Reduce the Flab!
Add Muscle and Get Healthy
Men are usually the stronger of the two sexes. The testosterone flowing through men’ s veins allows greater muscle size and strength along with the ability to build muscle faster. When men age, their shape tends to shift with the belly getting larger while these precious muscles tend to get smaller. Part of this is due to hormonal changes as men age, and part is due to the increased sedentary nature of aging. But fear not. You can reverse the trend and reduce the flab while building some muscle. No we are not looking at a bodybuilder physique, just leaner and healthier.
A key point to remember is the universal rule that weight (both gain and loss) is a function of calories consumed vs. calories burned. If our goal is to reduce flab and build some muscle we need to consume fewer and burn more calories.
The bonus in building up additional muscle is that it starts a self -perpetuating cycle of calorie burning. Increased muscle will increase your resting metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories you burn at rest (when not active). This metabolic increase gives you more energy which gives you the get up and go to exercise which builds more muscle, which further increases your resting metabolic rate.
Exercise! As much as most men (and indeed most people) try to avoid exercise, it is one of the keys to reducing flab and increasing muscle. The point is to build up a sweat doing something you like enough to want to keep doing. It needs to become your routine, not your chore. If you enjoy doing it you will look forward to doing it, not dread doing it. In essence it will be fun. Aim to start small, say 10 minutes each day and build up by a set figure each week (5 minutes). Combine aerobic exercise to build tone and endurance with resistance exercise to build strength and muscle. Exercise variety is key to avoiding boredom and keeping your interest up. Some people require going to a gym to motivate them, while others find exercising in nature or outdoors in an urban setting better suits them. Many people enjoy the support of a ‘workout buddy’, while others prefer to be the ‘solo wolf’. There is no one ideal answer. The solution to how to start and stay motivated lies in whatever specific combination works for you.
Cut your calories. If you are trying to build a little muscle, no doubt you know that what you eat is vital to success. The key here is not only the calories in what you eat but also the quality of what you eat. Not all calories are created equal. Try to eliminate the “empty calories”. These are the foods where the calories far outweigh the nutrition they provide, usually snacks. Some examples include potato chips, cheese puffs, soda pop, freezer pops, fancy coffee drinks, cookies, cakes, syrups and french fries. For the most part, empty calories are found in foods that are high in sugar and or deep fried. Ideally, make better choices for snacking i.e. foods that are low in calories and hopefully moderate to high in nutrition. Excellent choices would be raw nuts, fruits and vegetables or air popped popcorn. Yes, not the most exciting but they can curb the cravings without packing on the calories.
Breakfast sets the tone for the whole day. The average North American breakfast is nothing but calories; primarily fat, carbohydrates, sugar and salt. With the exception of eggs and sausage, typical breakfast foods contain virtually no protein. Start every morning with a nutrient dense low calorie protein shake. There are literally thousands of protein shakes available made from various protein sources; from whey to rice, hemp to casein and every blend in between. Try adding fresh fruit to flavour them up. Add flax, and fiberrific + probiotic. The nutritional powerhouse lets you start your day with protein, fiber, omega-3, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Eat small and often. Three square meals each day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) is what most of us call routine. Unfortunately this pattern often leads to hunger between meals. Hunger is the sworn enemy of people trying to control their weight. That painful hunger feeling almost always pops up between meals, when blood sugar levels drop. Having many smaller meals through the day keeps your blood sugar within a narrower more stable range so you do not experience severe highs or lows and therefore are less likely to feel hunger and in turn ,less likely to eat empty calories.
Mind your supplements. Forget what products are pumped by the TV doctors and ignore the hype in the tabloids about the latest and greatest magic bullet used by the stars. For success you need a strong simple foundation for better health. Here’s the list we recommend taking each day and why; a vegan hypoallergenic multivitamin/multimineral (nutrients with no additives), Active Vitamin B-12 (added energy and stamina), omega-3 capsule (eye, brain & heart health), lutein and zeaxanthin (eye health & antioxidant), cinnamon (blood sugar), phytosterols and CoQ10 (heart health), curcumin (joint flexibility & antioxidant). Combine these with a high protein, low calorie breakfast and you have the tools for success.
Remember to enjoy life. It is not the end goal that matters as much as the road travelled to get to the end. You don’t want this health goal to be all consuming to the point where you forget to have fun. “Stop and smell the roses” helps ensure your blood pressure will stay healthy and reminds you of your particular reasons for improving your health.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.