Wellbeing After 40: A Man's Essentials

You were built to be strong, confident and vital. You were designed to build empires, carve roads through mountains, cross oceans, and even walk on the moon. These are great things that great men have done, and while the specific examples may not seem applicable to you in the here and now, know that we all have what it takes to accomplish similar feats. 

 

Why don’t we, as ‘ordinary’ men, understand the levels of greatness that we can achieve? The reason can be a little hard to swallow – most of us live our lives in an ‘average’ world, with no thoughts of leaving it. It is an undeniable reality that very few people are living the lives they want, even though they may think they’re doing the ‘right’ things. For example, a Gallup poll has shown that 50 % of the first-world population now exercises three times a week, yet obesity rates are at an all-time high. 

Every little thing you do (or don’t do) affects you both physiologically and psychologically. Combine those frequent bad food choices with inconsistent sleeping habits and you have a dangerous recipe for a universe where you are trapped – against your will – in a cage of lacklustre existence, and a body that is not designed for excellence. This is not a gloom and doom message, but rather a reality check that we all need to come to terms with. 

At the age of 45 I was overweight, unhappy and spending way too much time on the couch. I weighed in at just over 105 kg. I thought I was doing right by my body. I would go to the gym in the mornings and eat what I thought to be the right food, yet the weight just kept creeping up on me. 

As it turns out, the real culprits were my hormones, and the lifestyle choices that were disrupting their normal functioning. That’s the big fat elephant in the room. We just aren’t taught how important our hormone levels are for our overall wellbeing, and we don’t realise that we can easily and naturally restore balance. 

Today’s diets and workout programmes have created a population that is suffering from sub-par hormonal function. Without knowing it, you’re probably suffering from low testosterone, dwindling growth hormone levels (GH) and high amounts of stress-induced cortisol. And when you are going through life with sub-optimal hormone levels, it can be hard to achieve all that you want and deserve. 

Doctors, trainers, nutritionists and mainstream media often overlook the fact that our lifestyles have led to a downshift in the hormones that make us feel vital and strong as men. If a 20-year-old male produces 100 % of testosterone at his peak, know that a 50-year-old male will produce only half of that amount, naturally. Add to this the changes in lifestyle brought about by our modern living, and it’s no wonder we aren’t feeling as healthy as we could be. 

The good news is that small lifestyle changes can re-set your levels dramatically. 

Your health directly influences everything in your life – your happiness, wealth intelligence, sex life and longevity. So many aspects of how you live and feel depend on the way you exercise and eat.

Become aware of these hormones and how you can control them, and you will be hitting the root of many issues. I recently had some blood work done, and was happy to hear that - at 50 years old - I have the hormonal profile of someone half my age. 

I have achieved this by getting a 

handle on the BIG 5:

1. Testosterone

2. Growth hormone

3. Leptin

4. Ghrelin

5. Insulin

TESTOSTERONE

Over the past 20 years, T-levels have been recorded as being down by 50 % in males over the age of 40, leading to men becoming fatter, less sexually-driven and less satisfied with how they look, feel and perform. Testosterone is not about becoming big and bulky like a bodybuilder. Most health programmes don’t focus on testosterone. You can do all the reps you want - if you’re not producing enough testosterone, you just won’t build muscle or achieve the results you are looking for.

DO THIS TO INCREASE YOUR BODY’S TESTOSTERONE PRODUCTION:

  • Lift heavy weights
  • Do interval training
  • Work your lower body
  • Supplement with vitamin D
  • Don’t smoke
  • Supplement with zinc
  • Sleep more than six hours per night
  • Eat more protein
  • Supplement with fish oil
  • Eat more eggs

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Low T-levels can kill sperm.
  • Men with higher T-levels have lower incidences of heart disease, spend less money on healthcare and live significantly longer.
  • Improving your sleep can increase your T-levels by as much as 50 %

GROWTH HORMONE (GH) 

If testosterone is your Batman, GH is your Robin. This powerful yet underestimated hormone is often considered to be the fountain of youth, and is sometimes prescribed by doctors to combat the effects of old age. When you have more GH coursing through your system, you are able to make better use of protein and build muscle. You’re also able to speed up post-workout recovery, enjoy better sleep and fight off disease. Studies have shown that GH is best produced by your body when you practise intermittent fasting (restricting your eating to a set time frame within the day).

HERE’S HOW TO BOOST YOUR GH LEVELS: 

  • Sleep more than six hours a night 
  • Fast in the morning 
  • Improve your sleep quality 
  • Lift heavier weights 
  • Supplement with BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) 
  • Eat your biggest meal before bedtime 
  • Practise sprints 
  • Don’t eat fat before a workout 
  • Don’t eat too many calories before a workout

LEPTIN 

We all know how great it can feel to lose a lot of weight, only to struggle to shed those last few kilograms at the end. This struggle is linked to your hormones. Leptin gets its name from the Greek word leptos, meaning thin, because it is produced in your fat cells and controls your metabolism by regulating your thyroid hormones. High fat levels mean that there will be higher leptin levels to help with weight loss. When you eat fewer calories, your leptin levels drop, which is why it becomes more difficult to shed the last bit of weight. This means that you need to keep leptin levels elevated for fat loss.

HERE’S YOUR LEPTIN-ELEVATING CHEAT SHEET: 

  • Fast for at least 16 hours a day 
  • Include a strategic cheat day once a week 
  • Practise resistance training 
  • Eat a high-protein diet 
  • Don’t eat too much fructose

HERE’S YOUR LEPTIN-ELEVATING CHEAT SHEET: 

  • Fast for at least 16 hours a day 
  • Include a strategic cheat day once a week 
  • Practise resistance training 
  • Eat a high-protein diet 
  • Don’t eat too much fructose

GHRELIN

Produced in the hypothalamus of the brain, ghrelin makes you feel hungry, and is produced when you eat. What many people don’t know is that there is a link between a lack of sleep and obesity. When you don’t sleep, you produce more ghrelin and end up feeling hungry all the time. This is why you are more likely to ‘treat’ yourself to dessert when you are sleep-deprived, since the craving for sweets is elevated. Your best protection from the snack attack is to get more sleep.

HERE’S HOW TO KEEP GHRELIN AT BAY:

  • Make sure to get enough sleep
  • Avoid refined sugars
  • Don’t eat too often
  • Eat more protein
  • Practise intermittent fasting

INSULIN

I’ve saved the ‘Big Daddy’ for last. Also known as the ‘gatekeeper hormone’, insulin controls the uptake of nutrients into your liver, muscles and stored fat. Controlling insulin is the key to looking and feeling your best. If you eat at the right time, your cells are primed for nutrient storage, but if you eat at the wrong time, the nutrients are packed into your fat cells. Controlling this is not all that easy. Your goal is to be insulin sensitive, meaning that you don’t secrete too much of it when you are apportioning your food. Good insulin sensitivity is the easiest way to ensure that you will gain muscle and lose fat. You can increase your sensitivity by avoiding foods that spike the production of insulin, such as sugar. 

Most people have diets that constantly spike insulin levels, which pushes nutrients into fat cells, stunting fat loss and muscle growth. The more carbs you eat, the more insulin you secrete. When you are insulin resistant, your blood sugar levels stay higher for longer, and the carbs that are turned into sugar don’t make it to your muscles. If your muscles are the engine and the sugar is the fuel, the carbs literally become backed up in your arteries, and your body is forced to ‘re-route’ to fat storage. So if your muscles don’t get the carbs because your body is resistant, you produce even more insulin to get the job done, which stores the sugars as fats. The carbs trapped in the ‘traffic’ also have the effect of not letting proteins and amino acids through to your muscles.

If you’re in need of a little help in balancing your hormones and transforming your life, head over to my Facebook page - @Thorfit – to join me on a 90-day journey towards living long and strong.

By Thorsten Eggert

 

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