Diets: Take Your Pick But Choose Wisely

Diets have been making headlines again, but this time the news is a little different from usual. Instead of arguments about which is best the message is this: it doesn’t matter what diet you choose, just so long as you actually keep doing it.

It’s potentially good news, if you know how to choose right.

Bodybuilder smash saladObligatory comedic picture.

“Any Diet will do as long as you stick to it”

Research out last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1) was highlighted by a number of news outlets including the BBC . The paper looked at a bunch of named diets, Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and so on to see how effective they were. The conclusion was that in terms of weight loss they all work, as long as you actually do them.

In fact this study is the latest in a line of studies (2,3,4) comparing various types of diet, high protein, low fat, low carb etc. The findings seem to suggest there’s a fairly small difference between diets that are shown to work. Remember we’re talking about the more mainstream stuff here, not the weird and wacky juice fasts etc.

The pendulum swings back of forth in nutrition, from the 80′s low fat fad it swung in the 90′s the other way to low carb, but the influence of the emerging science seems to be bringing the pendulum back towards the middle again. And possibly to rest? Time will tell.

Problems: Nutrition Science does it again.

***Feel free to skip this section if you’re not interested in the backgrounds to the studies***

The studies themselves are ‘meta studies’: studies of studies. They bring together existing research, by screening relevant papers, including the ones that meet their inclusion criteria (quality, size, structure etc) and then pool the results.

Meta studies are useful because in research the more data you have the better, and using meta studies you’re able to bring smaller studies together to form a larger – and possibly more significant and reliable – conclusions.

If you get the process right.

The studies comparing diets in the past have suffered from a few pretty annoying problems, that leave many in the nutrition community scratching their head.

An obvious one is that they were comparing diets of different calorie intake (3). This is an annoying and pretty basic flaw. Clearly some diets cause you to eat less and that’s why they work, but by ignoring calories you can’t compare the efficacy of for example ‘low fat’ vs ‘low carb’ on a like for like basis.

Another issue is researchers selecting and compiling the data for studies being a little over generous with the definitions of ‘low carb’ or ‘low fat’. The major issue is there’s no agreed definition in nutrition science for these terms. And –  like a dieter saying “of just one more square of chocolate” – there’s always the urge to make the amounts as generous as possible so you can include more studies and/or more data. The result is that you get ‘low carb’ and ‘low fat’ results included that just aren’t ‘low’. (2,4), and a similar issue exists with the high protein diets.

Then of course there’s the other perennial problem, the people doing the diets just won’t do what they’re told. If there is one thing this body of research proves it’s that the more extreme the diet the harder it is to stick to.

Diets: What actually counts?

The final sentence in the conclusions of the latest research, taken from the abstract is the most significant:

“This supports the practice of recommending any diet that a patient will adhere to in order to lose weight

What this really means is that you’re best choosing any sensible diet that suits your life. Take your pick, but choose wisely.  As I discussed in a bonus section to the book, many diets work, the important thing is choosing the one that works for you. Perhaps though you think this all sounds a bit soft, and you can grind through on will power and hard work for 12 weeks on your ‘hardcore’ diet.

Well, you’re wrong, or at best short sighted.

Here’s the crux of the matter. No matter how good the results, go back to old behaviours and you’ll get the same results. Most people will want the results long term. Long term results mean long term changes. Goodbye hardcore, hello sustainable.

Usually in the real world losing fat and keeping it off means a big effort at the beginning and smaller more sustainable changes long term. In order for this to happen you have to choose the diet style the best suits you and this depends upon a number of things:

  • Food preferences – what you actually like eating, or at least things you don’t dislike.
  • Lifestyle – activity levels etc
  • Access to particular foods – option around work etc
  • Cooking skills

Those are the make or break factors, these are the things you should concentrate on, not on which is best Atkins or Ornish. Some factors you can change, others you can only tweak or work around, but this is where the effort should be concentrated. This is one reason I like fasting for many people, a few sustainable but concentrated bursts of effort that can then  – used right – trigger subtle but lasting changes in the rest of the diet.

References, Links and Further reading

1) Johnston, Bradley C., et al. “Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults: a meta-analysis.” JAMA 312.9 (2014): 923-933.

2) Naude, Celeste E., et al. “Low carbohydrate versus isoenergetic balanced diets for reducing weight and cardiovascular risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” PloS one 9.7 (2014): e100652.

3) Gardner, Christopher D., et al. “Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial.”Jama 297.9 (2007): 969-977.

4) Hu, Tian, et al. “Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.”American journal of epidemiology 176.suppl 7 (2012): S44-S54.

A Low Carb or a Low Fat Diet?

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Are sports drinks spoiling your hard work?

Sports drinks manufacturers are worried about the way you’re consuming their products, and they have a point…

powerade_first_to_believe

Last week a personal opinion letter in the BMJ highlighted the dangers of sugary drinks (1). Soft drinks are directly implicated in the development of obesity and all that goes with it.  In a world that’s rapidly getting  fatter – a 28% increase in overweight and obese  people in the last 33 years (2) – using, not abusing sugary drinks would seem to be something worth thinking about a little.

Of course, you might be sitting their thinking this does not apply to you, but if you use sports drinks you’d be wrong.

A few weeks ago I was flown over to Barcelona by the good folks at Powerade to the launch of their report on sports drinks use. They, and others in the industry, are worried about sports drinks usage, and with good reason. It’s a sad fact that right now many people are training and thinking they’re doing the right thing by taking a sports drink when in fact all they’re doing is ruining their results.

20140514_144202

The main speaker was Prof. Greg Whyte OBE, who is about as heavyweight as you get in sport medicine and as a double Olympian he knows a little something about the practical sides as well. He presented a report (3) he put together about sports drinks and their usage, for Powerade.

gregProf. Whyte: Big Cheese

Sports Drinks: a definition

In his presentation Greg started by defining sports drinks which are water based drinks that contain carbohydrate and electrolytes. They’re designed to put into the body the things it most needs in the fastest possible time. This means supplying water and salts, aka electrolytes, to counter the sweat lost, and carbohydrate to improve the rate of rehydration and supply energy for training.

They’re actually well defined by the powers that be (4) and must contain carbs and electrolytes within defined ranges, which is sensible as letting the user know where they stand can help avoid dangerous dehydration, and a race is not the ideal place to be reading nutrition labels.

There are now drinks on the market that are lower carb or carb free and these might be the best bet for some. For others plain old water is going to be fine. Now, water is not sexy, and you may be tempted by the colourful bottles, but it is cheap and easy to get hold of. Think of it as ‘paleo’ if that helps!

Whatever you choose remember that dehydration kills performance and it can also put you in hospital and there’s no doubt that sports drinks can improve performance. So what’s the Problem?

The Problem: Right tool, wrong job

The thing is about any tool, you have to use it in the right context and for many guzzling carb containing sports drinks it the wrong tool for the hydration job.

Sugar is sugar and the ‘sport’ in ‘sports foods’ or ‘sports drinks’ doesn’t magically mean the calories don’t count, they all add to your daily intake, and you need to have earned that added intake otherwise it’ll contribute to body fat and all that goes with it. If you’re not training hard enough, or you aren’t lean enough then your activity might not warrant a sports drinks, in fact regular use might make you less healthy.

fat golferA sports drink, or maybe just water?

How, when, and where to use them for best results

How do you know if you should be using them or not? If you should, how often and how many should you use?

There are four factors that count here:

  1. Goals and current needs – How you’re doing health wise and what you want to do
  2. Duration – How long your training for
  3. Intensity – How hard you’re training
  4. Frequency – How often you train

The longer, harder and more often you train then the greater chance that you’re going to need a sports drink, but what type you choose depends upon wider needs.

Pretty vague, luckily Prof. Whyte put together this handy little flow chart for you detail when to chose the carb containing ION and when to go with the carb free ZERO. The same can be used to choose between a sports drink and water:

20140429_160427

The Bottom Line

There’s a time and a place to use sports drinks, but overuse can contribute to fat gain just like any other food.

The smart athlete will use the tools that best fit their needs and goals and many will not use sports drinks, so don’t be afraid to leave them alone, or choose a carb free alternative when you don’t need the full carb version.

 

References

(1) Capewell, Simon. “Sugar sweetened drinks should carry obesity warnings.”BMJ: British Medical Journal 348 (2014).

(2) Ng, Marie, et al. “Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.” The Lancet (2014).

(3) Sports Drinks and Power Performance Uncovered, Powerade and Prof Greg Whyte

(4) EFSA Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions and reduction in rated perceived exertion/effort during exercise, enhancement of water absorption during exercise, and maintenance of endurance performance.

… and further reading

ACSM “Selecting and Effectively Using Sports Drinks, Carbohydrate Gels and Energy Bars”

Murray, Bob. “Hydration and physical performance.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 26.sup5 (2007): 542S-548S.

ISSN Position Stand Energy Drinks

 

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JUICE fast. Die young. Leave a good looking corpse

Juice fasts, … detox diets, … juice cleanses … they’re everywhere, and if you read the celeb magazines you’ll see them loosing pounds of flab in next to no time using these diets. You might think “I can do that”, but be warned, not many realise that celebs make money directly out of yo-yo dieting using these stupid diets, and the weight loss they experience comes with side effects and risks.

Certain tragic events in the celebrity world have thrown the spotlight on the very real dangers of extreme diets. One family of these, juice fasts, are gaining popularity in no small part due to their usage in the celeb world.

Here’s why they’re at best ineffective, and at worst life threatening, why celebs use them, and why you don’t have to.

juice-fasting

Read more ›

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High Protein 15 minute curry

Spinach-Saag

I’m a big fan of two things: easy quality nutrition provision, … and curries.

Here’s a quick and easy curry recipe for a high protein sag curry, bursting with flavour and with more than half of your government recommended daily intake of veg.

Nutrition has to be easy to do, and enjoyable, and this is both. Here we’re ‘hacking’ the curry process that can take hours and using ‘cheat’ ingredients like precooked onions and minced garlic to knock time off the prep. You still get great, high quality ingredients, all the flavour but in a fraction of the time.

The Ingredients (excuse the state of the kitchen!)

Quick Curry

 

1kg diced chicken (I used a mix of thigh and breast)
1 large can of chopped spinach (it’s cooked in the canning process)
1 tin of diced tomatoes
1 can precooked onions (these things are amazing, just sweated down in olive oil and canned)
1 tbsp oil

and clockwise on the plate starting from 1 oclock

1tbsp butter
2tbsp mixed curry powder
2tsp chilli powder (use as much as you want)
1.5tbsp minced garlic
2tbsp of paprika paste (optional)
2tbsp tomato paste (option)

Instructions

Heath a large saucepan up to hot add the olive oil and chuck all the spices and pastes in (so everything on that plate). Stir quickly for about 20 seconds as the butter melts and the spices start to cook, be careful not to let anything stick.

Add the chicken and stir until it stars to cook on the outside about 4 minutes then,
Add the can of onions and stir for about 30 seconds more.
Add the tomatoes a cook for about 5 minutes.
Finally add the spinach and stir in well.

When it is well mixed and bubbling turn down the heat

In under 10 minutes you’ll have something that looks like this:

quick curry 2

Cook that on a low heat for at least 5 minutes more, but longer is better and about 40 mins is great, stirring every 5 minutes.

The Nutrition

That’s about 5 portions at 40g of protein each, and about 6g of Fat, with the addition of about 3 portions of your ‘5-a-day’ in the form of vegetables – 2 of spinach, ½ of tomato and ½ of onion.

Enjoy!

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What is The DODO Diet and why write it?

tumblr_miz9s4OBVS1ry837wo1_1280 There’s plenty of intermittent fasting (IF) books and plans out there to choose from, so why write this book and what’s different about The DODO Diet?

What is The DODO Diet?

The DODO Diet is a form of IF, but the book and plans differ from most on the market in three big ways. Firstly, it’s a ‘true’ fasting plan, as opposed to a modified fast where you’re able to eat small meals though the ‘modified fast’ period. Secondly there’s no calorie counting, the measures are food portions. Thirdly there’s no set fasting frequency, unlike the 5:2, etc., rather plans are tailored to needs and can change as needs change.

Why the differences?

There’s several reasons to structure it this way, some relate to the effect you get, using a true fast to amplify those physiological changes in the body that are most beneficial. Other reasons involve changing tastes, flavour perception and food behaviours, including what the individual focuses on when preparing a meals and how they regulate and control their food intake.

Who is it aimed at?

The book is aimed not only at those looking to lose fat, but anyone looking for the metabolic, physiological and behavioural benefits of fasting. Plans include fat loss, weight maintenance, general health and those for athletes of all levels. As a large portion of the book is food coaching based it’s also useful even after fasting has stopped, or even if it never began.

 I wanted to get away from the generic one-size-fits-all plans

Why write the book?

1) A Tailored Plan for the individual: IF is very effective, but all diet plans benefit from an element of tailoring to the Individual, and I wanted to get away from the generic one-size-fits-all plans that were on the market, and show people how to tailor fasting to their needs as well as opening the benefits of fasting up to a larger audience using this tailored approach.

2) Put some focus back on healthy Diet: Somewhere along the way fasters forgot about the food and healthy diet, you can’t magic nutrients out of thin air and I want to put the focus back on the food. Through my own work I have seen that one of the untapped powers of IF is the ability to change flavour perception and food behaviours, so I married the IF portion with this food coaching component.

3) End the tyranny of calorie counting: I wanted to draw attention away from calories and focus people’s attention a little more on what they are eating, why and how. The aim is to provide solid, practical information, helping people plan a clear path for their individual and changing nutrition and health needs.

you can’t magic nutrients out of thin air and I want to put the focus back on the food

4) Explode some myths and give you a clinicians perspective: Lastly I wanted to explode some myths about fasting and who and should use it and how – bringing a little balance to the IF landscape –  and give the perspective of a person who has actually used it in clinic with individuals.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Drew Price is a Registered Nutritionist living and working in London.  He holds a BSc in Biochemistry and a Masters in Nutrition Science. He consults within industry, in elite sport, and in clinic. In addition he writes for a variety of magazine, and holds talks and seminars.

Pick up your copy of the book HERE

DODO graphic on it's own

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In the News: Muscle, not just for moving, and not just for men.

Woman weight training

Weight training is for women, maybe more so.

A study published yesterday has demonstrated the connection between muscle and health. Following almost 100,000 women over 8 years showed that engaging in weight training and other muscle conditioning exercises – think yoga and the like – was associated with a much lower risk of developing diabetes. This is good news, pointing the way to possible a preventative measure for one of the fastest growing diseases on earth.

It is also not news for anyone in the health industry. 

Forward thinking doctors, trainers and coaches have long known about this ability, and of course I’ll always try and get a person with type I or II diabetes to consider some form of regular resistance exercise because of it’s ability to help with blood sugar control. In the words of once such Doc:

It’s amazing but I could literally fix 80-90% of the patients that come into my office with a gym. Diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, dyslipidemia etc. Add an awesome personal trainer and BOOM! - Spencer Nadolsky

Now, I say demonstrated … this was a ‘prospective’ study, so not properly controlled enough to make it evidence, but it is in line with research on the subject as evidenced HERE and HERE and is a lovely demonstration of the effect scaled up, and in the real world.

So, is it the training, or something else?

The thing about these studies, as you will know if you’ve read my book, is that they often can’t or don’t  control for other factors that might give the same results.For example you’ll notice the more concerned individuals are about training in the gym, then the more likely they are to be concerned about diet also. This study seems to have done a good job here, so what makes looking after the muscle so important?

The thing is that muscle is one of the large reservoirs or blood sugar. Having good quantities of physiologically healthy muscle tissue means that you have a ‘sink’ or ‘sump’ for the carbohydrate that you ingest. Another factor is that for a while after training your muscle tissue increases the rate at which it is able to suck sugar out of the blood.

This is very good news as raised sugar in the blood sticks to things like proteins, effectively ‘cooking’ your tissues (the browning when you cook meat is sugar bonding to proteins). It also means the liver has to work hard to such that sugar out of the blood and then convert it to fat, and there’s all sorts of problematic spin-off’s from this process for the liver and the whole body.

So, weight training is good. Because also weight training is a form of interval training and also helps kick the metabolism up a notch it’s one of the best ways of losing fat.Importantly because women tend to carry less naturally they need to work on this aspect a little more, and of course with the knock on effects of weight training you’ll see the results that most women are after.

The Bottom Line

  • Weight training improves the working of muscle and it’s ability to such nutrients out of the blood
  • The muscle is one of the largest reservoirs of sugar
  • Better working muscle means less sugar in the blood
  • More normal sugar levels in the blood – and for most that means lower – means less chance of diabetes, but also the connected metabolic disorders like high blood pressure, dislipidemia and so on.

Three ways to condition muscle

1) Use a Full Body Weights Circuit

Bodyweight and free weights circuit twice a week:

  • Walking lunges, x12 each leg
  • Dumbbell shoulder press (standing), x6
  • Bodyweight or goblet squats, x12
  • Dumbbell bent over one arm rows, x10 each side
  • Dumbbell swings, x14
  • Dumbbell bench press, plank 30 seconds

Stop only where you have to. This will be about 1 hours work per week. For variations for all these go HERE

2) Ditch the Steady State Cardio

Steady state is OK but interval training is a combination of short higher paced intervals with slower, recovery intervals – think ‘sprint, walk, sprint, walk’, and you get the idea, and because you’re able to work at much higher intensities the sugar usage is increase which in turn makes the muscle more able to absorb it.

Running outside? Alternating run hard then jog lightly between lamp posts, r maybe try 400m fast paced runs with a few minutes in brtween
Running or cycling in the gym? Alternate 30 second sprints and 30 seconds easy pace
Rowing? Try 4 times 400m sprints separated by 2 minutes complete rest.

These sessions are hard and short (10-15 minutes) so the sprint pace should be tough but keep it safe. A ‘sprint’ is different for each person.

3) Get supple and conditioned

Yoga and pilates are seen as easy options but they’re far from it, striking poses and holding them, or working in new and unusual ways  can be tough. I sometimes give these to my athletes and bodybuilders as another from of conditioning session, the results are often quite amazing as they help improve the quality of the rest of their training. And yes gent, that includes the male ones.

The simplest and most effective way is join a class in your gym, community or adult education centre, here you will hopefully be screened for suitability and also get your form checked, but there are resources available on line like these HERE, and HERE then all you have to do is spend the £10 on a yoga mat.

Links and Further reading

BBC News Health: Pump it up! Weightlifting ‘cuts diabetes risk in women’

Full Journal Article PLOS Medicine: Muscle-Strengthening and Conditioning Activities and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts of US Women

Exercise for health database of diabetes studies: http://www.exercise-for-health.com/diabetes/

deadlift lady… deadlifts the king (or queen) of weight training movements

 

 

 

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Resolutions: Just do ONE Thing

Your new year’s resolutions are useless. Not because you picked the wrong ones. Not because they’re not worthwhile, and not because there’s something wrong with your either. Your new year’s resolutions are useless because chances are you’re not going to actually do them.

Research into the subject shows us that most resolutions are doomed to failure, in fact most don’t make it 6 months. They persist for a while but then falter and die. This happens because:

  • They demand too much time
  • They demand too much effort
  • They demand too much self-control/willpower
  • They are too complex
  • They interfere with social life or go against lifestyle
  • They interfere with the lives of those around you/your peers

There’s other reasons of course, such as expense etc but you get the idea, your new year’s resolutions (NYRs) have to compete with all the other activities and pressures on your time, mental and physical resources. This means you start out of the gate hard full of good intentions and then stumble and fall.

For the most stark example of this go to a gym at the end of January and then come back at the same time of the day 3 months later and you’ll find under half the people there were before. The gym based example is a good one because of course most NYRs involve improvement, more specifically losing the gut, getting fitter, getting healthier etc. We know the best way to go about doing this is attacking four areas:

  1. Improve diet
  2. Increase physical and metabolic fitness through exercise
  3. Decrease stress
  4. Get more sleep

In a perfect world you would work on all of them at once, however that requires time and willpower in shovel loads and in the real world you often don’t have this.

So here’s what you do:

Just. Do. One. Thing

Starting small with resolutions is a big thing, it means you’ll be able to sustain the effort. Think about it, how long did it take you to get out of shape? Months and years? So why should you be able to put the right in a few weeks? Pick something simple and effective and go for it, safe in the knowledge that you will see results in time.

I like the principle of intermittent fasting as it’s a simple and easy way for people to improve diet. I like it the D.O.D.O. way because you can tailor it to needs and people not only get the benefits of fasting but they also improve their diet by altering tastes without any extra effort as well.

Effort versus result is important, so picking easy effective actions is crucial. Here’s a list of 5 things that you could do starting tomorrow:

  1. Fast once a week the D.O.D.O. way (see the book for details)
  2. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier each evening
  3. Do a 25 minutes weights circuit twice a week (20 minutes of working your way round various challenging compound resistance exercises stopping only when you absolutely have to, plus a 5 minute warm up)
  4. Drink more water, displacing sugary drinks as you do so.
  5. Meditate for 3 minutes every other day, or I that’s too new age for you walk for 10 minutes somewhere green.

These are small sustainable changes, no ‘gym every morning’, or day-in day-out diets. Small changes that get maximum results. You just have to pick which is right for your needs and stick with it.

Small changes repeated often add up to big results.

References and further reading:

Norcross, J.C., Mrykalo, M.S., & Blagys, M.D. (2002). Auld lang syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-405.

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Don’t get fat over Christmas

Drunk-Santa-728900Santa: Not an ideal role model

(this article was first published in a London-based magazine)

Ah, Christmas time … Logs on the fire, presents under the tree, and pounds of extra flab around your waist.

Working in the nutrition and health industry I see just how worried people are about Christmas fat gain, and how they struggle to lose the extra flab in the new year. So, is there a way to make this process easier and more effective? A recent paper in the Journal of Physiology seemed to show the answer: daily exercise. OK, it’s evidence based and effective in trial, but in the real world this advice may not be very helpful. Christmas is, after all, a very busy time.

Now, you’d be surprised but some nutritionists are normal people, we like to socialise, enjoy meals out and so on. We also need to stay in reasonable shape, as being overweight or unhealthy is bad for business. So, how do we  - the ones of us without a bad case of othorexia at least – relax and enjoy the holiday festivities and sidestep the flab?

Here’s looking at the problem through a nutritionists’s eyes.

Step 1: Relax it’s just a few days

Nutrition is about the big picture, whereas most people talk in terms of daily calories, a good nutrition specialist will gauge intake in terms of days but also weekly blocks. Daily fluctuations in food intake happen and they don’t do much, it’s the bigger picture of increased intake over days and weeks that counts.

You cannot get fat in a few days or a week, your stomach may be full and you may hold extra water under the skin, but you will not be holing noticeable extra fat. A few days of overeating here and there are not going to result in added fat if you get the big picture right.

  •  Concentrate on the big picture: in other words all those other days in December and January.

Man-v-FoodYou can’t get fat in one meal, you can try, but it won’t work

Step 2: Make sure it IS only a few days

At this point though it’s worth keeping in mind that those special days should only be a few days here and there. The biggest problems I find people have in the pre-Christmas period is the frequency of parties and events means they flip-flop between attitudes, saying “ah, it’s Christmas, I’ll do what I want” then the guilt the days after. This constant trying to get back onto the normal, more healthy eating pattern leaves your self-control fatigued.

  • Save the effort for the main pinch points, like the period between Christmas and New Year, or the family or social get-together that are near the big day. Make sure that they don’t merge into one big splurge.
  • Plan ahead with some tasty favourites that are more like your normal, more healthy, eating pattern. If possible have the meals prepared ahead of time.

With January comes the New Year’s resolutions, the health kicks, the gym membership and so on. These rarely last of course, but there are ways to tip the odds in your favour:

Step 3: Don’t go too hard too soon: start small

Sometimes I’ll see someone in clinic and when, at the end of an hour or ninety minutes, I hand them only one or two things to work on they look at me as if to say “That’s it?”. Of course, I could have given them a list of twenty things to work on per day but how much of that would get done long term? Answer: most of it for a few days, and none of it long term.

Most make the mistake of trying to overhaul everything at once. The total diet overhaul, the gym every morning, and so on. These huge changes doesn’t stick long term and it is the long term that counts.

  • Pick that you’re doing wrong and work on that.
  • Pick the right thing, it’s usually glaringly obvious with a little honest self reflection.

Step 4: Keep it simple, and think long term

Simple plans get done. I just wrote a book in it I discuss food coaching and intermittent fasting (IF) , a huge amount of cash is being pumped into research into IF because it’s simple and easy. The point is this, many diets work but they usually ask too much of you, for something to work long term it has to be simple, easy and healthy effective long term.

  • Make it easy, don’t use extreme plans, think in terms of less work but over longer time spans.
  • The internet gives you lots of choice. Avoid ‘analysis paralysis’, pick a plan or a credible source of info and put it into action, and don’t bounce between different plans.

Over-analysis1Pick something simple, then do it, repeatedly

Step 5: Build new, good habits

Habits are the foundations of getting things done simply and easily long term. We teach healthy habits like brushing teeth to our kids, but forget to develop them ourselves. Making cooking a double potion of that healthy, tasty dinner and freezing it of having it for lunch the next day instead of a Pret All Day Breakfast and bag of crisps, can make a huge change over the long term

  • Focus on one or two changes, work on them every day repetition builds the habits.
  • Work on it for a few weeks or a month and, once it has stuck, then try to build another.

There’s a list of habits you could work on, on my site [HERE], but here are some tips as well.

Tips

I’ll admit I am not a fan of most Christmas diet tips, statements like ‘try to go for better choices’ helps no one, but there are a few things that do work:

  • Don’t try and lose weight over the holidays, I’d go further don’t weigh yourself until you have got back to a normal healthy diet. Relax, lose the guilt enjoy a few days of eating differently, but see it for what it is – a holiday. Save you effort for after.
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks and water. Fizzy with the slice of lemon or lime works best. It may slow you down, it will at least keep you hydrated.
  • Get outside, go for walks with the family, revel in the time and space the holidays give you, this will make you feel better and get away from the snacks in the house
  • Talk at the table. Eating more slowly will help your body’s satiety mechanisms to catch up and mean that you get full before you have a chance to pack away too much food.

Christmas and New Year are just a few days out of many, relax and enjoy them safe in the knowledge that if you are being smart about the bigger picture, and building good habits, then you have nothing to worry about.

About the Author

Drew Price BSc MSc is a Registered Nutritionist working in London in clinic, sport and industry. His book The DODO Diet is released through Random House in December.

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Intermittent Fasting and Dementia Prevention

dementia-brainKeep to the left.

The G8 had a summit a few days ago on something a little unusual: your brain health.

The reason become clear when you look at the stats. Forecasts of a trebling in sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 2050 are breath taking.  This forecast has been all over the news and with good reason as these conditions are no joke, they’re debilitating, upsetting and cost lots of money. For many of us though these types of diseases seem remote, something that’s a long way off but they’re more prevalent and starting earlier and earlier. What you do today alters your health tomorrow – and none of us is getting any younger – so what are we doing about it?

There’s currently a big push to expand budgets for research into dementia and Alzheimer’s, with focus on early diagnosis and treatment strategies. Developing better drugs to slow the progression of the decline is important but so is early detection so that people can be treated whilst quality of life is still relatively high.

As ever prevention is better than cure.

Picking the disease up early and slowing its progression is great but what if we can take effective steps to delay the start of these diseases, or possibly stop their onset all together?  Fasting seems to be a real option here.

B0004164 Neurons in the brain - illustration

Diseases like metabolic syndrome, diabetes and such are closely related to declines in cognitive health, but both dementia and Alzheimer’s are complex beasts involving a bunch of different factors like energy intake, metabolic health, inflammation lifestyle factors like stress, social health etc. Elements in our diet and lifestyle can alter our internal environment which in turn increases the stress on neurons.  The end result of too much insult and injury in the death of neuron.

The problem is that the neurons are very specialised cells, working via a highly complex network of interrelated cells, meaning that when one dies it cannot be easily replaced, the upshot is this: you have to hand onto as many as possible. Luckily the brain has strategies for defending the neurons, one of the these is BDNF.

Your new best friend BDNF

Research has shown using tests of large populations that the more BDNF you have the lower your chance of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Good news. But what is it and how do we get more?

‘Brain-derived neurotrophic factor’ is a protein produced in a variety of tissues, the major area of interest is its effect on the cells of the central nervous system like the nerves of the spine and the brain. Here it supports the function and health of neurons and has been shown to be involved in  the growth and development of nerves and nervous systems function (the development of the nervous system) as well as the cognition, memory and learning (the function of the nervous system).

Low levels of BDNF have been implicated in a wide range of disorders such as depression, bulimia, OCD as well as dementia  and Alzheimer’s. Elevating the production of BDNF is actually pretty simple though

bdnfmoleculeBDNF (Source: Scientifi American)

Intermittent Fasting and Dementia Prevention?

We know reducing energy intake aka calorie restriction (CR) is a defence against brain ageing dementia and Alzheimer’s, what is not becoming clear is that Intermittent Fasting (IF) may be a better way to get these results.

Mice are a the usual model of research in this area as their shorter life cycles make seeing the results in a useful time frame possible. These mice are altered to better reflect what is going on in human brains. They’re then left to decline or they’re ‘insulted’ by having certain chemicals injected into them that cause damage in the brain. Not nice for the mouse, but for us the news is good; the studies are very promising as both CR and IF have been shown to have a protective effects in these cases, the issue is always that the results need to be shown in humans to be really exciting.

Here things get harder because of our longer life spans and the sticky ethical issues of destroying someone brain with drugs. So researchers look for other factors that are involved in the health of the brain. Here again the news is good. Both CR and IF boost the levels of BDNF, they also have the power to improve insulin sensitivity which is another factor involved in long term brain health.

Why Intermittent Fasting is better?

It’s hard to compare the relative strength of IF versus CR in relation to their ability to protect the brain. It’s comparing apples and oranges, but as far as long term results go we do know this:

  • We need these protective factors to be in place long term
  • For the protection to be in place long term we need to alter behaviour (diet) long term
  • For long term behaviour change things have to be easy … long term.

Again IF wins out because of its ease of use. You get the same types of changes with IF as you do with CR but by concentrating on short bursts of work. Fasting 1 to 2 times a week represents a real way of improving and guarding brain health but without the constant grind of CR diets. You’re also get all the benefits of enhanced muscle retention etc that IF has over CR.

Selected Refs and further reading

Mattson, Mark P., and Ruiqian Wan. “Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems.” The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 16.3 (2005): 129-137.

Halagappa, Veerendra Kumar Madala, et al. “Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavioral deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.” Neurobiology of disease 26.1 (2007): 212-220.

Tajes, M., et al. “Neuroprotective role of intermittent fasting in senescence-accelerated mice P8 (SAMP8).” Experimental gerontology 45.9 (2010): 702-710.

Martin, Bronwen, Mark P. Mattson, and Stuart Maudsley. “Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting: two potential diets for successful brain aging.” Ageing research reviews 5.3 (2006): 332-353.

Weinstein, Galit, et al. “Serum Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and the Risk for Dementia The Framingham Heart Study.” JAMA neurology (2013).

Bloomberg: Fasting Twice a week seen as Alzheimer’s hedge

Scientific American: This is your brain on BDNF

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Eating seasonally

calendar

When people say ‘eat seasonally’ they mean eat foods that are being harvested and are ready to eat, when they’re ready to eat. But why? Is it just one of those things that people bang on about with little to back it up? There’s several reasons to eat seasonally:

The food is cheaper

Generally when something comes into season there’s a glut, demand and supply being a driver of price then you find that things are cheaper. It’s not just a UK phenomenon of course, here’s some nice stats from New Zealand showing kiwi fruit price over several years:

price-kiwifruit

 

Source: stats.govt.nz

The food doesn’t have to travel as far

This means that costs are lower and hopefully these savings are passed on, but also it means that environmental impact is much lower. It’s worth noting also that out of season food grown locally in poly tunnels etc can have an incredibly high energy cost as well. Of course with less far to travel it also means…

The food is fresher

Some foods are picked early so that they can be ripened when needed, this is probably not optimum nutritionally, what we do know is that the longer the food spends hanging around after harvesting and slaughter the more issues of nutrient loss and food spoilage come to the fore.

The food may have more nutrients

There’s lots of nutrients, lots of foods and lots of ways to grow them. This means that there’s a lot of variables to glib blanket statements aren’t particularly useful, but when a food is grown in season as opposed to a poly tunnel the nutrient and also flavour density is often higher.

So as far as the UK – and other similar areas in the northern hemisphere go – goes what do you eat and when?

seasonal-veg-calender-page-001

The calendar above can be seen in more detail at EatSeaonably.co.uk  and  following are adapted from the British Nutrition Foundation’s great resource on this topic.

KEY

S      In season – food is at its optimum and widely available.
A      Available – food is coming into/out of season.
-       Food not typically in season.

Winter  December  January  February 
Vegetables
Broccoli (Purple sprouting) S S S
Brussel sprout S S S
Cabbage (Savoy) S S S
Carrots S S S
Cauliflower S S S
Celery S S S
Cucumber         A        -        -
Kale S S S
Leek S S S
Lettuce (Round)         A        A        A
Parsnip S S S
Potatoes S S S
Pumpkin S        -        -
Radish          A        A        A
Swede S S S
Sweetcorn          A        -        -
Turnip S S S
Fruit 
Apple (Bramley’s) S S S
Clementine S        -        -
Cranberry S        -        -
Date S S        -
Lemon          A S S
Rhubarb (forced)          - S S
Meat & game 
Beef          A        A        A
Duck S S        -
Goose S S        -
Grouse S        -        -
Lamb        - S S
Pork        A        A        A
Venison S S S
Fish & seafood
Cod S        -        -
Coley S        -        -
Haddock S S S
Herring S S S
Mackerel S S S
Salmon        -        A S

 

Spring March  April  May

 Vegetables

 Asparagus - A S
 Aubergine - - A
 Beans (Broad) - - A
 Beetroot - - A
Broccoli (Purple Sprouting) S
 S  -
Broccoli     -     -    A
Cabbage (Savoy)     S
    A    A
 Cabbage (Spring green)     S     S
 Carrots     S     S    A
 Cauliflower     S     S    S
 Courgette     -     -    A
 Cucumbers     A     S    S
 Kale     S     S     -
 Leek     S     -     A
 Lettuce (Iceburg)     A     A     S
 Lettuce (Little gem)     -     -     A
 Lettuce (Round)     A     A     S
 New Potato     A    S
   S
 Parsnip    S
    -     -
 Pea     -     A    S
 Pepper    S
   S
  S
 Radish     A    S
   S
 Rocket     -     -    S
 Spinach     A    S
   S
 Spring onions     -    A    A
 Sweet potato    S
   -    -
Watercress A S S

 Fruit

 Apricot A A S
 Gooseberry - A S
 Lemon S - -
 Rhubarb (forced) S - -
 Rhubarb (outdoor)     -     A    S
 Strawberries     -     A    S
 Tomatoes     -     -     A
 Watermelon     -     -   A

 Meat & game

 Beef     A    S    S
 Lamb    S    S    S
 Pork     A     A     A

 Fish & seafood*

 Cod     -     -    S
 Coley     -     -    S
 Haddock     -     -    S
 Herring    S    S    S
 Mussels    S     -     -
 Oyster    S    S     -
 Pollack    S     -     -
 Tuna     -     A   S
Summer  June  July  August
Vegetables
Asparagus S S  -
Aubergine S S S
Beans (Broad) S S S
Beans (French)    A S S
Beans (Runner/Flat)   A S S
Beetroot S S S
Broccoli (Purple sprouting)   A S S
Broccoli S S S
Brussel sprout    -   - S
Cabbage (Red)     -   A S
Cabbage (Savoy)     A S S
Carrots S S S
Cauliflower S S S
Celery       A S S
Courgette S S S
Cucumber S S S
Kale       -     -          A
Leek       -     -          A
Lettuce (Iceburg)       A S S
Lettuce (Little Gem) S S S
Lettuce (Round) S S S
Marrow       -      A  S
Onion       A  S  S
Parsnip       -      A  S
Pea S S S
Pepper S S S
New Potato S S S
Radish S S S
Rocket S S S
Spinach S S S
Spring Onion  S S S
Squash        -      -  A
Swede        -      A   A
Sweetcorn       -      A    S
Turnip S S S
Watercress        A S S
Fruit
Apple (Discovery)       -     -         S
Blackberry       -     -          A
Blackcurrant       A S S
Blueberry       A S S
Cherry       A S S
Fig        -      A         S
Gooseberry S S S
Loganberry        A S S
Peach        A S S
Plum        -      A         S
Raspberry S S S
Redcurrant S S S
Rhubarb (outdoor) S S          -
Strawberry S S S
Tomato S S S
Watermelon  S S S
Meat & game 
Beef S S S
Goose         -       -          A
Grouse         -       A S
Guinea Fowl    -    -      A
Lamb S S S
Pork        A       A          A
Fish & seafood 
Cod S S S
Coley S S S
Crab S S S
Haddock S S S
Herring S S S
Mackerel     -     - S
Salmon S S S
Tuna S S S

 

Autumn September  October  November
Vegetables 
Aubergine S S        -
Beans (Broad)   A  -        -
Beans (French)  S   A        -
Beans (Runner/Flat) S S        -
Beetroot S S S
Broccoli (Purple sprouting) S S S
Broccoli S S S
Brussel Sprout S S S
Cabbage (Red) S S S
Cabbage (Savoy) S S S
Carrots S S S
Cauliflower S S S
Celery S S S
Courgette S       A        -
Cucumber S       A        -
Kale S S S
Leek S S S
Lettuce (Iceburg)  S       A        -
Lettuce (Little Gem) S S        A
Lettuce (Round)          A        A        A
Marrow S S        A
Onion S        -        -
Parsnip S S S
Pea S        A        -
Pepper S S        -
Potatoes          A S S
Pumpkin          A S S
New potato S        -        -
Radish S        A        A
Rocket S        -        -
Spinach  S        -        -
Spring Onion S S        A
Squash S S        -
Swede S S S
Sweetcorn S S         A
Turnip S S S
Watercress S       A        -
Fruit
Apple (Bramley’s)          A S S
Apple (Cox)          A S S
Apple (Discovery)          A  S        -
Apple (Gala)          A  S        -
Blackberry S S        A
Clementine        -        A S
Cranberry        A S S
Date        -        A S
Fig S S S
Gooseberry S        -        -
Peach S        -        -
Pear S        -        -
Plum S        -        -
Raspberry          A        -        -
Strawberry S        -        -
Tomato           A        -        -
Meat & game
Beef S S         A
Duck          A S S
Goose S S S
Grouse S S S
Guinea Fowl S S S
Lamb S        -          -
Pork          A        A          A
Venison          - S S
Fish & seafood*
Cod S S S
Coley S S S
Crab S S S
Haddock S S S
Herring S S S
Mackerel S S S
Salmon S S          -
Tuna S        -          -

 

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