All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
Sweet and sour news.
The WHO's cancer research group has just classified aspartame as a possible carcinogen. In response, the FDA stated that aspartame is one of the most studied food additives and poses no safety concerns.
Aspartame is commonly found in diet sodas, such as Diet Coke, in sugar-free, low-calorie desserts and yoghurts. Popular brands that use aspartame include Equal, Nutrasweet, and Sugar Twin.
⇒ No doubt the reality lies between the two opinions, meaning it is best to moderate your consumption until the experts reach a consensus.
Deep pressure stimulation activates a primordial deep sleep response. Researchers now know how it works - see item #2.
Counting calories is a standard method for weight loss, while time-restricted eating is a relatively new approach. The fact that both methods yielded comparable results was unexpected - see item #1.
⭑ If you're looking for an alternative to counting calories, this will work ✔
⭑ Scientists find a route to better, deeper sleep with no drugs ✔
⭑ Diet methods can’t overcome poor food choices ✔
⭑ One simple exercise - strengthen your ankles and your hips ✔
Although counting calories as part of a weight-loss diet can be very effective, it has never appealed to me. For this reason, I find it hard to recommend to others as I have no real experience of living that way.
If you are like me, then there is good news. New research (published June 27, 2023) suggests that time-restricted eating can be as effective for weight loss as counting calories. This involves limiting your eating window to a specific number of hours per day (e.g., 6 - 8 hours and finishing before 8 pm, known as the 16:8 Method).
The study conducted at the University of Illinois Chicago was a 12-month randomized controlled trial involving 90 adults with obesity. It found that time-restricted eating led to similar weight loss results as calorie counting.
- Participants in the time-restricted eating group ate between noon and 8:00 p.m. only, without calorie counting.
- Participants in the calorie restriction group had a daily energy restriction of 25%.
⇒ As a bonus, other research has shown that limiting the time period in which we eat has positive effects on our metabolic health, which is especially crucial as we age.
What this means for you: It takes commitment to stick to a limited eating window, and the golden rule is to choose a window that fits in with your lifestyle - not the other way around. After all, we eat to live not live to eat:
- Consider time-restricted eating: If you’re over 50 and struggling with weight management or looking for an alternative to calorie counting, try implementing a time-restricted eating schedule.
- Prioritise healthy food choices: Focus on consuming nutritious foods during your designated eating window to obtain essential nutrients while managing caloric intake. See item #3 below.
- Be consistent and committed: Aim to stick to your chosen eating window, but don't worry if you occasionally drop the ball. After all, your social life and life's celebrations won’t always fit your designated eating window. The most important thing by far is to be consistent but not paranoid. If the 16:8 method does not fit your lifestyle, try the 5:2 approach (reducing your calories to around 500 on two days of the week and eating normally on the other five)
Some people advise that you track progress regularly to ensure you’re meeting your weight loss goals. I'm not a fan of weighing yourself as a measure of progress because daily and weekly weight loss doesn't directly reflect how your body is performing.
I recommend focusing on consistency, which is a process. Then, weigh yourself once monthly at the same time of day and in the same circumstances e.g. after a morning walk and before your first meal of the day. This will give you the feedback you need.
02 How Weighted Blankets Help You Sleep Deeper
I was surprised to read that medical research has isolated a causal relationship between weighted blankets, improved sleep quality, and alleviating anxiety.
As darkness falls, melatonin levels rise, preparing our bodies for sleep by lowering core body temperature and inducing drowsiness. A recent study found that participants had a 32% higher level of melatonin during sleep when using a weighted blanket than a light blanket.
⇒ The study also revealed that applying gentle pressure on the skin through a weighted blanket activates brain regions that influence melatonin release—an unexpected finding.
Concerning decreasing anxiety, researchers found that weighted blankets triggered deep pressure simulation. Deep pressure stimulation activates the autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate, digestion, breathing rate, and other bodily functions. It has been associated with reduced sympathetic arousal (fight-or-flight response) and increased parasympathetic arousal (rest-and-digest response).
What this means for you: If you struggle with sleep or anxiety issues, consider trying a weighted blanket to see if it improves your symptoms.
Choose a blanket that weighs about 10% of your body weight for optimal comfort and effectiveness. (The study used blankets set to 12% of each participant's body weight).
Experiment with different weights and fabric textures to find what works best.
Hopefully, you will experience less severe insomnia, reduced daytime fatigue, and improved sleep maintenance throughout the night (waking up less often).
Another study involving people with chronic insomnia found that using a weighted blanket resulted in longer sleep duration, easier settling down before sleep, and feeling more refreshed upon waking up.
Sounds good to me!
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03 Time Restricted Diets - Food Quality and Fibre Matter
In the study I refer to in Item #1 above, the focus was on weight loss rather than the quality of the diets of those on calorie restrictions or a time-restricted diet.
In fact, participants were allowed unrestricted eating, which resulted in their diets lacking in fibre and rich in sugar. Both groups only averaged half the daily recommended fibre intake while consuming three times more sugar than recommended.
⇒ Diet techniques alone are insufficient for achieving optimal health outcomes, whether through reducing daily calories or practising intermittent fasting.
Numerous scientific papers support the health benefits of intermittent fasting. Time-restricted eating has been shown to:
- Improve gut health by allowing necessary digestive rest for our microbiome.
- Reduce insulin overproduction. For example, a 2011 study published in the journal "Cell Metabolism" found that intermittent fasting led to lower insulin resistance than daily calorie restriction
What this means for you: Alongside intermittent fasting, focus on consuming high-quality foods while reducing processed sugars. Increasing protein and healthy fat intake (e.g. avocado) can help you feel satiated while increasing plant diversity.
Going for post-meal walks and incorporating strength training can further enhance your results. The former will help control pre-diabetes symptoms, and the latter will help manage diabetes if you have already crossed the line - like me.
I've found that achieving sustainable weight management and improved health is possible for me by adopting a balanced approach that combines intermittent fasting with mindful food choices. It's not always easy, but the payoff is worth it.
Our exercise of the week is...lateral lunges. These will improve your balance and maintain your strength and functional mobility, and you can do them anywhere.
As you can imagine, different types of lunges impose different mechanical demands on our muscles and joints. The side-to-side move of a lateral lunge puts less strain on our cruciate ligaments, parts of the knees known to trigger pain, compared to normal lunges.
In addition, and not widely known, but a 2004 research paper that I dug up found that lateral lunges particularly target and strengthen our ankle plantar flexors.
Weak ankle plantar flexors can have significant consequences for older adults as they play a crucial role in maintaining balance, stability, and mobility during daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and standing up from a seated position.
What I think is especially important is that strengthening these muscles enhances proprioception (our body awareness) which helps maintain better control over movements, reducing the risk of falls.
If you have twisted an ankle, the proprioception nerves have been damaged, and you'll have found that you are, rather annoyingly, more susceptible to twisting that same ankle again. For me, it is my left ankle. Doing these side lunges will reduce that tendency.
What this means for you: Side lunges are an easy route to improving your balance and stability, enhancing your mobility and your range of motion:
- Stand tall: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and maintaining an upright posture. Keep your core engaged and shoulders relaxed.
- Take a step to the side: Begin by taking a wide step to the right side, keeping your toes pointing forward or slightly outward.
- Bend the knee: As you step to the side, shift your body weight onto the right leg and slowly begin bending your right knee, lowering your body down into a lunge position. Aim to keep your right knee aligned with your toes, avoiding it from extending beyond them.
- Maintain alignment: Make sure to keep your torso upright throughout the movement, avoiding leaning forward or backward excessively. Your chest should be lifted, and both heels should remain on the ground.
- Return to starting position: Push through your right foot and engage your inner thigh muscles as you straighten your right leg and return to the starting position. Repeat the same steps for lunging to the left side.
- Start with a comfortable range of motion: Adjust the depth of each lunge based on your comfort level and flexibility. You can gradually increase the depth as you become more confident and flexible over time.
Do ten lunges on each side, 3 times a week.
Level-up: use a resistance band.
Pro-tip: Add calf raises and heel raises by walking in a figure 8 for 20 steps walking on your toes, and then your heels. This really boosts the value of the lunges.
Pro-pro-tip: At point 4 in the instructions above - focus on ‘sitting’ over your right heel so your hamstring and glute are engaged. This will build your strength.
Remember to listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort. With regular practice, side lunges will definitely improve your lower-body strength, balance, and overall mobility. You'll notice it.
Thanks for reading!
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>> My Latest Blog Post: Energise Your Golden Years: Boosting Your Desire to Exercise with Gut-Healthy Foods
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