By Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA
Men are notorious for not wanting to ask for directions. One wrong turn can take you far from your intended destination. However, following a road map and seeking advice when your inner GPS fails will keep you on the road to success when it comes to maintaining a healthy body composition.
When searching for the perfect diet, the smorgasbord includes keto, paleo, Mediterranean, intermittent fasting and the age-old USDA recommendations. The most effective diet is one focused on long-term health and permanent lifestyle changes. Extreme transformations are seldom sustainable. Although everyone has individual needs, all successful approaches to weight loss for men include three components—modest calorie restriction, insulin management and movement.
Calorie restriction—Without at least a modest caloric deficit, the bathroom scale will stall. Even intermittent fasting will lead to weight gain if the total amount of calories consumed exceeds those expended. However, it is not as simple as a mathematical formula. The reported calories on labels and on treadmill displays are often far from accurate. So, how do we stay on track? Simply record your current estimated calorie intake and expenditure for one week and then improve each by 10%. It’s all about change. But there’s more—the way our body processes calories adds a little more complexity.
Insulin management—When we consume calories, they are stored in various forms. The most readily available form is the sugar in our bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by our pancreas in order to bring this sugar into our cells. We store additional sugar as glycogen located in our liver and muscles. When we eat carbohydrates, our glycogen stores are replenished. Excess carbohydrates will be stored as fat. To make matters worse, our body will usually choose sugar for energy rather than excess fat. This vicious cycle will cause our cells to become tolerant to insulin, similar to the way we can become tolerant to pain meds with chronic use. Insulin resistance will then lead to the most harmful type of fat—“belly fat” (also referred to as “visceral fat” because it surrounds our internal organs). So, how do we trick our body into using fat first as an energy source? It is as simple as restricting the amount and timing of carbohydrate intake. Choose parts of your day—or even certain days of the week—in which you severely restrict your carbs. This allows your insulin receptors to recover, thereby training your body to use fat as its primary energy source when carbs are not readily available.
Movement—Exercise is the other side of the energy equation. However, the benefits go far beyond the calories we burn. When we move at a moderate pace (a brisk walk), we are training our metabolism to utilize our fat stores. We can even be creative with how we incorporate movement throughout the day. For instance, binge watch those YouTube videos on the treadmill rather than on the couch.
Men often take better care of their cars than their health. Just a little bit of preventive maintenance will keep us on the right path. Look for my article on “Your Men’s Health Checklist” in the next issue.
Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA, is the Medical Director of Robotic Surgery at Wellstar North Fulton Hospital. He is a urologist with Wellstar Urology in Roswell and has practiced in Atlanta for over 20 years. Wellstar North Fulton Hospital offers the Know Your Heart Screening that can determine your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions. Call 770-956-STAR (7827) to learn more or schedule an appointment.
Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA • Wellstar North Fulton Hospital • 470.956.4230 • www.ScottDMillerMD.com