Wed, 21 Jun 2000

Men under constant pressure to look and stay younger

In today's competitive world, men are under constant pressure to look and be younger. Yet, at the same time, society robs men of their youth and demands that they behave in a very "middle- aged" way as soon as they pass their 30th birthday. The Surabaya- based nutritionist and health advisor Clare E. Urwin describes how returning to your youth can become a reality. This is the second of three related articles.

SURABAYA (JP): For a man to "stay young", he needs to practice eating wisely. Food is a powerful medicine that controls how he looks, feels and performs. Men can loose fat, increase muscle, gain energy and improve mental stamina by eating the right food at the right times.

With the daily pressure and stress imposed on males today, it's not surprising that they are conditioned in rather the same way as laboratory rats, or Pavlov's dogs, to "reward" themselves with meals.

Men wait for hunger, euphoria, tiredness, boredom, success, or their partners, to tell them when to eat. Then they go about rewarding themselves with food that gives instant gratification.

Many men are in fact, malnourished, even those who are overweight. Current intensive farming methods, food processing, meals at irregular hours, grabbing convenience food on the run and eating the wrong types of food, all contribute to their missing out on necessary vital nutrients.

Even though these men won't necessarily get ill, neither will they feel energetic or "raring to go". Unfortunately, they will just become "used" to functioning below par.

The smart eating diet is very nutritious and rich in plant phytochemicals and antioxidants. High in vegetables, fruit and fiber it also has a good supply of protein and unrefined complex carbohydrates. However, animal fats are reduced along with processed products such as refined white flour goods, excess sugars and other "high glucose" loading foods.

Excess insulin

Controlling a man's blood glucose level is one of the two rules in a smart diet.

The more rapidly digested carbohydrate food in a man's diet, the greater his glucose load, which triggers the body into making excess insulin.

Insulin is a vital and important hormone in the body, but an excess of insulin leads to all manner of problems, ranging from diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and kidney failure. It can also make you fat! Too much insulin signals the body to rapidly dump the extra glucose into fat cells, usually around the gut and stomach area. Notice a few too many pot bellies and paunches among your colleagues lately?

A man's body doesn't need high levels of blood glucose and it functions more competently on the steady moderate level that foods such as whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits deliver. When your blood glucose balance is stable, your metabolism works efficiently during waking hours, supplying constant mental and physical energy.

However, the opposite will occur if large quantities of processed foods, white flour products and simple sugars are eaten, especially when combined with nicotine, caffeine or alcohol.

A rapid high glucose load in your body inevitably leads to a corresponding fall in the blood glucose level. In other words, what goes up must come down! So, this daily erratic combination of sky high glucose "hits" followed by very low glucose "troughs" will leave you tired, worn out, unhealthy, unhappy and bad tempered.

Such a dietary "roller coaster ride" can also cause adrenal glands to release excessive adrenaline and stress hormones. Add this dangerous mix to your present situation and there is a stroke, heart attack, chronic illness or accident just waiting to happen. Forget returning to your youth. At this rate you're not even going to live long enough to become old before your time!

Switching from eating carbohydrates that are digested quickly to slowly digested ones, will make you feel great from the very first day. No huge fatigue slumps or raging hungers. You will be even-tempered and have all the energy needed for work and play.

The second rule in eating smartly is planning which foods to eat at what time. Consume the right foods in advance of a meeting, sporting activity, concentrated brain work or even sleeping, to feel and perform exactly as you want.

In many other areas men are prone to plan in advance. Use the same intelligent tactics with food. Eat for a purpose. Be proactive, not reactive.

Ideally, a combination of all three elements (carbohydrates, proteins and fats), along with fiber, vitamins and minerals should be consumed at every meal.

However, you can manipulate the elements to control your mood. For instance, at midday, if you are going to have an important afternoon meeting and want to feel alert, forceful and attentive, increase your intake of protein and cut down on the carbohydrates. Lots of carbohydrates, especially rapidly digested ones, make most men feel drowsy.

Can't stay awake

After a lunch containing white pasta, white noodles, white rice or white bread, it seems very hard to stay awake during the afternoon. Not good for impressing the boss! Instead, try a high protein lunch of stirfried tofu, grilled fish or chicken with vegetables or salad.

Include some pulses such as chickpeas or kidney beans, then follow with fruit. You will feel wide awake, energetic and productive for hours.

In the evening, men want and need to "wind-down". Therefore, increase the carbohydrates, which have a calming effect and cut down on the protein. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid a high protein meal at night. Try brown or basmati rice, wholewheat pasta or lentils with beans and more vegetables. Keep your meal a moderate size. You don't need energy to sleep!

Food has its biggest benefit at breakfast. It wakes up the body, increases metabolism and makes you feel active and vigilant.

The right breakfast sets you up for a day of success. Have a good serving of low fat protein such as yogurt, skim milk, soy milk or eggs followed by slowly digested carbohydrates such as oatmeal, a high fiber cereal, wild rice or dense multigrain bread.

Follow this with fruit and you have the perfect combination of protein to wake up your brain, low glucose carbohydrates to keep your body going and fruit to supply plenty of healthy antioxidants and phytochemicals. You will feel terrific all morning; productive, calm and energetic.

If your present habit is gulping a cup of coffee and grabbing some toast or a pastry while rushing out the door, it's a bad start to whatever day you plan!

After an immediate and temporary glucose "high", your blood glucose level will plummet by mid morning, slowing down metabolism, reducing concentration and increasing adrenaline and fatigue. Add more caffeine to this state and you will feel jittery, hungry and irritable.

Smart eating puts you in charge of your day and eradicates those peaks and troughs which destroy the body's equilibrium. Planning what and when to eat brings astonishing performance benefits that should be exploited.

Men have a gift for advanced decision making. When utilized with a smart eating strategy, this talent can be wielded as a powerful tool. Please use it!

Next week, smart exercising. (