Eat like a champion

healthy plate

So I’ve already gone through my DNA results for training performance therefore its time to go through the nutrition side of things. This is split into macronutrient advice (carbs/fats & protein) and micronutrient advice (vitamins/minerals). Ever wondered why one type of diet works for some people but not others and why there is no one size fits all diet? Well genetic fit to the diet is probably the main reason, a calorie is not just a calorie!

Some people are very sensitive to eating carbohydrates leading to large swings in blood glucose. This gives you a quick high in energy when consuming these foods but also a crash in energy a few hours later. I have never really experienced this and not surprisingly my DNA results showed a low sensitivity to carbohydrates and also saturated fat. This makes me one of those lucky people who can (as long as they exercise) get away with a lot of naughty food.

I do however have a higher than average risk of developing coeliac disease so as much as I may seem to be able to tolerate rubbish food based on my waistline it is sensible for me to eat healthy as I won’t notice the heart disease and coeliac disease creeping on until its well established. I mention heart disease as I also have a higher than average sensitivity to salt intake and I do not gain the benefits of raised HDL cholesterol from moderate alcohol consumption.

So what about the smaller nutrients and supplementation? My micronutrient profile shows a raised need for omega 3 fats, vitamins B6, B9 (folate*), B12 & D. Also I have a greater need for antioxidants due to my moderately reduced capacity to reduce free radical damage on a standard diet. Overall my detoxification ability is fast so standard dietary guidelines for vegetable intake should suffice.

It is important to note that if you have raised needs for any of these areas then standard dietary guidelines will not lead to a healthy enough diet for reducing your risk of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and diet related cancers. The overall point of this sort of DNA testing is not to scare you and it will not tell you your risk of getting a particular disease. It will tell you how well your body deals with various nutrients from food and therefore what sort of diet is best for you.

As for supplements most people should be able to obtain the majority of their needs from food although if you are going to achieve this it is important to buy high quality produce not just the cheap stuff from Tesco etc. Yes that stuff is still technically the same food but cheap, low standard production results in less nutrients than you would expect under higher quality farming methods.

 

If you are interested in getting your DNA tested you can check the DNAfit website for further details. In the next week or so I will be offering this service from this website so I can give you a small discount on the DNAfit prices which will include a personal consultation to explain your results and what you can do with them. We also have expert personal trainers on site if you wish to follow your training advice under our supervision.

*Folate and folic acid are 2 different forms of vitamin B9. Within the body folic acid will after a complicated series of chemical reactions be turned into folate which is then used to reduce homocysteine (a marker of heart disease) levels. The conversion of folic acid to folate can slow the whole process down so personally I would recommend either consuming plenty of dark green leafy veg (and other foods that contains folate) or supplementing with folate rather than folic acid.

DNA update

DNAWell I did promise I’d have the results of my DNA test up by now but unfortunately there has been a delay due to a problem with my sample apparently….not that kind of sample before you make jokes about my swimming ability! New test kit should arrive this week so still hoping to have some results on here in 2-3 weeks time.

I thought I’d just tease you with some examples of what DNA testing can tell you in the meantime. There are 2 main areas the DNAfit team assess; nutrition and training related gene variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms pronounced “snips” for short (SNP’s). There are at least 3 large, quality studies backing up the recommendations for each of these genes and their effects unlike some of the less scrupulous companies out there.

So I will go through an example of each with you, starting with nutrition. Should you have a low carb diet or not? Well many popular fad diets recommend that these days with some evidence to support in a certain percentage of the population but not others. Transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) is a transcription factor that affects several genes involved with the control of blood sugar levels. An individual may have 2 copies of the “C” allele, 2 copies of the “T” allele or on of each meaning they are “CT”.

The significance of this is individuals with 2 copies of the T allele (TT) generally respond poorly to a low carb/high fat diet. In weight loss studies individuals with the TT allele show the greatest difficulty in losing weight and are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes especially with a poor diet. The good news is matching these individuals to a diet and exercise regime appropriate for their individual genotype (including other genes not just TCF7L2) does lead to significant weight loss (if overweight) and improved blood sugar control.

Example 2 is taken from the training advice side. Alpha-actinin 3 (ACTN3) is a gene associated with fast twitch muscle fibres. The “R” allele is associated with better performance in power and strength based sports. There are several other genes involved in sporting performance but if you don’t have the RR genotype then you are less likely to be elite in power based sports.

The good news about this gene though is that depending on your genotype (RR/RX or XX) and regardless of your training goal we can predict which type of training will give you the most athletic improvement. So even if your goal is to do a triathlon or marathon your training results may actually be better with an increased amount of power based training compared to traditional “textbook” endurance training. Vice versa with speed/power based athletes, some of you depending on your genotype may benefit more from increased endurance training rather than lots of short duration/high intensity/long rest interval stuff.

Yes I know this goes against conventional training wisdom but no training routine or diet works for anywhere near 100% of people. Studies are even starting to appear that show improved sporting performance in endurance or power based training groups when they were matched to a training protocol based on their genetic analysis rather than what is traditionally thought to be the best type of training for that particular goal.

That’s your teaser for now, my DNA results to follow in another blog in the next few weeks, any questions pop them on Facebook or twitter unless you want to keep the private then email: exsicc@gmail.com

 

DNA Analysis

DNA

There are a number of companies online willing to unlock the secrets of your DNA so you can eat the foods that are right for you and train the way that your body is designed/has evolved to train. In fact some Olympic athletes, for example Greg Rutherford, have recently endorsed one particular company (DNAfit) offering DNA analysis and the BBC even got Gabby Logan to make a program about it.

It will be many years before the science is clear on whether it actually works but having done some research into it myself over the last 2-3 years I am excited enough about it to give it a go. As a result my next few blogs will be about the process of undergoing this type of testing and I will post my results so you can see for yourself if it interests you. Don’t forget my results will be based on my DNA so don’t expect my results to work for you unless we share some DNA, although this is Devon so we probably share a lot!

I think the general public and sports people could benefit from having a diet that is tailored to their unique biochemistry, this is a no brainer! The key question with any of these companies is have they actually found the right way to test this and is their subsequent advice correct. IF it is then this will drastically improve health and wellbeing, although its still up to the individual to follow the advice of course, I’m not sure the companies are ready to offer a service whereby they come round your house burn all your junk food and force feed you broccoli and beetroot just yet.

As far as the training goes Greg Rutherford seems to have engaged in more higher rep weight training and longer/slower running than you might typically expect for an Olympic long jumper since having his DNA analysed. He also appears to have improved his 1 rep max for cleans which if true goes against conventional training wisdom. Hopefully this bears fruit at the Olympics in Rio this summer!

The testing procedure was very simple, I paid online and within a few days had received the testing kit. It only takes a few minutes to collect a DNA swab from the inside of your cheeks so the process is simple and non invasive. Then you pop it in the post in  the envelope provided and wait up to 10 working days for the results.

I will post again soon with my results etc if you have any questions just post them on facebook or email exsicc@gmail.com.

Gardening season approaches

gardening back pain

I know with storm Imogen currently sweeping us off our feet the gardening season and warmer weather seems as far away as ever but it is only around 1 month now till the allotments start filling up with hideous postures sustained for a whole weekend and then people wondering why they have back pain on a Monday! So I’m giving a little bit of advice here for the green fingered among you with some tips and exercises.

Firstly if your winter has consisted of significantly less physical activity than the warmer months start doing some exercises now to build your fitness for gardening. Fitness for gardening might sound as useful as fitness for darts but both activities put your back into awkward and sustained postures that stronger, fitter muscles and more mobile joints can handle better.

Hip and ankle mobility are important to make bending less stressful on your back. Regular calf stretching and hip mobilising is a good idea for anyone who cannot do a deep squat with good technique. If you are actually very flexible then your biggest issue is likely to be “core stability” so exercises to strengthen the tummy muscles and glutes would be most beneficial.

When your back does hurt NHS Physio’s often recommend hugging your knees to your chest or touching your toes repeatedly from a standing position. Whilst both these exercises will give your muscles some stretching relief in the short term they are also contributing to an increased load on the discs of your lower back making them wear out quicker in the long term so don’t do them!

Some safer alternatives for back stretching include:

Prayer stretch

prayer stretch
Start on all fours, sit back onto heels and reach hands out in front, hold for 30 seconds.

Cat stretch

catcamel

and simply laying on your back with your legs supported by a chair.

egoscue static back

If these exercises aren’t enough to settle your back pain down after a few days then you probably need some actual hands on treatment like massage and manipulation. Having these types of chiropractic treatment every few months can also help keep back pain at bay by stopping the usual build up of muscle/joint stiffness over time.

Super Strong Abs

situps

The idea that sit-ups are bad for your back has been around a long time now, or so I thought. Stuart McGill first published his research condemning loaded spinal flexion exercises in 1998. Yet it’s nearly 2016 and still everytime I go into a gym I see multiple people doing “back breaking” sit-up type exercises so I thought I’d throw this blog out there and hopefully convert a few more people into some healthier habits for the spine.

Why are sit-ups bad? McGill’s research, along with several other researchers, show a gradual delamination of the annulus fibrosis connective tissue that forms the protective ringed layer of our intervertebral discs with repetitive lumar flexion. In simple terms think of the disc as being arranged like the rings of a tree, each lumbar flexion movement you do (even putting your socks on) will slightly damage the outer layers of these rings. Some people can get away with lots others breakdown quicker, thank your genetics for that part!

Therefore the more lumbar flexions you perform in a lifetime and especially if they are loaded with more weight/force like a sit up or lifting with a bent spine then the sooner your discs will wear out and bulge or herniate resulting in pain (when inflamed). You can’t and shouldn’t completely avoid lumbar flexion in everyday life but you’re supposed to go to the gym to make yourself healthier so why add more wear and tear to your back instead?

vsits

Sit-ups and similar exercises such as: hugging your knees to your chest, bending to touch your toes, V-sits (see picture above), oblique crunches, swiss ball crunches, bosu ball crunches, leg press machine and burpees all increase the degeneration of your lumbar discs. The same goes for bad technique on exercises like; squats, deadlifts, olympic lifts, lat pulldowns, seated rows, bench press, bicep curls, cycling, rowing, running, x-trainer etc. Hence why technique is paramount to safe, effective exercise.

So what exercises can you do instead? Well the second list of exercises in the above paragraph can all be done safely with good technique as mentioned already. As for the first list why not try any of the following; prayer stretch (child pose in yoga), cat stretch, McGill crunches, Bird dog, plank, side plank, rolling patterns, wood chops (cable), kettle bell swings, overhead squats, “stirring the pot“, prone rollouts, plank rotations, press ups, TRX exercises, alternate leg roman chair and battling ropes.

Many of the above exercises are trying to push you into lumbar (low back) extension, or in some cases, flexion. The aim is too resist this by stiffening all your abdominal and back muscles (not hollowing your spine like Pilates) to maintain a neutral spine, for example, the plank (see picture below). Please note I have seen many people do these exercises with extended lumbar spines which completely defeats the point of them, technique, technique, technique!

plank

The last point with many of these exercises especially the ones with movement like squats, deadlift etc is that they require good hip and ankle mobility to reduce the load on your back and knees. If you are not sufficiently mobile in these areas I would strongly recommend working on that before you lift heavy weights or attempt to do “ass to grass” movements. There is no shame in putting some plates under your heels when squatting if your ankles/calves are too stiff.

squat with heel raise

Tennis Elbow…but I don’t play Tennis?

 

elbow pain

So tennis elbow is a relatively common condition even in the non sporty population. It refers to chronic inflammatory pain around the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondylitis). A similar problem can affect the inner side of the elbow and is termed golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis). Both conditions occur over a long period of time from overuse. The tendons around the elbow gradually become increasingly inflamed as the muscles pulling on them are being overused. Standard medical treatment involves anti-inflammatory medication and rest.

In some cases just stopping the aggravating activities for a while will settle it down. The most common aggravating activities besides sports like tennis and golf are; typing, writing, using a screwdriver, stirring and just generally gripping things a lot. It’s better for you to use ice for 10 mins at a time rather than ibuprofen etc (unless you like damaging your stomach, liver and kidneys!). Also gentle stretching of the overly tight forearm muscles should help.

For pain on the outside of the elbow/forearm (tennis elbow) gently make a fist with your thumb tucked into it and bend the wrist down to the floor with a straight arm. The lower of the 2 stretches in the picture below (open hand as in the picture is less of a stretch).

forearmstretch

The top stretch in the picture above is for golfer’s elbow and it is best to do it with the palm open as in the picture. Hold the stretch for up to 30 seconds and repeat several times per day along with the ice.

The most effective home (or gym based) exercise for any tendonitis is eccentric stretching. This means stretching the muscle/tendon whilst it is being lengthened under contraction. Normal static stretching involves lengthening the muscle under relaxation. Up to a point results improve with heavier loads (more than 1-2kg dumbbell) although you should always start light and progress gradually as pain allows! In the gym use a dumbbell, at home find something similar in weight and easy to grip (you can even use your other hand for resistance).

The key is to slowly lower the wrist of the painful elbow side under some form of resistance. The stretch should hurt a little bit but not a lot so be careful. 5-10 repetitions each day should be sufficient but it is vital that, especially if you are using a weighted object, you don’t contract the muscles to lift the wrist back to the start position. WTF you say? Yes really you need to use the other hand to lift the bad side wrist back to the start position so it can stay relaxed otherwise you are just going to aggravate the tendonsitis!

As with many musculoskeletal problems this simple home help advice may not be enough. Eccentrics are considered one of the most effective ways of resolving tendonitis. The trouble is they are a little complicated and if you do it wrong you will just make the injury worse. I have done my best to describe it here but if you are struggling it’s time to get the professionals to have a look and work their magic. Chiropractors are well trained in dealing with tendonitis and will not only massage the knots out of your muscles that cause the pain but also help loosen up the rest of your arms/neck and mid-upper back which are usually also part of the problem.

Call 07710791434 today and book your first appointment or book online. It shouldn’t take any more than 6-8 treatments to get you pain free.

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Does every adult have arthritis?

pain pic

It seems even 20-30 year olds can go to their GP now and be told their aches & pains are “just their age” or “just arthritis” so do we really all have it? Well the short answer is YES but lets be clear about what is meant by arthritis. There are several different conditions that have the word arthritis applied to them, some of them have nothing to do with your age, some of them require medication and some of them are easily managed with lifestyle changes & manual therapies like chiropractic.

Inflammatory arthritides are the group of related arthritis (literally means joint pain) conditions that include rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondilitis, reactive arthritis & gout. They are very painful and occur in sharp bouts of pain, with red, hot, swollen joints. They can be controlled by medication or less harmful methods like ice and comfrey. The underlying causes are usually a combination of genetics and lifestyle, particularly poor diet. Physical therapies like chiropractic can help improve mobility but are best avoided or minimised during severe inflammatory episodes. Emotions also play a role in the intensity of pain and the occurrence of inflammatory bouts so treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and emotional freedom technique (EFT) can help in some cases.

Osteoarthritis: By far the most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis also known as degenerative joint disease and almost every adult will show some signs of this on x-ray in at least some of their joints especially the neck, back and knees. It cannot be cured and it cannot be avoided. This is the reason for the provocative headline of this article, but now the good news. In most cases especially if you start doing something about it early enough the pain and disability of osteoarthritis can be minimised and the progression of it slowed down so that it barely bothers you throughout your life. To find out how read on below!

Osteoarthritis is essentially wear & tear on your body throughout your life. If you hop around on one leg for years expect some early onset hip degeneration in that hip. If you are significantly overweight and/or have bad biomechanics of your hips & pelvis expect some advanced degeneration of your low back and knees. Many people think running is a key provoker of knee degeneration but recent studies have actually shown that this is not the case and non-runners actually have greater levels of degeneration. The biggest problem with running is that most people run with bad technique and run too far for their fitness levels, as well as having underlying biomechanical dysfunctions of the feet, hips and pelvis which put more pressure on the knees.

So hopefully you can start to see from the paragraph above that the majority of degeneration is not just your age or genetics it is how you perform movements, how often you perform them and how vigorous you perform them. Previous traumatic injuries like fractures also increase levels of degeneration around the injured area. Another factor is repetitive strain from work whether it is a physical job affecting things like shoulders and knees or a sedentary job affecting necks and low backs because of a lack of movement. I should also mention here that what you eat & drink can speed up or slow down degeneration of joints. An unhealthy diet particularly excessive sugar and insufficient healthy fats will speed up degeneration.

How do you slow it down then? Well eating healthily and doing regular moderate intensity, good technique exercise will help, especially working on things like core stability, hip mobility, thoracic (mid back) spine mobility, deep neck flexor endurance & foot/ankle mobility (See conditions pages for more exercise advice). You can do this with the right guidance from a knowledgeable fitness trainer/chiropractor and chiropractors can also help speed up the mobility improvements and pain relief with regular treatment to keep your joints loose, this should be somewhere between every 1 and 6 months depending on how much you are looking after yourself at home/in the gym.

If your degeneration gets bad enough you will likely have to resort to painkillers, injections and surgery but these should be a last resort as they do not solve the problem they will just help make the worst problems more bearable. So if you want to start taking control of your body find a good chiropractor and start getting some treatment and exercise advice that can help you grow old gracefully and make the most out of your free time. If you’re close enough to Exminster come to our clinic at the westbank healthy living centre (07710791434). Feel free to learn what you can from our information pages on this site, more free stuff coming soon!