We’re all the same. Every year, summer swings round and we desperately diet in a bid to lose those pounds that pile on over winter.
But what if I told you there was a new, revolutionary, scientifically proven plan that could help you to not only drop a dress size, improve your health and strength and supercharge your energy levels, but also make you look younger, reducing your wrinkles by up to 30 per cent — and all in just 15 days?
I know it sounds too good to be true, but this is an easy-to-follow lifestyle plan based on Nobel Prize-winning science, developed with world-leading researchers and scientists who have studied the missing link in anti-ageing. And it’s been tested on real women, who were so impressed with the results and how easy it was to incorporate into their lives that they stuck with it long after the trial finished.
My 15-day plan combines clever nutrition, exercise and sleep aides that can slow down — and even reverse — the ageing process, opening the pathway to a happier, healthier, slimmer and, more youthful version of you.
So, what’s the secret? The answer lies in one of the body’s natural processes, something called autophagy (pronounced aw-toff-uh-gee). What is autophagy? It’s the cleansing process that removes the toxins from our cells and repairs the damage caused by natural wear and tear and environmental aggressors.
And why is this important? Quite simply, because there is a large body of research that suggests a lot of the ageing process — from wrinkles to weight gain — is actually down to an accumulation of damage in our cells, which results in them working less effectively.
Autophagy literally means ‘self-eating’, because your cells eat away their own rubbish. But, like everything else in the body, this process becomes less efficient with age. So, not only are your cells accumulating more junk, they can’t keep up with the clear-up.
And that’s something else worth bearing in mind — cells can’t always be in clear-up mode, they also have to do their main job, the one they are made to do. It’s like someone constantly bringing you plates to wash up and then wondering why you’re not cooking a meal.
My revolutionary plan stops autophagy sitting in maintenance mode, where it doesn’t really do anything useful, and shows you how to turn it on and off, boosting your cellular clean-up crew’s productivity so you look and feel younger.
Because, while a certain amount of the ageing process is inevitable, you can control up to 70 per cent of related symptoms and problems by controlling external factors — diet, pollution, UV exposure, lack of sleep, a sedentary lifestyle — and by optimising autophagy.
Research has shown that autophagy is turned on when the body is in stress-response mode. The easiest way to achieve this is through high-intensity exercise, potent antioxidant supplements and a way of eating that combines intermittent fasting with protein cycling, where you alternate between low protein consumption and normal to high protein consumption. Let me explain . . .
Naomi (pictured) revealed intermittent fasting is a key practice for giving cells a chance to repair and clean toxins
HERE’S WHAT TO EAT — AND WHEN
Intermittent fasting is the practice of shifting between unrestricted and restricted eating and is a key activator of autophagy.
If you’re constantly eating — which is the case for many of us as we graze throughout the day — it doesn’t give your cells a chance to repair and clean up the waste and toxins they have accumulated. Short periods of not eating give them the time to take care of those tasks.
In practical terms, on three non-consecutive days (your Low Days), you will fast for 16 hours and eat only during an eight-hour period.
But you can begin your intermittent fast after dinner the night before, so the majority of your fasting happens while you’re asleep.
For example, if you stop eating at 8pm one evening, your first meal will be at noon the next day. So, essentially, you’ll just skip breakfast.
As long as your fast lasts 16 hours, you can adapt it to suit your schedule. If you prefer to eat breakfast, you can start your intermittent fast earlier, by skipping dinner the night before.
What is the diet plan at a glance?
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
- Continue the 16-hour fast you started at 8pm the previous day.
- At noon, break your fast with a cup of AutophaTea (see box, above right), ‘powerphenol’ supplements and a small meal, such as half an avocado sprinkled with fresh lemon juice, sea salt and chilli flakes with two teaspoons of avocado oil.
- In the evening, eat a light supper, such as a Mediterranean chopped salad and an asparagus soup.
- Keep protein low (eat less than 25g).
- Don’t exercise.
- Drink up to four cups of AutophaTea a day to satiate hunger and boost mood.
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
- In the morning, drink AutophaTea — do this before you drink anything else — and then take your powerphenols.
- Do30 minutes of HIIT or RET.
- Start unrestricted eating.
- Consume average to high amounts of protein (45g to 150g).
- Begin intermittent fast at 8pm.
Tip: Half way through your 15 days, reward yourself on a Low Day with a resveratrol-packed glass of red wine or some dark chocolate.
Make the hours work for you, your body and your lifestyle.
Research shows 16 hours is optimal for creating the caloric restriction that happens during intermittent fasting, allowing your body to activate autophagy through different nutrient pathways.
However, to really supercharge the efficacy of intermittent fasting, I suggest supplementing it with protein cycling.
The idea is that you limit your protein intake to around 25g on the same three days you practice fasting (your Low Days), while on the other four days (your High Days), you eat normal to high amounts of protein (45g to 150g).
To give you some context, there’s around 6g protein in an egg, 34g in a skinless chicken breast, 14g in a portion of cottage cheese and around 2g in a tablespoon of cooked lentils.
Protein cycling is a particularly effective anti-ager because your body can’t create its own protein. Instead, it is forced to find every possible way to recycle the existing amounts you’ve already provided. If you deprive your body of protein, it will enhance autophagy, kicking your body’s recycling programme into overdrive.
Naomi claims protein cycling is essential for anti-ageing as your body can’t create it’s own protein (file image)
The problem is, we don’t normally deprive ourselves of protein. The 70g we average daily is around one-and-a-half times the amount recommended for women and it’s enough to keep autophagy in maintenance mode.
But our bodies can handle periods without protein — after all, our hunter-gatherer ancestors often had to survive when deprived of it after unsuccessful hunts.
To be clear, low is not always the way to go. Being in a constant state of low protein will actually contribute to ageing in the form of muscle wasting, increasing weakness and immune deficiencies. So you need to have both high and low protein days — that’s the cycling part — to force your body to regulate autophagy.
There is also evidence protein cycling can help to reduce the risk of developing diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Most of the women who tried this plan found it worked best to make their Low Days Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so they had fewer restrictions over the weekend.
But you should choose the days that best work for you.
How can a magic tea help?
This morning pick-me-up will not only give you energy, but help you burn fat, boost brain power, suppress hunger, increase immunity and make your skin glow.
It’s a clever cocktail of the most potent autophagy-activating ingredients — I call it AutophaTea — which makes it easy to start your day with fat first. It should be the first thing you drink every day.
Place a green tea bag and an Earl Grey tea bag in a mug, add 250ml to 350ml of boiling water and a cinnamon stick. Allow everything to infuse for at least three minutes, then add a tablespoon of raw coconut oil and stir with the cinnamon stick for around 30 seconds.
Make sure your Earl Grey tea is made with real bergamot oil, not artificial flavouring, and start with one teaspoon of coconut oil, working up to a tablespoon over a period of several days.
FAT AND CARBS DON’T HAVE TO BE DIET DEMONS
As you might have guessed, some foods are better than others when it comes to boosting autophagy.
The good news is that we don’t demonise any one food group, but we might suggest there are better times to eat one over another and I would always advocate choosing high-quality, pure foods over more processed varieties.
Take fats, for example. Fat is essential for optimal health and can promote autophagy — but we’re talking about natural, unprocessed fats that are found in foods such as avocados, butter, nuts, salmon, mackerel, sardines, coconut oil and olive oil.
On this plan, you should incorporate these types of fats into every meal and, crucially, you want to start every day — High Days and Low Days — with fat.
The easiest way to do this is with my AutophaTea. This kick-starts your metabolism and keeps you satiated throughout the day — as fat carries flavour, the more fat you eat, the less sugar and salt your taste receptors require to register satisfaction.
Naomi recommends incorporating fats into every meal to lower your need for sugar and salt. Her AutophaTea combines coconut oil, green tea, Earl Grey and cinnamon (file image)
Unlike many eating plans, this one doesn’t see carbs as the enemy — they provide energy and help you to relax — but in order to make them work hardest, choose them carefully.
Look for high-fibre carbs, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes (including lentils, pulses and grains) and wholewheat bread and pasta.
Again, it’s a question of timing: save them for later in the day because ketosis — a natural metabolic state in which your body uses fat as fuel in the absence of carbohydrates — is one of the best ways to boost autophagy.
But your body does not need to be in a constant state of ketosis for this to happen. When you wake up, your body is already high in ketones, so skipping carbs for at least the first half of the day prolongs this, maximising the benefit.
And being pro-carb is not the only surprising thing about this plan. While I advocate a wide range of fruit, veg, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, I also give you the go-ahead to indulge in red wine and dark chocolate, as both are rich in antioxidants, which help start autophagy.
Naomi believes less is more when it to comes to exercise and two days of the plan should be spent doing High Intensity Interval Training (file image)
HIT THE GYM FOR ONLY 30 MINUTES
Exercise is important, as it puts your body under stress and powers up autophagy. But the best part of the workouts on my plan is that they’re based on the idea that less is more — you don’t need hours and hours to get results, just half-an-hour four times a week, on your High Days.
Your exercise sessions should be split. Two days should be spent doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and the other two doing Resistance Exercise Training (RET).
HIIT involves alternating moderate-intensity exercise (say, three or four out of ten on a scale of how hard you’re working) with high-intensity exercise (six to eight) every minute for half-an-hour — this works whether you’re walking, running, swimming, rowing or doing anything that gets you out of breath during those high-intensity minutes.
RET is about strength training — that can mean lifting weights or doing push-ups, lunges, squats or a yoga session. Research has shown that regular resistance training activates autophagy and helps prevent the loss of muscle mass, while improving muscle strength.
THE NEW POWER SUPPLEMENTS
While eating the right things at the right time is a good start, I’m a big fan of supplementing my diet with what I call ‘powerphenols’, to ensure I’m getting all the nutrients I need.
These are polyphenols (or antioxidant-rich micronutrients) that protect cells and promote autophagy, but also optimise metabolism, increase beneficial bacteria in your gut and improve overall health and appearance.
You may have heard of some of them, such as resveratrol (in red wine) and curcumin (in turmeric), but you’d have to drink a lot of wine and eat a lot of curry to get the levels that a supplement can provide.
Also on my list are berberine, derived from an Asian plant and thought to help burn fat, and EGCG, found in green tea, which increases metabolism and reduces anxiety.
Make sure you’re getting good-quality supplements by buying them from a reputable source and checking for the Traditional Herbal Registration certification mark.
Always check with your doctor before taking them if you are pregnant or on prescription medication.
My power quartet:
- Resveratrol: Up to 1,000mg a day.
- Organic curcumin: 500mg twice a day.
- Berberine: 500mg, three times a day with food.
- EGCG: Up to 200mg, three times a day with food.
Adapted by CLAIRE COLEMAN from Glow 15: A Science-based Plan To Lose Weight, Rejuvenate Your Skin And Invigorate Your Life, by Naomi Whittel (Aster, £9.99) out May 3, 2018. © Naomi Whittel 2018. To order a copy for £7.49 (offer valid to May 6, 2018), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15.