It’s the ‘super hydrator’ that’s a performance staple of top athletes, thanks to its high level of minerals and electrolytes. Helping boost everything from your workout to concentration levels, here’s why it could provide a marked upgrade on your glass of tap water
To say that the supplements market is saturated would be an understatement. New products struggle to stand out from the crowd thanks to claims that sound very similar to ones that came before. So imagine our surprise when we heard that seawater was set to make a splash in the wellness sphere (pun intended) for its workout, hydration and concentration-boosting abilities.
Now, we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill seawater here. Rather, the mineral-rich marine plasma that’s sourced from plankton blooms in specific parts of the ocean. “The blooms are made up of billions of forms of tiny plant and animal life called phytoplankton and zooplankton,” nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shaughnessy explains. “The phytoplankton transform the inorganic minerals in the seawater into fully organic and bioavailable forms that they release into the surrounding seawater along with amino acids, nucleic acids, antioxidants, polysaccharides and unsaturated fatty acids.” This nutrient-dense water is harvested 20 to 30 metres below the blooms, after which, it goes through a double cold-microfiltration process to ensure sterility and safety. It’s suitable for vegans plus, it’s free of artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours and preservatives.
Despite the buzz, its use isn’t new. It stems from the work of French physiologist, René Quinton, who used ocean plasma infusions to treat diseases and chronic conditions back in the 1800s. In his book L’Eau de Mer, Meileu Organique (Sea Water, Organic Medium), he explored the relationship between seawater and blood plasma, demonstrating that human blood and ocean plasma are interchangeable due to their similarities in mineral composition. In this way, he found that it could help stabilise and support the human body.
100 years later, it’s now no longer administered as an injectable medicine due to changes in EU pharmaceutical regulation. Instead, it’s been re-emerged as a nutritional supplement, with brands Cell Nutrition and Totum Sport providing drinkable forms to help with modern day needs such as lack of energy, stress and nutrient deficiency by hydrating the body from a cellular level.
If this sounds a little out-there, we totally get it. We thought that too. However, when we saw that Totum Sport was reported as Rafael Nadal’s tipple of choice for beating dehydration and cramps when playing in hot and humid conditions, we thought that there could be more to it than first met the eye. What’s more, it’s also picking up pace as a go-to among world-class boxers as a way of maximising their workouts and speeding up their rate of recovery.
There are two products in the Cell Nutrition range. The first is their Hypertonic Ampoules (£40 for a box of 30), which contain 100 per cent pure marine plasma. This more potent option is marketed to those leading busy, active lives, due to its energy-boosting abilities. The second is the Isotonic Ampoules (£40 for a box of 30), a less intense version that contains 29 per cent marine plasma and 71 per cent spring water and formulated to increase immunity. It also claims to have a calming effect too. And thirdly, there’s Totum Sport , (10 sachets for £18), a 20ml version of Cell Nutrition’s Hypertonic for athletes.
Its key claims
Its focus is on cellular hydration. The more we’re able to aid the body’s absorption of water and its ability to hold onto it, the less likely we are to experience issues like fatigue, cramps and loss of concentration.
Marine plasma’s high number of minerals, electrolytes and trace elements is key to this objective - 78 to be exact, significantly more than other sports drinks and supplements on the market which tend to contain only a few.
As well as providing supplementation in its own right, Marie-Louise Farag, nutritionist and Group Head of Nutrition at Cell Nutrition, tells me that its profile of elements is important because of how they interact with one another on a cellular level. She says each element relies on multiple other elements for optimal uptake by the body(1) and that we develop mineral deficiencies as groups, rather than individually, due to their synergistic relationships(2)(3). “Excess intake of one mineral can influence the absorption and metabolism of other minerals,” she says. “For example, too much zinc decreases the absorption of iron and copper. Because [marine plasma] has all 78 elements and in the correct proportions, it enhances the bioavailability, i.e. the degree to which the amount of an ingested element is absorbed and available to the body.”
In this way, she says that it could help our cells absorb water and nutrients from food and supplements more efficiently (the brand has also called it a ‘pre-supplement’), to therefore increase its performance, focus and concentration-enhancing abilities.
What’s stopping our cells from absorbing what they need on their own though? “There are many different reasons as everyone’s different,” says Marie-Louise. “But if someone’s really stressed, for example, their absorption of nutrients declines.” IBS and certain types of medication can have similar effects in her experience too.
How can it boost your workout?
It all boils down to hydration.
Water alone isn’t enough, you need minerals, trace elements and other electrolytes, Shabir Daya, pharmacist and co-founder of Victoria Health tells me. “There is a great difference between drinking water and hydrating the body,” he says. “Drinking water merely flushes out toxins and may actually flush out the very minerals that your body needs.”
That doesn’t mean that you don't need water as well, he adds.
Marie-Louise describes taking Totum Sport as a form of pre-hydration to maximise the effects of the water you drink during your workout. This can in turn, increase performance. The higher your intracellular water levels, the more difficult it is for the body to lose water. A one per cent loss in hydration can result in a five per cent loss in performance, muscle fatigue and cramps, and a lot of the time, you won’t even realise that you’re dehydrated until it’s too late and it’s already impacted your level of output.
How can it boost recovery?
The reason lies in its electrolyte content. Electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium and magnesium), can get lost during intense workouts and replacing them can mean reduced fatigue and a lower risk of injury. “It may be useful when experiencing quick losses of minerals in times of hard sweat or when exercising for more than one hour, exposure to heat, and in cases of diarrhoea,” says Daniel.
If you’re a runner, it could be worth trying Totum Sport. A 2017 study conducted by The University of Alicante revealed that concentrations of lactic acid were significantly lowered in runners who took it in dehydrating conditions. As a build-up of lactic acid can cause cramps and therefore lower performance, taking it before and after exercise could help you to recover quicker.
That being said though, Daniel’s not completely sold that we need all 78 minerals and trace elements that Cell Nutrition and Totum Sport have. Celery and coconut water can also be valuable sources for replenishing stores in his experience.
Studies by the brand on Cell Nutrition’s Isotonic formula have also shown improvements to immunity, and enhances glucose metabolism as well, helping aid recovery that much more.
How can it boost your energy levels?
You don’t necessarily need to be a world-class athlete to glean benefits from marine plasma. For those looking for an energy boost for everyday use, Marie-Louise recommends Cell Nutrition’s Hypertonic Ampoules.
Unlike caffeine which just acts as a stimulant and provides a rush and crash, the minerals in marine plasma provide a slow release type of energy that’s more compatible with the body’s processes. “Magnesium is needed for over 300 chemical reactions in the body, for example. Hypertonic just provides the body with the energy for them.”
The final word
Due to its electrolyte content, marine plasma could be effective for an added hydration boost and for replacing what's lost during an intense workout, which in turn can increase performance, speed along recovery and improve energy and focus. As for its role as a pre-supplement though, and the need for all 78 minerals and trace elements to balance each other, opinion among the experts that we asked was divided. It’ll be fascinating to see the results of further studies and research in this field as it has the potential to turn the way we view supplementation on its head. It’ll also be interesting to see how the benefits of this performance staple of top class athletes are embraced by the average gym goer too.
In any event, it proves that the subject of water is anything but dry.
(1) Ensminger, A.H., Ensminger, M.E., Konlande, J.F., and Robson, J.R.K. Food and Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press, 1983
(2) Appleton, N., Lick the Sugar Habit Garden City Park, New York: Avery, 1997
(3) Burkitt, D., Towell, H.C., Western Diseases; Their Emergence and Prevention, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1981