I Tried to Better My Health With 5 Shark Tank Products

First I laughed. Then I ordered them.

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Jan 3 2017, 1:00pm

Image: Patrick Ecclestine / ABC via Getty Images

I've always thought Shark Tank was a reality TV show for smart people. I assumed, every Friday night, adults more serious than I poured themselves a glass of Chardonnay and enjoyed the entrepreneurial wisdom of Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. After binge-watching the current season, I realized I was wrong. Shark Tank is a thoroughly ridiculous show—a kind of America's Next Top Model for small business owners. Though there is useful financial advice, every episode treats us to terrible pitches, shouting matches, bidding wars, and snide comments that rival any trashy Bravo show. But that doesn't mean the products aren't legitimate.

Now that the new year is here and we're all pretending to set fitness goals, we thought we'd review a few of the most interesting wellness products from this season.

1. ENERGYBits

When ENERGYbits founder, Catharine Arnston, showed up on Shark Tank with her amazing eyewear—an indicator of wisdom—and a bunch of reasons people should consume algae, I thought: Maybe I can be the kind of person who takes thirty algae pellets a day. Then I laughed and stuffed a handful of potato chips into my mouth. ENERGYbits are basically a clever name for two types of algae that Arnston claims American consumers are missing in their diets. Chlorella and Spirulina (yum, right?) are reportedly a good source of protein, and according to research, Spirulina can bolster your immune system and provide anti-viral properties. I opted to try the RECOVERYbits with Chlorella, which was said to "bind to all toxins (including alcohol in your bloodstream) and eliminate them from the body." All toxins? If this actually worked, bartenders would hand it out during happy hour. Its promise to reduce instances of muscle ache after a workout seemed more realistic. In the name of research, I had an intense workout and downed some RECOVERYbits after. I woke up the next morning with only mild muscle soreness, which was great, though it did take me five minutes to actually swallow 30 algae tablets (I accidentally chewed one and almost gagged from the taste). I don't think they'll become a regular part of my wellness routine.

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2. The Simply FitBoard

I really wanted to make fun of Simply FitBoard, but I keep a plastic aerobic stepper under my couch, so I'm in no position to judge. The FitBoard looks like a bent skateboard without wheels, and allows you to tone your abs by twisting back and forth. The premise is simple enough, but Simply Fitboard is more challenging than it looks. I struggled through the two minute warm-up routine, and can totally see how using this product regularly could trim your waist and stomach. The twisting motion activates the muscles in your core, and trying not to fall off the board raises your heart rate. Just doing the basic twist had me out of breath after 30 seconds. The instructional DVD workouts broaden what you can do with the board (think push-ups and floor exercises), but I was too lazy to actually try anything more difficult than the basic step. I do get why Greiner invested in this product. It looks fun and easy, like her job, but actually takes a respectable amount of work.

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3. NightRunner 270

One valid fear experienced by people who love a good evening run is that they'll be hit by a car. Hence why the husband and wife founders of Night Runner 270 created lights that attach to sneakers. The shape of the lights make you visible to traffic in front of and behind you. The lights also help you avoid twigs, rocks, and uneven pavement that you might step on in the dark. Without even trying this product, I'd pretty much considered it a home run, but after attaching these badboys to my shoes and hitting the road, I was sold. They attach easily, and have three different settings, including a blinking light function. Though the Night Runner product itself didn't excite the Sharks, the potential to use the technology in other ways (for construction workers or first responders) created a bidding war between them. Save for my other fears about running in the dark, I'm thrilled.

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4. Ice Age Meals

Paleo Dieters believe that our bodies haven't actually evolved to tolerate our modern food consumption. Thus they follow a diet used by our pre-agricultural ancestors—if cavemen ate it, they can too. Folks who go paleo stay away from flour, sugar, and processed carbohydrates. I, however, am a strict adherent of 'the take-out diet,' which includes anything and everything that I don't actually have to cook myself. Ice Age Meals are frozen dishes that adhere to strict paleo guidelines delivered to your home. I tried two meals, Thai curry meatballs and butternut squash lasagna, and both were well-seasoned and fresh-tasting. The Sharks liked the food too, but ultimately passed because they felt the valuation of the company was unclear (do the Sharks get any prep materials about these companies before the pitches? Do they see financial documents and business plans?). Even though Paleo as we've come to know it is kinda bullshit, the meals were delicious. They're available via the website, and I might have to start factoring them into my food budget.

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5. Go Cubes

The good people at Nootrobox (a company that sells something called 'cognitive enhancers') decided that busy Silicon Valley types needed chewable coffee cubes to enhance their performance. Thus, Go Cubes were created. Each serving of Go Cubes gives you 100 mg of caffeine (approximately two cups of coffee) plus a host of vitamins and minerals like B6 and B12 which boost mood and stave off fatigue. The founders claim that consuming your coffee this way allows you to control your caffeine intake and get an energy boost that lasts four to six hours. I was a little weirded out by gelatinous coffee, and the flavors—latte, mocha and drip—were a bit strong for me. I was ready to write them off simply because I prefer my coffee smothered in whipped cream and chocolate flakes, but after consuming two Go Cubes, I drafted an article, sent five emails, cleaned my apartment, ran some errands, and updated my gym membership. Taste preferences aside, the energy boost could veritably transform me—a human sloth—into a mini-mogul. 

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