How to live healthy? Part 5: What should I do?

in steemstem •  last month

What are CRMs? What are telomeres? What is autophagy? How to read statisctics?

In the past articles, we tried to answer these questions. But now it’s time to finish this!

In the end, we all want to know what’s the best strategy to stay fit and healthy. To listen to your body is actually a very good idea. A much better idea, however, is to listen to your body and reading scientific articles in between. Nevertheless, even in this case, you must be very careful. To prevent trouble, please take into consideration to

  1. read the right articles
  2. find the right conclusion

To be honest this is sometimes not that easy. Very helpful in this case are meta-analyses. Meta-Analyses are statistical analyses in which various studies are pooled and reassessed. This enables you to prevent misleading information from single studies based on a small sample size or bad data handling. An example of a very nice meta-analysis is the paper of Fardet & Boirie from 2014 [1]. Unfortunately, this paper is not Open Access and therefore not accessible to everyone. Nonetheless, I took the basic information I had from this paper and made my own Chapperstyle overview just for you.

The goal of this study was to find out which food is good for your health and which is not. To realize this, they took studies from over 60 years. Viola!
Fig.1 Food ranking, the greener the better for you! (All statements without guarantee!). In the "good" column: The more articles with positive results are available the greener the color. In the "bad" column: The more negative studies exist, the more red you will find. Made by Chapper - unrestricted use allowed

Now it’s up to you to choose “your food”. But beware of milk! In fact, 93% of all milk studies are financed by the milk industry. Therefore, you can’t rely completely on the most studies about milk [2]. Cheers!

In summary: Fingers away from meat, sugar, alcohol, and milk. Instead, eat as many plants as you can. At least if you want to enjoy your retirement.

Ok, I think you understood the purpose of meta-analyses.

So, let’s get to the main topic: How to save your telomeres!

Just to remember what telomeres are: Telomeres are the endpoints of your chromosomes which are getting shorter and shorter within your life. The shorter your chromosomes are the higher the risk to your health. However, the shortening depends on various factors, therefore, you have only limited control over your telomeres.

But what can you do?

For a better insight, I read a lot of studies, meta-analyses, and reviews to give you a brief summary of the "Dos and Don’ts" for your telomeres.

One of the famous researchers in the field of telomeres is the Australian biologist Elisabeth Blackburn. In an interview recently published in a German science magazine (Spektrum der Wissenschaft), she said that the notion of telomeres as a “cellular clock”, is misleading [3]. Nevertheless, many companies offering services to assess your biological age based on telomere measurements. But this is nonsense because of various reasons. For instance, most cells which are used for telomere measurement display a remaining telomerase activity. Because of this, the telomere length fluctuates anytime. This means that if a company find short telomeres in your blood cells it’s not necessarily an indicator for health problems. Nonetheless, it was shown that the shorter the telomeres are the higher is a potential risk of death [3, 4]. But you can’t do a single measurement and that’s it. It’s a statistical matter where many different aspects should be illuminated.

At the end, of course, you can imagine the telomeres as a “Canary in the coal mine”: He makes you aware of potential risks but is not responsible[5]!

You must see the big picture of your body and your health.

For a better understanding, maybe we should talk about why the telomeres are getting shorter.

Problem number one: Cell division!

The more the cells divide the more likely is potential damage at the ends of your chromosomes.

But what causes a high cell division frequency?

[For this also see my other articles, an overview is shown here]

Well, multiple factors: Especially your lifestyle is a major risk factor for the stability of your chromosomes. Especially proteins from animals and energy-rich nutrients are severe cell cycle drivers. In this context, it is striking that these foods are in the category of “bad” food according to Fardet & Boirie (check Fig.1 for more information)[1].

Other triggers which are also correlated to your cell cycle are certain hormones and other messengers. These substances are often released upon stress and also have a cell cycle promoting potential (please see also here and here).

Moreover, your telomeres can be attacked even without cell division.

You probably heard about the term oxidative stress or free radicals before!?! The main source of oxidative stress in your cells are the mitochondria [6]. Mitochondria are the power plants of your cells responsible for energy supply. By doing this they also producing free radicals [6]. The more your cell is challenged with imbalances, the more “errors” are made by the mitochondria. The consequences are free radicals which are capable to attack your DNA. In articles by @justtryme90 and @sco they already described the effects of oxidative stress on DNA (please see here and here). Especially, the base guanine is highly sensitive to oxidative stress. As you remember the telomeres are repetitions of the sequence TTAGGG (G for guanine). Therefore, telomeres are easy targets for oxidative stress. Once guanine is oxidized the cellular repair mechanisms try to fix this [4]. For this purpose, they must “open” the DNA and removing some parts, thus making errors. This, in turn, makes the telomeres highly accessible for further damage. Remember that a whole armada of proteins are recruited to seal the telomeres.

But oxidative stress is not just caused by mitochondria

Other triggers of oxidative stress in your body are [4]:

• Cigarette smoke
• Toxins (fumes, heavy metals)
• Medication
• Acute stress
• Overweight

That means there are numerous factors which can come together and harm your cells, challenging your your mitochondria and subsequently your telomeres. Further, the consumption of huge amounts of unhealthy food further prevents your autophagy to tidy up your cells. And with a lack of physical activity and stress and many more you mix a life destruction cocktail.

The next figure will illustrate this for you again.

Telomere under attack.png
Fig.2 Mechanism of telomere shortening. Telomeres are protected by binding proteins, but mechanisms, such as "The Ghosts", which promoting cell division and/or the induction oxidative stress increase telomere instability. Since the autophagy ("Packman") is under intense attack, the drama takes its course and ends in a bloody chromosomal massacre. Made by Chapper - unrestricted use allowed

Ok, so I think it has become clear that the problems with the telomeres start with the banalest things. But what can you do? And is there a scientifically proof?

Here are a few, scientifically well-documented, aspects which can help you to protect your telomeres:

1. Stop smoking

Smoking is, in my opinion, an absolutely bad idea. It costs a lot of money. It has no contribution to nothing. It stinks, and it harms your fitness and health in any case. Taken together: Smoking is a total catastrophe!

It was shown that the consumption of just one package of cigarettes every day will shorten your telomeres in a way that after 40 years you have lost 7.4 years [7]. Therefore, on average you will lose up to 10% of your lifetime. 10%!!! And for everyone who says “I’m not interested to live that long”: Take into consideration that the remaining years are full of sickness and pain.

Quit smoking!

2. Healthy food

I don’t want to say that much about food. Please check my other articles about this here, here and here. Maybe just one thing about food. Eat fresh and cook your own meal. Don’t eat this fast food stuff, at least not every week. There are so many hidden calories and artificial ingrediences inside. This can’t be good for you. Further, you have a higher risk to become overweight and this, in turn, is also a severe risk factor for shortening of your telomeres [7].

Know your food!

3. Avoid stress

Stress is probably one of the biggest problems in our modern society. Furthermore, stress has been shown to be one of the major risk factors for telomere shortening. In combination with other health problems, such as cardiovascular diseases you are in big trouble [8]. Stress is a huge problem that already affects the telomeres of your children [5]. In a large-scale meta-study carried out by Stanford University, it was found that stress is definitely associated with short telomeres [9]. The study covered all kinds of stress: Soldiers who have experienced gruesome things or victims of violent crimes, people who work in stressful professions (such as nursing) or caretakers for seriously ill family members. Furthermore, also people with mental illnesses such as depression or patients who have survived serious illnesses were also included.

Find stressors in your life and eliminate them!

4. Choose a healthy environment

Humans need nature! Living in urban areas means a lot of stressors your body has to deal with. These include, above all, pollution, noise and aspects, we already discussed in point 3. If you have the opportunity, then try to move into a region with more nature. Although studies on this subject are still very rare, it is also obvious that living in a big city will not add significant value to your health [5].

Back to nature!

5. Get physically active

Sports is probably one of the best things you can do. Sports is not only clearly associated with telomere length [10]. Moreover, sports are useful for almost any aspect of your health. But the joke is that sport also causes oxidative stress! This mechanism is the so-called mitohormesis. Mitohormesis paradoxically has a health-promoting effect [11, 12]. I've discussed this in detail elsewhere.

Oxidative stress is, therefore, a double-edged sword: It depends on where oxidative stress comes from and how long it lasts!

You can find a very interesting article on this topic here [6]. The author argues that oxidative stress is rather the consequence than the real cause of many diseases. There is again the famous hen or egg problem. Thus, the damage caused by oxidative stress on the telomeres would rather be an inevitable consequence. The “tip of the ice iceberg” if you want. After reviewing other articles by the author Robert K. Naviaux I came to the conclusion that the cell itself generates oxidative stress for protection. Of course, this would explain why the intake of antioxidants sometimes has disadvantages for the consumer [11]. I have already discussed this here. Incidentally, researchers are not completely sure what kind of sport is best for you [10]. In principle, endurance sports seem to be the best choice.

Everything is better except for sitting around!

6. Sleep enough!

Yes, I admit I don't sleep enough. Actually, I'm glad, if I have crossed the 7h-hurdle. Do not get me wrong. I have no problems falling asleep at all. The only problem with me is that I am an extremely early riser and if I go to bed later than 10 pm, it gets tight. But you should always aim at 7h sleep minimum [13]. Women definitely more. There are numerous studies on this subject and even by Mrs. Blackburn herself [14]. These studies show that the duration and quality of sleep is a key criterion for preserving your telomeres [5]. Please do not underestimate this! A lack of sleep is a severe problem that negatively affects many of the above-mentioned parameters.

Sleep to stay healthy!


Well, I think that's enough for the moment. Finally, here is a little checklist to get healthier in the future. That the abuse of alcohol or drugs is not recommended, hopefully, needs no further explanation.


Ok, I think that’s definitely enough for the moment. I hope it’s now clear that by combining your gut feeling, your experience, your common sense, and scientific facts, you can improve your health and well-being.

But keep in mind that everyone is different. This holds at least true for the nutrients you eat, the time you go to bed, the kind of sports you prefer and so one. Therefore, find your way but avoid major obstacles as I described.

I hope it helps you to make better decisions next time.

Stay alive and kicking.

Best Regards



  1. Fardet, A. and Y. Boirie, Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutr Rev, 2014. 72(12): p. 741-62.
  2. Kast, B., Der Ernährungskompass: Das Fazit aller wissenschaftlichen Studien zum Thema Ernährung - Mit den 12 wichtigsten Regeln der gesunden Ernährung. 2018: C. Bertelsmann Verlag.
  3. Schubert, E.B.i.G.m.M.M.-M.F., Telomere sind keine Kristallkugeln. 2018, Spektrum der Wissenschaft.
  4. Shammas, M.A., Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2011. 14(1): p. 28-34.
  5. Starkweather, A.R., et al., An integrative review of factors associated with telomere length and implications for biobehavioral research. Nurs Res, 2014. 63(1): p. 36-50.
  6. Naviaux, R.K., Oxidative shielding or oxidative stress? J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 2012. 342(3): p. 608-18.
  7. Valdes, A.M., et al., Obesity, cigarette smoking, and telomere length in women. Lancet, 2005. 366(9486): p. 662-4.
  8. Cawthon, R.M., et al., Association between telomere length in blood and mortality in people aged 60 years or older. Lancet, 2003. 361(9355): p. 393-5.
  9. Mathur, M.B., et al., Perceived stress and telomere length: A systematic review, meta-analysis, and methodologic considerations for advancing the field. Brain Behav Immun, 2016. 54: p. 158-169.
  10. Arsenis, N.C., et al., Physical activity and telomere length: Impact of aging and potential mechanisms of action. Oncotarget, 2017. 8(27): p. 45008-45019.
  11. Ristow, M., et al., Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2009. 106(21): p. 8665-70.
  12. Ristow, M. and K. Schmeisser, Mitohormesis: Promoting Health and Lifespan by Increased Levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Dose Response, 2014. 12(2): p. 288-341.
  13. Jackowska, M., et al., Short sleep duration is associated with shorter telomere length in healthy men: findings from the Whitehall II cohort study. PLoS One, 2012. 7(10): p. e47292.
  14. Prather, A.A., et al., Tired telomeres: Poor global sleep quality, perceived stress, and telomere length in immune cell subsets in obese men and women. Brain Behav Immun, 2015. 47: p. 155-62.


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Thank you so much @chappertron for the well researched article. Well, telomeres getting shorter and increasing the chances of death!! its really scary. Most of the food we eat such as whole grain, milk, processed meat has free radicals. So we ought to change out diets.
Once again thanks for the detailed explanation of how to live healthy. You have taken it to the chromosome level. This explains how every thing happens.

You have advised us to quit smoking, eat healthy foods, avoid stress among others. I really do not know how we shall attain that level of protection. Today its quite hard to live a stress free life. For example I made decision not to smoke but my neighbor and friend is always bringing cigarates and smoking them near me. More to that in the city there are exhaust fumes from vehicles. There are so many demands today, living a stress free life is harder. When I go to the market to buy vegetables I recall what one of the farmers told me that vegetables are full of pesticides. Is there a way we can just use a drug to neutralize these oxidative stress causing chemicals.


Hey @techmillion,

thank you for the reply and your interest in the field. Indeed it is difficult to obey the rules of healthy living. To be honest there is much more you have to take into account. Nevertheless, what really counts is to be aware of it. The knowledge of these aspects gives you the feeling what is wrong and what is right. To keep this in mind could help you to prevent many things which are not good for you. In the end, you can avoid the worst and have a better living.

You mentioned the fact of presumably unavoidable stressors. That is right and it depends highly on the region you live, the profession you have and the people you are together with. See it as a challenge. I live in an urban region but try to go into nature as often as possible. In long term, I plan a living in an environment which is cleaner and less toxic.

Therefore, try to improve your life every day a bit. You can't change everything immediately, but you can make plans for the future and try to get there step by step.

To stop smoking and to avoid smokers is one of the most important things, in my opinion. Next is stress. Many stress is somehow self-made. For instance, by being angry about something you can't change.

Doing a bit more sports and eat more plants is, in my opinion, easy to implement.

Set goals and try to get there every day at least a bit and you will find a way out of this trap.

I wish you all the best and stay disciplined.

Regards from Germany to Kenya


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This is exactly what I've been looking for lately! The information out there, in terms of books, is quite conflicting. Some say grains are bad for you (gluten, leaky gut, inflammation, intolerance, etc.), some say they're good for you, some say meat is good, some bad, some say legumes are good and should be eaten 3 times a day, some say they lock up nutrients, and so on.

I'm quite surprised that grains instead of veggies are on the top of your list! Could that just mean there's more studies on them?

Your results seem to agree with , overall.

EDIT: And another question, regarding dairy. I def am intolerant to milk, even kefir. Anything too liquid. More than half a cup and my gut burbles from top to bottom. But I seem to be tolerating yogurt and cheeses just fine. My dad was the same: never drank milk, but ate yogurt and halloumi by the boxes. Is it possible that lactose is still harming me, but at a level that I don't notice it, due to most of the lactose not being present in the firmer products? Or is this a case where you can't say, I just have to listen real well to my body?


Hey Alex,

nice to see you here again.

And thank you very much for your reply.

Could that just mean there's more studies on them?

Of course, it could be the case. But the more data available the more reliable is the outcome.

About the problems with the milk

I do have the same problems. In many cheeses, the bacteria consume the lactose. Therefore, you often have no trouble with cheese. In the case of yogurt, I'm not sure. I'm buying lactose-free yogurt in general. But I know what you mean I often made the same observations that in some products which should be harmful to me I felt nothing. Whether this as to do with the consistency I can't answer. You should ask people who are more familiar with this subject.

Thanky you very much

and merry


See you next year



Here in Cyprus we only have 2 real yogurts (i.e. milk + culture): strained Greek cow's yogurt (very thick), and slightly acidic sheep's/goat's yogurt (more runny). Everything else is what I call 'fake yogurt' (reconstituted milk, gelatin, protein powder, and these are just some of the things I can pronounce - I don't touch those). So maybe that plays a role, since thickness = less milk, dunno.

Merry Xmas to you too!


Ask your local good supplier whether he can offer lactose-free products. Here in Germany it began very slowly but today you get this stuff everywhere.

Merry X-Mas again


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I tried lactose-free milk and it caused more issues than usual! I tried coconut milk with yogurt cultures, it was nice, but had all sorts of additives (even tho it was gluten- and lactose-free). Generally we don't have as much variety/choices here as in most EU countries.

What a wonderful article! I need to go back and read many of your older stuff because I am really interested in the topics you chose.

Unfortunately, two years my husband experienced a health decline perhaps due to sleep-deprivation, some stressful environment, some very stressful events and I guess genes maybe (if you ask him it's his wife at the bottom of it all :D). All of the sudden he got acute GERD and gastritis. He lost a lot of weight (he was skinny, now he is even skinnier) and has to choose his food very carefully.

Anyway, what I am saying is that we are trying to eat healthily and both of us are very interested in the subject.

Fingers away from meat, sugar, alcohol, and milk. Instead, eat as many plants as you can. At least if you want to enjoy your retirement.

Is it all meat or just the processed and the red meat? What about the keto diet? Some people claim that their health benefited a lot thanks to it.

Find stressors in your life and eliminate them!
Haha. We have done most of your list. We even moved to a more peaceful place next to nature :)

Incidentally, researchers are not completely sure what kind of sport is best for you [10]. In principle, endurance sports seem to be the best choice.

The research I did for my How to Cope with Stress series showed that sports could be both a stressor and a buffer to stress. On the other hand, some studies I read argue that moderate intensity everyday exercise is the most beneficial for general health (and the interleukin-2 cells in particular).

Women definitely more. (sleep)

I wonder why is that?

Once again, thanks for bringing this subject to us. I am looking forward to the next part!


I was gonna say it's the wife. Ah, poor intrAvert!

I had my own issues years back, and to a certain extent I still have them cos I inherited an autoimmune disease from my dad.

The only way in which I managed to improve symptoms are diet and exercise. But I'm still struggling with diet. I read many books but the info is conflicting. I'm (intellectually) struggling with grains (gluten) and dairy specifically. I def can't drink milk, or even kefir. But I seem to tolerate yogurt and cheeses just fine. My dad, again, was the same: never drank milk, ate yogurt and halloumi in droves. But could it be that yogurt and cheese still cause a reaction, but not very noticeable, so it escapes me? That's where you really have to listen to your body, but it's not easy.

I don't seem to have issues with gluten, but tons of negative stuff being said about it, and especially in connection with the gut and autoimmune diseases, make me worry. But most say grains are great. Including the current post which put them at the top of the most beneficial foods! You can see why I am (and I can see why your husband is) struggling.

I followed a keto diet for about a month. Didn't notice anything special. All my bloodwork was very good after it (and before it!) I did the Wahls protocol Paleo diet. I did the Whole30 (again, a sort of paleo) diet. I may be feeling better in some respects on it, but really just the same. I'm thinking of going the exact opposite way now and trying to minimize meat and eat many legumes and grains, more or less what the current post is prescribing.

Regarding guts specifically, you won't find a more scientific book on the topic than The Good Gut - but for that very reason they are often reticent when it comes to recommendations, you won't find many cure-alls here. But at least you'll know what science definitely knows, and what it doesn't.

Overall, the normal diet I'm following most of the time and which seems to work, is whatever's recommended in the Nutrition Concepts and Controversies book, in its 13th edition. I.e. what the bulk of nutritionists are taught in school.

You might wanna give a go, but the guy is very plant-amen and meat-is-the-devil, and he even sounds like a preacher, so I don't know if he bends the science sometimes.


I was gonna say it's the wife. Ah, poor intrAvert!

Haha, and you would be probably right :D

Thanks for the recommendations! I have read this one and I guess they discuss similar topics.

My husband is also struggling with grains and everything that is more solid. For now, he cannot eat whole-grain food which means less fiber but he is trying to compensate it with some vegetables. Now he is trying carefully with yogurt in an attempt to gain some probiotics :) The worst thing is that good food could probably help him recover, but he cannot eat many things because they hurt his esophagus and his stomach. So his diet is very restricted and he cannot take the essential supplies for his body to work properly. It is like a vicious cycle :/

On the other hand, I am a cheese person. I can eat cheese and vegetables for the rest of my life and will never miss anything else :D Imagine how delighted I was when I read in another @chappertron ' s article that it is actually pretty healthy to eat cheese and vegetables :) Yey!!! So now I eat even more cheese and more salad :D

Have you figured out which food suits you best with your health issues? And what kind of exercise do you do? (I bet you are secretly doing yoga, haha)

Keeping a diary is a good idea like @chappertron suggests. And I will definitely try some fasting when I stop breastfeeding because I can see the signs that my body is very exhausted now.

Haha, I hope your feminist mind is open to breastfeeding and you didn't take this as TMI :P


My attitude toward breastfeeding is: "Depends who's breastfeeding" :D

There are other ways to take probiotics. For example if he eats salads, he can add naturally fermented apple cider vinegar (regular vinegars are sometimes sterile). He could also just take probiotics in pill form (the Good Gut authors basically recommend buying random probiotics and trying them on for size! but they need to be safe, obviously, but that's not an issue in Europe - in the US they're unregulated). Also fermented sauerkraut and gherkins etc., but availability depends on where you live. And just eating lots and lots of veggies (and legumes). I regularly make a salad where I just cut up 1 cucumber, 1 tomato, 2 lettuce leaves, 2 spinach leaves, 1 big leaf of swiss chard, a couple of rocket leaves (all these with stem), 2 tbsp apple cider, 4 tbsp olive oil, salt. You can vary what exactly you put in it, and the quantities, but the overall feel is like a fresh Greek salad without the feta.

You probly already know all that, but saying it just in case!

The Good Gut companion cookbook (written by a woman who is a bonafide science journalist) has 'phase 1' meals for those who have digestive issues. But I'm in the process of reading it now, and I haven't tried any recipes, so I don't know.

Btw if you - um - cannot find some of the books online (it looks like they aren't being seeded), there's a place I can recommend where they can be downloaded :D

Does he take a multivitamin btw? It can work wonders sometimes.

The exercise I do is lifting! I have a gym rack at home, as I quit real gyms after about 3 months, can't stand them. ... I don't trust cardio much. Lifting builds muscle, that muscle requires upkeep 24/7, so the heart works to supply it, and so it benefits even without cardio. Cardio is a bit overrated. You eat a doughnut and you gain everything back. It's also time-wasting, whereas with lifting is intense, almost like a burpee (which is probably bad for most people's knees). If you follow a good program like Starting Strength, you can do everything safely. You can also do lower weights with more repetitions, throughout the day.

A good bodyweight program is You are your own gym, no equipment necessary. Movement can sometimes help digestive issues.

I haven't found exactly what works for me, other than following the general dietary prescriptions, as laid out for example here. I have lowered my anti-inflammatory pills significantly since I started taking them, and it was all diet and exercise. All I know for sure is that more than half a cup of milk causes me digestive disturbances. Other than that I just try to eat healthy, but I haven't really noticed something like "if I eat x, then I suffer y", at least not to the point of certainty. I'm still on the road of discovery myself.

But definitely no yoga. Avoid at all costs :D


Hey again,

yes, the interplay of nutrients with organs, the microbiome, and the autoimmune system is really hard to figure out. Often they influencing each other with a delayed response which makes it hard to know what was the initial trigger.

I also had some problems, and I still have them, but I found the cause by writing a diary. I wrote everything I ate and my reaction into my diary. Eventually, I found the foods and cooked defined meals to verify my observations.

I'm doing a lot of sports, try to eat as healthy as I can and when everything fails I just do some fasting and I'm fine again.

Please take into consideration that I'm no physician, I'm just a lab rat. But the approach with the diary and the occasional reset via fasting really helped me to challenge my problems.

Of course, I still have some bad habits but the more you are aware of them the better for your health.

Good luck and merry X-mas again



P.S.: Thanks for the book recommendations. I will have a glance ;-)


Yes, no diet is good for everyone, so we each need to be a lab rat to some extent. It's still hard without a guide. I looked into elimination diets that allow you to introduce foods later and see whether something bothers you, but it looked too hard and somewhat dangerous. How do you do your fasting exactly?


Hey it's quite simple.

I just stop eating after lunch until the next breakfast. Then I eat normal and on the next day I start over again by stopping after lunch. Helps perfect and you don't starve or have severe side effects as with hardcore fasting!

Do it at least three times a week and make sure that you have one day in between with sufficient nutrient supply

But not at X-Mas time

There are too many tasty things around

Don't miss them


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