One of the more popular questions I receive is, “What can I do to lose weight?”. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who claim to eat right and exercise and still struggle with their weight. As a 58-year-old male, I have noticed the same thing. I eat an impeccable diet, exercise 5-6 days per week, and still have issues fighting weight gain. Why? This blog will cover the underlying contributing factors to why you may struggle with your weight and what to do about it.
1. Vegan doesn’t mean lower calorie intake.
I have several friends who are vegan and are significantly overweight. Why? Too often, their diet is high in processed foods such as starch and sugar. The starch from a processed grain will easily convert to sugar when digested and eventually be converted to fat if you don’t have enough activity/exercise in your daily routine. Additionally, to build or maintain your muscle mass (which is what burns calories), you need to consume enough protein (amino acids). Too often, a vegan diet can be too low in plant-based proteins and leave you with insufficient tools to keep or gain muscle. Less muscle means you burn fewer calories and have a lower metabolic rate.
Solution: Focus on eating more whole foods, i.e., not processed, and focus on plant-based foods high in protein (nuts, seeds, legumes).
2. Underlying Medical Issue(s) (Undiagnosed)
This is the one area where I can’t offer much help. Until you can have your medical provider help determine what, if any, underlying medical issues you have, it is hard to approach naturally. Conditions often linked to weight gain are hypothyroidism (low thyroid), depression, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), and Food Addiction. Once you find out the underlying issue, consider taking an integrative approach (using both natural and modern medicine).
3. Sleep Issues
Studies have shown that people who slept fewer than 6 hours have higher body mass index (BMI) scores. Yes, increasing your sleep will go a long way towards losing weight. Lack of sleep impacts several neurotransmitters that play a role in several areas of weight control. Two neurotransmitters are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry, while leptin tells your body it is feeling full. Lack of sleep will increase the amount of ghrelin you produce and decreases the amount of leptin. The combined effects mean you will most likely want to eat more even when you are full. Lack of sleep is also linked to poor food choices, such as foods with higher calories and carbs. Inadequate sleep will also lead to decreased physical activity. When we lump these all together, we can see that poor sleep is a perfect storm for why we have issues with our weight.
Affron®- affron® is a patented saffron extract with proven benefits to help improve sleep quality and duration and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. Just 14-28mg of affron® 1 hour before sleep will do the trick.
Levagen®+- Levagen®+ has been clinically studied for its health impact on sleep, pain, and more. With regards to sleep, just 350mg of Levagen®+ one hour before sleep improved the time it takes you to fall asleep, decreased the number of times you wake up during the night, increased the time sleeping, and reduced the amount of grogginess when you wake up. A bonus with Levagen® is it has also shown to be excellent for pain. Since many people have pain-related issues triggering poor sleep quality, you receive a 2 for one special if pain is also an issue.
MaizinolTM– MaizinolTM has two clinical studies showing its impact on sleep. A dose of either 250 or 500mg 1 hour before sleep helped improve sleep quality and total time asleep.
4. Stress Issues
When you are stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol. In short-term stress, cortisol is a good thing as it helps the body in its fight to survive. The problem occurs when we are under extended periods of stress (most of us are daily). Elevated cortisol will increase hunger, and cravings for poor food choices (high-calorie foods), increase fat storage, and decrease testosterone production (Yes, both men and women produce this hormone). While cravings and increased hunger are simple to understand, reduced testosterone production will contribute to decreased muscle mass and a lower metabolic rate. Stress is a perfect storm for gaining weight.
Affron®- Yes, affron® gets another mention as it is one of my favorite ingredients for stress. Studies with affron® show it improves mood disorders, decreases tension, decreases anxious feelings, and improves overall mood. It has also been proven safe and effective in children 12 and older. Even though it is excellent for sleep, remember that it does not trigger drowsiness and can be taken anytime during the day. I take 28mg each morning to help my body deal with my daily stressors.
Ashwagandha- this botanical is considered the “king of adaptogens .”Adaptogens help your body adapt to either physical or emotional stress. One of its big selling points is that it has been shown to decrease cortisol production when taken regularly. So while you won’t necessarily feel the difference quickly as you may with affron®, ashwagandha is an excellent addition to your stress supplement program.
CALMalumaTM– While most aren’t familiar with this fantastic botanical, you should. Studies with CALMalumaTM show it reduces stress, increases relaxation, and supports a healthy cortisol level.
These two areas need to be addressed together because stress contributes to decreased sleep, and poor sleep contributes to stress. Consider combining several of the abovementioned ingredients to help with sleep and stress. Example: affron® + Levagen®+.
5. Sex Hormone Changes
I mentioned how testosterone decreases are linked to decreased metabolism due to its impact on muscle mass. So here are a few suggestions to support testosterone production.
Testofen®- Studies show that Testofen® combined with resistance exercise can help men maintain healthy levels of free testosterone and support energy levels and muscle mass. People had decreased body fat too!
TesnorTM– Like Testofen®, this botanical combination has increased free and total testosterone in men and supports muscle growth.
Liboost®- Liboost® is normally considered a male and female sexual health support ingredient. Due to one of its mechanisms of action, it should be considered here too. Liboost® has the ability to inhibit testosterone breakdown and therefore supports testosterone levels, as mentioned previously.
While most are familiar with me not being a fan of weight loss supplements, they can be of benefit depending on the situation. The supplements mentioned above fall into a unique category for weight loss in that they support the underlying reasons we may struggle to lose weight. One ingredient I was recently introduced to, ActivAMP®, shows promise for helping to kick-start a healthy weight management program. This botanical has been studied and offered to help reduce abdominal fat and promote moderate weight loss. Just 450mg daily over 12 weeks showed decreases in body fat mass, percentage of body fat decreases in body weight and BMI, and decreases in total abdominal fat area. ActivAMP® naturally contains plant compounds the body naturally produces during exercise. These compounds activate a “master metabolic regulator,” which turns on the same fat-burning and energy-producing metabolic processes that exercise does. I think of it this way, a botanical that mimics the natural exercise process without the exercise.
Weight loss is a sensitive subject. Often, people are assumed to be lazy and overeat their weight struggles. There is a bit of relief attached to knowing that there may be underlying reasons we struggle with our weight. The key here is, to be honest with ourselves and then take a deeper look into some of the potential underlying reasons that weight may be an issue. In some cases, it may be necessary to combine multiple areas if they apply to your situation. If you struggle with stress and sleep and are old enough for hormones to be at play, consider taking multiple ingredients. An example of this situation would be taking affron® (Stress and sleep), Levagen®+ (sleep and mobility issues), and Tesnor® (Hormonal support). Even boosting your metabolism naturally with ActivAMP® would fit well in this scenario. Be creative and take the bull by the horns.