It’s true that men have an easier time losing weight than women. Women, try as they might, struggle to keep pace with a man when it comes to weight loss. Why? Men have more muscle mass resulting in a higher resting metabolism, meaning they burn calories at a faster rate. But, once men are past the age of 40, suddenly weight loss becomes more elusive. It’s not as simple as it once was.
Surprisingly, hormonal changes can have a significant impact on a man’s weight once they hit middle age. Women are not the only sex that experiences this. Hormonal changes can profoundly effect a man’s overall body composition making it difficult to reach a healthy body weight.
The male hormone known as testosterone is a potent chemical messenger directly influencing an array of physiological processes with far-reaching effects. For example, it helps regulate a healthy sex drive, bone mass, along with muscle mass and strength. When a man’s testosterone levels are adequate, life is good. But when levels of this “macho man” hormone drop, it can affect a man from head to toe. Men with low testosterone levels can experience a loss of libido, reduced bone mass, increased fat distribution, loss of muscle mass and strength, and a decreased amount of lean body mass. Low testosterone also sets a man up for a greater risk for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
All of these changes can ultimately result in weight gain in men past 40.
Another hormone affecting a man’s weight is estrogen. Yes, estrogen, commonly referred to as a female sex hormone, is also found in men. Estrogen helps to regulate libido, has a role in men’s ability to achieve an erection, and is necessary for making sperm. However, studies have shown that men with low levels of estradiol, the predominant form of estrogen, might be a strong predictor of gaining fat mass than men with low testosterone levels.
Leptin is derived from the Greek word for “thin,” since rising levels of this hormone signals the body to shed body fat. Leptin also helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, fertility, and more. Leptin is also called the appetite-suppressing hormone. As a man packs on more fat, leptin levels rise, helping reduce appetite while boosting metabolic rate, both which put the brakes on weight gain. But, men with low leptin levels may find themselves doing just the opposite of gaining weight.
Ghrelin is called the “hunger hormone.” If a person has not eaten in awhile, it will be secreted by the stomach helping provide a signal to eat. It can affect weight gain if leptin levels are falling with weight loss, the ghrelin levels will rise, making weight loss even more challenging.
Known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol can make weight gain worse and is linked to a bigger waistline. If a man is already overweight to obese, they tend to have higher levels of cortisol, especially in men who are under chronic stress. It’s not known if the higher circulating levels of cortisol are directly affecting weight gain or if simply having stress leads to overeating.
Simply carrying excess body weight is a risk factor for numerous health conditions – cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, joint problems, high blood pressure, and many others. Men should start the conversation with their doctor by asking them the best ways to stay at a healthy body weight as they age. They should also ask to be referred to a registered dietitian, specializing in weight management for adults. Reaching and maintaining a healthy body will be one of the best health efforts men can do extending a longer, more active lifestyle.
Anyone attempting weight loss must include resistance training in their workout regimen. Lifting weights combined with a healthy diet plan, is a man’s best bet for increasing metabolism, building and maintaining lean muscle mass, and for enhancing fat loss. Muscle is metabolically more active meaning it will burn more calories even when a man is at rest, making it imperative for men serious about losing weight and getting in shape after age 40, to lift weights.
As much as building muscle mass is important for weight loss or maintaining a healthy body weight, cardio or aerobic exercise is just as critical. Studies have shown that for losing fat mass, getting the heart pumping through aerobic exercise is best. But resistance training will better help maintain muscle mass for weight maintenance.
The College of Sports Medicine recommends men should get at least 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. This could include brisk walking, jogging, running, bicycling, swimming, playing tennis, or hiking.
As we age, it’s not uncommon to get complacent about taking care of ourselves. Men in particular, may become neglectful of their health. But, growing older should not be synonymous with becoming unhealthier. In fact, once past 40, maintaining healthy habits is more important than ever. Here are basic health habits that should still be practiced no matter what age a man is:
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.