Men: Are you exercising and eating healthfully but not losing the weight you want? The good news is that there are more benefits to these two habits than just weight loss.
Megan Senger, professional fitness writer/editor and fitness instructor based in North Carolina, has summarized a few studies that center on men’s wellness, with comments on what the findings may mean for you.
Heart Disease, Strength Training and Weight Loss
IS REGULAR RESISTANCE TRAINING MORE IMPORTANT THAN LOSING WEIGHT WHEN IT COMES TO HEART DISEASE IN MEN?
A study by Roberts et al. (2013) set out to determine if the HDL (the “good” kind of cholesterol) in overweight men who regularly weight trained was “healthier” (better functioning) than that of overweight, sedentary males.
The study authors found that HDL activity was improved in participants who regularly strength trained, regardless of whether they were thin or plus-size. These findings imply that exercise habits probably predict healthy HDL cholesterol function better than body weight does and that regular weight training may improve HDL function, even in men who remain overweight.
This study provides yet more motivation to encourage you to stick with a regular resistance training routine, even if you are not losing weight.
Men, Metabolic Syndrome and the Mediterranean Diet
WILL A HEART-HEALTHY DIET HELP MEN PREDISPOSED TO HEART DISEASE, EVEN IF THEY DON’T LOSE WEIGHT?
The Mediterranean diet is based on the kinds of foods typically eaten in that region—meals rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains; inclusive of wine and olive oil; and low in red meat. It has been repeatedly shown that this way of eating significantly improves heart health and other markers of well-being (Sofi et al. 2008).
However, in previous studies subjects have typically lost weight on the diet, creating a confounding factor: Was it the Mediterranean-style food or the weight loss that actually made people healthier?
Results of a study by Rich┬¡ard et al. (2013) demonstrated that the heart-healthy food plan helped men at risk for cardiovascular disease to improve their “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) levels, whether or not they lost weight.
Although Richard and colleagues caution that the results of this short-term study may or may not be reproduced over a longer term, the results are encouraging for men predisposed to heart disease who eat healthfully without experiencing weight loss. “This study supports the Mediterranean diet’s benefits as it directly affects LDL levels and functions,” says industry expert Irv Rubenstein, PhD, an exercise physiologist and founder of STEPS, a personal training center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Medications and Men’s Muscles
Men often want to retain or add muscle mass and maintain a sense of vigor as they age. However, many commonly prescribed medications may interfere with these goals, says exercise and aging expert Dan Ritchie, PhD. For example, many statins (commonly prescribed cholesterol-related medications) list muscle weakness, muscle fatigue and muscle cramps as side effects. Therefore, if you want to build muscle mass but are taking statins, you may be unable to reach your goal, no matter how savvy your exercise programming is.
Richard, C., et al. 2013. Effect of an isoenergetic traditional Mediterranean diet on apolipoprotein A-I kinetic in men with metabolic syndrome. Nutrition Journal, 12 (1), 76.
Roberts, C.K., et al. 2013. Untrained young men have dysfunctional HDL compared to strength trained men irrespective of overweight/obesity status. Journal of Applied Physiology, 115 (7), 1043–49.
Sofi, F., et al. 2008. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: Meta-analysis. BMJ, 337 (7), 673–75.