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.

New Years Broken Promises

new year res

We’ve all probably done it at some point in our lives, decided that his is the year we are going to sort out the things that bother us most of the year. Well instead of banging on about how much you should go to the gym or eat healthily I thought I would write from a different angle on this topic – the stages of lifestyle change.

There is a theory in psychology called the trans-theoretical model of change. It is a generalised overview of the different states of change a person may be in when attempting to alter their habits. This can apply to any of the common resolutions pictured above and to many other choices such as learning a new language or musical instrument and deciding to change career.

trans theory model

The first stage (precontemplation) is essentially when you are not ready to change, you are so not ready to change you aren’t even aware there is a need to change your behaviour. This could be for a number of reasons including lack of awareness of the consequences of not changing the habit in question. Whatever the reason at this stage you are not ready to change so new year resolutions are not going to happen!

At the second stage (contemplation) things get more interesting, now you are starting to recognise a problem and thinking about ways you could change your lifestyle to remedy the problem. This stage can last a long time before you either give up and ignore the problem (relapse to precontemplation) or move into the third phase (preparation).

In the preparation phase you start to seek out information on how you might change. For example if getting out of pain is your goal you may have; started to research exercises on the internet, or thought about getting chiropractic treatment, or started asking friends & family how they control their pain. Reading a blog like this is often part of the preparation phase.

Stage four, now the real action begins! This is when you finally start to do the things that will help you change. This may include going to the gym, joining an exercise class or letting your chiropractor get your muscles and joints out of pain and teaching you how to exercise correctly.

behaviour change

Unfortunately as with all the other stages relapses happen and you may have to go through several preparation/action stages before you finally make it stick as a lifestyle change that will improve your life. Those who are able to keep the positive changes from the action stage going are finally able to reach the maintenance stage. Relapses still happen but they are much less likely to happen at this stage especially as you will now notice the benefits of action which should help you realise what you are missing if you do relapse and lose them.

So if you have gone down the road of yet another new year resolution, think about these stages and where you are currently at, realise that many people will be in the same boat as you. Even though it is normal to relapse multiple times eventually success can be achieved if you can make the action stage stick long enough to make it your new “normal” habit.

Is Gluten Free Healthy?

gluten free

Walk in to any UK supermarket these days and you will probably see a “free from” section, often referring to gluten free products but also dairy free, wheat free, nut free etc. Now if you have an allergic reaction to any of these ingredients then it is obviously great that many shops, café’s and restaurants now cater for a wider range of customers. However I have noticed that a reasonable number of people seem to be confusing these products with healthy eating. In some cases they may be healthy products but just because something is “free from” doesn’t mean it is automatically good for everyone.

The most popular free from labelling at the moment seems to be gluten free foods. For those who don’t know Gluten is essentially a protein composite (gliadin & glutenin conjoined with starch) found in many grains including wheat, barley and rye. When these flours are used in baking the dough will rise easier than gluten free versions and have greater elasticity. The final product will likely stick together better and be more chewy. Gluten is therefore a source of protein in foods such as breads, cakes & pastries.

Some people suffer symptoms such as abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhoea, vomiting, migraines and joint pain after eating foods containing gluten. Around 1 in 100 people in the UK are thought to suffer from an autoimmune condition called coeliac disease where gluten consumption leads to inflammation of the small intestine. A recent study (2012) in the USA found a prevalence of around 1 in 141. There is no cure for coeliac disease but following a gluten free diet will alleviate symptoms. When the symptoms described above occur without the presence of an autoimmune response in the small intestine the person may be suffering from Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (gluten insensitivity) or an insensitivity to a different food stuff such as short chain fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms may also improve by avoiding gluten containing foods.

If you do suffer from any of the symptoms described above then try replacing the gluten containing foods in your diet with gluten free alternatives. If your symptoms disappear you don’t need to see a doctor to know you should be on a gluten free diet! HOWEVER, many gluten free products have a lot of added sugar in them so they are definitely not healthy. If you want to have a healthy diet you should only be having them as alternatives to gluten containing unhealthy sugary snacks on the rare occasions you are allowing yourself unhealthy sugary snacks.

Choosing gluten free products for healthier eating as a bread substitute can a good idea if you want to reduce your calorie intake but be careful to choose low sugar, low salt options such as lightly salted rice cakes or ryvitas. When looking at food & drink labels low salt is defined by the NHS as less than 0.3g salt (or 0.1g sodium) per 100g. High salt products are over 1.5g salt (0.6g sodium) per 100g. An average adult should have less than 6g (roughly 1 teaspoon) per day of total salt. High sugar products are defined as more than 22.5g “of which sugars” per 100g under the carbohydrates section of the label. Low sugar products are defined as less than 5g per 100g.

Personally I think with regards to sugar this is still way too high and would say anything over 10g per 100g “of which sugars” is a high sugar food which should be minimised in your diet. Your GP will be delighted with you if you avoid high sugar food and drink as your chances of developing heart disease, strokes, diabetes and some forms of cancer will significantly decrease. Your dentist will also be happy as your teeth will suffer much less decay and your chiropractor won’t need to see you as much as you will have less inflammatory joint/muscle pain from conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Remember food companies don’t care about your health only your spending habits so they will make gluten free products as appealing as possible within the (very lax) labelling rules. Gluten free and other free from products will reduce or eliminate any symptoms coming from gluten insensitivities but they are not necessarily healthy alternatives when you factor in sugar/salt content. If you want good tasting meals that are also healthy try making your meals from scratch using quality sourced, minimally processed ingredients. The following website has some good examples: CleansimpleUK