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Saturday, 10 February 2018

Fitness is rented.

By Pete Ryan

We’ve all see older guys and gals, they often used to be fit or were in incredible shape, even just a few years ago. These people ‘achieved fitness’, they may have even reached amazing heights. The trouble is that fitness should not be thought of as a goal you achieve, fitness is process you move towards or away from on a daily basis. While one day may not make a difference, you may only move an inch in either direction, the process continues every day, and it is the summation of these days added together that give you the result. Worse than that, if we think of training as a bank account that you save into, or draw upon, then older savings are worth less and less as time goes on.  This can be negative if you used to be fitter, but it could be good if you used to be very unfit.  It is also more like rent, you need to make regular ‘payments’ or you lose the right to own fitness, most days you should try to move towards fitness. 

We all have celebrations or special days when we forget about fitness and enjoy an event, but generally we should try to make choices that move us towards fitness and health, and we need to do this regularly to achieve our goal. This does not mean take a 30 day challenge, fitness is not a 30 challenge, it is a lifelong challenge and one we need to grasp firmly and decide we are going to battle for every day. These battles need not be excessive, it may be walking up the stairs and not using the lift, getting to the gym once or twice a week, it may be not adding high calorie dressing to your meal. Whatever the battle, however small the victory, it inches you closer towards fitness.  Remember you do not ‘achieve’ fitness, you move towards or away from the goal in an undulating pattern throughout your life. At some points you may get very fit, while at other times, you may have moved some distance from fitness. It is virtually always possible to regain lost fitness, it is also very easy to let fitness slip through your fingers. It is time to forget about the goal of fitness and look at the process of fitness, it should be a goal to maintain fitness in the on-going journey through life, not to simply achieve it, then move onto the next challenge.

How to plan for success

The first idea you should get away from are the ‘challenge’ style of dieting, or short term dietary fixes. These ideas may be ok to kick start a lifestyle change, but your aim needs to be to make lifestyle changes that you can live with, but still move you towards fitness. I suggest making small manageable changes. Add more greens into your diet, eat fruits and vegetables every day, drink more water, buy a smaller plate (so you can fit less food on it) if you need to lose fat. Make one or two changes every few weeks. Each change will take a while to become a habit, but if the changes are small, then they should not be so hard that you cannot maintain them.  The good thing is these small additions and subtractions can accumulate over time. First you can add more greens, this will fill you up more, so you eat less, so your fat levels will drop. A few weeks later you could increase your intake of water, this will full you further and so more fat is lost, it will also hydrate you, so your body starts to function better and your skin looks healthier…The process continues, and if you do not back slide, before too long you will move towards fitness and health.  The secret is to constantly maintain the habits you add, if you can keep the exercise you introduced and the dietary changes these will keep you on the right track, even if you fail to add more things you think you need for a while, still hold onto the things you have already started to do.  There is always time later to add more things, but never drop a fitness improving facet of your life as long as increasing fitness is your goal.  Obviously there are special occasions or events that mean plans must change, but generally try to keep those actions as habits that are a normal part of your life.

If you always remember that you do not ‘achieve fitness’, that it is rented, and every month you need to tally up your ‘rent’ and see if you have earned enough to have it, or if you are drifting away and need to work more on it. Hopefully, if you can stay consistent you will maintain a fit, healthy body throughout your life.


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Saturday, 4 November 2017

Adding for fat loss

By Pete Ryan

Fat loss is often focussed on deprivation.  You will often see the gurus online touting this and that, and usually these people will suggest things like:

  • Giving up carbs
  • Cutting out fat
  • Removing treat foods

How about we turn this idea on its head and see where that journey will lead us? Most people who want to lose fat have a few related issues. They do not eat well and they do not move enough.  If we look at these dual issues and consider our problems from the viewpoint of adding things then we can develop a very interesting approach to dealing with these issues.
Let’s look at 2 scenarios and how we approach them…and the probable result:

Scenario 1

You come to me and I say you will no longer eat treats, junk food or desserts. You will cut all sugar from drinks and only eat whole food stuff from now on; you would also limit yourself to 2,000Kcal (or less) per day.  Would that work?  Well, technically yes, IF you did that, then you would most likely lose weight…but would many people stick to it? Research suggests that most people will not be able to maintain the discipline necessary to keep this up over the long term, so they will fail and return to their old eating habits.  They may lose weight for a while, but eventually the fat will be regained and maybe they’d even develop more as they rebound from the caloric deprivation back to surplus calories.

Scenario 2

Suppose a person comes to me and I say they can continue doing exactly what they do now, but add some vegetables (focus mainly on green leafy vegetables), have them with as many meals as they can and try to eat those first.  I suspect most people could do that, they would also be filling themselves up with bulky greens and so not have so much room for everything else.  So, after a week or two they may well find that they have lost fat, and also that they have started to feel better too.  So, now  suggest that they add a 10 minute walk after each meal. No crazy workouts, just a walk at a pace that is just above their normal walking pace, but not exhausting.  Most people could do that as well.  Pop on an audio book or podcast and take a brisk stroll for a few minutes after most meals.  No need to become a zealot, but if you have 10 minutes, briskly stroll around the block, through a park or whatever is nearby, even on a treadmill while watching a TV programme if you prefer that. I can see people managing those things without too much trouble.

So, let us look at these two scenarios.  One will lead to extreme deprivation and most probably lead to failure, while the other is very easy to implement and kickstarts the fat burning process without any sense of deprivation at all.  The mindset is different when you add compared to when you subtract things.  People feel better when they have more, the fact that having more will mean they actually consume less and burn more calories doesn’t matter.  The fact is that having more will allow treats and indulgences, but will still often result in fat loss and improved health. This means that for some of the population, this method may be the key to success.  Remember, you do not have to stop there, continue to add things that will improve health, add foods you haven’t tried before, add things like a new activity to your lifestyle.  All of these changes, small as they are, soon add up.

This approach will not work for everybody, some people have a single slice of cake, then uncontrollably eat the whole cake! If you suffer from addictive tendencies, then this method may not work for you.  Know yourself, if you are an average person with some fat to lose, consider this method as an option.  Make slow, calculated changes over time.  Spend a few months eking out the pound or two lost by adding in greens, the pound or two lost by adding in a ten minute walk. Keep the fat loss going over a few months and you will look like a new person and not have to have given up on any food you enjoy.  You will find that naturally you will eat some things less, but that is all, with the added bonus that you can have that piece of pie or slice of pizza.

It is a good method to begin the process of fat loss for most people, so consider adding things to your diet and lifestyle, not taking things away when you begin the fat loss process.

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Monday, 2 October 2017

Marine Phytoplankton: Long Chain EPA Oil for Vegans

 By Piers Moore-Ede

In the vegan community, the debate about long chain EPA has been running for a long time. While vegans can generally obtain (and indeed exceed) almost everything in the carnivorous and vegetarian diets through careful dietary choices, the long chain fatty acids present in certain cold-water fish are hard to acquire. This article will explore the possibility that marine phytoplankton, long the food choice of whales, is the perfect place to get it.

What are the Important Omega 3 Fatty Acids?

These are:

•    EPA: eicosapentaenoic acid
•    ALA: - alpha-linolenic acid
•    DHA - docosahexaenoic acid

Amongst these, it appears to be EPA and DHA which exhibit the most potent benefits for human health. As luck would have it for vegans (until now!) traditional plant sources don’t contain either of them – it’s oily fish like salmon, mackerel or krill which offer the best sources.

Whilst some people point out that the human body has the capacity to convert ALA (found in seeds like linseed) to EPA, the truth is it does so only poorly. Even someone who consumes a prodigious amount of flax oil wouldn’t be receiving the same benefits as someone who is ingesting fish oil directly.

Why is Long Chain EPA so powerful?

It was contact with traditional peoples like the Inuit which first prompted scientists to investigate whether a diet high in fish oil could offer health benefits. It turns out these oils offer incredible benefits (1) to cardiovascular health, neurological function, and skin conditions like eczema, to name a few. Scientists believe these affects are due partly to the ways essential fatty acids affect cellular communication, and partly due to their inherent anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests these oils also offer overall metabolic benefits (2) promoting lean tissue mass and counteracting obesity.

Phytoplankton: The ‘Fish Oil’ Solution for Vegans

Algal Oil is one of the fastest growing supplements in the health industry. In the last decade, scientists have realised that rather than relying on fish oil supplements in an increasingly toxic ocean, it’s possibly to harvest the oil directly from the place the fish get their own supply: algae like marine phytoplankton.
Phytoplankton is a single-celled plant, 5-7 times smaller than a red blood cell, which photosynthesizes energy from sunlight. Beloved by vast sea mammals such as whales, and smaller creatures like salmon and krill, these plants are the very source of the fatty acids which give fish their health-giving properties. In recent years, aquaculturists have perfected the art of creating artificial plankton blooms in indoor greenhouses called bioreactors. The resulting mass of phytoplankton is then carefully dried and pressed to release the health-giving algal oils. The result is the world’s first vegan source of long-chain essential fatty acids. It has the added benefit of being produced in laboratory conditions in purified water, meaning it is completely pure. Most oceanic fish are now of questionable provenance and likely contaminated in various ways, especially with heavy metals.

Why take marine phytoplankton?

As well as being one of the most nutritionally dense substances you are ever likely to ingest, marine phytoplankton is alkalising, and incredibly easily absorbed, due to its tiny cell size. It may be this factor which makes it such an instant source of energy – but athletes and those battling fatigue have been some of the earliest adopters.
Users generally note a sustained, balanced energy, clear skin, and deeper sleep. Many people with compromised immunity are also noting its usefulness in promoting general wellbeing and increased resistance.

Is there a downside to phytoplankton?

If there is a downside, it’s the price. While cheaper pond-grown plankton supplements are now available (think pond scum!), the real deal, grown in closed-loop bioreactors is expensive to produce and thus makes it a premium health supplement. This is likely to change as the market grows and more people come to know about this powerful, healthful green powder.

Author Bio

Piers Moore-Ede is the author of 3 travel books, most recently Kaleidoscope City: A Year in Varanasi. He was so blown away by the power of phytoplankton, he’s started a website about it which you could read at Plankton for Health.



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The three pillars of health and fitness (pt 3)

By Pete Ryan

Part 3  Recovery

(This is part 1 of a 3 part series about achieving optimal health find parts 2 and 3 at the bottom of this article)

So far we have covered nutrition and exercise in the last two articles, so this post we will examine recovery.  This might be the most nebulous of the 3 pillars.  With nutrition you can monitor weight, fat levels and muscle mass and get some idea of what to do with your diet, with exercise you are either getting stronger, or not getting stronger.  However recovery is affected by your whole life.  If you have a stressful day, you will need extra recovery, if you sleep badly, or do not reach the right levels of sleep, you will not be recovered, illness affects the bodies ability to recover.  The list goes on. Recovery is the thing that will vary most from day to day.  Most days you will know roughly how much to eat that coming day, you will have an idea of about the amount of exercise you should do, but you have no idea how much recovery you will need as things vary so much.

The number one recovery option is sleep.  Sleep is the bedrock of all recovery, why do you think in those military ‘hell weeks’, they stop the solders sleeping? They want to see how they deal with being unable to recover, so they get then to do physical things.  Things many of you could do if fresh, but get them to do it repeatedly as the recovery reserves dwindle. You see some of the toughest, fitness humans on earth slowly fail one by one and only the very few actually survive the week.  This is due to lack of recovery above all, I can virtually guarantee that if I gave them adequate sleep between each day they would survive the ordeal much more easily.

There are two aspects to sleep, duration and depth. Both of these will vary for person to person to person, but generally 7 or 8 hours of sleep works for most people. Depth of sleep is a bit more difficult, you need a whole separate article just to cover the different levels of sleep, needless to say you should wake up ready to take on the day without stimulants, everyone can feel a bit tired at some point throughout the day now again, but mostly you should be able to function without stimulants throughout a normal day.

Assuming you have sleep in place then there are some other modalities that can aid recovery, but remember, none of these can replace sleep as the number one recovery tool.

Massage, both self myofascial release and going to get a massage is a great way to improve recovery. As a massage therapist I rate massage as a powerful way to aid recovery, but benefits do depend both on those doing the massage and how your body responds.  Like anything massage isn’t for everyone, but for those it does help, it is a great way to encourage recovery and relieve muscle soreness.

Stretching, yoga and other similar modalities can help tight muscles loosen and so aid recovery, they may also improve exercise by allowing the body to get into better positions during exercise.
Electrical stimulation has been sold to many as a way to speed recovery, but I am not certain the science is there to prove that is effective?  If you feel it helps, then give it a try, but if it doesn’t do anything for you then forget about it.

Meditation has been used for centuries to focus the mind and aid recovery. How well it works depends upon the individual and how practiced that individual is at meditating. This can be used for a few minutes using an app on your phone, or continued for hours.  If this helps you then include it into your daily routines, but if it doesn’t then use the time doing other things.

Things that can affect recovery are stress, poor nutrition, health issues, over training, excessive systemic inflammation, and many other factors.

You can get some ideas about to incorporate self myofascial release into your own exercise by popping over to and downloading the book called “Self myofascial release”. 

Putting it all together

The secret of achieving the best health and fitness results is to get your nutrition, exercise and recovery into balance.  Like actual balancing, this is not a static process, things will wobble one way or the other and you will only ever achieve a momentary second of perfect balance before things change again and more small tweaks need to be made.  So, some evenings you may need an early night, or an extra snack, while other days you may need to drop a workout or add high intensity methods to keep reaping benefits.  The secret is to learn your own body and to try out new things so you can achieve the most benefits from your health and fitness lifestyle.  You can learn more by reading “An introduction to vegan fitness and health” over at and if you need any further advice feel free to contact me below.
Good luck with your health and fitness journey!

Part 1 - Nutrition can be found here
Part 2 - Exercise can be found here