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Complementary Fitness 22 January newsletter

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When I’ve got time, I like to listen to podcasts and generally all about health, nutrition and fitness.  You’ll know that I love Dr Chatterjee’s podcasts but thought I’d let you know that you can listen to one of his podcast chats with Dr Gabrielle Lyon about the crucial importance of strength training and how to make healthy habits stick (episode 418).


More info and why you might want to listen to this one:

Dr Lyon believes that the single biggest problem with our health these days is not that we carry too much fat, but that we don’t carry enough muscle.  She believes that if we start to focus and prioritise our largest organ – our muscle – we can burn more fat, improve our body composition, decrease our risk of disease and increase our energy levels.


Dr Gabrielle Lyon has a doctorate in osteopathic medicine and is board certified in family medicine.  She earned her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois and completed a research & clinical fellowship in Nutritional Science and Geriatrics at Washington University.  She is the founder of the Institute for Muscle Centric Medicine™ and the author of a brand new book, Forever Strong: A New, Science-backed Strategy for Aging Well.


Dr Lyon first appeared on Dr C’s podcast about 18 months ago.  In that conversation, she made the compelling case that the quality of our lives is directly related to the health of our muscles.  She explained how having more muscle can improve our metabolism, reverse insulin resistance, reduce our risk of disease, protect our skeleton and improve our mobility and balance.  She also explained the critical role of resistance training and the importance of consuming adequate protein.  You’re encouraged to listen (or relisten) as useful background to this conversation, although they do go over the main points here too.


What’s special about the conversation however, is the life-changing lesson Dr Lyon gives in how to change your thinking.  We all know that forging new diet and exercise habits is hard.  It takes more than a meal plan and gym programme.  And lasting change is hard to achieve with willpower alone.  Dr Lyon takes a holistic approach to her patients, helping them spot the emotional, environmental, and psychological factors that influence their behaviours – and suggesting effective strategies to overcome them.  This is a masterclass in mindset.


While strength-training and its importance as we age is becoming more widespread, we still have a long way to go.  We tend to associate muscles with strength or appearance only, but the reality is they have a much more fundamental role in the body.

As our body’s largest endocrine organ, skeletal muscle (the type under our skin that we can see and have control over, as opposed to muscles inside us) determines every aspect of our health and ageing.  By acting as a ‘metabolic sink’, storing glycogen from the carbohydrates we eat, our muscles effectively control our blood glucose levels.  They impact insulin resistance and play a key role in type 2 diabetes and associated chronic disease risk.  Everything from obesity to autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer can be traced back to low or unhealthy skeletal muscle, Dr Lyons asserts and they say that it’s time we took it seriously.


During this conversation, they unpack some of the less obvious ways in which that can be done.  Dr Lyon explained the impact of sleep on muscle-protein synthesis – and we find out why a weights session might be a better cure for a sleepless night than a nap.  They talk about the stress epidemic and how stress can be stopped from derailing our healthy habits.


Rather than suggesting relaxation tips, Dr Lyon gives a fascinating breakdown of the different responses to stress.  We’re used to hearing about fight-or-flight, she says, but humans are capable of responding with compassion (which she calls ‘tend and befriend’) and also courage.  Cultivating a resilience mindset comes with experience and reframing – and it’s a skill we can all learn to save ourselves from the negative effects of stress.


They discuss strategies for creating new health behaviours.  Dr Lyon’s suggests not setting goals, only standards.  A personal standard is a measure you can meet on a daily basis, while a goal can seem distant and easy to postpone.  She gives plenty of practical advice on getting started with a fitness routine if anyone’s new to it, as well as optimising strength if you’re already on the journey.  Plus they chat about functional fitness, how skeletal muscle will protect us from frailty and falls in later life – as well as keep us carrying bags, taking stairs and living a full life for longer.


This is a truly empowering conversation, built on the idea that ageing well is a choice.  It is jam packed with practical, real-world insights.

Here’s the link to listen on Dr C’s website

The Crucial Importance of Strength Training, How To Make Healthy Habits Stick & Living a Strong & Healthy Life with Dr Gabrielle Lyon – Dr Rangan Chatterjee (


Or on Apple/Google podcast or Youtube but if not, there’s a lot of info above which I mostly copied & pasted from his description about the conversation.



I read that a recent study showed that a higher intake of magnesium leads to more brain volume.

In the neurosciencenews study, on average, higher baseline dietary magnesium intake was associated with larger brain volumes in both men and women.    “Our study shows a 41% increase in magnesium intake could lead to less age-related brain shrinkage which is associated with better cognitive function and lower risk of delayed onset of dementia in later life”.

Food sources of magnesium: nuts and seeds (eg almonds, pumpkin & chia seeds), legumes (eg black beans, edamame beans), fibre-rich whole grains (eg quinoa), greens (eg spinach Swiss chard), fruit (eg avocado, banana, papaya), vegetables (eg green peas, sweetcorn) and dah, dah, dah ….   70-85% dark chocolate.

I read an article called 2024 food trends: what you need to know (as I say: anything about food and nutrition and I’m interested).


The first thing mentioned was Plant Power.

The trend:  Plant-based eating has been trending for a while now.   Experts predict that plant foods will continue to be popular in 2024 – but people may get pickier.

Firstly, there may be a shift towards plant diversity.

Secondly, due to the negative press around ultra-processed foods, consumers will be wanting more ‘real’ plant-based items like beans and pulses, and nuts, seeds and other plants, rather than ‘fake meat’.

What science says:  Eating more plants is one thing that would not only make us healthier, but also live longer.   However, the research still does not show that being vegan is the only way and the best way.   What the research does clearly show is that our gut bacteria love variety.   Some American researchers found that people who eat about 30 different plant-based foods a week had a more diverse gut biome than those who were eating half that.   In terms of ultra-processed food and gut health more research is needed; however, we are seeing a general trend that highly processed foods which are high in food additives and preservatives disrupt the healthy bacteria in your gut.


Verdict: The plant-based trend is here to stay and, given the power of plants, that is a good thing.   Variety is the spice of life in nutrition terms too.   So, it’s important to not always go for the same vegetable or fruit.   Mix it up as much as possible and choose different items to put in your shopping basket.   Although 30 is a not a magic number, the more different plant-based foods you eat over the week, the better for your health.   Although the exact definition of ultra-processed food is up for debate, a trend that encourages us to put more whole foods like beans and lentils instead of the likes of plant-based bacon on the plate is always a good trend.   My top tip when it comes to plant-based eating is to stay traditional.

(ps Dr Chris Van Tulleken wrote a book called Ultra Processed People that you may find interesting/informative).


The next ‘trend’ mentioned was Food and Mood:

The trend:  The connection between nutrition and mental health will continue to receive more attention.   Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and whole foods will be recommended for supporting cognitive wellbeing.


What science says:  Nutritional psychiatry has been a growing area of research in the last 10 years.   Studies show that people eating ‘traditional diets’ such as the Mediterranean diet or the traditional Japanese diet (ie based on whole foods and high in fibre) when compared to a typical highly processed Standard American Diet (SAD diet) or a ‘Western’ diet have a 25-35% lower risk of experiencing depression!  In addition, more than 90% of our serotonin (aka your happy hormone) receptors are in the gut.


Verdict: “You are what you eat” is a common saying.   Given that our gut bacteria are so intricately involved with how well our entire body works technically, the saying should be: “You are what your gut bacteria eat!”  Caring for ourselves means caring for our gut.   This is a trend that should be here to stay.


Next is: Balance

The trend:  According to market analysts, exclusive diets like keto and calorie counting will start to decrease in popularity and more healthy, balanced and flexible eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet will increase in popularity.   In fact, #mediterraneandiet is already trending.   In the past year on TikTok, the term #mediterraneanfood has had an impressive 76 million US views.

(who knew?  I’m not ‘on’ TikTok)

What science says: Research consistently shows that the Mediterranean diet is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.   When looking at the underlying mechanisms that might account for a positive impact of the med diet, researchers believe one of the biggest drivers is the anti-inflammatory properties of the Mediterranean diet.


Verdict This is encouraging as the Mediterranean diet is a well-rounded, sustainable eating pattern that tastes wonderful and is good for you!  Rather, foods are seen on a spectrum of ‘Eat more’ on one end, ‘Eat some’ in the middle and ‘Eat less’ at the other end (see below).   This makes nutrition more practical, flexible, enjoyable and so much easier to make a way of life vs a diet that you go on and come off.


Then there’s an eat more / eat some / eat less guide and we’re encouraged to:


Eat more: colourful vegetables and whole fruit (both fresh and frozen), beans, lentils, wholegrains, plain yoghurts, lean protein sources, unsalted nuts, seeds and nut butters, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, spices and herbs.

Eat some: wheat products eg bread and rice, red meat, saturated fat eg butter or cheese


And eat less: food and drinks with added sugar, fast food, ultra processed foods, processed meats, refined vegetable oils.


I like these suggestions on how to enjoy a simple life:

Eat less, move more, buy less, make more, stress less, laugh more, feel blessed, love more.   Find a quiet spot every day and breathe.

Reminder that you can pay for classes:

With cash ie £6 per class

Paying directly on my iphone or

By bank transfer into my account.


Remember to let me know if you have any comments, news and keep me updated with anything that’s happening with you ie health-related stuff, new goals, achievements etc.

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