Men's health: five small swaps to boost energy and protect your body
The key to supporting male health is protecting the body systems and organs that are under the most pressure, enabling the body to function as one whole vital and enduring unit.
In men, it’s the combined forces of the heart, circulatory system and adrenal glands that are under a higher level of pressure. Here’s why: the male heart is often larger in size than the female’s, and the total muscle mass throughout the body is also, generally, larger for men. This means that men also have a higher number of blood vessels. The energy demands on the male body are therefore higher, putting the whole of the cardiovascular system under a little more pressure.
There are some small swaps we can make on a daily basis to give all of us - and men in particular - a helping hand to boost energy levels and generally protect the cardiovascular system and adrenals glands.
1. Breathing – swap apical for diaphragmatic
Breathing: we should all know how to do this properly by now, right? It’s not something we are very conscious of in our daily lives. But how frequently, how deeply, and how effectively we breathe can impact our muscles and our health.
You might be familiar with the term ‘apical breathing’ - a pattern of breathing which takes place in the upper chest. When only our upper chest is used for breathing our other muscles aren’t engaged and the ones that are have to work twice as hard and are put under more stress. If you’re prone to neck ache or tension headaches, this won’t be helping.
Try diaphragmatic breathing, which uses the muscles from your lungs and abdomen. With so many muscles working together, intake and outtake of air are much more effective. Also, when you’re sitting down relaxing, try slowing down your breathing to around eight breaths per minute. The reduction in oxygen in your blood stream will help you to relax.
2. Protein – swap whey for plant
We’ve all seen those massive tubs of whey protein in gyms and supermarkets. For many gym-goers they’re the drink of choice to build muscle. But are they good for us?
The name suggests they’re full of protein and one would assume goodness. Wrong. Most protein shakes are filled with preservatives and are often heated during production to the point where the protein is no longer present, making it pretty impossible for the body to use. The result: higher levels of acidity and toxicity in the body.
The good news is you can get all of the goodness from consuming real foods full of protein. Spirulina, an algae, is a complete protein, containing every amino acid (helps to build up cells, muscles and tissue) and is the only non-animal source of vitamin B12 (helps to produce healthy red blood cells). Spirulina’s nutrient profile helps to reduce anxiety and generates a healthy boost of energy.
3. Calmness - swap the snooze button for your time
The alarm goes off. You’re not ready to get up so you hit the snooze button. You drift back to sleep. Repeat.
For those of us who set the alarm for the same time every day, our bodies get used to waking an hour before our alarms go off. Our sleep becomes lighter, our bodies get warmer, and cortisol - our stress hormone - starts kicking in. Cortisol gives us the momentum to get up and go in the morning but by hitting snooze and falling back to sleep, we are denying our bodies the hour they need to wake up, therefore confusing our stress hormone.
Instead of hitting snooze for 20 minutes, get up and take 20 minutes for yourself.
Pukka’s co-founder Tim Westwell says he starts the day by ”taking 20 to 30 minutes for myself, practising yoga or meditating. I try to close inwards before the day starts outwards. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with routine but I know that by taking some time out in the morning I have an opportunity to create the stillness I need before the day starts.”
4. Caffeine – swap coffee for green tea or ginseng
Caffeine doesn’t have to be bad for you. You just need to be smart about where you get your intake from. High doses of caffeine and other stimulating substances found in coffee can actually cause our bodies to make more stress hormones, further increasing the stress response.
Green tea does contain some caffeine, but less than coffee. But the primary reason that tea is a better choice when we’re stressed is thanks to its content of a natural substance called L-theanine, which is virtually unique to the tea plant. L-theanine has been found to have a relaxing effect on the mind, reduce anxiety, and help with focus and concentration. It’s thought to do this by increasing alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with being ‘calm but alert’.
Another great alternative is ginseng. Ginseng has been traditionally used in Asia for thousands of years. Its name is from the Chinese ‘Ren Shen’, or ‘person root’ as the root often resembles the shape of the human body. Its Latin name, Panax, come from the Greek meaning ‘panacea’ which is another word for ‘heal-all’. In China, ginseng was traditionally only ever reserved for emperors and was labelled the ‘emperor’s drug’ because of its strengthening and vitalising effects and the belief that it induced immortality. Today ginseng is still used across globe to help boost energy without the crash.
5. Salt – swap table for Himalayan pink
Despite all of the bad press it receives, salt is an essential part of all human and animal life. The body uses salt to maintain some of its essential functions. For example, salt is used to uptake certain nutrients from our intestines.
However, too much salt and too much of the wrong salt can be harmful.
Table salt is one of the most common items on a shopping list and ingredients in cooking. So what is wrong with it? During the making process of conventional table salt, ‘impurities’ are removed using chemicals. These ‘impurities’ also include essential minerals needed for your body, so what you’re left with is 99% sodium chloride, which is not in its natural form.
There’s a much purer salt out there that our bodies do like; Himalayan pink salt, which happens to be 85% sodium chloride and the remainder contains over 80 minerals. These minerals can help your body balance its PH, remove toxins, help absorb nutrients and support adrenal function.