Genes, chronotyping and creating a sustainable lifestyle towards getting lean with Kyle Riley


Key Takeaways:

1. Individualization. Making sure programming is chosen and developed based on each client for their success
2. Epigenetics. Determining a client’s epigenetics and gene expression can help adjust lifestyle and environmental stresses
3. Chronotyping. Figuring out where a client’s nutrition, exercise and sleep timing is important for getting the best results
4. Make it positive. Create an enjoyable environment to elicit positive behaviour change with clients

Podcast Summary

When someone is looking to make a change in their body composition, most trainers automatically address exercise and nutrition first; however, there is more to it than just calories in-calories out and thermodynamics of moving the body, explains health professional and managing director of ph360 Kyle Riley.

Riley speaks to DTS Fitness Education Director of Education Ben McDonald on the importance of epigenetics and personalized health to get lean and healthy (listen to the full podcast here).

Along with looking at creating a calorie deficit, trainers must look at the nuances and complexities of the individuality of the human body.

“We can put 100 people in a calorie deficit and one person might lose 10kgs, one person might only lose 1kg and you’ll have all this variance in between,” says Riley. “Some people might not lose weight at all. Is it just about the calories, or is it more than calories alone?”

#1) Individualization in programming is key for client success

There are many health and diet trends circulating the fitness industry, from paleo to keto, intermittent fasting to vertical diet, but what works?

“If you’re trying to follow a nutrition program that your best friend is on or what a magazine says or what an expert says and it’s not working for you, it’s not because of your genes, it’s not because of your body or there’s something wrong with you. It’s just that you haven’t found the right thing for your body,” explains Riley. “First thing is awareness and understanding what’s the best thing for you as an individual, then follow the right exercise and nutrition plan for you. Not what your best friend does.”

It will always depend on where a person is mentally, emotionally and physically. Things like the weather may affect someone’s immune system, he adds. There are many different variables one needs to be aware of and control in order to reach a goal or body composition.

In part, Riley notes sometimes we have to explore multiple different avenues to see which protocol will work best for the client.

#2) Determining a client’s epigenetics and gene expression

Individualization is key because within the context of fitness it’s not a one-size fits all approach to training clients. Some clients will get amazing results, while some clients don’t. Central to creating a personalized fitness approach, Riley notes the study of epigenetics has helped him tailor his training style to each client.

Epigenetics is the science of how the environment controls gene expression. In science, once upon a time genes were looked at in such a way that if you had the obese gene you would be obese and if you had the diabetes gene you would get diabetes, notes Riley.

“Over the years we realized lifestyle is medicine and it’s not all set or built or predetermined,” says Riley. “We do have an element of control. The science of epigenetics shows that yes we have the genes, yes we do have a blueprint to maybe be predisposed to certain conditions, however, it’s your lifestyle and environment that controls what genes switch on and what genes switch off.”

According to Riley, research and biology reveals that 95-99% of diseases are lifestyle related and down to our environment. The small one to five per cent is determined by the gene itself. This statistic means people can still control their environment and work to switch the gene off.

“We’ve all heard it’s 80% nutrition, 20% exercise, or you can’t out train a bad diet, but what’s really important to understand is the social groups you interact with, your workplace, the stress, the sleep you do or don’t have – all these things are a part of your environment,” he says. “You could be eating the right food and exercising every single day, but if you go to a job everyday that’s causing you stress, or you’re hanging around people that you don’t like or you’re in a relationship that’s causing you stress – that’s having an impact on you on a physiological level that’s influencing your gene expression and contributing to the weight you’re holding around the midsection.”

#3) Chronotyping for your clients nutrition, exercise and sleep

On top of the study of epigenetics, Riley notes chronotyping, which is the study of science and how time affects the body, adds another layer to helping your clients see better results.

The body likes to be on certain cycles, such as the 24-hour light-dark cycle where the body follows the sun and the moon. As the sun rises it will increase one’s cortisol and as the sun sets it will increase one’s melatonin to help people sleep.

“What’s really interesting is that timing will not only affect our central clock but also our peripheral clocks in our bodies. Clocks for our liver and clocks for our digestion,” says Riley. “What we know is that if you align your central clock with your peripheral clocks, for example eat at the right time of the day, exercise at the right time, sleep at the right time etc, it puts our bodies in homeostasis.”

When people deviate and desynchronize from this cycle, such as eating a burger at 3 a.m., exercising at 1 a.m., then sleeping from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., it increases a person’s health risks. For example, research shows within shift workers there is lower life expectancy, increased risks of cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of cancer the longer people are in shift work.

“Whether we’re talking about weight loss or muscle gain, we’re always planning around with homeostasis. The body is always working around the clock to keep it in balance but the further we deviate from neutral the more the body has to do to correct it and bring it back to check,” explains Riley. “It’s fine in the short term but if we chronically abuse our systems, that over time is what contributes disharmony in the body and disease.”

Chronotyping assessments also looks at who’s an early bird and who’s a night owl, because this affects training for body composition and hormone levels, he adds.

“If you’re an early bird, you naturally do better dealing with stress, cortisol levels, blood sugar regulations in the morning. So you can exercise in the morning and do great. You’ll have naturally more amounts of energy in the morning, you’ll feel fine,” says Riley. “A night owl, on the other hand, should be delaying their stress response in the morning. They should be chilling out in the morning as opposed to stressing their system. People who sit on the night owl spectrum are more predisposed to things like metabolic syndrome, type-II diabetes, and things like that.”

For example, if you have a night-owl coming in to an early morning bootcamp, they are already set up for failure because there is more stress on their system and higher cortisol. On the other hand, an early bird will have a lower cortisol response in the morning and physically respond better.

The job of a trainer is figure out how to get the best response from a minimal dose to help this person get to where they want to get. The goal is to get the maximum response with less stress and this is where timing gets the best response.

#4) Encourage positive behaviour and motivation

Before all that, Riley notes the best client success stories are fueled by their own behaviour and motivations.

“It doesn’t matter how good the exercise program is, it doesn’t matter how good the nutrition program is, if the person isn’t going to follow it then you’re not going to get results,” he states. “If we’re talking about bang for buck result, we need people following the program. Different people communicate in different ways and people are motivated by different things. For a coach or someone who is helping someone with body composition, we need to build that rapport to support and motivate someone the right way.”

Consistency in engaging a client’s positive behaviours is always the right approach. It’s not the sexiest answer, but it’s about starting and keeping consistent, says Riley.

“Even though you don’t know what time you should be training or what kind of training you should do, it’s about finding that training methodology that you enjoy so you can at least get some consistent training in,” he says. “Once the consistent training is in, see how the body adapts and if it works, great; if not, how can we best optimize, how can we personalize it and how can we take it to the next level.”

Once the foundational layers are put into place, a person’s genes will adapt to the environment it is put in. The more consistent someone’s genes are exposed to regular behaviours of exercise and good healthy food, the more one’s genes expression will change to being healthy.

Regardless of which intervention works, these behaviours need to be habitual.

“It’s about doing the right type of training for your body, eating the right types of food,and doing the right mind stress management things for your body. Whatever the intervention you’re working on, exercise, nutrition, or stress, do the right thing for you,” concludes Riley.

Resources and References from the Podcast

Kyle Riley started in the fitness industry in 2010 with a degree in exercise science and has travelled the world speaking, educating and implementing personalised health principles with a passion to change the paradigm within the fitness industry.

Kyle has had the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading experts in the fields of epigenetics and holistic health and has played a role in helping thousands of people improve their health and quality of life in his time working as a personal trainer and lifestyle coach. He has worked with the likes of the Biggest Loser Health Retreat as well as teaching hundreds of health and fitness professionals working alongside the Australian Institute of Fitness and now through the development of his own professional development course in epigenetics and personalised health with ph360.


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