Clippings: Product testing? All in a day’s work

When people ask me what I do for work, I usually tell them that I’m a reporter for the Addison Independent. This is only partly true. Yes, my byline appears on a number of articles, but not with the same regularity as those of my colleagues, who cover specific beats and areas of Addison County. I choose the aforementioned answer because it is easier than going into the full nature of my work.
I’d like clarify this now: I came on board in September 2013 as the staff writer and digital editor for two smaller magazines within this larger family of publications. I write for Vermont Ski & Ride Magazine, which covers skiing and snowboarding conditions, events and developments at Vermont’s 19 alpine and 30 Nordic ski resorts and for Vermont Sports Magazine, which covers the broader spectrum of outdoor recreation in the outdoor adventure Mecca that I call home. I write for both of these, while pitching in the occasional news story for the Addy Indy.
To be clear — I love my job. But no matter how satisfying we find our work, I think we can agree there are some experiences we’d rather not repeat.
Such was the situation recently. My editor, Angelo Lynn, and myself were rooting around for extra items for a holiday gift guide for the December issue of Vermont Sports. We had 30, but wanted to pad that number in case we had additional room. We looked around and saw that we had received a nifty-looking device that stored your bike in an upright position in the back of a car, two books, a board game and a white envelope labeled “EnergyBits.” I was assigned the game and the envelope, which I tore open when I got to my desk. The package was stuffed full of promotional materials and several small Ziploc bags, which looked as if they might contain any sort of narcotic. These, I discovered, were the EnergyBits — tiny, Advil-size tablets of 100 percent spirulina and chlorella algae.
“Single Serving — 30 Tabs,” read a card stapled to the bag. The message was enhanced by a sticker on the reverse side reading: “It’s OK to swallow.”
I paused. Thirty? The dosage size seemed impossibly high and in all likelihood a typo. But reading through the promotional materials enclosed, I came to understand that the designers of this “plant-based performance fuel” indeed intended for users to down 30 of these dark green tablets before hitting the gym. In addition to pre-workout doses, the press release also encouraged users to take them after workouts, in the mornings or in the event of a hangover.
That evening, sitting in the dark parking lot of Middlebury Fitness, I considered the task before me. Being someone of average strength and build who never dabbles in the area of performance-boosting supplements, an exotic, new energy supplement in the palm of my hand conjured heady visions of unlocking a well of strength and power previously untapped. These EnergyBits, I thought, could be my first step toward becoming a redheaded and bearded version of Rocky Balboa.
So, sitting there in the driver’s seat, I tore open one of the bags, poured all 30 in my mouth and chewed vigorously. 
The sensation of choking and gagging simultaneously was entirely novel; it was like eating something off the bottom of a John Deere tractor. My immediate impulse was to throw open the driver’s side door and start spitting onto the pavement. I lunged for the door, still wearing my seatbelt, which jammed, causing me to whack my head against the window.
So I didn’t spit them out. Instead I stumbled inside the gym, smacking my teeth like a dog with a lump of peanut butter stuck to the roof of its mouth.
My workout that evening was, in a word, uninspired. There were no herculean feats of strength and my 30 minutes on the stationary bike left me woozy and drenched in sweat as usual. The only noticeable difference was the stench of garlic and old mushrooms that seemed to ooze from my pores. When I returned home that night, I realized my teeth were stained bright green.
After the embarrassment the night before, I spent the next morning reading through the website (www.energybits.com, in case you’re curious). While it claims that spirulina algae has been endorsed by United Nations and NASA as the most nutritionally dense food in the world — with three times the protein of steak at only one calorie per tab — it turns out that none of the statements have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
A bag of 1,000 tablets costs $115.
But my favorite part, however, was a disclaimer that the company couldn’t be held responsible for any typographical errors on its website. Maybe this should’ve been the first red flag.
I’ve still got four more servings of this stuff, and next time I decide to swallow them before a workout I’ll try it with water.
Or maybe I’ll just flush them. 

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