Staying in Shape is a Year-Round Commitment
Some of us are comfortable enough not to worry about a few extra pounds – after all, very few of us aim to be the cover model on Hotspots magazine! And it is important not to let fitness or bodybuilding take over your life to the exclusion of other important things.
But there is a pattern which many people fall into which is bad for us in the long term — dieting or exercising to look good on the beach in the summer or for a special occasion like a vacation, big family event, or a class reunion and then, achieving your goals, relax and go back to eating pizza and drinking margaritas every day.
Here’s why it is unwise to get in shape/let it go/get in shape again and once again allow the weight to pile on:
First, putting on body fat and losing it, repeated over several cycles, results in insulin insensitivity. Insulin is one of the most important hormones, and every time you eat carbohydrates, your body produces an insulin surge to convert all that carbohydrate into sugars that can be used for energy, and anything not required for energy can be stored as fat. Repeated cycles of gaining and losing weight blunt this mechanism, and the result is that each time you try to lose weight, it gets a little bit harder, so that eventually your body is permanently heavier, and your store of body fat is elevated.
Second, the fatter you get, the more your body will produce the enzyme aromatase. This converts the male hormone testosterone into the female hormone estrogen – not a good thing if you aim to maintain your rep as a stud. (Testosterone and estrogen are not that different chemically, but they have profoundly different effects on our bodies.)
Third, excess stomach fat can lead to a drop in production of thyroid hormone, which slows your metabolism and again makes fat-burning more difficult.
On top of all this, we are also eating and drinking stuff from the environment – pesticides and herbicides that are in our foods and in the water we drink, and these generally mimic the effect of estrogen in our bodies, creating a feminizing effect and encouraging our bodies to store more fat. No matter what you do to reduce this problem – like buying truly organic food – this stuff is all around us, and it is going to get into your system no matter what you do to try to avoid it.
So what is the answer? Let’s take the easy one first: the best defense against the environmental stuff that we can’t avoid is to increase our intake of foods which have an anti-estrogen effect, and these are called cruciform vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts for example. Ever notice how popular broccoli is with bodybuilders? The last thing these guys want in their systems is estrogen. But you have to buy fresh, and not cook all the crunch out of them.
Now for the hard one: to avoid the cycle of weight loss and gain, and a build-up of insulin sensitivity, excessive aromatase production and lower thyroid hormone, you need to exercise regularly. How often and how hard is up to you, but you must be consistent, and not take long breaks (more than two weeks, say) from your regular program.
Live long and healthy!
John Maroussas is a licensed massage therapist and certified personal trainer with particular expertise in sports massage, drug-free pain relief and male hormone function.