Feb
16
2015

Spirulina protein: how good or bad is it?

Spirulina as a unique source of protein

Spirulina platensis

Tonight I’m going to discuss the spirulina protein, which is quite a rare finding among many other different sources of protein. If you’ll notice, most of the protein supplements that are available in the market and are so frequently used by body builders are obtained from either milk, vegetables or animals. The most common are of course whey, egg and rice proteins, but have you seen a protein extracted from an alga?

Spirulina is a very special alga that doesn’t even need to undergo any extraction, since its initial protein content is as high as 70 percent! If you are able to obtain fresh spirulina per kilo without it having to undergo through drying and repacking you’ll have it for a very affordable price, almost comparable to beef or egg protein. There is however, one problem: unlike any other foods, the spirulina’s nutritional content is rather strange…

Aside from easily digestible protein, spirulina also contains many pigments, which are responsible for its intense color. The main pigment of spirulina is chlorophyll, and it is densely packed with it. Containing 20 times more chlorophyll than the green-leafy vegetables, spirulina even colors the stool, making it dark green. Hence, these who lack vegetables could benefit from this spirulina protein, otherwise it will make an excess.

The actual spirulina protein content

Establishing the actual protein content is somewhat tricky. Just like among animals: a starving hen may produce a poor amount of meat, but a properly nourished specimen may produce thrice as more. Then again, the actual amount will depend on how it has been prepared. Obviously, a fried steak loses more water than if you’d boil it. Same rules truly apply for spirulina as well. The packing, quality of the supply and the kind of species – all matters.

If you buy dried spirulina, either in form of capsules or powder – you can reach the highest possible content of 70%, if it is of a decent quality. The secret is about looking for a certified organic source, which can be a tad more expensive but it will pay out in full. The organic spirulina protein is also easy to distinguish as it has a very dense blue-green color, which may look almost black or dark brown.

Although 70% for a dried organic powder is a very impressive number, I personally prefer to get the fresh biomass, which retains some water as it’s packed. The biomass usually carries about 48% protein, but it makes a more robust and the natural form of supplementation, which is also cheaper. In the end, you will drink a lot of water as you consume spirulina, so I believe it doesn’t matter as much.

Species: Average protein content:
Spirulina Platensis 64%
Spirulina Pacifica 68%
Spirulina Maxima 59%

The overall usefulness

To demonstrate the usefulness of the spirulina proteins let me make a brief excursion in biology. Protein is what makes 20% of our bodies, used not only for muscles but also for the immune system, DNA synthesis and many other things. As you consume one or another protein, it breaks down to amino acids, which can be considered as the building blocks of the body. Thus, it may literally help to rebuild and repair every cell of the body.

The value of protein has been known for ages. Proteins and amino acids have also been used in many different forms as health-aid supplements, and not only in bodybuilding. Funny enough, some of these protein supplements have been testified as effective by hundred thousand chronically ill patients with this and that condition all around the globe. How is this possible, you say?

Well, today it’s very common to have diet imbalances and lack of protein consumption goes as second priority after obesity. The thing is, it has to be consumed regularly throughout the day, because unlike fats, the proteins aren’t readily stored in the body. The other problem is that typical meat has harder fibers, and its proteins may not be easily absorbed. The amino-acid profile may also differ among different diets and may not be sufficient.

Now, here comes our green hero called spirulina! The advantage of spirulina protein is that it’s very easily digestible. In around 20 minutes after consumption, believe it or not, it is already being absorbed by the body. This is because spirulina is only a single-celled organism, and its cell walls are made of soft fibers. Its incredible digestibility actually makes it a nice source of protein.

Spirulina for bodybuilding

For these who still wonder whether or not it could be used as a bodybuilding supplement, I will roughly put it like this: the spirulina protein is still a protein, so the answer is yes! Moreover, this supplementation is very affordable, so unambiguously, it could be a good bit of a help. Because spirulina is also considered a health supplement with its own unique qualities, perhaps it could help to stay healthy, besides gaining some mass.

There are however, some things you should be aware of… Spirulina is not only classified as an alga, but also cyano-bacteria. Any organisms resembling the bacteria can interfere with the body’s immune function and spirulina is not an exception. I do not mean it being wittingly harmful, and in fact, it may even provide some beneficial effects, but keeping the story short, you will have to let your body adjust.

Unlike the typical protein-shakes, which can be consumed at will, or exclusively post-workouts, spirulina has to be taken regularly. If you bought a new supply of spirulina, make sure to consume it at least once a day, more preferably twice a day before food. Another thing is that you have to be gradual with the dosage. No sudden increases from 2 grams to 10 grams, etc. If you don’t follow this simple pattern, you will experience the side effects…

The dosage and further instructions

Like with any protein supplement, there are no strict dosage instructions for spirulina. Some people are happy with 1.0 gram a day, while these with an inclination for healthiness may consume as much as 20 grams of raw mass daily, which converts to 10 grams of a quality protein. You can also use it in a combination with other proteins, but I would not advise taking more than 20 grams daily, unless you know what you are doing.

Beginners could start with as low as 1.0 gram a day for the course of first week. The low dosage is advised so that your body can adjust to a new thing. Finally, you should make sure to consume a lot of water. With every intake, I consume at least two glasses of water, as it makes me thirsty, but this is completely normal, because it aggressively absorbs the water, especially when in powder form.

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