Bodyweight exercises – they may be “old school” but they’re still the best!

An article on the BBC News website caught my attention this weekend, “Short bursts of intense exercise ‘better for weight loss‘”. The article went on to quote Dr Michael Moseley (whose articles I often feature in this blog), “In 2012, I tested three lots of 20-second high intensity workouts on an exercise bike, three times a week. My insulin sensitivity improved by 24%. In the programme, we again saw very impressive results with younger, unfit people …”

Committed Metafit fans will know that just three sessions of this HIIT workout a week can effect similar impressive changes to your body over a short space of time, using just simple core and bodyweight exercises. So what is it about these that make them so effective?

What are bodyweight exercises?

They are strength training exercises that use your own body’s weight to provide resistance against gravity. Bodyweight exercises can enhance a range of abilities including strength, power, endurance, speed, flexibility, coordination and balance. Exercises that use pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, twisting and balancing, such as press ups, burpees and squat thrusts are common bodyweight exercises. Those of you who are old enough to remember the “Superstars” programmes of the 70s and 80s will no doubt remember the infamous gym challenges involving squat thrusts and the parallel bar dips – two examples of tough but effective bodyweight exercises.

Did you know? One of the best things about bodyweight exercises is that you can do them in your own home as no other equipment is required.

What are the best bodyweight exercises?

There are many variations on standard bodyweight exercises, many of which we use in our metafit workouts, often introducing a jump or lateral movement to make the move more plyometric and harder, but the core group of exercises remains the same. Here’s “Mr Metafit” himself demonstrating just how some of these should be performed:

Squats and squat jumps. This exercise works all of the muscles in the lower body including the quads, glutes and hamstrings. It also provides an extra kick for the core as you need your deep abdominal muscles and back to keep your torso upright and perform this exercise correctly.

Press-ups. Working all the muscles in the lower body including the quads, glutes and hamstrings whilst also providing an extra kick for your core strength. Metafit press-ups use the full range of movement – your chest should touch the floor as shown below. It’s perfectly acceptable to drop to your knees to perform this move, just ensure you are still using the full range of movement to be effective.

Burpees. Yes, our favourite exercise! Combining cardio and strength into one, the burpee is a complex, total-body exercise that will work your upper and lower body at the same time with a strong focus on the core. (That’s why we love them so much!). Adding a tuck jump at the end makes the move more plyometric and even tougher!

Squat thrusts. Similar in many ways to a shortened burpee without the final jump phase, this tough and oft hated exercise (I wonder why?!) is a good all-body move, concentrating primarily on your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. This exercise is often poorly performed so it’s important to work on correcting your technique to ensure you gain the maximum benefit.

Lunges and lunge jumps. Again, often incorrectly performed, a true lunge should take the back leg to a 90° position, just off the floor. It targets the quadriceps and the glutes most intensely, but also hits the hamstrings, calves and core. Technique is important here as poorly performed lunges can lead to injury. Stepping lunges are just as beneficial if you prefer to take out the jump or if you have knee issues.

Mountain climbers. This exercise combines the difficulty of a plank with deep core stabilisation and alternating knee drives towards your chest. It benefits muscular and cardiovascular fitness by increasing strength, flexibility and blood circulation. Mountain climbers require you to engage your upper arm muscles, as well as your core and your legs.

Extended plank hold and plank variation. One of the best exercises for core conditioning, improving posture, supporting your back, enhancing overall movement and co-ordination and toning your abdominals. In addition to standard planks in Metafit, we also use “hot hands” and “pomel jumps” as great and effective variations on this core exercise.

Hot hands. With a strong core, you should be able to perform these as still and as SLOWLY as possible, almost like you are in slow-motion. This exercise is actually much tougher than it looks, and if your core isn’t strong you will find you tend to rotate throughout the body, particularly the hips, when you lift your hands – this is what you must aim to try and avoid.

Important Footnote:
It goes without saying that good technique is imperative to complete all these exercises well - it will not only help to prevent any injury or issues developing but also ensure you gain the maximum benefit from the exercise. There is no substitution for performing these exercises under the guidance of a qualified instructor - it's almost impossible for a beginner to be aware of their technique without proper instruction and correction.

Want to find out more and experience the whole range of bodyweight exercises? Why not come and join us for a Metafit session and discover how just 25 minutes can change the way you think about exercise? It could also change your life!

Fibre – the latest “superfood”

Fibre – yes I know, it’s not the most exciting thing in the world but a major study has been investigating how much fibre we really need to be eating and has found there are huge health benefits when we eat more.

  • It reduces the chances of debilitating heart attacks and strokes as well as life-long diseases such as type-2 diabetes.
  • It helps keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels down.
  • It’s cheap and widely available in the supermarket.
  • It makes us feel fuller and can help digestion and prevent constipation.

The researchers for this study, based at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, and the University of Dundee say people should be eating a minimum of 25g of fibre per day. “The evidence is now overwhelming and this is a game-changer that people have to start doing something about it,” one of the researchers, Professor John Cummings, has told BBC News.

The NHS recommends we should increase our fibre intake to 30g a day as part of a healthy balanced diet. So what does 30g of fibre actually mean?

To increase your fibre intake you could:

  • Choose a higher-fibre breakfast cereal such as plain wholewheat biscuits (like Weetabix) or plain shredded whole grain (like Shredded wheat), or porridge as oats are also a good source of fibre.
  • Go for wholemeal or granary breads, or higher fibre white bread, and choose wholegrains like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice.
  • Go for potatoes with their skins on, such as a baked potato or boiled new potatoes.
  • Add pulses and legumes such as beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, soups, curries and salads.
  • Include plenty of vegetables with meals, either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries.
  • Have some fresh or dried fruit, or fruit canned in natural juice for dessert. Because dried fruit is sticky, it can increase the risk of tooth decay, so it’s better if it is only eaten as part of a meal, rather than as a between-meal snack.
  • For snacks, try fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes and unsalted nuts or seeds.

Did you know? A small handful of nuts can have up to 3g of fibre. Always choose unsalted nuts, such as plain almonds, without any added sugars.

Find out more:

Four health hacks that will change your life

Dr Rangan Chatterjee is a physician, author, television presenter and podcaster. He is probably best known for his TV show Doctor in the House and for being the resident doctor on BBC One’s Breakfast Show. Here I am sharing his article that was recently featured on BBC Radio 5 Live where he shares his philosophy about the ‘four pillars of health’: food, movement, sleep and relaxation.

Every part our body affects pretty much every other part. By making small, achievable changes in the four key areas of your life, you can create and maintain good health – and avoid illness. What matters most is balance across all the things you do.

The twelve hour eating window

If changing your diet and cutting foods out seems intimidating, Dr Rangan suggests an easier option: eat all your food within a 12 hour window. “Can you get more benefits if you go stricter? Yes some people might be able to! But I say if you can do 12 hours a day, tick it off, and move on to another recommendation. Try and get that balance.”

He says, “It’s a very simple change that I’ve seen be transformative for people.”

Five minute strength training

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In our busy lives, it’s often hard to motivate ourselves to find time to go to the gym or go for a run, but Dr Rangan says that just five minutes of strength training twice a week can be really valuable.

“Strength training is very much undervalued in society. We talk about moving more and cardio but we neglect that our muscle mass is one of the strongest predictors of how we’re going to be when we age. Lean muscle mass is so important. Yet when we hit 30, we can lose three to five per cent of our muscle mass every ten years and that rate accelerates after the age of 50.”

Spend time in natural daylight

Good sleep is something we often overlook in our lives, but making sure we have enough high quality sleep can make our lives and health so much better. Dr Rangan has a lot of tips for getting better sleep, but one that you might not have considered is whether you’re getting enough light in the day.

Our bodies need to see different light at day and night to keep our internal clocks working. He says people should be especially aware of this in the winter months. “Many people are leaving the house in the dark, getting to work in the dark, being inside all day, and then going home in the dark.”

He suggests taking twenty minutes in your day to spend some time in natural daylight, and you may find that you wake up the next morning more refreshed.

Make time for some ‘me time’

Stress is often a part of our daily lives, and unfortunately, our technology can be partially to blame for this.

Dr Rangan says, “You get up in bed, the alarm is blaring. So you’ve gone from this nice, peaceful, restful slumber, suddenly there’s a blaring alarm clock. You’re looking at your phone, and there’s a whole ton of blue light, and alarm notifications going on…

For many of us, that continues all day and often that’s still going on just before we’re in bed at night; we’re still looking. And so we’ve just got no down time any more.”

His solution is to have at least 15 minutes a day of ‘me-time’. This should be something you do for yourself, that you don’t feel guilty about doing and that doesn’t involve your smartphone. Doing this can lower your stress levels and let you decompress without worrying about your phone.

FIND OUT MORE:

Can Tai Chi offer the same benefits as aerobic exercise?

You may initially think how can Tai Chi even begin to compare to aerobic exercise? Slow, gentle, fluid movements, versus a heart pumping energising workout? A recent study looked at this and came up with some surprising results.

It’s no secret that I love my high intensity workouts, but I also love my yoga too. As a Reiki practitioner I can really feel and appreciate the benefits in these more “gentle” forms of exercising, and I’m a great believer in combining them both. In my line of work I often come across people who have had injuries or conditions that don’t allow them to partake in vigorous exercise, but quite often workouts such as yoga, pilates or Tai Chi can be the ideal solution. A good friend of mine teaches Tai Chi here in York, and so I was particularly interested in this recent study.

Tai Chi (full name Tai Chi Chuan) combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow, flowing movements. Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China,  the slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi are reported to be good for both body and mind. But could doing something so gentle really be as effective as a bout of more vigorous exercise? Dr Sarah Aldred, Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Nor Fadila Kasim from the University of Birmingham teamed up with the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” to find out.

The Experiment:

  • They took a group of volunteers aged between 65 and 75, none of whom did regular exercise. Half of them were enrolled in a Zumba class for 12 weeks, while the other half did Tai Chi for 12 weeks.
  • At the beginning, middle and end of the 12 weeks, Jet, Sarah and Nor recorded the volunteers’ blood pressure and measured the flexibility of their blood vessels using ultrasound. The more flexible your blood vessels, the healthier they are.
  • They also measured the levels of antioxidants and other chemical markers of stress and inflammation in the volunteers’ blood. Although stress and inflammation may sound bad, they’re actually a healthy response to exercise and lie behind many of its benefits.

The results:

  • As might be expected, the Zumba group were all fitter after 12 weeks. Their blood vessels were more elastic and their blood pressure had dropped. Their blood results improved in line with people undertaking an exercise regime.
  • More surprisingly however, the results from the Tai Chi group also showed similar benefits to the more rigorous Zumba group, with improvements in blood biomarkers, blood pressure and vessel flexibility.
  • The answer as to why Tai Chi might have similar benefits may rest in the fact that Tai Chi might not be as gentle as it seems. Previous studies undertaken by Sarah and Jet show that people who practise Tai Chi have a similar rise in heart rate to those doing moderate intensity exercise.
Studies have shown that Tai Chi can help older people to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs. It's also good for people suffering with fibromyalgia and Parkinson's.

Thanks to the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor”. You can find out more here.

The power of the mind – the placebo effect: can my brain cure my body?

This is such an interesting programme that I simply had to share!

100 people took part in a recent trial for the BBC2 Horizon programme: Can my brain cure my body? It was a back pain study but with a twist, the twist being that everyone, unknowingly, was getting placebo. The placebo effect is well studied but at the same time still something of a mystery. (Placebo = Latin “I shall please”). It is an important part of modern clinical trials, where patients are given either a placebo or an active drug (without knowing which is which) and researchers then look to see if the drug outperforms the placebo, or vice versa.

With the help of Dr Jeremy Howick, an expert on the placebo effect from the University of Oxford, the Horizon team, headed up by medical journalist Dr Michael Moseley, set out to see if they could cure real back pain with placebo pills. It would be the largest experiment of its kind ever carried out in the UK, with 100 people from Blackpool taking part.

See the amazing results of this experiment here >>

The University of Oxford's Professor Irene Tracey told the programme that just because a placebo contains no active chemicals, does not mean the effects of taking it are not real.

"The average person thinks that placebo is something that's a lie or some fakery, something where the person has been tricked and it isn't real. But science has told us, particularly over the last two decades, that it is something that is very real, it's something that we can see played out in our physiology and neurochemistry."

Among other things, research has shown that taking a placebo can trigger the release of endorphins - natural painkillers that are similar in structure to morphine.

See Dr Jeremy Howick’s journal publication: Are treatments more effective than placebos? here >>

Will going vegan make you healthier?

The popularity of veganism has really taken off. More than four times as many people are now opting to cut animal products out of their diet than they were four years ago. Across Britain, people are spending more money on vegan products, and plant-based diets are trending online. With major supermarkets catching on and stocking up on vegan-friendly food – and even restaurants starting to offer vegan dishes and menus for their customers, we were wondering how easy is it to go vegan and stay healthy?

A recent episode of the BBC TV programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” posed this very same question, and set Cambridge Neuroscience Research Associate Dr Giles Yeo the task of going vegan for one month.

Specific aspects of Giles’s health were assessed by Dr Mellor, a dietitian and senior lecturer in human nutrition at Coventry University before and after his month of being vegan. We measured his cholesterol, body fat, weight, and his levels of iron, folate, zinc and vitamins A, E, D and B12. Dr Mellor also gave Giles a list of foods to eat to stay healthy and avoid becoming deficient in key nutrients.

The results

After one month on a vegan diet, Dr Yeo lost 4 kg and his body fat dropped by 2%. His BMI improved by 6% and his cholesterol fell by 12%. Thanks to Dr Mellor’s food suggestions, he didn’t become deficient in any key nutrients. However it’s more difficult to be so nutritionally diligent in the longer term and vegans can become deficient in nutrients you’d normally get from animal-based foods, such as iron and vitamin B12.

Essential nutrients for vegans

There are certain essential nutrients that we normally get from animal-based foods that vegans need to replace with alternative foods or supplements.

  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D is important for our bone health. It is produced in our body when sunlight hits our skin and is also present in a few animal products. Vegans might want to consider taking a supplement, but beware that not all of them are vegan-friendly. Vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans, whereas some sources of vitamin D3 derive from sheep’s wool.
  • Vitamin B12 – We need vitamin B12 to keep our blood healthy. It is not produced by plants, but there are plenty of vegan products on the market, such as milks, spreads and yeast products, which are fortified with it.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – These are essential for brain function and are found in oily fish. Other good sources are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soy beans.
  • Calcium – While calcium is synonymous with dairy, there are plenty of vegan sources too. Tofu commonly contains calcium and there are calcium-fortified alternatives to cow’s milk available. Other good sources include green vegetables such as kale, pak choi, okra and spring greens, as well as almonds, chia seeds and dried figs.
  • Iodine – Iodine deficiency is not uncommon in the UK, even in non-vegans, particularly amongst young women. In the UK, cow’s milk is our main source of iodine, and the non-dairy alternatives, like almond drinks, have much lower levels. You can get iodine from seaweed (though the amounts are unpredictable) but you may need to take a supplement.
  • Protein – Some vegans worry that they aren’t getting enough protein, a nutrient people tend to associate with meat. However, eating a balanced diet with plenty of plant-based protein sources should provide all that you need. Particular foods to try and include are tofu, soy, beans and pulses.
  • Iron – Cutting out meat can also affect your iron levels – red meat contains a form of iron that is easy for our body to absorb, whereas the iron that you get in fruit and veg is less readily available. One solution is to accompany iron-rich vegan foods with a rich source of vitamin C, like orange juice, which helps to make the iron more absorbable.

And what does my favourite chef say about veganism?

Many argue that we should all be making a conscious effort to reduce consumption of animals and animal products for the sake of our health and for the planet. Vegan or not, a diet high in fruit and veg and plant-based food is a good starting point for a healthy lifestyle.

You can find out more about this experiment on the Trust Me I’m a Doctor website here >>

The secret of resistant starch

“Resistant starch?” I hear you ask, “what’s that?”

If you just happened to be watching that rather interesting programme the other night – “The Truth about Carbs” on BBC1 – you would have discovered that there is a little-known type of carbohydrate called resistant starch. And, just like fibre, resistant starch can help keep bowel cancer at bay.

Most of us love starchy carbohydrate foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes but they’re not always good for our health. Although starch is an important part of a healthy diet, it’s easily broken down. As soon as we consume starch the body very quickly starts to digest it, releasing sugars into the blood which in turn causes our bodies to release the hormone insulin. 

Starchy foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes break down easily once eaten and release sugars into the blood.

WHAT IS IT?
Resistant starch is a form of starch that cannot be digested in the small intestine.  Most starch is usually quickly broken down into glucose (which is used for energy) and if we eat too much, the glucose can then be stored as fat. Due to its molecular make up however, resistant starch doesn’t get broken down like normal starch, and instead it passes through the stomach and the small intestine intact until it reaches the large intestine. Resistant starch is then fermented in the large intestine, producing short chain fatty acids which serve as an energy source for colonic cells and our gut microflora. Foods that increase the amount of short chain fatty acids in the colon are thought to be beneficial to health by helping to prevent the development of abnormal cells in the gut.

Resistant starch is naturally present in some foods such as bananas, potatoes, grains, pulses and seeds and is also produced or modified commercially and incorporated into some food products.

Eat green! Unripe bananas contain lots of resistant starch but this becomes digestible as the bananas ripen. Cooking will also destroy the resistant starch.

There are several different types of resistant starch:

  • RS1: This is inaccessible to digestive enzymes due to the physical barriers formed by cell walls and protein matrices. Present in bread, seeds and pulses.
  • RS2: This type of resistant starch is protected from digestion due to its crystalline structure. Present in potatoes (higher amounts in raw versus cooked), bananas (higher amounts in unripe fruits).
  • RS3: This is retrograded starch which is formed when starchy foods such as potatoes and pasta are cooked and then cooled.
  • RS4: This is a chemically modified starch. Present in foods containing modified starches such as some bread and cakes.

Note: In addition, two different components have been proposed as RS5. Either amylose–lipid complexes, which either form during processing or are created artificially; or resistant maltodextrin which is processed to purposefully rearrange starch molecules.

Researchers have known about resistant starch for over twenty years now, so why the sudden excitement?

RS3 – Why we are getting excited!

Back in 2014, the BBC’s “Trust me I’m a doctor” programme conducted an experiment with Dr Denise Robertson, from the University of Surrey and ten volunteers. The team were well aware that if you cook and cool down starchy foods, your body will treat it much more like fibre, creating a smaller glucose peak and helping feed the good bacteria that reside down in your gut. You will also absorb fewer calories. However what no-one knew was what would happen to the resistant starch if you reheated the cold food up again.

The volunteers had to undergo three days of testing in all, spread out over several weeks. On each occasion they had to eat their pasta on an empty stomach. The volunteers were randomised to eating either hot, cold or reheated pasta on different days.

On one day they got to eat the pasta, freshly cooked, nice and hot with a plain but delicious sauce of tomatoes and garlic. On another day they had to eat it cold, with the same sauce, but after it had been chilled overnight. And on a third day they got to eat the pasta with sauce after it had been chilled and then reheated.

On each of the days they also had to give blood samples every 15 minutes for two hours, to see what happened to their blood glucose as the pasta was slowly digested.

THE RESULTS
Just as expected, eating cold pasta led to a smaller spike in blood glucose and insulin than eating the freshly boiled pasta had. But unexpectedly, the team found that cooking, cooling and then reheating the pasta had an even more dramatic effect. Or, to be precise, an even smaller effect on blood glucose, reducing the rise in blood glucose by 50%. This certainly suggests that reheating the pasta made it into an even more “resistant starch”. It’s an extraordinary result and one never measured before.

The health benefits of resistant starch

  • When regular starch becomes resistant starch, most of the sugars it contains aren’t released in your gut and so your body will take in fewer calories from the same food.
  • Because less sugar is released into the blood stream from this resistance starch, there’s less of a blood sugar spike. In turn, this reduces the levels of insulin in the blood.
  • Resistant starch is indigestible and so shares many properties with fibre, helping food pass through the gut and generally improving digestion.
  • Once it reaches the lower gut, resistant starch feeds our beneficial bacteria, which in turn produce chemicals which can help our immune systems, cardiovascular health and many other benefits.

Freeze first then toast: make your bread work for you!

We love our bread. And it can be hard to give that up. But maybe we don’t need to. If you can’t stop eating bread, you can make the bread healthier for you by simply freezing it then toasting it. This turns some of the easily digestible starch into resistant starch. The act of freezing and then toasting means that your body gets far fewer calories from the bread. In effect, the resistant starch feeds your gut bacteria rather than feeding you. It really is that simple!

Thanks to:
BBC Trust me I’m a Doctor
BBC The truth about carbs
British Nutrition Foundation

Men should exercise BEFORE eating and women AFTER, to burn the most fat.

Could this really be true? Well a laboratory test carried out by Dr Adam Collins, Senior Tutor in Nutrition at the University of Surrey indicates that the amount of fat we burn changes based on whether we eat before or after exercise – and this appears to be different for men and women.

Our bodies use two main types of fuel: fat and carbohydrates – and early indications from Dr Collins’s study suggest that we could increase the amount of fat we burn just by timing when we eat with when we exercise. I was interested to discover more – like many others I had thought that exercising on an empty stomach was the way to go, but now that school of thought appears to be changing.

Michael Moseley’s team from the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” worked with Dr Collins on an experiment to see if it might be possible to change our eating habits around exercise to increase the amount of fat our bodies are burning throughout the day. Here are the results of that experiment:

Experiment 1: The laboratory test

Adam’s initial experiment had shown that for young men, eating carbohydrates (CHO) before exercise significantly decreased the amount of fat their bodies were burning for the 3 hours afterwards, whilst they were resting (n=10, p = 0.02, Wilcoxon matched pair tests, repeated measures 2-way ANOVA, multiple t-tests).

When he did a similar experiment with both men and women, he and his team found that whilst the men still burned less fat if they had eaten carbohydrates before exercising (n=7, p<0.05), the women burned MORE fat if they had eaten carbohydrates before exercising (n=8, p<0.05).

* Significantly different between genders: p≤0.05;
† Significantly different between treatments: p≤0.05
Total fat (g) oxidation between treatments, and genders (Exercise + Recovery).

This experiment was repeated on a single brother and sister pair, Jess and Josh, and got similar results.

Jess and Josh results:

Experiment 2: The long term effect

In order to see whether this effect measured in the laboratory could actually be significant in the real world, “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” teamed up with Adam and his research group to recruit 30 volunteers to take part in a longer term experiment.

Thirteen men and seventeen women who did not normally do a lot of exercise we chosen and for four weeks they all took part in three supervised classes a week: high intensity training, Zumba and Spin classes.

All participants had a drink both before and after each exercise class, but one of their drinks was a placebo (with no calories), whilst the other was a carefully calorie-controlled hit of carbohydrate. No one knew who was taking which drink or when.

  • Seven of the men were taking the carbohydrate drink before exercising, whilst six were taking it afterwards.
  • Seven of the women were taking the carbohydrate drink before exercising, whilst ten were taking it afterwards.

At the beginning and end of the experiment, they were tested on how much fat they were burning whilst at rest (as well as a range of other measures such as weight, waist circumference and blood sugar/fat levels).

The Results

Whilst all the women ended up burning slightly more fat at the end of the experiment, those who were taking carbohydrates before their exercise were burning more.

Difference between men and women:
Meanwhile, all the men were actually burning slightly less fat at the end of the experiment, but those who were taking carbohydrates after their exercise were better off. We saw no significant differences in their weights or waist circumference, but their blood sugar levels changed in the same way as their fat burning.
Difference between men and women:

How it works

Men and women burn fat and carbohydrate in different ways.

Men are very much ‘carbohydrate burners’ – if as a man you eat carbohydrate then your body is going to burn it rather than fat. Just giving the men carbohydrate at any time in our experiment made them burn a bit less fat! However, given that we all have to eat (and carbohydrate is an important part of our food), it is better for men to eat after exercising if they want to burn fat. This is because after exercise, men will use that carbohydrate to replace the carbohydrate in their muscles rather than burn it for fuel and will continue to burn fat instead.

For women, the results clearly show that eating before they exercise is better than eating after if they want to burn fat. Women’s bodies tend to burn fat more easily than men’s, and are not fuelled so much by carbohydrate. Moreover, women are much better at conserving carbohydrate during exercise. So when women eat carbohydrate soon after exercise, this is effectively overloading them with fuel, and interferes with the body’s ability to burn fat.

The amount of carbohydrate in our tests is probably the equivalent of a piece of toast, or a small bowl of cereal – and for men ‘not eating before exercise’ means about 90 minutes before exercise, and for women ‘not eating after exercise’ similarly means for about 90 minutes after.

Although our study was quite small, put together with the evidence from the laboratory experiments, it does seem worth us all making that simple adjustment to when we eat in order to maximise the amount of fat that our bodies burn throughout the day.

So what do you think? These studies are always interesting and I would like to see more work in this area as there does seem to be a lot of conflicting advice available on the internet today.

The Dangers of Hidden Fats

Just seen this on the BBC News and wanted to share it with you!

Did you know, I can provide you with a FREE body composition analysis? This is an initial no-obligation, no products purchase consultation during which I will calculate your BMI, % body fat, resting metabolic rate, metabolic age, hydration, visceral fat and more. You might just be surprised by the results!

This information is a great way to kick start your journey to a fit and healthy body. With regular body composition analyses you can really see how your fitness and nutrition programme is progressing. Sometimes it may seem that the scales haven’t changed much but in fact your body fat has reduced and your muscle mass has increased. So whilst it may seem like your weight hasn’t reduced much, important changes are happening – and it’s all good stuff! Please do get in contact and find out what is going on inside your body today!

It’s time to take control and make a difference!

Why do some people put on weight? It could all be down to your gut!

When it comes to nutrition there is so much information out there that it can be easy to become bamboozled. In the last few years, food science has come on in leaps and bounds and we’re only now beginning to really fully understand how our bodies work and process food.

We all know that eating a nutritionally balanced diet is good for us. But even when sticking to a so-called good diet, some of us can still struggle to lose those stubborn pounds. To make matters worse, there are some people who are lucky enough to be able to eat pretty much what they want, and never seem to put on weight! Ah, if only! But could there be a reason why this is?

I was very excited to read the following article from the BBC TV programme “Trust me I’m a doctor”. Here is the article:

Dr Saleyha Ahsan from the BBC’s “Trust me I’m a doctor” series travelled to Israel to take part in a study, being carried out by the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and led by Professor Eran Segal and Dr Eran Elinav. And it is producing some very exciting results!

THE STUDY

  • Recruited nearly 1000 people so far to take part;
  • Each participant has provided detailed health and medical data;
  • Participants take part in a week-long close examination;
  • This looks at how their blood sugar levels react to different foods.

During the week, participants’ blood sugar levels are measured constantly by a glucometer placed under the skin. Their sleep and activity levels are monitored by a wrist-band, and they are given an app to record their mood, feelings, sleep and exercise regimes and what they eat. Throughout the week, their meals are planned – some are given to them as standard foods that everyone tries. Others they are allowed to choose, but they have to weigh it all accurately, and record it in precise detail. Each person in the study has also given a stool sample. From this, the researchers analyse the gut bacteria living inside each person. Our gut bacteria are unique to us – it is almost like a ‘fingerprint’ of a person – but, crucially, they can change.

THE FINDINGS

The researchers at the Institute have found several startling things during their study:

1. Every person reacts differently to different foods.
This has been a real surprise, as the textbooks have long suggested that some foods (eg. white bread) give all of us a sudden blood sugar ‘spike’ (which is bad for our health – increasing our risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity), whilst it has been thought that other foods (such as wholegrain rice) give all of us less of a ‘spike’. This has recently been called ‘high GI’ or ‘low GI’ (for foods that give people a spike or not, respectively). However, the standard group of people on whom these foods have been tested has long been 10 – and now with 1000 people’s data it is clear that everyone is very different.

2. The team have been able to make firm links between a person’s individual response to food, and to the gut bacteria that they have.
Using their huge amounts of data from the participants, the team have come up with a computer algorithm that can now take a person’s individual gut bacteria composition, and from it, predict how their blood sugar levels will react to a whole range of foods. They have done a study to test the accuracy of this algorithm, and it does indeed appear to predict ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods for different individuals based only on their gut bacteria. This goes to show how important our gut bacteria are in regulating our responses to food, and indeed for our health.

3. The team have carried out a small study in which 25 people had a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diet predicted for each of them by the algorithm – with very encouraging results.
The participants then ate only the ‘good’ for one week and then the ‘bad’ for another – and weren’t told which was which (and because our reactions are so individual, some foods were ‘good’ for one person and ‘bad’ for another). Not only did their blood sugar react as predicted to the different foods, but the team saw changes in the gut bacteria of the volunteers over just the week. Although the roles of different groups of bacteria in our health is still very much uncertain, the changes that they saw during the week of ‘good’ food appeared to be beneficial.

This suggests that we may not only be able to personalise our diets to be healthy for each of us individually, but that we might be able to change our responses to food.

THE FUTURE

Professor Segal and Dr Elinav hope to be able to make the results of their work available to everyone, worldwide. They hope that they will in the future be able to take stool samples, sent through the post, and provide a personalised diet plan in return – listing foods which are predicted to give that person an unhealthy blood sugar spike, and those which are likely to maintain more stable, healthy blood sugar levels.

These will, of course, have to be eaten within a normally balanced diet – it doesn’t mean that if chocolate turns out to be on your ‘good food’ list, you can live on it and be healthy! Nonetheless, the fact that ‘good’ foods for particular individuals usually seem to include some that people very much like, it appears that these personalised diets are much easier for people to adopt than traditional restrictive ones.

The team are also now studying the longer-term effects of diet on gut bacteria. It is possible that as the gut bacteria change in response to the diet (which happens within days or weeks), that the diet could then be modified, or relaxed.

Exciting stuff! If you are interested in finding out more about this study, please check out the following links:

The Personalised Nutrition Project
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