Supercharge your workout by unleashing nature’s nutrient powerhouses

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spirulina-and-chlorella(NaturalHealth365) There’s undeniable nutritional value to certain animal-based foods (think 100% organic grass-fed beef or wild-caught salmon, for instance), including scads of high-quality protein, an array of amino acids, and a virtual storehouse of essential vitamins and minerals.  However, ethical and environmental concerns are causing some people to limit their consumption and seek alternative protein sources such as plants, fungi, and algae.

Two supplements derived from algae – chlorella and spirulina – have already won praise from researchers and scientists for their impressive nutritional content.  Now, a new study conducted at the University of Exeter explores their ability to help build skeletal muscle tissue.  Let’s see what this pair of superfoods “brings to the table” to benefit your biceps and quads.

Both spirulina and chlorella are rich in nutrients that promote muscle growth

Dietary protein and muscle contraction (in other words, exercise) work together to stimulate muscle (myofibrillar) protein synthesis rate and build muscle tissue.  Animal-derived foods rich in protein and essential amino acids – particularly leucine, lysine, and methionine – effectively promote this muscle-building process.  In a randomized, double-blind trial published in the prestigious Journal of Nutrition, researchers put spirulina and chlorella to the test, setting out to determine whether they could spur muscle protein synthesis in the same way as meat consumption.

The participants, all healthy young adults, first engaged in leg resistance exercises, then ingested a drink containing 25 grams of protein from either spirulina or chlorella.  (A third group received a mycoprotein derived from a fungus, which the scientists had already determined to be effective at synthesizing muscle protein).  Scientists then measured the effect of the algae products on levels of blood amino acids and rates of muscle synthesis, comparing the results to those found at the beginning of the study.

Scientists report spirulina and chlorella are “novel” and “sustainable” protein sources

Spirulina and chlorella performed well, although spirulina was more successful at ramping up blood amino acids and protein synthesis.  The impressed researchers concluded that spirulina and chlorella are “sustainable alternatives” to animal-derived protein for maintaining and building muscle in healthy young adults, and lead researcher Ino Van Der Heijden called algae a “promising novel protein source” and a “potential part of a secure and sustainable food future.”

While the study is promising, more research is needed to explore algae’s benefits.  Next, the scientists plan to study its effects on older adults, with an eye towards whether algae protein can mitigate age-related muscle decline.

Chlorella is a nutrient-packed superfood with detoxifying properties

Chlorella, botanically known as Chlorella vulgaris, is classified as a single-celled microalgae.  This nutrient-dense superfood is composed of 50 to 60 percent protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.  It also offers a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, including B vitamins – needed to convert food to energy – antioxidant vitamin C, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, calcium, and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.  Also present are antioxidant plant pigments such as lutein and zeaxanthin.

But that’s not all.  Chlorella is believed to lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar, improve physical stamina, and boost the immune system.  In addition, scientists have learned that it binds to heavy metals and harmful chemicals such as dioxin, allowing it to ameliorate the negative health effects.  Chlorella may also benefit heart health by improving cholesterol profiles.  According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, consuming five grams of chlorella a day caused “remarkable” reductions in LDL cholesterol.

Protein-packed spirulina may “fine-tune” metabolism to maintain healthy weight

Spirulina, botanically known as Arthrospira platensis, is a blue-green algae.  Its unusual color provides a clue to its rich content of antioxidant plant pigments, including phycocyanin and beta-carotene.  A single tablespoon of spirulina contains over four grams of protein, along with what seems to be an entire alphabet of vitamins and minerals.  (Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B9, vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium are all present in this nutritious food).

Spirulina may help boost metabolism and increase the number of calories burned.  A 2020 review published in the medical journal Open Heart showed that a spirulina-enriched diet reduced body mass index, body fat, waist circumference, blood lipids, and appetite.  Like chlorella, spirulina is thought to help manage blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and reduce LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol.

You can add powdered chlorella or spirulina to your favorite smoothie or juice – or simply take them in capsule form.  To avoid contaminants, buy chlorella and spirulina supplements from a reputable source – and look for a quality assurance seal from third-party testing.  Before supplementing with spirulina or chlorella, check with your holistic doctor.

Simply put, if you want to cut down on meat consumption (or want to vary and expand your diet with some exciting alternatives), chlorella and spirulina might be worthwhile.  These ancient algae evolved 2.7 billion years ago – yet offer up-to-the-minute health benefits well suited to meeting life’s challenges in 2024 and beyond.

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