Taste of honey to make winter diet more palatable

WHEN the Princes Street gale strikes cold into your bones don't you just wish you could hibernate from October to April?

Instead you're probably, like many, spending the season joining weight-loss classes or struggling home laden with the latest self-help diet books desperate to try everything from Atkins to Conley in a bid to shift festive poundage.

Well, maybe you can do both. The bookshelves groaning under the weight of diet tomes, are about to get heavier with the arrival this month of The Hibernation Diet, which has been devised by Edinburgh pharmacist and sports nutritionist Mike McInnes and his son Stuart.

Basically it promises you can lose weight while you sleep. Oh and that you shouldn't exercise much but you should eat late and eat a lot of honey.

Unsurprisingly then, Mike admits that it's a diet that turns the principles of most weight-loss plans on their head, but he claims it will "change forever our attitude to weight control, diet and exercise".

"It looks at how to optimise your fat-burning potential when you are sleeping," says Mike. "People think they go to the gym and burn fat, but the amount of fat they are burning is absolutely tiny."

According to Mike, when we're at rest we burn 60 per cent fat, when we do light exercise this drops to 35 per cent, if we do moderate exercise (as in aerobics in the gym) it drops to 20 per cent and at intense exercise, to just ten per cent.

"You can't burn more than 15g of fat an hour at the gym, that's half an ounce. Consequently people who throw themselves into the gym don't get results and get demoralised," he says. "The body uses fat for rest, recovery and starvation, which happens during the first four hours of sleep when the body issues demands to build new muscle, bone, and everything else, which burns 60 per cent of fat.

"When you get up in the morning that drops to 30 per cent, and if you go for a run it drops to ten per cent. So contrary to popular belief the more you do the less fat you burn."

So, that's the gym membership cancelled. And get rid of any lamps in the bedroom. "A good night's sleep is important to allow the hormones to get to work," he says. "So we advocate sleeping in total darkness."

Now on to what you need to eat. "Most people accept the theory that you don't eat late at night because your body won't burn off the calories," says Mike. "But it means when they go to bed their liver does not have the fuel it needs to work properly. This means that the brain activates stress hormones, rather than recovery hormones, so glucose levels drop and cause the body to burn muscle and bone instead of fat."

He adds: "But if you take honey at night that refuels the liver, which looks after the body's glucose levels at night, keeps the brain fuelled so that it can activate the recovery hormones and the body can recover and is burning fat at the optimum level."

Mike, who established ISO Active in Edinburgh in 1997 with his wife Theresa and his son, has spent ten years researching the liver biology and function. And he says that the theory is endorsed by athletes including Edinburgh Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy, who follows the honey-eating regime, and also city champion boxer Alex Arthur.

"But the book is aimed at everybody, not just athletes," he stresses. "It is not so much a diet, more a lifestyle approach."

Yes, there is some exercise involved - but of a resistance kind, such as lifting weights. "Resistance is better, and easier. You only need 15 minutes and you can do it in your own home instead of pounding away in the gym for hours."

He admits that the medical profession has given the diet a mixed response. "We get doctors who agree with what we are saying and will send people to us. But not many. A lot of doctors have never heard of recovery biology, it is not taught as part of their medical degree."

And Mike believes that his diet will ultimately be more successful than Atkins. "That diet was based on one radical idea, namely the production of ketones to fuel the brain. This book is based on around 25 new ideas, and overturns every myth retailed to millions and millions of dieters and exercisers daily around the world."

The Hibernation Diet, by Mike and Stuart McInnes with Maggie Stanfield, priced 7.99, is published this month by Souvenir Press.

Hibernation basics

The best time to burn fat is while you are asleep - you burn more fat sleeping than doing anything else, including exercising

• When you eat fructose, like honey, it is converted to glucose in the liver. This goes on to stabilise blood sugar levels and allows the body to activate recovery hormones which rebuild muscle and skin cells.

• Honey is the best source of fructose because it contains fructose in its natural form, in a one-to-one ratio with glucose, which is the right balance for the body to use.

• The recovery hormones are fuelled by fat, so rather than working to regulate blood sugar, when you eat honey before going to bed the body burns more fat.

• You can also increase the amount of fat you burn by doing what is known as resistance exercise.

• Instead of having to spend hours on the treadmill and in aerobics classes, this can be done with 15-minute weights sessions three times a week, according to the diet.

Sweetener for coming wedding day

RUTH ARMSTRONG decided to try the Hibernation Diet, when her wedding day began to loom large.

The 26-year-old from Restalrig wanted to shift a few pounds after the excesses of Christmas - and to make sure getting into her wedding dress isn't a squeeze.

She says: "When I heard of the Hibernation diet I really liked the sound of it, so decided to try it for a month to see if it could help me get in shape.

"I have been taking herbal hibernation diet supplements for the past two weeks. Also, I have been eating cereal with fruit at breakfast every day, fruit with my lunch and a rice cake with honey before bed.

"Also essential is trying to get a good eight hours' kip, which I have made a concerted effort to do.

"I have noticed a difference to my weight and feel a bit more trim in the last couple of weeks, but whether that's down to eating sensibly and exercising or the honey diet, I don't know."

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