I’ve had the opportunity to work with several blokes and I’m currently living with a rather large eating machine of a man (Matt!) so I’ve been afforded a great insight into how guys approach nutrition. One of the key things I’m always keen to coach guys about is how to recognise the signs their nutrition and lifestyle is working against their efforts in the gym and therefore hindering progress towards their performance or body composition goals. Here are the 5 signs your man food needs a makeover…
At risk of generalising, men often have a different attitude towards nutrition compared to women. In some ways blokes are a little more laid-back and easy going, they tend not to stress or overthink the process as much as women do. That said there are important clauses (or should I say commandments) that need to be in place for a guy to be happy with his plate, these include:
- Thou shalt NOT go hungry, portion sizes must fulfill.
- Thou plate shalt not be bland nor boring.
- Thou shalt not place too much garden on thou dinner plate, meat maketh the meal.
- Thou shalt not perform more than five cooking steps or need more than five ingredients.
- Thou shalt never be deprived of an array of colourful condiments at each meal.
Dare I say it the guys also have it a little easier in that I think they get away with more nutritionally than women. Their body seems to put up with excess sugar, booze, stress and sleep deprivation for a little longer than the female body BUT the outcome eventually is inevitably weight gain, low libido, fatigue and depression.
The thing that often makes me chuckle is when things go a bit ‘Pete Tong’ a lot of men immediately outsource the next steps to Team Other Half, who have been patiently waiting in the wings suggesting they swap ketchup for kimchi for a while now.
The body has often been trying to say “all is not well” for a while and has been sending feedback that systems are breaking down, but it’s not always easy to recognise the signals.
Here’s the 5 signs I often discuss with my male clients that suggest it might be time for a nutrition (and lifestyle) makeover!
1) That Itchy Patch or Painful Joint
Lots of guys I work with mention they have random rashes, patches of eczema, swollen glands, or chronic joint pain that often flares when they’re stressed. The symptoms often correlate directly with beer intake but let’s ignore that for now (I forgot “Thou shalt never give up beer!”)
The process causing these symptoms is known as inflammation, often stemming from the gut. It’s an immune response designed to protect the body but sometimes it becomes chronic and uncontrolled. The good news is it can be prevented and cleared once the cause is addressed. Whilst the healing period is never much fun, especially as it often involves the exclusion of beer and bread for a period of time, (sorry boys!) the results can be both phenomenal and transformational. Other body systems are always suffering as a result of the inflammatory process so once treated you can guarantee performance in the gym, energy, libido, waistline and mood health all return to awesome status.
2) All Moobs and No Morning Glory
A sensitive subject to tackle (sorry couldn’t resist!) but thankfully Matt has spoken openly about his personal battle with low testosterone during a hugely stressful time in his life which he fuelled with sugar and caffeine. A natural reaction for many men who notice a lacking libido is to head to the GP and ask about options including testosterone creams. However, these are rarely successful as a treatment and if anything may exacerbate the problem by decreasing the body’s natural production of sex hormones.
Low testosterone should never be looked at in isolation, it’s part of a huge endocrine system which means there’s constant interplay between sex hormones, stress hormones, sleep hormones and hormones that regulate energy intake including insulin and leptin. Addressing blood sugar levels, stress management and your sleep routine, whilst ensuring nutrients like vitamin D, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium are part of your intake, will help you find yourself waking up under a marquee once again 😉 Gut and immune health is also a huge factor with hormone production (of course!) so the points above and below are hugely relevant to optimal testosterone too.
3) Beer Farts and Bloating
Men are very much in touch and open about their gut health, in fact they’re proud of a good old release of wind, the louder the better especially if under the acceptable banner of a “beer fart!” However, in my experience many men are experiencing the symptoms of gut dysfunction which usually includes piles, heartburn, excessive belching, wind and bloating. Most believe this to be the norm and aren’t bothered by this at all, in fact they’ve usually contacted me about an injury, weight gain or lack of libido when in fact gut health is unbelievably relevant in all of these instances. Often a few tests reveal yeast overgrowth, not enough beneficial bacteria and occasionally parasites.
A lot of men suffer hugely as a result of eating too quickly and not chewing food sufficiently, coupled with a stressful lifestyle (especially financial pressures), 6-7 hours sleep (the average for most blokes) and topped off with an excess of beer, wine, sugar and bread. Their entire body is creaking under the pressure, every fart is likely a call for help.
4) Feeling Down in The Dumps
Depression and feeling low all the time is an increasing problem for both men and women, yet sadly nutrition is often ignored in favour of medical interventions. Whilst anti-depressants may be needed, in some cases they will impact the bodies natural regulation of neurotransmitters.
Mood health and motivation can be transformed by improving your nutrient status as many brain chemicals that make you feel positive, confident and motivate you to get up and go require vitamins and minerals, including all of the B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc.
Blood sugar levels are also important and if you allow these to rollercoaster throughout the day you become prone to anxiety, irritability and energy crashes – which quite simply make you feel rubbish. To fuel a good mood it’s also important to consume the building blocks of brain chemicals, most notably cholesterol and protein which help by keeping chronic inflammation and gut health in check as these impact the communication of neurotransmitters.
5) Lack of Muscle Mass
Health journeys for men often start in the gym with a desire to improve physique and whack on some decent muscle mass. This is cool as long as the relevance of nutrition, sleep, recovery and stress management is acknowledged alongside training. Quite frankly I’m bored of discussing which is most important because the truth is you’re unlikely to make decent, long term progress without all of these key components.
Both Matt and I still come across men questioning their lack of muscle mass despite training almost daily and the answer of course lies within the question. Most guys simply don’t get enough good quality sleep which is essential for the production of growth hormones and healthy testosterone levels. A lot of blokes still perform huge amounts of cardio alongside a stressful lifestyle and their nutrition simply doesn’t support their calorie and protein turnover. Matt often mentions that his clients simply haven’t applied enough variety and progress to their training program too, their muscles and minds simply aren’t challenged or stimulated enough by their workouts.
Hopefully there is tonnes of food for thought here, but if you’re looking to up your “Man Game” why not join us for a full day workshop in Tunbridge Wells on 3 September where Matt and I have teamed up with strength coach Suzie Lubuska to run seminars on all of the above. There will be full body training sessions using kettlebells and bodyweight alongside seminars to help you nail your macros, your weekly training programme, lifestyle habits and nutritional supplements. To totally fuel your awesome grab yourself a ticket, as I write we have just 5 places remaining so get your seat saved quick!