Sprout your own seeds

growing-sprouting-seeds-organic-alfalfa-seeds-sprouting

If you care about your diet, you should start to sprout your own seeds.

Go back to primary school where you’d get a saucer, some wet blotting paper and cress or mustard seeds and watch them grow, but substitute them for some more ‘exotic’ seeds and you’ll get the idea.

Back then – at my school at least – we used to put the results of our kitchen garden between a couple of pieces of white bread, lathered in marge (hello 1970s)… but these days seed sprouts are causing quite a stir in nutrition circles.

They add a flavour and crunch to salads but studies suggest sprouts contain anti-cancer substances such as sulforaphane, beta- carotene and vitamin C. They’re also packed with chromium which helps regulate blood sugar levels.

The best thing is, you don’t even need a garden to harvest your own crop.

The easiest way is buy a sprouter from the internet – a three-tier one costs around £15. Sprinkle a layer of seeds on each, water and wait for the results. They’re ready in less than a week.

I tend to do a different set of seeds per layer – but if you’re feeling more adventurous and find some sprouts you really like, you could stagger the crops, starting different layers on different days to give you a constant supply.

You can pretty much sprout any kind of edible seed, from broccoli to alfalfa – and even quinoa, but buy the best quality organic seeds you can. They might seem expensive at around £8 for a 500g bag, but you only need a tablespoon for each crop, so they’ll last for ages.

If you’ve got kids, they’ll love seeing them grow… our two can’t wait to help water or try them when done.

I bought my sprouter and seeds from the people at Sky Sprouts and can recommend their service.

sprout your own seeds

Is coffee good for you?

coffeebeans

Is coffee good for you?

Most of us will have seen the research this week that store-bought coffees can contain a whopping 25 spoonfuls of sugar. Obviously that amount of sugar is not going to boost your but if you take the syrup out, is coffee good for you?

For those who missed the report, it was done by Action on Sugar, the pressure group trying to get the government to reduce the amount of sugar in our food.

It’s easy to say they have a vested interest in showing the drinks to have a lot of sugar, but it’s still obviously shocking to find that some coffee shop coffees have more sugar than three cans of Coke – and I’ve discussed the dangers of too much sugar in the past.

It wasn’t a week full of bad news for coffee drinkers though. Although it gained fewer headlines, another coffee-related report made the papers on Friday. It showed drinking two cups of coffee a day can help reduce the health risks associated with drinking too much alcohol (1)

It looked at nine previous studies with more than 430,000 participants and revealed that risk was reduced by 22 per cent with one cup of coffee and 43 per cent with two cups, compared to drinking no coffee at all.

Obviously drinking coffee to alleviate the symptoms of a bad lifestyle seems rather counterproductive, not going in for the alcohol abuse in the first place would seem a better option.

The benefits of moderate coffee consumption stretch further than helping those with alcohol-induced liver disease though. Coffee is now recognised as a good source of antioxidants (2,3) – the chemicals that can help slow down ageing and prevent certain diseases.

Recent studies have shown that it can help with conditions such as skin cancer, cataracts and bone health (4–6). One even suggests moderate consumption is not a risk factor for high blood pressure (7), while another showed it can be beneficial for those involved in resistance (weight) training (8).

If you’re rushing to the Nespresso machine as you read, you might want to hold on. Coffee remains a diuretic, meaning it makes you go to the toilet more affecting your hydration levels.

Another study has linked high levels of consumption with gastric cancer (9) while it can be a predictor of future cardiovascular events (read strokes and heart attacks) in younger people who are already suffering from high blood pressure (10).

It also stimulates the adrenal glands and is thought to increase the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body (11) which can link to increased agitation.

If you’re thinking by now that even the scientists can’t agree whether it is good for you or not, you’re probably right.

If you do drink coffee, follow these tips

  • Drink in moderation, no more than three cups per day,
  • Drink the best quality of coffee you can afford,
  • Avoid over-processed coffees such as instant where possible,
  • Drink the freshest ground coffee you can with beans from a sustainable, free-trade source,
  • Reduce sugar in coffee over time to none,
  • Don’t add sugary syrups, whipped creams etc to coffee shop coffee,
  • Increase your water consumption with coffee. In the Mediterranean, it is almost exclusively served with a glass of water on the side, you should follow suit,
  • Reduce your coffee intake if you suffer from high blood pressure.

References

  1. Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Buchanan R, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Systematic review with meta-analysis: coffee consumption and the risk of cirrhosis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Jan 25;43(5):562–74.
  2. Troup GJ, Navarini L, Suggi Liverani F, Drew SC. Stable radical content and anti-radical activity of roasted Arabica coffee: from in-tact bean to coffee brew. PLoS One. Public Library of Science; 2015 Jan 9;10(4):e0122834.
  3. Agudelo-Ochoa GM, Pulgarín-Zapata IC, Velásquez-Rodriguez CM, Duque-Ramírez M, Naranjo-Cano M, Quintero-Ortiz MM, et al. Coffee Consumption Increases the Antioxidant Capacity of Plasma and Has No Effect on the Lipid Profile or Vascular Function in Healthy Adults in a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2016 Feb 3;
  4. Liu J, Shen B, Shi M, Cai J. Higher Caffeinated Coffee Intake Is Associated with Reduced Malignant Melanoma Risk: A Meta-Analysis Study. PLoS One. 2016 Jan;11(1):e0147056.
  5. Varma SD. Effect of coffee (caffeine) against human cataract blindness. Clin Ophthalmol. 2016 Jan;10:213–20.
  6. Choi E, Choi K-H, Park SM, Shin D, Joh H-K, Cho E. The Benefit of Bone Health by Drinking Coffee among Korean Postmenopausal Women: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Fourth & Fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. PLoS One. 2016 Jan;11(1):e0147762.
  7. Rhee JJ, Qin F, Hedlin HK, Chang TI, Bird CE, Zaslavsky O, et al. Coffee and caffeine consumption and the risk of hypertension in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Dec 9;103(1):210–7.
  8. Richardson DL, Clarke ND. Effect Of Coffee And Caffeine Ingestion On Resistance Exercise Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Feb 12;
  9. Deng W, Yang H, Wang J, Cai J, Bai Z, Song J, et al. Coffee consumption and the risk of incident gastric cancer-A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutr Cancer. 2016 Jan;68(1):40–7.
  10. Mos L, Fania C, Benetti E, Bratti P, Maraglino G, Mazzer A, et al. 1C.04: COFFEE CONSUMPTION IS A PREDICTOR OF CARDIOVASCULAR EVENTS IN YOUNG AND MIDDLE AGED HYPERTENSIVE SUBJECTS. J Hypertens. 2015 Jun;33 Suppl 1:e10.
  11. Gavrieli A, Yannakoulia M, Fragopoulou E, Margaritopoulos D, Chamberland JP, Kaisari P, et al. Caffeinated coffee does not acutely affect energy intake, appetite, or inflammation but prevents serum cortisol concentrations from falling in healthy men. J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):703–7.

 

Why you should take a good probiotic

good probiotic
There’s much evidence that many of our ills come from what we eat, how we digest our food, and how well we absorb nutrients from our food – which is why you should take a good probiotic.

“All disease begins in the gut – Hipocrates”

Some 2,500 years ago, the father of modern medicine knew what he was talking about. Our digestive tract is where we get the fuel our bodies need to work properly, but so many of us neglect to take good care of it.

Think of our digestive system as a car’s engine – just as you wouldn’t put diesel into a petrol car and expect it to work, you can’t put rubbish into your body and expect it to function in an optimal way.

And in those terms, probiotics can act a little like engine oil. Oil keeps the engine parts working and a good probiotic can help keep your gut working.

There are something like three to five pounds of bacteria in your tummy – they outnumber human cells by around 10 to one. Yes, getting rid of them at that upper figure might be a good way to lose almost half a stone. But if you did that, you wouldn’t be around much longer – for one, you wouldn’t be able to digest your food, for another, you’d pretty soon fall foul of some evil bug meaning you wouldn’t be around much longer.

The bacteria that occur in our tummies are the good guys. They help us digest our food – hence giving us the right nutrients – and they protect us from the baddies who want to make us sick.

Given their vital role, doesn’t it make sense to look after them? But few of us do – and that’s where probiotics come in.

We’re finally out of the ‘take an antibiotic for everything’ type of medicine in the UK, but one of the things antibiotics do is kill all bacteria – whether good or bad. And there’s good evidence that taking a probiotic when on antibiotics will help keep the balance right and prevent you from getting diarrhea.

There’s also evidence that if you have none-antibiotic diarrhoea, you can shorten its duration by more than a day.

They can also help with problems such as IBS and lactose intolerance, while there’s ongoing research into whether they can be beneficial for eczema sufferers or help boost the immune system.

While you’ve probably seen probiotics on the supermarket shelves in the form of yoghurts etc, I’d recommend taking a good probiotic from one of the specialist manufacturers who sell their professional-grade products online such as Nutriadvanced or the Natural Dispensary who are an online store for high-end supplements.

Probiotics are classed as food and so they are not subject to the stringent regulations that medicines are – with off-the-shelf products, it may be hard to know what you’re getting. The good probiotics I recommend are subject to stringent research to improve their quality and efficacy.

Drop me a line if you want to know more… I get a practitioner discount with some supplement companies and can pass that on to you.

 

Can you get better at fat burning by eating fat?

running

New research shows that endurance athletes who eat a low-carb/high fat diet are better at fat burning.

We’ve long been taught that people who take part in endurance sports – anything from a 10k upwards in running, say – should have a high carbohydrate diet. The theory being that our body uses glucose as a fuel and carbohydrates can readily be broken down into glucose by the digestive system to provide that fuel.

Back in the 1970s though, some healthcare professionals, led by the ‘pesky’ Dr Atkins postulated that cutting carbs and eating more fat was a good way to loose weight. Their theory being that from an evolution perspective, fat was stored by the body to be used as a secondary fuel source when times were hard. Cut the carbs and the body will burn fat as fuel instead they argued.

Atkins and similar diets were demonised at the time by the health authorities who were bent prescribing low-fat diets and by the media who went for the easy ‘lose weight by eating fry ups’ headline (something never really advocated in the Atkins books).

Over the past few years, the thinking in healthcare has started to change… fats are no longer demonised, and healthy fats (think those avocado, nut butters, olive oil and coconut oil) are considered essential for healthy hearts and bodily functions.

And this new research by Ohio State University has gone one further and shown that decades of thinking in sports nutrition could be about to be turned on its head.

In the study of 20 ultramarathon runners, they found that those on a high-fat diet burned twice as much fat in exercise than those on a high-carb one.

The 10 low-carb runners  ate a diet with 10 percent carbs, 19 percent protein and 70 percent fat. High-carb runners ate a diet with 59 percent carbs, 14 percent protein and 25 percent fat.

If you want to find out more, there’s an excellent article in Science Daily here.

For those who are not runners, switching to a low-carb diet may help… Studies have shown that Atkins-style diets do lead to weight loss, although some have theorised that sticking to such a rigid regime can be challenging.

If you do want to try this kind of thing to see if it works for you, there’s a couple of things to be aware of.

One study has shown that the make up of Atkins-style diets can see reduce levels of vitamins such as thiamine, folic acid, vitamin C and iron. And they can cause constipation due to a lack of dietary fibre.

As such, supplementation with a good multivitamin is essential… and even the latest Atkins books encourage the use of psyllium husks, flaxseed and increased water consumption to reduce the possibility of constipation.

Healthy Christmas dinner

Screen-Shot-2012-12-18-at-8.19.47-PM

It’s the time of year where we all over-indulge, but follow these tips for a more healthy Christmas dinner.

Turkey – the bodybuilders’ favourite bird is packed with protein and low in fat if you stick to breast meat. If you can afford it, go for a crown without the fattier legs and wings. Either way, cook the bird on a trivet to allow fat to drip out, rather than having the turkey sit in it. You can still baste it to keep it moist.

Roast potatoes – if you were being uber good, you could replace these for baked potatoes and cut out a hefty chunk of calories. If not, try roasting them in coconut oil. Coconut oil is said to be metabolised rather than stored by the body – and studies show that people who consume two tablespoons a day burned more calories than a group who didn’t.

Cranberry sauce – make your own rather than store bought. It takes little time and all you need are cranberries and a natural sweetener such as stevia or agave nectar. Ensure you don’t put too much in by boiling the cranberries first and then adding and taste testing a couple of spoonfuls a time so you don’t overdo it.

Veg – eating more Brussels is a good start. But simply steaming them and not slathering them in butter (a little won’t hurt) is a good way to do.

Desert – try a fruit salad with Greek yoghurt instead of the usual stodge.

However you cook it – and who am I to tell you not to have a day off the health kick – have an absolutely brilliant Christmas.

 

Cancer is not just down to bad luck

cancer

A study earlier this year caused quite a storm by suggesting that cancer in human beings is down to inherent issues such as genetics.

Of course, the media had a field day, covering the story as cancer being down to ‘bad luck’.

But a new study this week challenges the findings of the first. The study, published in the journal Nature shows that environmental factors such as diet, overexposure to the sun, tobacco and alcohol, as well as viruses such as hepatitis B and C impact between 70 and 90 per cent of cancer incidences – pretty high odds.

The high percentage risk factors “provide direct evidence that environmental factors play important roles in cancer incidence and they are modifiable through lifestyle changes and/or vaccinations”, the researchers wrote.

That doesn’t mean that if you stay healthy, exercise regularly and have a good diet that you won’t get cancer – but it does mean you can reduce the risk.

And it makes sense. If you look at the engine in your car, combustion engines have been around for a little over 150 years. We know that if we service them regularly, the car is less likely to break down. If we feed them the right fuel, they’ll keep running. You don’t pull up at the petrol station in a diesel car and fill it with with unleaded – you know the car will stop working – and you know that if you leave the car rusting and don’t take it for a run every so often, some of the parts will begin to seize up.

Conversely, humans have been around for around 2.5 million years. In that time, the body has evolved into a highly efficient machine adept at burning the right fuels and adapting to environmental changes and stimulated by exercise.

Yet so many of us don’t exercise our bodies and don’t feed them the right fuel (Think how long processed foods, refined sugars and trans fats have been around in comparison to humans…. it’s unlikely the body has adapted to these manmade nutrient-light ‘foods’).

Whenever I have this debate with people, someone will inevitably roll out the friend of a friend’s granny who chain smokes, sinks a bottle of gin a day and has lived to get a telegram from the Queen – that’s past 100 for younger readers who might not know what a telegram is 🙂

And that might be true (although I can come up with loads of other examples of people who have done  the opposite and still live long healthy lives.

But here’s another was of looking at it  that I read in one of the reports about the new study this week. Think of your chances of getting cancer as a game of Russian Roulette.

You have a revolver and there’s a genetic bullet in it – this is your probability of getting cancer from intrinsic factors, ie genes, your family history etc.

There are other bullets… the extrinsic factors: things like a lack of exercise, bad diet, environmental pollution, smoking, drinking too much…

How many of those do you really want to load into the chamber before you pull the trigger?

 

 

Christmas Insanity Live! classes

Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean we don’t want to stay fit, so here the Insanity Live! Classes coming up over the next few weeks:

December 21 – St Giles Church, Bramhope at 7pm. See here for more

December 28 – St Giles Church, Bramhope at 7pm. See here for more

December 30 – Mercure Parkway hotel at 7pm. See here for more. This is a special one-off class organised by myself after popular demand. The class will start at 7pm and payment will be £5 for members and non members.

January 4 – St Giles Church, Bramhope at 7.30pm. See here for more. Please note this one-off later start time.

 

The principles of exercise

jamesgroup2

I was wondering what to write about this week when I went out for my morning run…. And 12 miles later, I knew what it would be: the principles of exercise.

No, I didn’t have some kind of epiphany while trudging around Bramhope and Adel in the rain, it’s just that by the end of the session, I was blowing out of my backside, which reminded me of what is probably the most important principle: ‘use it or lose it’.

It’s just two short months since I ran Spartathlon and in the lead up to that, I was probably in the best running condition I’ve ever been in – 100-mile training weeks and knocking out 40-mile runs in one go – but there I was this morning, struggling to complete a distance less than a half-marathon. That’s a long way to fall in just two months.

Even worse, psychologically, I’m finding it hard to push myself further, which means I’ll probably lose more fitness unless I can pull myself out of the rut: In short, training less has led to a vicious circle of declining fitness that I need to arrest.

We’ve all been there: We take a week or so off for any number of reasons: a cold, a big event, stress at work or whatever. Suddenly, getting back on the horse gets more difficult the longer it goes. The snooze button seems more attractive than a run… “Start again on Monday” we promise ourselves… but when Monday comes we find another excuse.

There’s no easy way to reverse the trend either, if you’re suffering from similar. You simply have to grit your teeth and force yourself to start again, though there are some techniques that can help.

  1. Tell yourself you’ll feel better after. I absolutely promise you that barring injury, you always feel better about yourself after exercising. There are biological reasons for this such as the rush of endorphins you get from exercise, but also psychologically, the fact you’ve beaten a demon will get you smiling.
  2. Set yourself a goal. I keep banging on about this, but goal setting keeps you on the straight and narrow. If you exercise to just maintain a base level of fitness, that’s fine but you are more likely to find a reason to stop than if you are exercising to achieve a specific aim. Think of what you want to achieve and set a marker. It could be a 10km race, dropping a percentage of body fat or beating a 3-minute step test result * But find something to aim for and go for it.
  3. Use visualisation. Where do you want to be in five years time? Exercise and good diet have been proven countless times to help people stay healthier, feel better and ultimately live longer. Think forward to where you want to be, then think of the alternative. Keep the ‘good’ image in your mind. Make it another long-term goal. Focus on it and use it to spur you on.

There may be other ways that work for you… but (and this is not a plea to come to classes or take up PT sessions) make sure you stay active. By sacrificing an hour of hard work NOW you could be adding years to your life, ultimately staying healthier and more active for longer.

The six principles of exercise

While, I’ve only focussed on one above, here are the six principles of exercise *

The Principle of Individual Differences – we are all different and therefore, we should find exercise programmes that are bespoke to ourselves. This doesn’t mean you have to go and employ a PT (but it would be nice if you did!!), but you should at least be trying things for a couple of weeks, and if they aren’t working for you change them.

The Principle of Overload – a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for your body to adapt to training.

The Principle of Progression – there’s an optimal time where that overload will make a difference. When you hit it, you need to increase the overload.

The Principle of Adaptation – the body will adjust to increased physical demands (and to decreased ones for that matter). In short, practice makes perfect, but it’s also why you might get muscle soreness when you first start a programme for the first time in a long time.

The Principle of Use/Disuse – your muscles will get stronger (hypertrophy) with exercise and atrophy (weaken) with disuse. It’s important here to remember muscles are not just about building big biceps – probably the most important muscle you have is your heart, and by doing cardiovascular exercise, you can improve the performance of the heart and lungs.

The Principle of Specificity – exercise needs to be specific to the kind of sport you want to excel at. For instance, if you want to excel at a sport where there are lots of changes of speed and direct, training for it by running long distances is probably not the way to go. That doesn’t mean running long distances would be bad for your overall fitness, but you would not be performing sports specific training.

* Three-minute step test: Check your heart rate and note it down. Find a step and step on and off vigorously for 3 minutes. Check your heart rate again and record it. Keep doing regular aerobic exercise for a month and take the test again. See if your heart rate at the end has improved.

** Wilmore, J.H. and Costill, D.L. Physiology of Sport and Exercise: 3rd Edition. 2005. Human Kinetics Publishing.

 

Top 5 worst celebrity diets to avoid in 2016

hanks baldwin

The New Year is almost upon us and with it comes a host of resolutions, often about food. As such the British Dietetic Association has released it’s list of Top 5 worst celebrity diets to avoid in 2016.

They are:

1.  No Sugar diet (last year’s number 3)

Celebrity Link:  Tom Hanks and Alec Baldwin (who appeared together on Saturday Night Live earlier this year, above) have reportedly followed this ‘diet’.

What’s it all about?  The Sugar Free Diet is when you exclude all types of sugar (and often carbohydrates too) from your diet.

BDA Verdict:  Not such a sweet deal! Confusion reigns. Cutting down on free sugars, reducing the amount of sugar you add, and consuming fewer products already containing added sugar, in addition to being label aware is definitely a positive. However, some versions of the No Sugar/Sugar Free Diet promote cutting out all sugar from your diet which is not only almost impossible, but would mean eliminating foods like vegetables, fruit, dairy products and nuts – leading to a less than healthy diet.  Also it is important to be aware of some substitutes these diet plans recommend like agave, palm sugar, maple syrup or honey, as these are actually just sugars in another form and a huge contradiction.

2. The all-kale and chewing gum diet

Celebrity Link: Jake Gyllenhaal reportedly followed this ‘diet’ to shed weight for a film role.

What’s it all about? There isn’t much to this one, as all you can eat is kale salad and chewing gum.

BDA Verdict: Kale-amity! This diet is extreme, socially isolating, unbalanced, hard to sustain and potentially harmful. An actor would be carefully monitored and supervised to shed weight for a role. Many people get drawn in by so called ‘super foods’ but no one food can provide all the nutrients you need. These foods are not a magic bullet, neither does balanced nutrition work by a ‘good’ food cancelling out other poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Nothing is wrong with kale, but if that is all you consume all day, every day, then problems will arise – it’s all about balance, a healthy relationship with food (not obsession) and variety.

3.   Bulletproof diet

Celebrity Link:  Harry Styles and Shailene Woodley have reportedly followed this ‘diet’.

What’s it all about?  This quirky diet plan includes a daily ‘Bulletproof coffee’ which is essentially a black coffee with 2 Tbsp butter,and a Tbsp MCT oil added totting up at around 400kcal per cup. Foods are classified as bulletproof, suspect or kryptonite with rules on timing of meals

BDA Verdict:  While the idea of minimising alcohol and processed food is positive, the classification of foods is at odds with health recommendations and lacks evidence. Time restricted eating is also at odds with many lifestyles. The negative of the recommended Bulletproof coffee is that consuming 400+ calories from one beverage provides a lot of energy but few nutrients from a drink, rather than individuals choosing food and drink with more nutritional content for the same calorie value. 

 4.   The Super Elixir

Celebrity Link: This product is endorsed by Elle McPherson.

What’s it all about? ‘The Super Elixir’ is a food supplement aiming to change body tissue from an acidic to an alkaline state. It comes in the form of a green powder and contains just over 45 ingredients including a number of powdered fruits and vegetables, sweeteners, several Chinese herbs and some digestive enzymes. The recommended dose is 2 teaspoons (or 10g) per day meaning a month’s supply will set you back – brace yourself – £96 for 300 g.

BDA Verdict:  How much?! The benefits that this costly powder claims to provide can easily be obtained from fruit and vegetables and a balanced diet, without the hefty price tag. Moreover our bodies are naturally capable of regulating acidity levels. Why not save your £1152 per year, spend it on some delicious fruit and vegetables and a splurge on a ‘Super’ holiday instead! 

5.   Trim Secrets

Celebrity Link:   Baroness Michelle Mone OBE, founder of lingerie brand Ultimo and life peer in the House of Lords, established Trim Secrets with a Scottish naturopath. Chanelle Hayes (former Big Brother star) has reportedly followed this ‘diet’.

What’s it all about? Trim Secrets is a pill which claims to suppress appetite whilst boosting the metabolism, allegedly aiding both men and women to lose weight when combined with the Trim Secrets 5-stage diet plan. The diet plan includes a balanced diet of 1500 calories per day along with a Trim Secrets capsule taken three times a day before each meal, 1.5 litres of water daily, regular exercise and avoiding stress.

 BDA Verdict:  By consuming 1500 calories per day, most individuals should lose weight regardless of whether they are taking this pill, and that’s no secret. The pill has echoes of the grapefruit diet and includes guarana which is high in caffeine yet states it’s caffeine free. Beware of pills and potions and make sure you know exactly what you are buying and taking.

Speaking about these and other fad diets, Sian Porter, consultant dietitian and Spokesperson for the BDA, said:

 “Maybe it’s not as exciting but the truth is if you do want to lose some weight do it by eating a healthy, balanced diet that you can stick to, watch your portion sizes and be physically active. Think of it as a marathon approach to achieving your goals, as opposed to a sprint approach.  Aim to make permanent changes to your diet and lifestyle that are sustainable for you in the long term, not someone else’s lifestyle, nor abandoned by the end of January.”

Why you should keeping a health and fitness diary

If you’re serious about improving your well-being, you really should be keeping a health and fitness diary.

The big health news this week is that finally a study has proved what many in the fitness industry have been saying for years: there’s no one-size-fits all diet (and funnily enough, no one-size fits all exercise plan either).

The Personalised Nutrition Project by Professor Eran Segal and Dr Eran Elinav of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science looked at 1,000 volunteers who had their blood sugars checked every five minutes for a week while they ate their normal diet.

They also had their gut flora checked and answered questions about what they ate, their exercise and their sleep patterns.

“The first super surprise was how differently the response was to the same food,” said Elinnav… and the big headlines from the study were along the like of Is this the future of food?, Obesity may be misunderstood and There really is no one size fits all diet plan.

But to myself, fellow PTs and nutrition therapists, that’s no surprise at all.

We are all individuals so it makes sense that our bodies react in different ways to different stimuli, whether that be diet, exercise or our environment.

Even the job you do can have health ramifications – a hairdresser in a busy salon breathing in hair spray and dye chemicals all day will be affected in a different way to a gardener who spends all day in the open air.

And it’s why keeping some kind of a fitness/diet record is so important.

We’ve all been there before: doing what we are supposed to do with a fitness regime or a diet and found it’s had little or no effect – and it’s largely because while we are generally genetically the same, all of our bodies react differently.

Short of doing a barrage of (expensive) tests, the only way that can work for you is by trial and error. And that doesn’t mean flitting from one exercise/diet program to another, but by accurately recording what you are doing … and if it’s not working, tweaking things slightly to see if it has an effect.

Employing a fitness professional should help you reach your goals quicker – a good PT or a nutrition therapist would recognise some of the imbalances and be able to target better the things to change… but this is not a sale pitch, everyone can benefit from keeping a health and fitness diary.

Set yourself a goal, pick a program or diet and record everything you do accurately… and if things don’t improve and they do or you reach a plateau, change one thing at a time and give it a week or two to see what effect it has. By keeping accurate records, you’ll be able to quickly see what’s working and what’s not.

Technology can help too, there are dozens of apps and websites out there now so as MyFitnessPal that can help, making the process easy, accurate and, above all, second nature.