I Ate Cricket for 5 Days: Here’s What Happened
Thank you to Selene Yaeger (@Fitchick3) for this incredible blog post! Selene is a top-selling author and professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a certified personal trainer, professional mountain bike racer, and triathlete. She has authored, co-authored, and contributed to more than two dozen books. She is a frequent contributor to Runner’s World, Women’s Health, and Shape magazines and dishes out training advice monthly as Bicycling magazine’s “FitChick.” She lives in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.
Two billion people eat insects regularly. Here’s why you should consider joining them—and what happened when our writer dined on insects for five straight days.
Barring butterflies and ladybugs, I really do not like insects. I’m scared of spiders and things with lots of legs. So when my editors asked me to investigate the growing use of crickets in sports nutrition, I got pretty wigged out.
Then I did a little research. The performance fuel in question, mostly taking the shape of an energy bar, is made with cricket protein powder (finely pulverized crickets) and/or cricket flour (often taking the form of flour-diluted cricket protein powder); this means no visible legs or antenna to remind you of what you’re eating.
Crickets also pack a ton of nutrition into their jumpy little bodies. They are rich in protein, healthy fats, minerals like calcium and iron, and fiber. In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations endorsed eating insects as a healthy, nutritious alternative to mainstream animal proteins like chicken, pork, beef, and fish. Eating insects is also good for the environment, because farming them takes relatively little land and precious resources like water, and they emit far fewer greenhouse gases than larger animals like cows and pigs. Plus, it only takes about seven weeks for a population of crickets to mature, where cows take 18 to 22 months to reach slaughter weight.
Crickets as a Great Source of Protein
As it turns out, some of my cycling friends were already into cricket consumption. “The whole idea just made sense as a protein source that doesn’t use all the available land for grazing animals,” says Philadelphia-based cyclist Benjamin Rodgers. “They taste good. You can throw them in a bag of trail mix and just don’t look at them as you eat them. You’ve been socially conditioned to think bugs are gross. If you were in Asia you would have been eating them since childhood.”
Fair enough. I called up a few companies specializing in insect foods in the US, including EXO, Chapul, and Entomo Farms, and asked for samples of crickets and cricket protein powder so I could give this a shot. Here’s what happened.
(I know you’re rarin’ to try this out yourself, but a note of caution : If you’re allergic to seafood like shellfish or crustaceans, you may be allergic to crickets, which are also arthropods.)
Day 1: Chapul Energy Bars
Midway through, I somewhat hesitantly cracked open the bar, peering into the ripped wrapper. It looked like many of my favorite energy bars, reminiscient of pressed dates with bits of nuts and fruit. I took a bite.
“Mmmm.” It was good—kind of spicy and earthy. I finished the bar and my ride with good energy and no issues.
Chapul comes in four somewhat exotic flavor combinations: the Aztec bar; the Thai Bar flavored with coconut, ginger, and lime; the Matcha Bar flavored with matcha tea, goji berries, and nori; and the Chaco Bar flavored with peanut butter and chocolate. They’re all dairy-free, soy-free, and quite tasty.
I appreciate that they’re all natural and contain simple ingredients, with each bar packing between 150 and 220 calories, and containing all your essential amino acids.
Chapul also offers baking flour and protein powder.
Price: $13 for 4 bars
Day 2: EXO Cricket Flour Protein Bar
Buoyed by my positive insect-eating experience from the previous day, I confidently grabbed the next brand’s cricket bar from my kitchen cabinet and readied for another ride. This time I chose an Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bar (Apple Cinnamon flavor), which boasts 40 crickets per bar (five per bite) and comes in at an energy-sustaining 260 to 300 calories per bar. Exo’s cricket bars are also gluten free, soy free, dairy free, grain free, and deliver all nine essential amino acids.
An hour into my ride, I tore open the package and took a look. Again, the bar looked like many others: a rectangle of pressed dried fruit and nuts. I sunk my teeth into it and was rewarded with a pleasantly sweet, but not too sweet, pie-filling flavor. I ate half the bar and finished the rest an hour later. It was easy to digest and provided nice, even, sustained energy.
Exo’s bars are also available in Cocoa Nut, Blueberry Vanilla, Banana Bread, and Peanut Butter and Jelly. The company also offers a line of Savory Meal bars that come in flavors like BBQ and Mango Curry.
Price: $15 for 5 bars
Day 3: OMG… Crickets with Heads, Legs, and Antennae
When I called Entomo Farms for some cricket-powder products that I could use to cook up my own concoctions, they complied with a bag of Cricket Protein Powder (which boasts six grams of complete protein per tablespoon)—but also, as a courtesy, tossed in a few bags of dry-roasted insects, including whole roasted crickets in a variety of flavors. I really wasn’t sure I could do this, but I slipped a sample bag in my jersey pocket and off I went.
I pretended they weren’t there the whole ride—until two hours into it, I was getting undeniably hungry. Taking my hands off the bars, I pulled out the package, tore it open and shook a couple into my hand.
“Aaargh!” I literally shrieked. I closed my hand, put the other on the bars, and cringed as I felt the insects bouncing inside my loosely closed fist. I stopped and handed one to my riding partner, who popped it in his mouth without hesitation.
“Not bad,” he said of the Moroccan flavor.
I picked the least insect-looking one, tossed it in my mouth, and crunched. “Huh. Not so bad,” I said, polishing off a few more.
My little bug bag contained only 10 calories, so not enough to sustain me for much longer. But I wasn’t hungry anymore. I can’t say I would use these to fuel my riding, but maybe like my friend Benjamin, I’ll toss what I have left into a trail mix to pump up the protein. (I still wouldn’t look before I ate, though.)
Price: $11.94 for six 2g mini bags
Day 4: Entomo Cricket Protein Powder Banana Bread
Baking time! My daughter was very excited about the prospect of baking cricket banana bread (the recipe came with the bag of Cricket Protein Powder from Entomo farms). So we mashed bananas, cracked eggs, and sifted regular flour along with our cricket powder, sugar, and other ingredients, ultimately mixing it all in a bowl and pouring it into a bread pan to cook for 45 minutes.
It rose beautifully with a rustic browned crust on top. We sliced into it and shared a chunk. It was good, if a little dry, with a slightly bitter protein aftertaste. A nice slathering of butter helped.
If I made it again, I would add some dried fruit like raisins or dates to the mix to add a little moisture and sweetness. My daughter liked it well enough to ask for it for a healthy breakfast the next day.
Price: $12.38 per 4oz bag
Day 5: Bonus Worms
So, crickets aren’t the only insect game in town. In fact, the United Nations has identified 1,900 insect species that are suitable as food. One of these? The mealworm, aka the mealworm beetle’s larval form.
Entomo Farms generously sent along a few snack samples of roasted mealworms (in flavors such as Fire and Brimstone, Sea Salt and Pepper, and Barbeque) for me to try as well. I confess to utter revulsion at the sight of them—so I put off testing them until the very end.
Unable to brave it alone, I didn’t even bother taking them on a ride. Instead, I marched into my daughter’s room and asked her to try one first—she’d eaten a cricket without hesitation. She made a face, but agreed to it. I opened a little sack of the Sea Salt and Pepper mealworms and shook a few onto my palm. She cringed.
“Pretend it’s a sesame stick,” I coaxed her.
She picked one up and quickly stuck it in her mouth. “Blech,” she said. “Not my favorite thing.”
I figured if she could do it, I could, too, so I popped a couple. They kind of tasted like seasoned dirt: iron-, calcium-, and vitamin A-rich dirt. These won’t be making their way into my cycling nutrition repertoire anytime soon.
Price: $11.94 for six 2g mini bags
The Bottom Line
I’m happy to say I tried the mealworms as well as the crickets, and I wouldn’t hesitate to continue using insect products (particularly bars and powders) to pump up my protein intake in a very earth-friendly way.
Did you LOVE this article as much as we did? Make sure to pick up Selene Yaeger’s newest book: ROAR Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life