Love yourself. Love your liver

Love you liver 2018
Christmas and holidays may well have led to us being more indulgent and less active than normal - with quantities of alcohol and food that we know to be detrimental to our health - so now is the time to focus on getting back on track with a consistent plan for 2018 and make this your best year yet. Terri spoke about this last month in her post called New Year. New You? which highlighted how you should set up your new years’ goals to help you make changes that will lead you to be happier, healthier and fulfilled. 
This month we are running our Love Your Liver campaign and health check which will give us all a kick-start as to how we can all get back on track.
Diet and exercise have the best effect on your liver health and making long term changes that you can keep up over days and weeks is best for your overall mind, body and spirit.
We should aim for a diet, made up of natural food sources, in moderation, with the right balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat. We should also listen to our body, and see what sort of eating patterns and foods moves us towards our goals, and be mindful of the food, drinks and activities that move us away from our goals. Avoiding the media bombardment of faddy, unsustainable and most significantly not supported by scientific evidence is a challenge but something we need to do to keep to our plan.
Health tip: Try making notes each day on what you ate, what activities you did and how you felt. If you have days where you are feeling energised or sluggish can you see a pattern or links to some of the foods or activities of the previous 24-48 hours?

Detoxing and Retoxing

Our liver does the detoxing for us and we just need to ensure we give it the best opportunity possible to do this successfully and thoroughly - and this is by paying attention to our diet. 
You can think of it very simply, the liver is responsible for the detoxing, and we are responsible for the retoxing - i.e. putting all that good stuff into our body that we know supports mental and physical well-being, as well as living in a mindful way to support this.

Guidance from the British Liver Trust

I have summarised findings and guidance from the British Liver Trust that cover Alcohol and Foods.


One of the fundamentals that impacts your liver is alcohol. Our liver performs over 500 vital functions for your body and too much alcohol can cause it serious and lasting damage. Love Your Liver by:
drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week
taking 3 days off alcohol every week to give your liver a chance to repair itself
avoiding alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to conceive
You could also sign up for the British Liver Trust Spruce App which encourages you to take three days off alcohol each week and don’t save up your ‘allowance’ and drink it all at once! 
Remember though that these are maximum guidelines: my own view is that alcohol will never support us in moving towards our training or health goals as it impacts protein synthesis and athletic performance. 
Two articles from Drink Aware and The Guardian discuss this and other factors in more detail. There is also plenty of additional discussion and research available for those wanting to look more deeply into this area. 
I believe passionately that we really do need to ditch the belief and our justification of our drinking with reference to the often quoted tabloid headline 'Drinking red wine (or similar) is good for you'. If you want to have a drink, that's fine: go and have one, but don't believe or try to justify it as being good for you or it not having any impact on your health and fitness goals or performance.

Food, Other Substances & Fatty Liver

Another fundamental is the food and other substances that you chose to put into your body. The liver is responsible for processing most of what we chose to consume. If we eat a poor quality diet, you increase your risk of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease which over time can cause lasting liver damage - this risk is exacerbated when over-weight.
We can help our liver to work properly by:
  • Eating a healthy balanced diet and drinking plenty of water
  • Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, reducing portion sizes and cutting down on your fat and sugar intake
  • Taking some regular exercise – aim for a total of 30 minutes a day if you can
And here are some of the main foods/toxins to avoid:
  • Processed foods
  • High salt foods
  • Foods with high levels of saturated fat and hydrogenated fat
  • Cigarettes
  • Marijuana
  • Illicit drugs
  • Some herbal remedies
  • Large doses of vitamin A
  • Some prescription medicines
  • Some over-the-counter medications
Help yourself by swapping snacks for a healthier alternatives, finding an exercise that you enjoy as this will help you to keep motivated (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming, dancing). 

Loving your liver in 2018

Taking the theme of the longer term, and also building on the techniques highlighted in Terri's blog, here are my fundamentals for a happier, healthier and fulfilled.

Goal setting

  • Set your goals the right way with a view to the long term success that you want - for example losing weight permanently than fast only to gain it back with more a few months later. 
  • Think of the goal as being 'the adoption of better habits and a better lifestyle' that will contribute to your health goals - and the new behaviours needed to make this happen. It is all well to say we have new year’s goals or resolutions, but without this deeper thought process about what needs to change, and the new behaviours that need to be adopted, we will not move far from our present situation.

Making changes

  • Think about the current behaviour patterns that have led you to where you are now, and the new behaviour patterns that will begin to enable you to make the changes that you want to achieve - and keep it simple. For most of us the changes will be around:
    • Having a planned structure for the day, including food and exercise activity
    • Making time for 3 nutritious meals, and eating from all food groups
    • Eating more vegetables, some fruit - and moving towards a more plant based diet
    • Questioning the current snack and smoothie routine
    • Reducing or cutting out alcohol
    • Getting between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep per night
  • Look out for and learn from the triggers that contribute to poor habits, and aim to address these - examples can include poor sleep, stress levels, lack of organisation, frequent nights out, regularly succumbing to the temptation of a few glasses or wine or beer, and a take-away or a night out.

No quick fixes

  • Avoid falling into the trap of miracle supplements or smoothies - and focus on these fundamentals. Avoid spending too much time at the gym and enduring hours of cardio. We shouldn't be at the gym any more than 3 or 4 times per week, as it's what we do in the remaining hours of the day that is of even more significance. 


Love your Liver health check

This January we are providing members and non-members with a free health check, assessment and body composition analysis here at the Club – as well as offering some advice to help you keep on the right track.
Club members just need to turn up on the day, no need to book, non-members please email
We will be on minus level 3 of the Club, opposite the cycling studio on:
  • Saturday 27th January, 11am-2pm
  • Tuesday 30th – Wednesday 31st January, 7am-7pm


About the Author

Nick Owen is a qualified nutritional adviser and holds a Diploma in Non-Medical Nutritional Advice. Nick uses nutrition to support a wide variety of client goals. These include weight management, fat loss and muscle building, general health and well-being, improved energy levels, concentration and complexion. Nick’s approach is practical and realistic, starting with an analysis of current eating patterns and lifestyle, and then working over a series of consultations to support achievement of the desired goals.

ymca | 12 January 2018