Recipe: Protein Banana Cupcakes

20180819_124852.jpgThese cupcakes provide a protein hit which make them a great post-workout snack. They are gluten free, dairy free, soya free and egg free.

Makes 8 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 15g protein powder (I use rice protein)
  • 15g gluten free oat flour
  • 1/4 cup of dairy free milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tbsp Splenda
  • 2tbsp smooth hazelnut butter

Method

  1. Mash the bananas until smooth
  2. Mix the bananas and dairy free milk together
  3. Add the protein powder, oat flour, baking powder and vanilla extract and mix together
  4. Place the mixture into small cupcake cases making sure they are even
  5. Put them in the oven on gas mark 6 for 15 minutes
  6. Once you take them out, leave them to cool for a minute while making the icing
  7. To make the icing, mix together the hazelnut butter and Splenda then spread evenly over each cupcake

Recipe: Banana and Walnut bread

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This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, yeast free and refined sugar free yet is delicious and great with some nut butter spread on top.

Makes 8 slices

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of gluten free oat flour
  • 1 cup of ground walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup of Splenda
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 3 flax egg substitutes (6 tablespoons flaxseeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 9 tablespoons water)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees/gas mark 2 and line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper
  2. Start by making the flax egg substitute as shown in my previous recipe (https://caralilynutrition.com/2016/12/21/recipe-egg-substitute/). Mixed the flaxseeds, baking powder and water and leave to settle for a while
  3. Mixed the oat flour, ground walnuts, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl
  4. Mix the Splenda, mashed banana and flax egg together
  5. Combine this mixture with the dry ingredients and stir until combined
  6. Pour the mixture into the pan, spreading evenly and bake for around 40 minutes until a knife comes out clean when inserted
  7. Leave to cool before slicing

World Chocolate Day

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Today is World Chocolate Day. Chocolate has become a staple “naughty” treat but are there any benefits? While milk chocolate varieties are high in sugar and fat, dark chocolate could have a beneficial effect on our health. Here are my facts on this sweet treat:

Chocolate is very nutritious

Despite it’s bad rep, dark chocolate contains a lot of nutrients. In particular:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Phospherus
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

It contains antioxidants

When certain types of oxygen molecules are able to move freely around our bodies, they can cause oxidative damage and form free radicals. This can wreak havoc on our bodies. This effect can often be caused by poor nutrition, toxin exposure, etc.

Antioxidants inhibit oxidation. Dark chocolate contains high amounts of two groups of antioxidants called flavonoids and polyphenyols giving you a fighting chance against the damage of oxidation.

It may help to prevent some diseases

Bold claims, I know. Some studies claim that the nutrients found in dark chocolate may help to promote better blood flow throughout the body therefore, increasing heart health. It’s also been said that the antioxidants in dark chocolate may help to boost the immune system.

It can boost your mood

Studies have revealed that dark chocolate contains phenethylamine which is a compound that releases endorphins. Endorphins can enhance our moods and make us feel happier.

 

The bottom line is that while dark chocolate has been shown to have some benefits for our health, it does not mean we can eat large amounts everyday. Stick to a couple of squares of chocolate and opt for dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content over milk or white chocolate.

How to read food labels

The world of food shopping can feel overwhelming sometimes. With the amount of different choices out there to suit different diets and different ideas about what is healthy (i.e. low fat), it can be hard for us to decide what we should be buying – and that’s without delving into the long ingredients list and the confusing nutrition information table.

I have put together my little guide to reading food labels to help you make the best choices in your food shop:

Ingredients list:

Legally, each food item must include a list of all the ingredients used to make the product. This will usually be located at the back of the box or packaging.

Ideally, you would want to to pick products that have the least ingredients. This means that they will have less additives and preservatives added to them and are more likely to be in a more natural state (depending on the type of product). For example, you want a tin of chickpeas to just contain chickpeas in the ingredients (and water if they are chickpeas in water) rather than containing lots of additives and preservatives.

Following on from that last point, I follow a basic rule that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the list, most of the time it is an additive or preservative so best to avoid (or at least minimize how often you have it).

Usually, ingredients will be listed in order of quantity with the ingredient that makes up the largest amount of the product being the first one listed. I often look at the ingredients of a product to see if it contains any sugar and see how far up it is on the list. If you see the word “sugar” – plain and simple – in the list, it is added sugar which can cause problems for our blood sugars and our waist lines. If sugar is listed high up on the list, that product will contain a lot of sugar so should be avoided on a regular basis.

Another note on sugar; educate yourself on the different names for this sweet substance. These include:

  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Syrup
  • Nectar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Anything ending in ‘ose’ e.g. fructose, glucose, dextrose and maltose

Bear in mind that sugars that come from natural sources are less of a problem than added sugars.

Nutrition Information

Also on a package, you will find the nutritional breakdown of the food item which details the amounts of calories, carbohydrate, protein, fat and often vitamins and minerals in grams.

In some cases, this table will use the traffic light system. This is a system using the colours green, orange and red to inform consumers whether a product contains too much of something. For example, if a packet of biscuits shows a red colour on the sugar section of the nutritional information table, that means there is more sugar than the daily recommended amount for us. Food with red colours on nutrients such as sugar, saturated fat and salt should be kept to a minimum. Orange colours are moderate so should be used sparingly while green is low so these are the best choices. This colour code makes reading food labels and making the right choices much easier for consumers.

For those nutrition labels that don’t use the traffic light system, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Sugar:

  • Good= 5g or less per 100g
  • Moderate= More than 5g but less than 22.5g per 100g
  • Too much= More than 22.5g per 100g

Fat and Saturated Fat:

  • Low fat= 3g or less per 100g
  • High fat= 17.5g or more per 100g
  • Low saturated fat= 1.5g or less per 100g
  • High saturated fat= 5g or more per 100g

Remember that not all fat is bad. Saturated fat (which comes from processed foods and fatty meat) is the one that you do not want to overdo whereas unsaturated fat (which comes from nuts, seeds and avocado) is better for us so my advise is to concentrate on lowering saturated fat rather than cutting out fat completely.

It’s also worth noting that just because something is labelled as low fat, it does not mean it’s healthy. Many low fat products such as yoghurts (particularly flavoured ones) will have added sugar to help improve the taste lost from lowering the fat content. If you do opt for a lower fat product, be sure to check the sugar content to ensure meets the guidelines stated above.

Salt:

  • Low salt: 0.3g or less per 100g (or 0.1g/100mg sodium)
  • High salt: 1.5g or more per 100g (or 0.6g/600mg sodium)

Please be aware that some products will list sodium rather than salt. To work out the salt content from sodium, you need to multiply the sodium amount by 2.5.

You want to aim to consume no more than 6g of salt per day.

Added vitamins and minerals:

Many products such as fortified cereals, dairy free milks and dairy free yoghurts will have added vitamins and minerals such as calcium and B vitamins. These are good products to opt for particularly if you avoid dairy products because you’re vegan or have a dairy or lactose allergy or intolerance. Keep an eye on the front and back of the product to see if a product adds these little extras.

 

I hope this little guide helps you to make more informed choices on your food shop.

Caffeine

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Whether it’s from your daily cup of coffee, your sneaky little chocolate treat or that energy drink for a much needed pick me up, we all consume a substance called caffeine. But what is caffeine? Is it good or bad for us? My blog today explores the topic of caffeine.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant which can be found in teas, coffees and cacao plants. It’s function is to make us feel more awake and alert by stimulating the brain and central nervous system.

Once consumed, caffeine is absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream where it is broken down into compounds in the liver. These compounds block the effects of a neurotransmitter called adenosine (this neurotransmitter relaxes the brain and makes you feel tired). Caffeine also increases blood adrenaline levels and the activity of other neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine. This causes you to feel more awake, alert and focussed.

Where can you find caffeine?

Caffeine is found naturally in sources such as black tea, green tea, coffee and chocolate. It is also added to energy drinks and certain medications such as cold and flu medications.

What are the benefits of caffeine?

Here are some of the reported benefits of caffeine:

  • According to an Australian study, consuming caffeine can give you a mental boost for 45 minutes and can enhance your memories for up to 24 hours
  • Harvard researches have said that drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day could cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease in half
  • Caffeine is often used by athletes as a pre-workout supplement. Several studies have shown that taking caffeine before a workout can increase short-term endurance and performance, improve muscular endurance and also improve long-term endurance
  • A study in 2014 showed that drinking up to 3 cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of liver cancer by up to 50%

Are there any negatives?

The Mayo Clinic has stated that consuming more than 500-600mg of caffeine may lead to:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • An upset stomach
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

It has also been reported that consuming more than 300mg of caffeine during pregnancy may increase the risk of low birth weight babies.

Caffeine can also be addictive. Many people report suffering withdrawal symptoms (such as headaches and fatigue) trying to cut it out.

How much should I drink?

General guidelines state that adults should consume no more than 400mg of caffeine daily while pregnant women should consume no more than 300mg.

These are the general amounts of caffeine found in many common foods and drinks:

  • Black coffee (250ml)=80-175mg
  • Black tea (250ml)=43-50mg
  • Green tea (250ml)=25-45mg
  • Herbal tea (250ml)=0mg
  • Energy drinks (250ml)=80-97mg
  • Fizzy drinks (355ml)=25-50mg
  • Dark chocolate (60-85 percent cocoa solids) per ounce=23mg
  • Cocoa powder per tablespoon=12mg
  • Milk chocolate per ounce=4mg
  • White chocolate per ounce=0mg

If you are looking to reduce your caffeine intake and the effects:

  • Switch to green and herbal teas
  • Don’t drink caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime. Make sure you have no black teas or coffees for a few hours before going to sleep to avoid sleepless nights
  • While dark chocolate has a higher caffeine content than milk or white chocolate, dark chocolate has a lower sugar content and contain beneficial phytonutrients so is the better choice to opt for
  • The longer you leave a teabag in the water to brew, the more caffeine you’ll get in your cuppa. If you want less caffeine, don’t leave it to brew for so long

 

Long story short, if you want to have caffeine, that’s fine. Just ensure you go for teas and coffees rather than energy drinks, don’t exceed the recommended amount and enjoy it earlier in the day

National Stress Awareness Month

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April is National Stress Awareness month. Stress is something that effects all of us in some form. Some of us may only be effected on occasions such as the lead up to a big deadline while some people struggle with chronic stress which effects their every day lives.

What does stress do to our bodies?

Living with too much stress can have a big effect on our overall health. Our stress hormones are called adrenaline and cortisol. You may be familiar with adrenaline; you get that adrenaline rush when you do something exciting or scary. Our hypothalamus – which is the tiny control centre in our brain – will release adrenaline and cortisol in response to a stressful stimulus e.g. being late for work. These stress hormones trigger your ‘fight or flight’ response in your Central Nervous System (CNS). This causes the heart rate to go up and more blood to rush to areas of the body that need it most in an emergency such as, heart, muscles and other organs.

Once the stressor is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to return to normal. However, for people living with chronic stress, this response will continue.

Stress hormones effect our body systems in the following ways:

  • Respiratory system – During times of stress, our breathing becomes faster in order to quickly distribute oxygen rich blood around the body. For people suffering with asthma or other lung conditions, this can make it harder for them to breath
  • Cardiovascular system – Stress will cause your heart to pump faster. This can cause your blood pressure to rise. Prolonged stress causes your heart to have to work harder for too long increasing your risk of high blood pressure related illnesses such as heart attack or stroke
  • Digestive system – Stress can cause our digestive system to slow down triggering problems such as indigestion, acid reflux and stomach ache
  • Reproductive system – For men, long-term stress can cause testosterone levels to drop causing problems with sperm productions and possibly cause erectile dysfunction. For women, stress can effect the menstrual cycle, leading to amenorrhoea (absent periods)
  • Immune system – Too much stress over time can weaken our immune system causing us to be more susceptible to colds and other viruses

My top tips for dealing with stress

It is inevitable that we will all have to deal with stress at some point in our lives. However, there are ways of dealing with it when the time comes to lessen the effects. Here are my top tips:

Exercise

Being active has been shown to have positive effects on our mental wellbeing. This doesn’t have to be anything extreme; it just has to be something that you enjoy and calms your mind. My activities of choice are dance and gymnastics but no one is the same. It can be a 20min walk, yoga, going for a run, etc. It is important to make sure you don’t go overboard with exercise as this can cause more stress.

Watch your diet

The foods we eat can have an impact on how our body responds to stress. When feeling stressed, you may want to think about avoiding the following foods:

  • Sugar – Avoiding this will mean less mood swings and stress which is associated it out of control blood sugar levels
  • Artificial sweeteners – Some artificial sweeteners can be just as bad as sugar. One in particular is Aspartame which is found in many soft drinks and foods and is shown to cause headaches and mood swings. Some sweeteners can also have an effect on our blood sugars which as previously said, will only add more stress
  • Processed carbohydrates – These include products such as white bread and pasta. As well as causing haywire blood sugar levels, most of these products contain excess sodium (salt) which can cause blood pressure rises and make you feel bloated and unwell due to water retention
  • Alcohol – Alcohol is said to increase the production of hormones which can leave you feeling anxious and stressed. It also has a dehydrating effect on the body causing you to experience symptoms such as headaches
  • Excess caffeine – Found in coffee, teas, energy drinks and chocolate. Too much caffeine can stimulate the nervous system causing blood pressure and heart rate to rise which will ultimately leave you feeling anxious. If you feel stressed regularly, you may want to consider cutting down

Meditation

This gives you a chance to have some time to yourself and take control of your breathing. You can easily find guided meditation videos on YouTube. You could also consider hypnotherapy which will help to address the reasons you feel stress and fine-tune your response to that stress.

Colouring books

Adult colouring books hit the headlines as the new big trend a couple of years back but they can also be a great way to de-stress. You can get many books which have very detailed and intricate drawings which gives you something to put all your concentration into. That way, you won’t be concentrating on what was giving you stress in the first place.

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One of my colouring creations

Get a massage

A therapeutic massage can be deeply relaxing. Unlike deep tissue massage which is usually used to getting rid of those aches and pains, therapeutic massage is gentler and is used to release stress.

You could also try an aromatherapy massage. This is similar to a therapeutic massage but the therapist will create a mixture of essential oils specifically tailored to your particular needs and massage that into your body. Oils that might be used to relieve stress include lavender, geranium and neroli light.

Have a bath

Run yourself a warm bath and add in a cup of Epsom salts. Epsom salts contain magnesium which is needed in our body to relax our muscles. Also, the warm temperature can be deeply relaxing.

Talk to someone

If you are struggling with constant stress, one of the worse things you can do is keep things hidden. That can often make things worse. If you feel you can, try and talk to a friend or family member about your stresses and worries. A majority of the time they will completely understand and will be there to support you and make life easier.

If you don’t feel you can talk to someone you know, speak to a counsellor or hypnotherapist. They will listen to your worries and help guide you to a happier and healthier life.

 

So those are my top tips to deal with stress. I hope they can help you lead a calmer and happier life.

Beat the Bloat

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It’s something that many of us deal with and struggle with … Yes, the dreaded bloating. But what is bloating and how can we deal with it? My blog today will discuss this.

What is bloating?

Abdominal bloating is caused by excess gas stored around the abdomen causing feelings of fullness and possibly a distended stomach. It can cause sufferers to feel discomfort because of the built up gas but also feelings of self-consciousness because of the look of the stomach.

What causes a bloated stomach?

There are lots of things that can cause bloating. These can include:

  • Gassy foods such as beans and certain vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage
  • Food intolerances such as lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance
  • Changes to your diet
  • Swallowing air
  • Medication
  • Food supplements such as iron and magnesium
  • Stress

Sometimes, bloating can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. These include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diverticular Disease
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Gastritis
  • Cancers such as ovarian and colon
  • Premenstrual Syndrome

But don’t panic. Often bloating is related to lifestyle factors so can be managed.

My Top Tips to Manage Bloating

Identify any triggers

This can be food triggers or lifestyle triggers. Keep a diary of when you bloat and what you ate, what you were doing and how you were feeling around the time of the bloating. This will help you to narrow down factors and pinpoint the cause(s).

Try an elimination diet

If you find that your bloating seems to centre around meal times, it may benefit you to try an elimination diet. This is when you cut out a certain food for a period of time (usually 2-4 weeks) to see if there is a reduction in symptoms. You will then re-introduce this food to see if your symptoms return. This is the main way of determining whether you have a sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods. This is a process I went through myself. My bloating was constant and horrendous until I eliminated gluten in the elimination diet. It can take a while as you should eliminate and re-introduce foods one at a time. It is best to do this under the guidance of a dietician or nutritionist.

You could also consider the FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. They are a group of simple and complex carbohydrates that some people find difficult to digest. It is often recommended to people suffering from IBS to try and figure out their triggers. You can discuss the use of this diet with a dietician or nutritionist.

Monitor your supplements

If you take supplements to boost your nutritional needs, keep an eye to see if your bloating occurs around the time of taking them. Some nutrients taken in supplement form can be a struggle for us to digest. I personally find magnesium in supplement form gives me cramping and bloating. Some nutrients are available in oral spray or transdermal spray form which is meant to avoid the stomach and be absorbed straight into the blood stream. It may also be worth visiting a dietician or nutritionist to see if you need all these extra supplements and whether you are getting enough from your food.

Try stress relief techniques

Stress is a big cause of digestive issues and bloating. The theory is that when we experience stress and anxiety, our body goes into “Fight or Flight” mode which stops our body from digesting food properly until it reaches a state of “Rest and Digest”. So, it is important we implement some stress relieving techniques into our daily lives. These can include:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise (e.g. yoga)
  • Colouring books
  • A warm bath
  • A therapeutic or aromatherapy massage
  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music

Sit down to eat your food and eat slowly

Eating on the go can make it difficult for our bodies to fully digest the food we eat causing us to bloat. Aim to sit down while eating your food then go for a walk afterwards to aid digestion. Take your time eating. Rushing a meal can cause you to swallow excess air while taking bites causing bloating. A simple trick is to not put another piece of food onto your fork until you have swallowed the bite you are currently chewing.

Exercise

Exercise can greatly improve our digestion and associated issues. Yoga is particularly helpful when suffering from bloating as you bend into shapes that can help relieve trapped wind. Make sure you allow an hour in between eating to prevent indigestion.

Try a soothing tea

There are lots of teas out there that can help sooth a bloated stomach. I like to start my day with a mixture of hot water and juice from a squeezed lemon as it is said to help stimulate the digestive system, especially if you have it first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. Peppermint and camomile teas are also supposed to be helpful in soothing a bloated tum.

Go see a doctor if you’re concerned

As I said, most of the time, bloating isn’t something to be concerned about and can be managed with lifestyle changes. However, if you notice other symptoms such as diarrhoea, blood in your stools or diarrhoea, weight loss, etc. you should go see your GP to get blood tests and possibly a referral for further testing.

I hope my little tips can help you and your tum live a happier life

Do you need a Sports Drink?

With every big sports event, we will usually see our favourite athletes grab a bottle of their favourite brand of sports drink to quench their first during those brief moments in between races or games. Inspired by our greatest sports men and women, many of us also reach for a sports drink during a session at the gym or a running session. But what are sports drinks and do the general public need to incorporate one into their gym routine? My blog today explores the different types of sports drinks and their ideal uses:

What are sports drinks?

The definition of a sports drink according to the British Soft Drink Association is “Sports drinks are functional drinks specifically designed to help athletes and other active people hydrate before, during and after exercise.” (http://www.britishsoftdrinks.com/Sports-Drinks). These drinks have added minerals to ensure optimum replacement of lost nutrients through sweat.

There are three types of sports drinks:

  • Hypotonic
  • Isotonic
  • Hypertonic

Hypotonic

Hypotonic sports drinks are designed to replace fluids quickly during exercise. They contain very low amounts of carbohydrate and a high concentration of sugar and salt.

Isotonic

Isotonic sports drinks are designed to quickly replace fluids lost during exercise. In comparison to hypotonic drinks, they contain higher amounts of carbohydrate and lower amounts of salt and sugar.

Hypertonic

Hypertonic sports drinks are designed to supplement daily carbohydrate intake. They contain the highest amount of carbohydrate and lowest amount of salt and sugar out of all the drinks. This type of drink is best drunk after exercise so it can help replace glycogen levels quickly after exercise.

When should I use a sports drink?

The general guidelines for sports drinks are to be used if you are training for 90mins+ (as you are more likely to burn more energy that needs to be restored) and if it is a hot day or particularly sweaty workout (as you will lose more salt through sweat). Otherwise, you should be fine with water.

What about diet sports drinks?

Diet versions of sports drinks are sweetened with sweetener rather than sugar so they have a lower carbohydrate content. That means they will not be suitable for restoring carbohydrate levels lost during an intense workout. You can use them for quenching your thirst during shorter, less intense workouts. However, make sure to check the ingredients list of these drinks. Some contain sweeteners such as aspartame which have been linked to ailments such as weight gain and cancer.

My homemade sports drink

I have started to include a sports drink into my 2x 2 hour long dance and gymnastics training sessions to give me a bit of a boost and to re-hydrate (Michelle from DNAFit recommended I should get around 30g carbohydrates from a sports drink during these longer sessions). I decided to make my own so I have control over the ingredients in it. Here’s how I make it:

  • 250ml fruit juice (not from concentrate) – can be orange, pineapple, apple, etc.
  • 250ml water

I do have to say that I find including my sports drink comes in handy when I have 2 hour training sessions and I do get a boost (in a natural way). The point I am trying to make is that if you have a long or sweaty training session, you may benefit from a sports drink. The important thing is to listen to your own body and see if it works for you as they may not benefit everyone. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with good old water.

I tried DNA testing … How did I get on?

With every new year comes new diet and fitness trends. Shows such as “Trust Me: I’m A Doctor” and ITV’s Tonight programme have talked about the concept of DNA testing for your nutritional and fitness needs. It works on the idea that our DNA can determine what type of exercise best suits us and whether we are more sensitive to certain foods. Using this information, we can alter our exercise and eating habits to live healthier and happier lives.

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I am clearly happy to receive my DNAFit kit

Intrigued by the concept, I thought I’d give it a go. I got in touch with a company called “DNAFit”. They were very helpful explaining how it all works. Once you send off your DNA sample, they will test the sample against 38 different gene variants which relate to different aspects of diet and fitness such macronutrient sensitivities, exercise type that suits you best, etc. These results are presented to you in the form of booklets which explain the genes tested and how you can change your habits according to the results. You will also receive a telephone consultation from one of their sports scientists or dieticians to help you interpret the results and incorporate them into your life.

Sounds good to me … So I thought I’d give it a go.

I decided to go for the DNAFit Diet Pro as part of their New Year New You promotion. This package includes:

  • The full diet package which tests:
    • The most suitable diet type for you
    • Carbohydrate sensitivity
    • Fat sensitivity
    • Lactose tolerance
    • Coeliac predisposition
    • Detoxification ability
    • Antioxidant needs
    • B vitamin needs
    • Vitamin D needs
    • Omega 3 needs
    • Salt, caffeine and alcohol sensitivity
  • The full fitness package which tests:
    • Training intensity response
    • Aerobic response
    • Post-exercise recovery
    • Injury predisposition

As part of their New Year New You promotion, they also included their brand new Stress Report.

Once I put in the order, a few days later I received a kit which included a swab that you use to take a sample from your cheek, a container for the swab, a capsule which you put in the container to keep the sample fresh, a form to fill out, a label to stick on the sample for identification purposes and an envelope to send the sample and form back to the lab. Once I took my swab, I registered the number on the sample label on the DNAFit website and sent it off. It was quick and easy to do.

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The DNA testing kit

After about 10 days, I received an email saying my results were in and I was able to download and view them. So excited!

I received a colourful infographic which gave a brief overview of the results and three reports detailing all the genes tested and what my results show with recommendations. There are also added extras such as a shopping list and a guide to my specific dietary recommendation with the option of purchasing a meal planner and a fitness plan.

A couple of weeks later, I had my complementary consultation with Michelle, one of the sports scientists at DNAFit. She was extremely helpful and explained the reports fully offering specific advice once she got to know me and my lifestyle needs.

Here is a rundown of my results:

Diet Report

  • My ideal diet type is the low carbohydrate plan (this does not mean I cannot have any form of carbohydrate. The consultant recommended percentages of my macros so I can work out how many grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat I should have depending on height, weight and activity level)
  • I have a high sensitivity to carbohydrates – this means that I am more likely to gain weight from high carbohydrate intake, specifically refined carbohydrates
  • I have a low sensitivity to fat – this means that I am able to eat more fat than some people without gaining weight (although it’s still best to limit saturated fat)
  • I am at a higher risk of DNA damage from smoked and chargrilled meat (good thing I’m mostly vegetarian)
  • My detoxification ability is normal
  • I have an increased need for antioxidants (which include Vitamins A, C and E and Selenium)
  • I have a raised need for Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • I have normal Vitamin B requirements
  • I have a raised need for Vitamin D
  • I have a normal salt sensitivity – this means that salt has less of an effect on my blood pressure than for some people (although it is still recommended I stick to the standard guideline of maximum 6g per day)
  • Alcohol has a positive effect on my cholesterol if I were to have 1-2 units of alcohol a day (or up to 3 times a week)
  • I am a fast metabolizer of caffeine – this means that it will only stay in my system for around 1-2 hours but may stay in longer for slower metabolisers. It’s still recommended I have no more than 300mg per day
  • I am lactose tolerant – this means that I don’t have a primary intolerance to lactose (found in dairy products) and that if I do experience symptoms, it is a secondary intolerance following an illness
  • I have a negative result for Coeliac Disease – this means I have a less than 1 in 2000 chance to develop coeliac so there may still be a chance of me developing coeliac. I know that I definitely have an intolerance to gluten if it isn’t coeliac. I will keep an eye on any signs that it could be coeliac and get tested accordingly

Fitness Report

  • I am suited to more power based activities (60% power and 40% endurance). This includes activities such as weight training, sprinting and track cycling. This makes complete sense to me with my gymnastics. Michelle also told me that this means that I am more likely to put on muscle and maintain it (but don’t panic – you won’t see a picture of me looking like the Hulk). She recommended I do a 2:1 split on my power and endurance. For example, if I was training 5 days a week, I should do power training 3 days and endurance 2 days
  • I have a medium VO2 Max aerobic potential. VO2 Max is a test used by scientists to measure maximum or optimum rate an individual can effectively use oxygen during exercise. Mine is in the middle. Including a mixture of power and endurance can help me to improve my VO2 Max
  • I recover from exercise quickly. This is good to hear but DNAFit still gave me recommendations to include in my diet to help with recovery such as Omega 3 and Beta Carotene
  • I have a high injury risk (that explains a lot – I do tend to hurt myself quite easily). Michelle recommended I do some eccentric training in my resistance training sessions (during the last set) as this will help with strengthening my joints and muscles and preventing injuries. This involves you slowing down the returning to start position phase of an exercise. For example, when doing a bicep curl, lift the weights up for one count then lower for 3 counts

Stress Report

Overall, I have a low/medium stress response, presenting a mixture of strategist and warrior responses. I guess this makes sense to me as I do manage to come up with strategies during stressful times. Some stress reducing strategies are suggested in the report such as meditation and exercise.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I found DNA testing a very interesting experience. It was fascinating to see what my genetics say about my body’s response to diet and fitness and seeing how it actually fits in my lifestyle. The support I got from Michelle during the consultation was great and she offers to continue that support afterwards through email which is great so I don’t feel like I am struggling on my own. I look forward to trying all of the recommended advice and see if it makes any difference to my overall shape and tone and sports performance.

Would I recommend it to anyone else? It does come with a price tag with plans starting from £99 so I would certainly recommend looking at your finances to see if you really can afford it before buying. While I am only at the starting point of the DNAFit journey so am yet to see if the recommendations have the desired effects, just from the amount of information, recommendations and support I was given, I believe it was money well spent.

 

For more information, see http://www.dnafit.com

World Cancer Day

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Today is World Cancer Day. Cancer occurs as a result of genetic mutations where abnormal cells divide in an uncontrolled way and may spread to other tissues. There are 5 main types of cancer groups. These are:

  • Carcinoma – Cancer that starts in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs
  • Sarcoma – Cancer that begins in bone, fat, muscle or blood vessels
  • Leukaemia – Cancer that starts in bone marrow
  • Lymphoma and Myeloma – Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system
  • Brain and Spinal Cord cancers

Cancers are generally classified according to where they start in the body such as lung cancer or breast cancer.

Risk Factors?

There are many factors in our life that can lead to an increased risk of cancer. These include:

  • Poor diet – Red meat, burnt food, low fibre, N-nitroso compounds (e.g. cured meats), refined sugars, dairy, table salt, pesticides and aspartame
  • Genetic factors/family history – BRCA gene
  • Chronic inflammation – Gastritis, Irritable Bowel Disease, etc.
  • Radiation – Phones, medical, environmental, etc.
  • Smoking
  • Drugs and Cosmetics
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Obesity
  • Excess alcohol

Plus more…

Symptoms?

Symptoms can vary depending on the location of the cancer. The most important thing is knowing your body. If you notice a change, go see your doctor as spotting cancer early means that treatment will more likely be successful. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • A lump
  • Breathlessness
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Persistent heartburn or indigestion
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Changes in bowel movements i.e. looser stools
  • Appetite loss
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your stools
  • A new mole or changes to an existing mole i.e. colour or shape

Plus more…

Tests?

There are numerous tests for cancers, ranging from blood tests to ultrasounds to biopsies. The UK currently has 3 screening programmes:

  • Bowel cancer screening – Offered to men and women aged 60-74 in England and 50-74 in Scotland
  • Cervical cancer screening – Offered to women aged 25-64 in England and 20-60 in Scotland
  • Breast cancer screening – Offered to women aged 50-70

Treatment?

Treatment will be individualised depending on type and severity of the disease. Conventional treatment aims to remove or reduce the cancer. These include:

  • Surgery – Removal of tumour, surrounding tissue and lymph nodes
  • Chemotherapy – Targets rapidly dividing cells
  • Radiotherapy – Aims to stop cancer cell reproduction
  • Drug treatment – Includes hormones, Biologic Response Modifiers and Analgesics

Complementary Treatment?

Complementary treatment can help support medical treatment for cancer and help to prevent the risk of developing cancer in the first place. It is always best to seek the advice of a qualified nutritional therapist in combination with your doctor as some complementary treatments can interact with drugs. Some alternative treatment options include:

  • Nutrition – Phytonutrients, antioxidants, fibre, anti-inflammatory foods, whole plant foods, cutting out refined sugar, etc.
  • Herbs
  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathy
  • Ayurveda
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Reflexology

Plus more…

How Can I Support Cancer Research?

There are lots of ways to help support cancer research and people suffering from cancer:

  • Cancer Research UK have brought out Unity Bands. The money raised will go towards research to help beat cancer (I’ve ordered mine. I can’t wait for it to arrive!)
  • Macmillan Cancer Support hold The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning which asks members of the public to host their own coffee mornings with the donations being given to Macmillan who provide medical, emotional, practical and financial support for cancer sufferers
  • The Little Princess Trust is a charity which makes wigs for children and young adults who have lost their hair to cancer. Members of the public can donate their hair to be made into wigs
  • Many of these charities hold races and other events to help raise funds and opportunities to volunteer

 

Remember that there is support out there for people who are dealing with cancer from charities, doctors and even friends and family. Also, always keep an eye on your body. If something doesn’t seem right, go get it checked out. It’s better to get it checked out and it be nothing rather than ignore it and for something to be wrong.

For more information, visit:

cancerresearchuk.org