Sweet dreams of a new slimline start to the year

IT advocates the two things that most dieters avoid - eating at bedtime and ducking the gym.

But the hibernation diet promises to help people lose weight while they sleep.

The strategy, developed by an Edinburgh pharmacist and sports nutritionist, is said to be used by champion boxer Alex Arthur and endorsed by Olympic gold-winning cyclist Chris Hoy.

The diet, hailed as the new Atkins, advises eating a couple of teaspoons of honey before bedtime and training with weights instead of gruelling aerobic workouts.

While Mike McInnes and his son Stuart were helping athletes with nutrition, they discovered that eating fructose-rich food such as honey, helped burn fat and increase stamina.

They also found that 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, it is converted to glucose in the liver. This stabilises blood sugar levels and allows the body to activate recovery hormones which rebuild muscle and skin cells.

These 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.

Mr McInnes, who runs health shop Iso Active in South Clerk Street, said: "The key time for fat burning is in the first four hours of sleep when we go into slow-wave sleep.

"This switches on the pituitary gland and out of that comes a series of hormones that break down and use fat as fuel.

"Take your liver to bed empty, and your body can’t get to work with those hormones because it’s desperately trying to sort out your blood glucose levels.

"So stabilising your blood glucose at night by fuelling up your liver - honey is the key - allows that recovery to take place as it should.

"We also discovered that athletes who were using our liver fuelling strategy were reporting that their appetite was controlled much better."

A good night’s sleep is important to allow the hormones to get to work, so the diet advocates sleeping in total darkness, getting rid of electronic lights and thin curtains.

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

But 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.

With resistance work you stress a muscle, you damage it and then the body repairs it while you are sleeping by mobilising fat.

Unlike aerobic exercise, it only requires 15 minutes weight training a session to reap the benefits, Mr McInnes claims.

He is currently working on two books - one aimed at athletes and one which will detail the "Hibernation Diet".

Chris Hoy goes to Mr McInnes for nutrition advice and started using fructose drinks to increase his endurance.

He will endorse the sports book when it is published, while boxer Alex Arthur uses the liver-fuelling strategy to improve his stamina.

Mr McInnes believes low blood sugar led to Paula Radcliffe crashing out of the Olympic marathon - because she didn’t fuel up with fructose.

He said: "We know it’s revolutionary because we see the results we have had for athletes. It is a whole new approach as the liver is the organ that all the sports literature misses out. The sports establishment don’t like us because we are coming at it from an angle they haven’t thought of."