Nutrition tips on your road to recovery!

Nutrition tips on your road to recovery!

Congratulations to those who ran in the Richmond Run fest at the weekend!. Whether you’ve completed 5 or 21.1km, you’ve achieved your goal!  Mentally you will be buzzing but physically you will be tired. Your body is in recovery mode and may need a little support from you in the coming week.

How we recover is paramount to overall performance. Just as important as that Sunday long run and Tuesday track session.  The reality is, if we recover better we can train harder.  It is this that makes a huge impact on performance not just by getting us back to previous form but can make us even better.  When a session is done or race completed, many of us switch off too early. Understanding a little more about how we can help our bodies recover better after hard training sessions and races will make you a stronger runner.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in this process. Providing the body with the correct nutrients at the correct time can affect the rate we recover. Dehydration, glycogen depletion (when our carb stores have been used) and muscle soreness can all be tackled by a consistent nutrition strategy.

What do we need?

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Carbohydrates and protein are the main nutrients we need to get the recovery process going. Although both play equally important roles, protein is always the main nutrient that is associated with recovery. Indeed it is the main driver for muscle protein synthesis, the process that instigates muscle repair and adaptation. However for runners, carbohydrate is just as important. We run, we use up our fuel (muscle glycogen) and when we finish, especially over longer distances, the tank can be close to empty. If we don’t replenish these stores, our next training session may be hampered. Rehydrating is also a focus point. Dark coloured wee post training or racing is to be expected but the aim is to get it nice a clear again within a few hours. Once you have achieved this, you know your body is rehydrated and back in balance.

A certain amount of inflammation and stress occurs when you train as well and it is part of the training and adaptation process that helps us get fitter. Along side ensuring you meet your carbohydrate, protein and hydration needs, foods with antioxidants and anti inflammatory properties will help us recover. Look for brightly coloured fruit and vegetables and ensure you have them at least 5 portions a day (more is ideal). Good fats found in fish oils can also regulate some of the stress and inflammation that we get from hard exercise. So regular intake of oily fish, olive oil and nuts for example is a goof habit to get into.

How do you do this? 

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The 3 R’s of recovery are your sole nutrition recovery focus. If you adhere to these 3 rules after every hard session and race, you can be sure recovery will be  training harder with more consistency.

 Rehydrate  

 Refuel 

 Rebuild 

 

1      Rehydrate with water or / and electrolyte drink. You need to take on fluid at a rate that you are not peeing it straight out!  As soon as you have finished training / racing drink 500mls fluid. After that, drink little and  often until urine is clear or you have reached your pre run weight. If you have sweated a lot or it is a particularly hot day you may want some added electrolytes to help the hydration process. If you want to be more exact drink 1.5L of fluid for every 1 kg lost in weight (1).

2      Refuel with carbohydrate but no need tp over compensate! Everyone likes to indulge post race but after most training sessions you don’t have to go crazy! Here are some guidelines:

  • If you have 24 hours between sessions, your strategy can be a little more relaxed.      Follow your daily carb needs appropriate for your level of activity and ensure a well balanced mea within an hour or so of finishing exercise. Simple but effective!
  • If you have less than 8 hrs between sessions, or you have done a gruelling fasted sessions this is where you need to be more exact. Take approximately 1g carbs / kg of body weight each hour for 3-4 hrs to maximise glycogen synthesis (2). This way you will ensure your glycogen stores are as restored as much as possible for the next session.

3      Rebuild with protein. Protein is not essential for the immediate post session recovery (i.e. it won’t make any difference to  performance in a second session a few hours later) but plays a large part in long term recovery and adaptation to training. As mentioned previously it is the main driver for muscle protein synthesis but this process occurs over many hours and days. Therefore getting into the habit of having approx 20 g protein post session and then regularly at each meal and snack for remainder of the day will ensure adequate adaptation to training sessions and ensure an improvement in performance.

Example of how to get 10g protein

Food Quantity
nuts 50g
milk 300mls
eggs 2 medium
nut butter 50g
yogurt 200g
chicken 40g

In essence you need to think ahead. A prepared athlete is a successful athlete. Simply by ensuring you don’t go hours without eating after training or racing and eat a snack or meal with adequate carbohydrate and protein you will ensure recovery will be efficient. Always carry items such as cereal bars, nuts and dried fruit in your bag so there is always something if you have forgotten something more substantial. More careful planning is needed if you are training twice day as the recovery window is much smaller. Below is an example of a really easy, cheap to make DIY recovery shake for quick instant refuelling:

Banana and Oat recovery shake daria-nepriakhina-340852-unsplash

1 pint skimmed milk

1 banana

15g raw oats

Put everything in a blender and blitz up ready to go. If you are going away from home for a session, put in insulated cold flask to keep chilled.

Calories Carbohydrate Protein fat
390 70g 19g 2.5 g

 

  1. M, Sawka MN, Burke LM, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2007;39(2):377–390.
  2. Burke LM, Kiens B, Ivy JL. Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2004;22(1):15–30.

The Top 10 Foods For Athletes

The Top 10 Foods For Athletes

Whatever your level, if you’re an active person select these nutrient-dense superfoods for your best performance!

  1. Dark green vegetables
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Green Vegetable Salad

Key nutrients: B Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants

Mineral-rich leafy greens are key foods in any athlete’s diet, providing nutrients for energy production and fibre. The darker green they are, the higher concentrations of antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich vegetables help regulate the body’s inflammatory process. Vegetables such as kale and spinach also contain carotenoids and flavonoids, two powerful antioxidant families that protect cells from free radicals that cause oxidative stress.

  1. Eggs

Key nutrients: vitamin D and Leucine

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Eggs provide protein in a low calorie package. Egg yolks are also a good source of vitamin D essential for bone and muscle health. And there are the BCAA (branch chain amino acids), particularly Leucine in eggs that are vital building blocks for muscular growth, as well helping to promote fat oxidation and endurance.

  1. Bananas

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Key nutrients: potassium, choline and vitamin B6

Potassium is one of the electrolytes lost after intense exercise, so replacing this is vital to aid recovery. Choline is needed for healthy nervous system activity and for healthy cell structure. Vitamin B6 in bananas is crucial for red blood cell production, and assists in carbohydrate metabolism.

  1. Milk

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Key nutrients: carbs, calcium and protein

A combination of carbohydrates and protein make milk an ideal post exercise muscle recovery drink as consuming the macronutrients together allows muscle tissues to repair faster. Calcium is known for boosting bone health and in a two-year American study looking at the affects of different nutrients on bone density, it was shown that an extra cup of milk a day was found to reduce runners’ incidence of developing a stress fracture by 62 per cent.

  1. Lean red meat

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Key nutrients: iron and B12

The easiest and quickest way to get iron and B12 on board is to eat red meat. Red meat has had a bad press but if you choose organic, or grass-fed, and avoid processed meats, you’ll be sure of getting plenty ‘performance nutrition’! Iron deficiency can result in poor performance, and symptoms include, tiredness, shortness of breath, and elevated heart rate.

  1. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna)

saskia-van-manen-558622-unsplash.jpgKey nutrients: Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout are all good sources of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and are excellent for heart health, too.

  1. Quinoa

james-sutton-207988-unsplash.jpgKey nutrient: Amino Acids

Quinoa contains twice as much protein as rice or cous cous, and it’s gluten-free and fibre-rich. This nutrient-dense grain doubles up as a source of low GI carbohydrate and the bonus is that the protein in quinoa has a near perfect blend of nine essential amino acids, which we need to build lean muscle mass and recover well.

  1. Blackcurrants (New Zealand CurranNZ)

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Key nutrient: Anthocyanins

These universal plant pigments responsible for the red, purple, and blue hues in foods have lots of health-promoting qualities. They have a positive affect on blood flow, and studies have found that taking a supplement such as CurraNZ (NZ Blackcurrant) increases lactate clearance, enhances fat metabolism, improves endurance and boosts recovery.

  1. Almonds

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Key nutrients: Vitamin E, calcium and magnesium

Eat a small handful of almonds at least three to five times per week for a top source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many athletes can fall short on. Almonds also help lower bad cholesterol, whilst raising levels of good cholesterol. Almonds are a great source of calcium and magnesium too, both vital for bone and muscle health in athletes.

  1. Pumpkin seeds

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Key nutrients: Zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, iron

High carb diets may decrease zinc absorption, so topping up levels with a daily handful of pumpkin seeds is the perfect answer! Zinc has an important role to play when it comes to immunity, so very relevant for endurance athletes who train hard, and often compromise their immunity. Pumpkin seeds are also a very useful vegetarian source of iron.

8 ways to measure fitness & health

8 ways to measure fitness & health

Monitoring successful progress is motivating, gives you routine and results. Tracking exercise works. A 2013 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine1 linked tracking to weight-loss success. Follow these eight tips and be the best you can be!

  1. START BY SETTING SOME HEALTH AND FITNESS GOALS

Studies have shown that written goals help people achieve results in both business and in achieving health and fitness targets. Identify SMART goals, i.e. goals that are, sustainable, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed.

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Set goals on our unique dashboard launching soon…
  1. TIME WHAT YOU DO

Set the weeks and months ahead to achieve your goal, e.g. 16 weeks for a marathon. Then set the hours of training you can do per week – three, five, seven? Then set the time you’ll allocate to each session, including sets/and reps. “Timing gives you structure, and you can measure success with time. For example, you’ll be able to run for longer as the weeks go by in a marathon schedule. After six or more weeks you’ll find you can do more in the time you set for reps. For example, you can do more squats in three minutes, or run faster in five,” explains Amplify PT, Tristan Thrower.

 

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You’ll be able to set weekly time targets
  1. UNDERSTAND YOUR HEART RATE

Your heart gives you the most accurate feedback as to how your body is responding to training. For example, your resting heart rate will lower as you gain aerobic fitness. Elite endurance athletes have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute. Knowing your heart rate will help you to work in the correct training zone. Use an app such as Strava to monitor the zone you have trained at, for example, your threshold, tempo or V02 Max.

  1. MEASURE INCHES, FAT PERCENTAGE – NOT WEIGHT ON THE SCALES

“It’s better to measure the inches you lose, than worry about pounds and kilos,” says Tristan, “as you get fitter and stronger, you’ll create lean muscle mass which may mean you weigh more. And weight can fluctuate depending on what you’ve eaten, what you’ve drank and the time of day,” he adds. “Measuring (and lowering) body fat is a tangible measure of success. Keep fat percentage within the healthy ranges,” he adds. Use the American Council on Exercise’s chart and tools to work out what your fat percentage should be.

  1. MEASURE STEPS FOR HEALTH

Measuring steps has become a popular way to measure activity at home and in the workplace. And moving can get results, as the NHS UK point out, “A person aged 45 and weighing 70kg (about 11 stone) can burn around 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly (3 to 5mph).”

  1. KEEP A RECORD

Keeping a food diary is standard advice for anyone who wants to lose weight and with technological advances this is easier than ever with websites and apps that will do the calorie, fat and nutrient counting for you. Measuring what goes in and what goes out are great ways of getting back on track if you’ve put on a few pounds. Apps such as MyFitnessPal can help you track what you’re eating and give you feedback on the nutrients you’re getting. And logging training using apps such as Strava, or Endomondo give you a reference point to see what’s worked and what hasn’t.

  1. FOCUS ON RESULTS

Reaching an end result, e.g. a race time, or a goal weight is the best indicator as to whether training is working. “If you’re a runner a good way to measure your fitness is to take part in a weekly parkrun.org 5K run. For swimmers why not try a 400M-time trial once a month? And for cyclists join in a time trial at your club for a fitness blast and a way of measuring your fitness and progress,” suggests Tristan.

  1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205141850.htm

 

Common energy zappers

Common energy zappers

On our soon to be launched Dashboard, we ask you every day what your energy levels are like to get an overall picture of your health and wellness. Feeling Tired All The Time (TATT) is one of the most common reasons people visit their GPs, and as many as one in five report feeling unusually tired with one in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Here, health journalist Jo Waters explores the most common reasons for depleted energy. 

Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep

  • Not enough sleep: Sleep is often the first casualty for busy people so try and get enough – adults aged 18 to 64 need seven to nine hours, according to the US National Sleep Foundation.
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea: If you’re waking feeling groggy and with headaches even after 7 to 9 hours of sleep , it’s possible you have sleep quality problems due to obstructive sleep apnoea. This is where your airways momentarily collapse for a few seconds several times a minute, depriving you of oxygen while you sleep. You might not even be aware of it (or you may wake up others with your snoring!). See a doctor for an assessment.
  • Insomnia: If you suffer from problems getting to and staying asleep, avoid day time naps, exercising too close to bedtime, caffeinated drinks in the evenings and deal with sources of stress and pain that wake you. 

Poor diet and vitamin/mineral deficiencies

Eating a balanced diet providing you with enough calories and a full range of vitamins and minerals from all food groups is crucial for energy levels, as is not skipping meals.

  • Lack of iron: Iron-deficiency anaemia is caused by a lack of iron in the diet due to low levels of haemoglobin (red blood cells) which carry oxygen around the body. Women below the age of the menopause are particularly at risk if they have heavy periods, as well as pregnant women. Runners may also be at risk of anaemia because the impact of the foot on hard surfaces causes red blood vessels to burst, a condition called foot stroke haemolysis. Ask your GP for a blood test to check your iron levels. Rich sources of iron in food include red meat, leafy green vegetables, eggs and dried apricots. Boost iron absorption by drinking a vitamin C-rich juice at meal times, but avoid tea and coffee because this can inhibit it.
  • B12 deficiency: Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include extreme tiredness, lack of energy, depression and muscle weakness. The most common cause is pernicious anaemia where your immune system attacks healthy cells in your stomach, preventing absorption of vitamin B12. B12 deficiency is also more common in people who eat a vegan diet (no meat, fish or dairy products). You may need B12 injections or supplements to pep up your B12 levels.

Common medical causes of tiredness

  • Type 2 diabetes: An estimated 12.3 Million people in the UK are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. Symptoms include tiredness, weight loss, thirst and passing large amounts of urine. Your GP can run blood tests to check your sugar levels. If diagnosed early you may be able to control your diabetes with diet and exercise alone, but some patients also need medication.
  • Underactive thyroid: This is where your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of a hormone called thyroxin for a healthy metabolism. Symptoms may include feeling tired, muscle aches, thinning hair, sudden weight gain, dry skin and a hoarse voice. See your GP to arrange for a thyroid function test. If diagnosed you’ll need to take thyroxine tablets.

Psychological causes of tiredness

Stress, anxiety or depression can make life feel like a struggle and sap your energy as well as affect your sleep. See your doctors to talk about your feelings you may need to be referred for a talking therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy or need a course of antidepressants.

Too much or too little exercise

If you’re training remember to have regular rest days and to plan your exercise so you don’t overdo it. Exercising generally though should leave you feeling more energised. A University of Georgia study found healthy adults who began exercising lightly, three days a week for just 20 minutes reported higher energy levels and less tiredness after six weeks.

 

5 Ways to kick start motivation

5 Ways to kick start motivation

You’ve committed to getting fitter and healthier, and you are full of enthusiasm at the moment, but you have a track record of dropping out and are worried it will happen again – here’s how you can stay on track.

  1. Set yourself a goal: Setting a goal gives you an end to your plan of action. A well-known longitudinal study of Harvard graduates found that those who had clearly defined, written, goals were the ones who went on to achieve the greatest success.
  2. Find something you enjoy: Eating plans and exercise can seem like a chore. But finding something you love to do is simple, running or dog walking, tennis or even gardening are all great ways to exercise. Cooking is fun and experimenting with healthy nutrients and ingredients can be as enjoyable as the eating!
  3. Make healthy your default setting: New research has found the most consistent exercisers are those who made it into a specific type of habit – such as jumping out of bed automatically when they hear their alarm and heading for the gym. The aim is to make being healthy your default setting so you don’t have to think about it. Plan andyou’re your workouts, record what you eat, and the nutrients you take in. Be as methodical and practical as you would work meetings or social events – that way they’ll actually happen.
  4. Tell people what you’re doing: Good friends will want to encourage you on your getting healthier plans (and some may even join you – so even better). If you’ve made a public commitment, you’ll have more motivation to carry on and earn their praise. Setting up a Just Giving sponsorship page for a charity event can be a great motivator too, once people have donated money for your chosen charity you’ll have the added incentive of not wanting to let them down.
  5. Track your progress: Whether it’s a wearable, a phone app, or simply a pen and paper, tracking your health and fitness progress and using data, stats and graphs will get you to your goal. faster

Staying motivated

  • Dangle the carrot: If you respond to bribery, promise yourself rewards for your exertions. If you meet a friend for a Saturday morning class – why not have a coffee and catch-up/beer and watch the match afterwards?
  • Download some music for workouts: We all have our favourite songs that make us run that bit faster or dig in the cross trainer with more oomph. Load them onto your i-Pod and enjoy.
  • Work with your body clock: Are you an owl or a lark? Is it realistic for you to get up an hour earlier and run before work to or will you find it easier to pop to the gym after work? If neither are realistic (particularly tough for working parents), think about how you can fit more exercise into your daily routine – brisk walks at lunchtime, walking all or part of the way to or from work and then maybe some classes and a long run at the weekend may be the best solution.
  • Eat to suit your day: Don’t believe you have to rigidly stick to one particular time of day to eat. Research has found if you are under-eating or over-eating for your needs, your performance and recovery and management of your weight will all be affected. What matters is the nutrients you get in over your day, so manage eating plans to suit your lifestyle.
  • Talk to an expert: An assessment of your fitness and nutrition goals are worth the investment. An expert can give you a fresh perspective and advise you on how train, and what to eat.

How to be mindful

How to be mindful

Are you permanently stressed–out, constantly mulling over the past and worrying endlessly about the future? Do you lie in bed fretting – just wishing your mind would go quiet so you can sleep? Many of us in the 21st century live in a heightened state of anxiety, chasing our own tails, unable to relax and enjoy what is happening in the moment, living inside our own heads and failing to notice what is all around us.

Mindfulness is a mental health toolkit designed to teach people to live in and enjoy the moment, putting aside your troubles from the past and not fretting about what lies ahead.

Some describe mindfulness as treating yourself more kindly or teaching you to rediscover your joie de vivre. Of course it’s now a new idea – we’ve all heard the expression “smell the roses” and the concept of enjoying and learning to live in the moment is the basis of ancient Buddhism.

If you apply it to physical exercise – for example, running – it’s about becoming more aware of your body in the moment, of each step you take, concentrating on your feet and how they feel and focusing on your breath, so you are in the moment, enhancing your enjoyment.

Does it work?

If mindfulness sounds a bit hippy–dippy–summer–of–love–ish – be reassured it is an approach that’s underpinned by a solid basis in scientific research. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends mindfulness as a way of preventing depression in people who have had three or more bouts of depression. Research has shown it as effective as antidepressants.

The benefits of mindfulness in preventing serious depression and emotional distress have been proven by 10 clinical trials, according to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, based at Oxford University.

Having said that it’s not a one-size-fits-all cure for depression and anxiety in everyone and research is still ongoing into who benefits most from mindfulness.

Also it’s not just a treatment for people with clinical depression – it can be a useful approach for anyone who is stressed out, rushing around and at risk of burnout as a way of “checking-in” with yourself and what’s going on around you. You don’t have to be stressed or ill to benefit from the strategies it can teach you to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.

What are you taught?

You’re encouraged to:

  • Reconnect with your body and the sensations you experience.
  • To make a conscious effort to be aware of the sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment – come off auto pilot in other words.
  • Remind yourself to notice your everyday surroundings – sometimes it’s suggested you do this at a set time of day – but it doesn’t have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor – it could be sitting on a train to work or a few minutes sitting in your garden or other quiet place.
  • Name your thoughts and feelings – for instance be able to recognise a negative thought – like a cloud in the sky or a bus passing by – without necessarily being affected by it.

How can I learn to be mindful?

Sessions are typically offered in a group situation and last eight weeks and include meditation and breathing exercises and are available through the NHS in some areas. But there are also free online courses that have been scientifically validated.

There also books and CDs to guide, such as Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman (available from Amazon £10.49 ) which comes with an accompanying CD with meditation exercises.

  • Find out more by watching this YouTube lecture by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University’s Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

Sleep and why it matters

Sleep and why it matters

It’s amazing how even the fittest, healthiest people who eat well and make the effort to work out can neglect their sleep needs.

Busy people often cut back on sleep when under pressure – failing to realise sleep issues can lead to long term health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even dementia, as well as short term drowsiness and tiredness.

But there are more subtle effects too – including the effects on higher executive function –  the higher level cognitive skills you need for planning, problem-solving and working memory. This can lead you to being under par at work. Sleep deprivation can also affect your self-control, emotions and decision-making.

Why sleep quality matters too

It’s not just sleep quantity that matters – but sleep quality too. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) – where your airways momentarily collapse for a few seconds several times a minute, depriving you of oxygen while you sleep – you might not even be aware of it, but it’s interfering with your body’s metabolic processes. This can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure and lead to weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.

If you snore and suffer daytime sleepiness you could have undiagnosed OSA, so it’s important to get tested and treated. Other risk factors for sleep apnoea include being overweight, having a thick neck, smoking and having a large tongue or large tonsils or adenoids.

Why your body needs sleep

We spend a third of our life asleep, but don’t think of it as time wasted.  When you’re sleeping your blood pressure drops, breathing slows down and the body goes to work on  repairing and rebuilding tissue. Sleep is also the time when hormones are released which are essential for growth and muscle development and the regulation of ghrelin and leptin,  the “hunger” hormones which control appetite (sleep deprived people tend to eat more and gain weight). Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain during sleep, washing  out  waste so you wake up mentally refreshed.

How much sleep  do you actually need?

Mrs Thatcher famously got by on three hours sleep a night but most of us need a lot more  than that. After a two year study, the US National Sleep Foundation revised its recommendations in 2015 as to how many hours we need per night, as follows:

  • school age kids (six to 13): 10 to 13 hours;
  • teens (14 to 17): eight to 10 hours;
  • adults (18 to 64): seven to nine hours;
  • older adults (over 65): seven to eight hours.

What about power naps?

A short day time nap of under 40 minutes can refresh you – but nap for any longer and you may be raising your risk of metabolic syndrome, the medical name for a number of symptoms that can lead to heart disease including high blood pressure, excess fat around your middle and high blood sugar and cholesterol, according to new research from the University of Tokyo.

How to sleep better

Unfortunately, insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep long enough to feel refreshed, affects one in three people.

But there are some simple ways to sleep better including:

  • Sticking to a set time for bedtime and getting up – even at weekends and on holiday.
  • Keeping your bedroom cool and dark with no light pollution, a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Practising a winding-down routine with a warm bath, relaxing music and a milky drink before bedtime.
  • Saving worrying for daylight hours. Write down what’s worrying you and block it out when you’re in bed.
  • Avoiding heavy meals, too much alcohol and smoking for two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Getting treatment for medical conditions that wake you at night including joint pain, restless legs syndrome, cramps and nocturnal trips to the loo.