Hawaii is actually very good as well. So, you know, there’s always exceptions for different countries, but Hawaii, most algae is grown in either China, Japan, Taiwan, India, and a little bit in Hawaii. I’m hoping that one day we’ll be able to grow ours here in mainland America, so we’ll have more control over the entire process, but for now we have a great partner who grows it for us in Taiwan, very controlled conditions. And the things that affect the quality of the product are things like, we don’t use flash heat to dry it, we air dry it and this preserves the enzymes. So our algae is a raw food, but a lot of those companies where you’re buying the cheaper algae from, you know, either on Amazon or Target, those are volume producers that were using a lower grade algae and they’re using flash heat cause they would need to pump the stuff out to the marketplace and they really don’t care, so that damages the algae.
The chlorella, we’re going to talk about that later, but it has the hardest cellular wall of the entire plant kingdom and so it has to be cracked at location before it’s even packaged up.
Ben: What’s that mean, cracked?
Catharine: Well, so here’s what they do: because it’s such a hard cellulose wall, your body can’t absorb any of the good nutrients that are inside it. So, 40 or 50 years ago, a Japanese company that started all this, they patented a technique, they tumbled the algae once it was dried with glass beads, physically, manually crack it, and that was the technique that has been used for 50 years and the vast majority of algae companies use that to crack their chlorella. We do not, by the way, I’ll tell you about our higher quality technique, but the problem with that technique is twofold. One is that the glass beads heat up and so that heats the algae which causes nutrient damage and it certainly damages or kills the enzymes, but more critically is that lead leaks out of the algae, of the lead into the algae, so now you’ve got the lead in your algae and, of course, I tell my team how much lead is too much. Well it’s basically any lead. So, if you don’t know these things, then you say, “Well, you know, it’s $20. Why would I pay, well, I’ll just buy the cheaper algae.” But the trouble is, “No. You don’t want that cheaper algae because it could have things that are actually bad for you.”
Ben: Okay. So you basically don’t want algae in which they’ve used like this tumbling with glass blacks to crack it open because there’s lead in the glass?
Catherine: Correct. And, and I use that just as one example of the multiple steps along the way. I see, I’m not building a company that’s just, we’re not going out there just to sell this stuff. We’re trying to educate people and help them be healthier, help them be the best athlete they can. I’m very conscious of the fact that people are putting my product into their bodies or into their children’s bodies. So I have a responsibility to ensure that everything that we do here is good for them, and also good for the environment. So we take great care in everything that we do, whether it’s the growing techniques, the drying, the packaging, the educating. So that’s my priority is the people that we’re informing and helping use the products, but not everybody’s got that kind of level of care. (chuckles)
Ben: So obviously, like you mentioned, you don’t have to crack open spirulina.
Catharine: No, you do not.
Ben: But if you’re gonna crack open chlorella, how do you crack it open?
Catharine: So we pass ours through a chamber, a vibrational chamber that the sound vibrations crack the chlorella. So it’s the same kind of technique that an opera singer can crack a glass, it’s the vibration that cracks it, so there’s absolutely no heat, no contamination, no chance of lead, it’s preserves, but it’s a more expensive and time-consuming slower process but it’s better for the…
Ben: So you use sound waves?
Ben: Interesting. Okay, so you want to look for something that doesn’t get cracked open with glass, and doesn’t get exposed to heat drying because the heat can damage the enzymes in the algae. So it’s not like, ‘cause I know algae is considered to be like a raw food, right?
Catharine: Yes, if it is not flash heated, and almost everything that comes of China is flash heated. I’ve got photos of products out there of spirulina, products that came from China. They will, especially if they’re in their little tablet form with the little capsule thing, they’ve crushed rocks, they crush seaweed, or crushed stones and just, they put filler into it with the chlorella, so you’re not getting the pure or the spirulina, you’re not getting the pure algae. That’s why…
Ben: Does anybody do third party testing of the fillers?
Ben: ‘Cause I know there’s this company called Labdoor. I had the folks from, and what they do is they order supplements from the manufacturers, and then they test them. So rather than like calling up the manufacturer and saying, “Hey, send us a bottle of such and such to test,” like fish oil or protein powder or whatever, they just act like a consumer and they order it, and then they put it through a boatload of testing to see if it’s got stuff in it. When it comes to algae, is there like a certification company or like some kinda like lab testing company that looks for fillers in algae?
Catharine: Well, there, you can have those done. They’re expensive and a lot of our customers are professional athletes or Olympic athletes, and so it’s very critical for them not to ever be tested and find these banned substances in whatever it is that they’ve been using, although as you know algae is really a food, but people still consider it a supplement. So there’s a company called NSF, they provide NSF certification.
Ben: Yeah, I’m well familiar with it. That’s pretty much like the only thing that anybody who’s getting paid to compete should consider using because your career is on the line.
Ben: Yeah, so are you guys NSF certified?
Catharine: We aren’t yet, but we’re in the process of, we’re gonna be applying. It’s a very expensive process, I mean we’re talking $20,000 to 30,000 a year because, not only do they test the actual product on a batch basis, they also go to the production facility to ensure there’s quality control at every step along the way. It’s the only way the athletes can be guaranteed, but we’re going to do that and certainly this year at some point, and we know we’ll pass with flying colors because there is nothing else in our algae except 100% algae and it’s got all the nutrient profile, so we’re…
Ben: There’s another company too, TGA in Australia. They do a really good job too. That’s right up there with the NSF. I know that like Thorne does TGA, and it’s pretty, pretty much up there as far as NSF goes, but that’s cool. I didn’t know you guys were getting the NSF certification.
Catharine: Well, we want the athlete community to know that we stand by everything that we say.
Ben: Yeah. I had a few other questions I wanted to ask you about the source. Can algae be GMO versus non-GMO, or is that not an issue with algae?
Catharine: Well, that’s very interesting that you raised that because when it’s grown as we grow ours, I’m not aware of any GMO algae being grown this way. However, in North America they are finally starting to understand the remarkable nutrient needs, they know there’s some missing nutrients in our entire community here, but they’re starting to realize that algae is the solution. This is why algae is so big in Asia because they put in everything. They put into their crackers, they put into their tea, and so there are companies now that are growing algae in a production facility, in tanks, and what they’re doing is they’re manipulating the concentrations of, maybe the omega-3, or maybe they want something with more protein, or less of this and less of that, and to do that, they add extra ingredients. Sometimes it’s sugar, sometimes it’s, well most often it’s sugar, and so you have to be very careful because most sugar in America is GMO, most corn is GMO, most soy is GMO, so…
Ben: So, it’s not the algae that would be GMO, it’s if they added a filler like the corn, or something like that? ‘Cause that actually drives me nuts when people will talk about a food like being non-GMO, when in fact it is something that isn’t grown ever GMO. Like a lot of people don’t realize that there are only certain things that are even allowed to be genetically modified in the States, like beets or corn, but like you’re explaining, the issue is not, like for example with algae, the fact that algae would be GMO versus non-GMO. It would be fillers that they used that would be from a GMO-based source.
Catharine: Well, that’s a very good point and that’s probably another reason why you want to stay away from the China, or the cheaper algaes because you just don’t know what they’ve used for fillers. The way we produce ours is there is no filler, we just grow it, and then we dry it, and we press, we just press the water out of it. The way I describe it to people, it’s like imagine having a little mini muffin tins and we just press, we just press the water out into these little tablets and there is no filler and there’s absolutely nothing, it’s 100% algae. But we do put non-GMO on our packaging because it becomes a priority for people when they’re searching for things we put on non-GMO, non-gluten, 100%, it’s grown organically, ‘cause we want to assure people that it doesn’t have any of those things in it, and generally algae doesn’t have, it’s non-GMO anyways, but you just have to be very careful about what you’re putting in your body, that’s all I can say. (chuckles)
Ben: You talked about like, I think you use the word grades or strains of algae and how some are different than others in terms of their amount of nutrients or protein. Now, what does that mean exactly? Like, are we talking about like dinosaur kale versus regular kale in terms of their being different plant forms or are we talking about the way in which it’s grown? Like what do you mean when you say different grades? ‘Cause I know it’s like beef if you look at the grades, you’ve got grass fed versus grain fed, but then also, yeah, you have like Kobe, you have like feedlot beef, you’ve got beef that would be considered like prime cuts versus non-prime. Like when it comes to algae, is it similar or like how do you grade algae?
Catharine: Yeah, because it’s a type of plant, so there are different nutrient profiles for example, apples. There’s different kinds of apples. There’s honey crisp apples, and there’s McIntosh apples, and to a large extent, they have a very similar nutrient profile, but some of them will probably have more sugar or less sugar, or more of one thing in the other, so algae is the same way because there’s different strains of algae, so some of them will have more, a wider breadth of nutrients and more protein, like paradiso, I can’t even pronounce it myself, paradiso is the strain of algae we use which has the higher concentration of protein. So they’re just different, I don’t wanna say breeds, I guess maybe that’s the term, so all I just know is that we’ve selected the one that had the most of everything.
Ben: Yeah. No, I hear you. So I also wanted to ask you just a few other little quick things about like the sourcing. You mentioned Japan, and I know this stuff is grown in water, and I wanted to ask you about radiation. Is that something that you need to be concerned about in terms of like algae getting exposed to irradiated compounds in the water? Or, because it’s grown in fresh water does it even matter?
Catharine: Well, I’m glad you raised that as well as I generally don’t like to worry people, but until the Fukushima disaster, I would have sung my praises especially chlorella, that’s grown in Japan.
Japan is where most of the chlorella in the algae industry started. It’s the grand daddy. They don’t grow as much spirulina, but they do grow a lot of chlorella. But then the Fukushima disaster, I mean it has really been worse than anyone could have imagined, and there has been radiation leakage into the water in around Japan. Fortunately, the water supply that we use over in Taiwan is totally unaffected. It comes from a totally different source. So, we’re not affected, but I do caution people to, who, about purchasing algae or food items from Japan for that reason. I know, I’m sure there are steps that have been taken to remove radiation, but there’s still showing that it’s in the water and I feel really badly for the people of Japan and when we do talk about chlorella, it will be very, I can hardly wait to tell everybody that it is the only thing in the universe that removes radiation from your body.
Ben: Okay. Well that’s perfect ‘cause I want to talk about chlorella a little bit. How is it different than spirulina?
Catharine: Spirulina is a blue-green algae, as I had mentioned, and it gives you the energy and the focus, and has all that omega-3 and all that jolly good stuff, and satisfies your hunger and, one more thing before I switch over to chlorella, it’s a blue green algae, so you’d think, “Hey, it’s…,” when you look at it, it still looks pretty green, but I would encourage you or your viewers to take one of those little tablets and put it in a dish or a plate that’s white and put some water on it and tap it, let it sit there for six or seven hours and you will see the most beautiful blue, aqua blue color in one little tablet, and that blue color is called phocyninine. It’s a pigment and that blue color…
Ben: What you call it?
Catharine: It’s called phocyninine. It’s P-H-O-C-Y-N-I-N-I-N-E, and it’s the only place that this pigment exists in nature, is in the blue green spirulina algae. And it is so remarkable, there’s a couple of really cool things, I’m gonna tell you about that blue pigment, that’s why you want to be sure you take both of these algaes ’cause they’re so different. So there have been multiple research studies done on the healing and the cancer prevention properties of that phocyninine. We were contacted by a 20 year old cancer research organization here in Boston last year ‘cause their research found that it has what’s called anti-angiogenesis properties.
Ben: Yeah. Anti-angiogenesis.
Catharine: Anti-angiogenesis. Right.
Ben: Like it inhibits tumor growth.
Catharine: Correct, ‘cause when tumors or cancers are growing, they basically hijack blood vessels and redirect them to the cancer of the tumor to feed the growth of them, and anti-angiogenesis are techniques or things that prevent that growth, and for whatever reason this phocyninine in spirulina is one of the things that stops the cancer growth, stops that angiogenesis process. It’s fascinating. And there have been other recent reports about spirulina stopping cancer and preventing cancer and it’s quite remarkable.
Ben: They’ve done some interesting research on ketosis and carbohydrate restriction, and inhibition of capillary growth and tumor growth to cancer cells, which actually leads me to something I wanted to ask you. What’s the blood-glucose response to algae consumption? Do you know the carb-protein-fat breakdown or anything like that? Or if it would be a blood sugar spiking type of food?
Catharine: It’s completely not blood sugar spiking, and in fact not only do they encourage diabetics to take it, it helps correct diabetes too, and so it’s very, it’s remarkable. It has very little sugar, I should say it’s mostly protein, it’s over 64% protein, and then I think there’s a very small amount of fiber, so it’s really good for people who are also on a fiber restriction diet. It totally balances your blood sugar, so you get a nice, steady flow of energy from it. No spikes, no crashes.
Ben: So it doesn’t have a lot of fiber in it?
Catharine: It does not. No.
Ben: That’s interesting. So for somebody who has like small intestine bacterial overgrowth or irritable bowel syndrome, ‘cause we recently did, we did a podcast on how sometimes getting a lot of your chlorophyll from plants can be an issue for folks like that because the fiber can irritate the digestive tract, and then again, like I’m not anti-fiber. I probably have like close to 100 grams a day but I also don’t have, you know, [0:48:47] ______, or irritable bowel, or anything like that, but in people who had that, they could use spirulina or chlorella as like a chlorophyll or greens source.
Catharine: Absolutely. You got it. And in fact, chlorella has been used for almost 30 to 40 years for IBS, Crohn’s disease, all sorts of other healing, lowered digestive track healing properties, separate from the fact, yeah, it’s quite amazing.
Ben: ‘Cause I know that works with like chia seeds and bone broth, for example. Those are two things like chia seeds, if you mix them in liquid and let them soak and drink them, they’re very nourishing to the digestive tract. And then bone broth is too, but spirulina or chlorella, would you need to swallow the tablets or should you like chew them or dissolve them in liquid first?
Catherine: Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter because they still, again this is one of the reasons, certainly for the spirulina, why the athletes like it, it gets absorbed so quickly, it never hits your lower intestine undigested, so there’s no issues with bacteria attacking it like some things can and cause more irritation. In fact, we’ve found an interesting low pocket of customers that we never expected. When people get their stomach stapled or they go through the, what’s that surgery, the type of surgery?
Ben: Gastric bypass?
Catharine: Gastric bypass, their stomachs are so small and so they cannot eat very much and they have a real difficult time getting proper nutrients because the quantity of food has been so restricted. So the doctors have been recommending our spirulina and chlorella, particularly the spirulina, because it is so nutrient dense, it gives them all that, everything that they need and it’s so tiny that it doesn’t cause any concern for their stomach. So who knew…
Ben: Got it. So chlorella, the difference between that and spirulina?
Catharine: So we were talking about the blue, so it’s a green algae and it’s an oxygen-based…
Ben: So, it’s not blue-green? It’s green?
Catharine: There’s no blue-green, no blue phocyninine, and in terms of historical, it came after spirulina. So spirulina was first, chlorella is technically, is definitely a plant. It has a cellulose wall and, as I mentioned earlier, it is the hardest cellulose wall in the plant kingdom which is why it has to be cracked in order for your body to digest it. However, once it’s cracked, it still takes a while to get absorbed, so it takes about an hour and a half to get into your system, whereas spirulina is in your system within anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. It’s that rapid. Chlorella is the opposite. It takes a good hour and a half. So what that means is, for some, if you’re an athlete, if you want, and it pulls out toxins, it’s one of the key things that chlorella does.
Ben: It’s like a binder, kinda like charcoal, right?
Ben: But it’s a liver like I kinda looked in this because that was one thing I was concerned about, like having with my smoothie, because a lot of these binders, they bind whatever’s in your blood, like whatever multi-vitamin, or supplements, or creatine, or fish, or whatever you happen to be taking, you don’t want to take along with activated charcoal because it can bind and decrease absorption or the effectiveness of whatever supplement or nutrient you’re consuming along with it. Chlorella, from what I understand, what it does is it acts to bind toxins that the liver breaks down via phase one liver detoxification, and then you simply remove those toxins in your stool, but you don’t actually, like chlorella doesn’t actually bio-absorb, say like supplements and nutrients and stuff like that from your bloodstream.
Catharine: No. It is, in fact I call chlorella, well, I call all the algae intelligent food, particularly the chlorella for two reasons: you have to be intelligent to take it, and it knows what to do in your body. There’s another term that’s used, it’s called adaptogen for superfoods.
Ben: Right. It like decreases cortisol if cortisol is high, or increase it if cortisol is low.
Catharine: Right. So it adjusts to whatever your body needs, and it just knows what to do. It’s like having mass-customized health care, right, in your own little tablet forms?
Ben: It sounds so woo-woo, right, but it is true. Like they’ve studied adaptogens and they have shown that in situations of hypocortisolism, you get an increase in epinephrine, and adrenalin, and cortisol, and in a case of like hypercortisolism, you will see a decrease in like sympathetic nervous system stimulation from the exact same compounds. It’s really interesting.
Catharine: Exactly. Well, and the same thing with spirulina, it will read, if you have high blood pressure, it will balance out your blood pressure, you will have your first normal blood pressure reading, I promise within 48 hours. On the other hand if your blood pressure is normal, it won’t do anything to it. It doesn’t bring it lower, it just brings you back to a state of homeostasis of health. It brings you back to a state of health. So, that’s why it adapts to whatever your situation is, and it does the same thing for cholesterol, so…
Ben: Okay. So, chlorella is basically different in spirulina in that it actually does have like a single cell and cell wall, and stuff like that that needs to be broken down, but it’s more of a binding agent that could be used for detoxification.
Catharine: Yes. It does that, but it also does a lot of other very interesting things. It has very interesting properties. It has the highest concentration of RNA and DNA in the world, and the reason why this is very important for everybody, but particularly as you get older, your DNA and RNA get damaged, and so as your cells replicating, they’re replicating in a damaged form and that is ultimately what leads to illness and disease and aging and all that sort of stuff, but because of the chlorella, with all this high RNA and DNA, it reactivates, it helps your cells to now grow in a healthy fashion and, actually in Asia, they call it the fountain of youth because it does prevent aging either at a cellular level, it affects everything, whether it’s your organs, your skin, I don’t wanna tell you how old I am, but I actually look younger than I did six years ago, and I’m sure it’s because of the algae and the high antioxidants and the RNA and DNA. So the chlorella has that high concentration that helps to…
Ben: So these are like nucleic acids, RNA and DNA?
Catharine: Yes. Yes.
Ben: They sell, ‘cause I’ve got to ask questions about this now ‘cause it’s big in the anti-aging movement right now. They sell like liquids now that are RNA and DNA, they’re nucleic acid or nucleic acid pool precursors and they’ll sell like these droplets that you take that supposedly will decrease the rate at which your telomeres shorten because they’re supplying you with RNA and DNA and, I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen or looked into the studies behind them, but I do know not having enough nucleic acids, like athletes turn over nucleic acids extremely quickly, and that’s why they get sick or that’s why connective tissue degrades or you see like wrinkles and aging and I’m actually finding myself as I get older, being almost more into longevity and anti-aging than I am into performance. It’s just like the natural progression, I guess.
Catharine: Right. That’s the life cycle. (laughs)
Ben: Yeah, but it is kinda cool and I looked into this, yeah, when you told me about this, I looked into it and it does turn out like chlorella has like 3% RNA and 0.3% DNA by weight and that’s higher than any other food on the face of the planet.
Catherine: Yeah. Yeah.
Ben: Which is kinda cool.
Catherine: The only thing that had, they believe, it was known to have higher RNA and DNA than chlorella was sardines. It also is very high, but even chlorella outdoes the sardines.
Ben: I eat sardines too. I like the ones with the skin and the bones.
Catharine: Yeah, yeah. And now I’m just [0:56:45] ______ still small fish, of course, they also eat the algae and it concentrates even more in their bodies because they’re so small, so it makes sense that the sardines would have so much RNA and DNA ‘cause they’re again, getting it from the algae. The algae is the original paleo food. It is the source of everything, so why cheat yourself by going further up the food chain, unless you just want to have fun eating like popcorn and stuff, but, anyways, let’s get back to chlorella. So it has the RNA and DNA that helps you with the healing and so, not only does that keep you young, here’s what’s really cool for the athletes: it speeds your healing from injury or surgery twice as fast. You will heal twice as fast if you’re taking this stuff because of all the RNA and DNA, and other attributes.
Ben: Has that been studied? Like that exact value, twice?
Catharine: Well we’ve had athletes tell us what happens. We’ve had…
Ben: And I know it speeds up repair and recovery, I wasn’t aware that it had been quantified.
Catharine: Well, I’m not sure if it’s technically been quantified, but we had our baseball players who were professional players who had shoulder surgery and they told us their doctors couldn’t believe it.
Ben: I believe it speeds up healing. Definitely.
Ben: It does and I’ll use that and essential amino acids. And they did just do a study. I’m getting this guy on the podcast actually, they released in the Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, protein intake from essential amino acid sources, and that would include algae, and creatine intake appear to speed up injury recovery in athletes even though they are viewed as something you would only take for performance. They actually are something that you should, it was an article about like which supplements you should continue to take if you’re not exercising anymore, if you’re injured, and those two are like way up there. I wanted to ask you…
Catharine: Yeah. Can I give you one more little nugget about chlorella?
Catharine: So the reason why it’s called chlorella is because it has the highest concentration, well chlor is chlorophyll…
Ben: Yeah, this is actually exactly what I wanted to ask you about, so go ahead.
Catharine: And -ella means, is Greek for small, although Ella Fitzgerald is hardly small, but anyways, (laughs) so chlorella has the highest concentration of chlorophyll in the world. Why is that important? Well, chlorophyll is the most cleansing healing, again it’s a pigment, in the world, and let me give you a couple little tidbits related to that.
I can hardly wait to tell everybody that it is the only thing in the universe that removes radiation from your body, with the exceptions of one atom in each one, so in chlorophyll, that one atom that’s different is magnesium and the one atom in the human hemoglobin is iron, and then of course in iron, in hemoglobin, iron is what carries oxygen in your bloodstream. If it was not for that one atom, iron atom, I bet our blood would be green, but the reason I’m telling you this is because it is so nutrient dense. Chlorophyll is so nutrient dense, it builds your blood and it builds your body as much as healthy oxygenated blood does.
And in World War I, when they ran out of blood for transfusions to help the injured, they would give them liquid chlorophyll because they would heal just as fast as if they’d given a blood transfusion and in most cases, I believe they were using chlorophyll, or chlorella. They would also put the chlorophyll topically on injuries because it kills bacteria, because chlorophyll is, again, oxygen rich. It goes back to the story of my sister, her doctor told her to have an alkaline diet ‘cause it’d help her heal, build her immune system, and kills bacteria. So, the chlorophyll kills bacteria.
So you want in your body things that are going to be good for you, things that are oxygen-rich. Cancer and other illnesses cannot exist in an oxygenated state, so the key is to keep your body as oxygenated as possible, and chlorella is loaded with that because of the oxygen in the chlorophyll.
Ben: So I’m gonna put on my propeller hat here for a second. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there is this creature and they talked about it way back in 2012. There was this study that was reported in scientific reports on this creature, it’s a special kind of aphid, like a tiny, tiny, little bug, and what it does is it uses what’s called light induced electron transfer, and a combination of that and a carotenoid that is very similar in chemical structure to chlorophyll, and it makes ATP out of that. We’re talking about ATP generation in the absence of calories.
So, this little aphid is actually feeding off of light and they did a story on this and I talked about it in a podcast when it first came out. But then what they did, this was the last year in the Journal of Cell Science, and they published this other study and it was called “Light Harvesting Chlorophyll Figments Enable Mammalian Mitochondria to Capture Photonic Energy and Produce ATP,” and basically what they found was that a combination of sunlight and chlorophyll present in the bloodstream of mammals, and specifically what they were studying was mice, rats, and swine – I love how they don’t call ’em pigs in science, they call ’em swine – they fed them a chlorophyll supplement, so chlorophyll supplementation, same as you get from chlorella, and they found mitochondrial ATP synthesis in the absence of calories, right, like sugar, or protein, or fats, and simply in the presence of a combination of sunlight and chlorophyll based on the ability of chlorophyll to allow for the electron transport chain in the mitochondria to actually generate ATP energy currency.
Catharine: Sure. It makes sense to me. Yup!
Ben: And so, the idea and what I tell people is eat chlorophyll rich foods, and get sunlight as one of the most potent ways that you can maintain metabolic energy levels and mitochondrial health, and that’s also why I’m a fan of chlorella in particular and not just spirulina, for the reasons that you’ve outlined, but also that study, and it was crazy when I first read that. I, you know, ‘cause you honestly are led to believe in nutrition science and I know you’re a nutritionist and you have your education in this that you need to eat calories, carbs, proteins, and fat, to have energy and it turns out that if you have chlorophyll in your bloodstream, and exposure to sunlight, you can produce ATP without actually eating any calories.
Catharine: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I’ll even give you one more little interesting tidbit about chlorophyll. If you’re taking sufficient enough of it, and I think the 30 a day would do it, it acts as a natural block for sunburn. We’ve had so many people work here with me, and we’ve had Irish girls and whatever, and once they started taking the stuff they, you can’t go out at the peak like 12:00 Noon and sit there for three hours, but it’s a natural protector. It’s fascinating.
Ben: Which one? Chlorophyll?
Catherine: Both, any, either one of them. Either one of them.
Ben: Huh, I knew that, have you heard of astaxanthin before?
Ben: I used to megadose with astaxanthin. I’d take 20 milligrams before I did that Ironman I was talking about, Ironman Hawaii, because it actually acts to repair ultraviolet radiation damage to the skin, and you can use it, you know, it’s almost like an internal sunscreen. It’s really interesting. If you were to go, you can go to PubMed and read some of the interesting stories on astaxanthin and skin health. So, what is the component in algae that acts as a source of sun protection?
Catharine: I don’t, yeah, I don’t know.
Catharine: It is fascinating to me. I will study this stuff for the rest of my life ‘cause every day I find something new about it and say, “Are you kidding me?” And it just like ‘The Little Engine That Could’, the story just gets better and better and better. (chuckles)
Ben: There is a ton that we could talk about when it comes to algae, and I know that we’ve only scratched the surface of the stuff that you and I have emailed back and forth about when it comes to the spirulina, the chlorella, etcetera, but I wanted to make sure that I kinda make people aware of what exactly that you produce as part of this Energy Bits ‘cause you basically have, well, when I order from you, I get both spirulina and chlorella, but you’ve got one called Energy Bits and one called Recovery Bits. So what’s the difference?
Catharine: Well, Energy Bits are spirulina, and Recovery Bits are chlorella.
Catharine: Boom! That’s the key. Those are the two most popular products that we have. And we also have a product called Vitality Bits which is a blend of 50% chlorella, 50% spirulina, and people who tend to want a whole food replacement for their vitamins, and want a little bit of the immune building that they tend to get the Vitality Bits ‘cause it gives them a little bit of everything, but we try to encourage people to buy them separately because it gives you more control. If you’re hungry, you definitely want to have some Energy Bits ‘cause that will fill you up and satisfy your hunger. We have so many people losing weight naturally ‘cause this stuff fills you up for one calorie a tab.
Ben: Alright, and that’s the spirulina.
Catharine: And that’s the Energy Bits. We also have a product called Skinny Bits which is exactly the same as Energy Bits, and it’s a long story, but it’s because we found women weren’t buying Energy Bits when I started the company ‘cause I was concerned about women’s health, so I just, they said, “Well, we don’t like the name and we like pink,” so I said, “Okay, I’ll give you pink and I’ll make it fun and call it Skinny Bits.” But Energy Bits and Skinny Bits are identical, they will fill you up, give you mental energy as well as physical energy.
We have surgeons who use this product. We’ve got people working 24 hour shifts on oil rigs because they need the focus, and it’s the combination of the vasodilator from the nitric oxide, the omega-3, all the B vitamins, we didn’t even touch on the B vitamins, but all that stuff is loaded into Energy Bits. So that’s the one that, you know, that’s the most popular one. So if you’re gonna have a late night, and you want more energy or you’re studying for exams, or you’re going out on a triathlon or a run, you definitely want to have more control and have more Energy Bits.
On the other hand, if you’re coming down with a cold or you’ve just had a workout and you want to pull the lactic acid out or you don’t want, we have mothers that give the Recovery Bits to their children every day, just two or three tabs, or five or six, however many they want, their kids are the only ones who don’t have colds at school. So, if you want it for health maintenance or you’re having surgery, we didn’t even mention that one of the toxins it pulls out is alcohol, so if you take it after you drink alcohol, you are stone sober in an hour and a half.
Ben: Yeah. I have an article on alcohol detox, and I talk about how to use either chlorella or activated charcoal. There’s a ton of benefits and I also have an article, I have a huge article I wrote on this stuff called “How To Eat Algae: The Ultimate Guide to Fueling With Spirulina and Chlorella.” So, I will link to that in the show notes too for those of you who want to read some of the science, ‘cause I’ve got every research article that’s been written on this stuff, and so if you want to dig into the research for your propeller hat like me, go for it ‘cause we’re not just pullin’ this stuff out of our butts.
Catharine: I’d like to mention that there are, between the chlorella and the spirulina, there are a hundred thousand studies on the health and athletic efficacy of algae. A hundred thousand, it is the most studied food in the entire world, the most studied food and yet, by the way it is food, this is not made in a lab, this is food. This is a crop that we just grow, dry, and then package for you, but it’s amazing to me that we are so fortunate to be the ones educating people about this because it’s been so well studied, so well documented. It’s just biochemistry, science, and nutrition, and it’s just never been explained well to the mainstream, so that’s why I’m very grateful for this opportunity to talk to you, Ben, to share the word. (laughs)
Ben: Yeah. Well, I’m gonna put all the show notes for those of you listening in, over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/algaepodcast. Catharine is hooking us up with a discount code at her website, energybits.com. You use code Ben and you get 10% off of anything, like the spirulina, the chlorella, whatever you want, and, yeah, energybits.com is her website and then, like I mention, all the resources we talked about, you can grab over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/algaepodcast.
So, Catharine, thanks for coming on the show today and sharing all this stuff with us.
Catharine: Thank you! And I don’t have seaweed hair. I have real hair. (laughs)
Ben: (Chuckles) I believe you. You’re not a mermaid. Well, folks thanks for listening in and, until next time, I’m Ben Greenfield, along with Catharine Arnston, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
You’ve been listening to Ben Greenfield fitness podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
Every morning I put about thirty tiny spirulina algae tablets on top of my morning smoothie.
Then, in the evening, I often swallow another handful of tiny chlorella tablets to satiate my appetite. After that, I have to rinse out my mouth with water if I want my wife to kiss me, but it’s all worth it because…
…regardless of whether you think that us land-dwelling creatures at some point evolved from ocean-dwelling life (a belief espoused by my previous podcast guest Jack Kruse to encourage people spend time in the cold and to eat more seafood), it can’t be denied that fish, turtles, and millions of other large and small inhabitants of water rely on one extremely dense nutrition source for sustenance of life…
…algae – particularly from spirulina and chlorella sources. And (especially for vegans and vegetarians), it is the only way to get absorbable, brain-building DHA from a plant-based source. Chia seeds and flax seeds don’t get converted into DHA.
Algae has 40 vitamins and minerals, more protein than steak, more iron than liver, more calcium than milk, more chlorophyll than kale, more antioxidants than berries and provides so much steady energy and focus, that your performance improves all without chemicals, caffeine, sugar, gluten, soy, animal products or stomach distress.
Algae is also an eco-friendly, sustainable crop that releases oxygen while it is growing, produces 100 times more protein per acre than beef and provides the safest, vegan, source of Omega 3. It is grown in fresh water tanks, not the ocean so it protects the ocean’s ecosystem too.
And there’s only one calorie in a single tab.
My guest on today’s podcast is Catharine Arnston, and she puts my own algae consumption to shame, eating 75 pieces of chlorella and 75 pieces of spirulina every day. She holds an MBA from Western’s Ivey School of Business, and a BA in geography and economic development from Queen’s University. She is a Board Certified Health Counselor from The Institute of Integrative Nutrition and a REIKI Master. She is also an algae expert and the CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of ENERGYbits, a sports nutrition company that sells algae in tablet form to athletes and consumers (click here and use code BEN to save 10% on any of their algae products).
Catharine founded ENERGYbits eight years ago after she became aware of the health and athletic benefits of a plant based diet. When she subsequently learned that algae was the most nutrient dense plant in the world and that Asians had been growing it and benefiting from it for fifty years, she made it her life mission to bring algae into the mainstream so others could benefit from this superfood too.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-What exactly algae is…
-Which specific form of algae works best for pre or during workouts, and the appropriate hourly dosage…
-Which form of algae has the identical nutritional profile to mother’s milk…
-The blue-green pigment in one specific form of algae that has been shown in research to enhance muscle recovery…
-Why, based on RNA and DNA content, sardines and algae are two of the most potent anti-aging foods on the face of the planet…
-How chlorophyll allows the body to produce ATP, even in the absence of calories…
-Which type of algae acts as a natural source of sun protection and prevention of radiation damage…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode: