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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

The three pillars of health and fitness (pt 2)

By Pete Ryan

Part 2  Exercise

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

We looked at nutrition last post, so now it is time to move on to exercise. Many people get confused about exercise, should they do cardio or strength, is it best to try bodyweight, machines or use a barbell? Then there is the question of how many days a week, how long you should train, should you do a warm-up.  Some gurus will give you specific answers to these questions, unfortunately a lot depends on your goals and there is no generic answer.

Then first question has to be your goal.  If your goal is to become a bodybuilder or participate in a sport, then your training has to be focused on that goal. Writing a detailed program for various sports is outside the scope of this article, but if you are interested in something specific feel free to leave a message below and I will try to get you an answer or at the very least point you to a few places where you can find the answers you need.  For general health and fitness the first thing you have to choose is how often can you absolutely exercise, even if the week doesn’t go great? Do not be the person that works out for 6 days a week for 2 weeks, then doesn’t exercise again for 6 months.  Think of consistency as being king. 1 day a week, done every week without fail, will be better than one or two brief 6 day a week sessions each year. Ideally you should do some strength work and some cardio. What you do isn’t important if you are just after fitness, you can also combine them at times to get both cardio and strength from one session if you are really pressed for time.

In some cases you can include leisure into your cardio training, hiking, canoeing, swimming and other leisure activities can count towards your cardiovascular health, just as things like heavy lifting and carrying can be classed as some strength work. These activities are all good, but you should really try and get some focussed exercise in both strength and cardio if you want to reach optimal health and fitness. For cardio, you can run, bike, swim or do another activity, but always with an eye on peaking and improving your performance. When hiking for leisure you should stop, enjoy the view take a picture for Instagram or whatever you enjoy doing, but when you are working on improving cardio that should be your focus.

The same with strength, when you are moving furniture you should rest, not fatigue yourself too much, keep up a pace where you can continue easily for a long time as you carry and load stuff, but when doing an activity specifically to improve strength, then you need to focus on that goal and work into extreme fatigue at times, lifting with a drive and a focus that will exhaust you during the session.

Where to start depends on where you are right now.  For a cardio-based activity I would suggest starting well below your limits, start easy.  If that means run between one pair of lampposts and then walking the next set for 10 minutes, then start with that, if that mean just a 5 minute walk, then start there.

For strength you can use bodyweight, machines, free weights, bands, chains or whatever you like.  It doesn’t really matter, but like the cardio you should be interested enough in the protocol to want to do it and keep it up.

Here is a quick example of a routine you could start with:

  •       Dumbbell bench press 3 sets of 10reps
  •      One arm bent over row 3 sets of 10 reps
  •      Overhead press 3 sets of 10 reps
  •      Lat pulldown 3 sets of 10 reps
  •      Goblet squat 3 sets of 10 reps

That will be short and get you started.  Do that one to three times a week and after 8 weeks you will notice a difference!
Start with a weight you can do easily and then slowly increase the weight you are lifting.
Be patient, cardio does usually come faster than strength, but both may take you time to improve.  This is not a race. It is not one of those 8 week challenges where people become super buff, your goal is to improve your health and fitness over the long haul, for life, so consider that.  You have years of improvement ahead of you, so enjoy the process.  Many people can take a decade or more to reach their genetic potential (longer if you begin when you are older), but on the plus side that means that in 10 or even 20 years you will look and feel better than you did before you started. That is a real bonus!

Also remember goals can and will change. Many guys start with the idea of looking better, then drift towards strength, then finally move towards overall health as they get older.  Woman often start by wanting to get skinny, then drift into strength or building their bodies before finally moving towards overall health as they get older. Whatever sex you are you will find there are also sports or activities that entice you to give them a go, that is totally fine and you should give yourself permission to explore any that intrigue you. If you enjoy kettlebells or obstacle course racing feel free to really explore them and move in that direction for a while. They may or may not be optimal for health, but you can always move back into a more healthy direction later if you need to. The main importance is to find something you like and to stick to it, and repeat as often as you like while always looking to find new things.  The one limiting factor is to stick to a routine for a while before changing it, unless there seems like a high risk of injury, if injury seems high then change the routine immediately, it is rarely worth getting injured in any activity. 

That is all there really is to exercise, if you need more pointers pop over to and download “Introduction to vegan fitness and health” this has some more details about introducing both cardio and strength training into your weekly routine.

Part 1 - Nutrition can be found here
Part 3 - Recovery can be found here