Nutritionist and fitness coach Yuri Elkaim explains the connection between unhealthy choices and testosterone. Interview by Lauren Lobley.
Yuri Elkaim, holistic nutritionist and fitness coach, is not your run of the mill health professional. Having helped over 75 000 people reach their health and fitness goals – and counting – he plans to help 10 million more transform their lives by 2018.
A lofty goal, to be sure. But with his track record, he’s sure to hit the mark. And men everywhere will want to pay attention to his secret sauce and rules for success.
Yuri’s love affair with all things fitness and health began as a young man. A professional soccer player in Canada and France, he retired at the tender age of 24. From there, he went on to work with some of the top athletes in Canada. As he puts it, working with these pros have given him an “unparalleled understanding of what does and does not work for getting incredibly fit and healthy.”
And he can teach you too. With over 13 years of experience, and the credentials to back him up, Yuri is an expert on the know hows to creating not only a healthier and more fit, but also, a better life.
When asked about what he identifies as the top 3 areas of men’s health that don’t get enough attention today, Yuri was quick to respond:
“It’s really important that men learn to manage their stress because it can shunt hormone production away from testosterone to cortisol,” Yuri asserts.
Testosterone is a reproductive hormone, and cortisol is a stress hormone that relates directly to survival. The hormones literally cannot be produced at high levels at the same time. And when stress is present, cortisol is produced, thus lowering testosterone.
This is important because, as Yuri explains:
“For a lot of men who are suffering from low libido or any kind of those men-type of issues, a lot of times it’s related to stress on some level. Whether it’s financial, family, work or relationship stress, I recommend getting to the root of it and dealing with the problem. Doing something like meditation, yoga or just taking time to go for a walk can also work well to reduce stress.”
“Sugar does the same thing that stress does: it shunts testosterone production and instead promotes estrogen,” affirms Yuri. “High amounts of sugar increases insulin, and insulin and estrogen kind of go hand in hand, working together to suppress testosterone function. So guys who are eating lots of sugar in any form – whether it’s from breads, pastas, cereals, bagels, donuts, refined sugars – whatever – all of those are going to have a negative impact on testosterone.”
According to Yuri, “Sleep is probably the most important aspect of our health today. For every hour that you can go to bed before midnight, you’re doing your body a really good service. For most people, 10 o’clock seems to be the sweet spot.”
Going to bed before midnight is best for your body, and more specifically, for your circadian rhythm. Unless you live in a place with irregular daylight, you naturally go to bed when it’s darker, and are awake when it’s light out. With that said, Yuri warns:
“It’s really important to turn off all your lights at least half an hour – ideally a full hour – before you go to sleep. You don’t want to be on your laptop in bed or watching TV and then going right to bed. Give yourself that time in complete darkness if possible.I know it may not be as realistic as we’d like it to be but the thing is when you have exposure to light, you suppress melatonin which is a hormone/neurotransmitter that is very important for sleep. Melatonin and cortisol are kind of inversely related. So if your cortisol level is high, you can’t have high melatonin. Cortisol is highest in the morning when the sun comes up, and lowest later in the day when the sun goes down. Melatonin is highest at night towards when the sun is down, and then lowest in the morning. So we want to honor that as much as possible.”
Another important factor in sleep patterns is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, weekdays and weekends alike. According to Yuri,
“It’s probably one of the best things you can do for your health. Because doing this will naturally regulate your circadian rhythm which will naturally help to regulate your hormones. This, in turn, will help you deal with stress better because your hormones are balanced. And dealing with stress better is going to help you make better decisions with your foods, which can be a huge game changer.”
So if you can get your sleep patterns, sugar habits and stress levels under control, you should be good to go. Right?
Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. In reflecting on the biggest impediments to men living their lives as healthy and strong as possible, Yuri had this say:
“I think there’s a lot of psycho social stuff that goes beyond the food. There seems to be this culture of expectation that men need to be successful and “win” at what they do. They have to be the breadwinner for the family, more successful than the next man: more money, better car, etc. I think that kind of comparison in our culture is a very big problem and not a lot of people talk about it. On a subconscious level, it seems to weigh on a lot of men and contribute to a lot of the stress that they feel.”
“There’s also seems to be a kind of tug of war between being a good father, being a good husband, needing to do well at work, and to provide for everyone. So there’s this constant struggle between knowing where to devote your attention and how much of it to devote. It’s very similar for women too. But I think there are these culturalized expectations of what a man “should” be, and if a lot of men don’t feel like they’re living up to what the media portrays as manly then – on a deep level – it really affects how they live their lives.”
But fear not! There are ways to cope with these cultural expectations that can cause stress. If only you are willing to put in the time.
“It’s really important to make time for yourself. I’ve got 3 little kids and I always put myself first – always. It sounds really selfish, but the reality is that if you don’t make time for yourself, you can’t give anything to anybody else. Especially if you are a dad – and even if you are not – do what you need to do so you can be present with your kids, your work, your family. When you’re working, work. When you’re with your family, be with your family. When we’re not present, we’re not engaged. When we’re not engaged, we lose connection. And when we lose connection with our kids, our spouse, etc, that’s when things really starts to go down the drain. So try to be present and be grateful for and appreciate what you have because what you appreciate increases in value.”
And like any true fitness guru would, Yuri goes on to say that when making time for yourself, be sure to make time to exercise:
“Whether it’s running, biking or weight training, you need to have that time for yourself. Exercise really allows you to fill up your bank account of health awesomeness. And when you do this – exercising and even practicing proper nutrition – be aware that your kids are like sponges. They model your behavior. Whatever we do, they’ll do. So if you can model good behavior – if you ask yourself, “What’s the type of person I would like my kids to become?” and then you lead your life like that, I think it can lead to some pretty awesome answers.”
Yuri’s message is loud and clear: do whatever you need to do to decrease stress, decrease sugar intake, and increase sleep, exercise and nutrition. In the name of adding years to your life, and life to your years, this might just be what the doctor – and Yuri – ordered.
Try Yuri’s Favorite Green Smoothie:
Makes a liter to 1.5 liters
Whole head of kale, swiss chard, or green lettuce
Juice of 1 lime
500 ml water
Hemp seeds for protein
A handful of ice cubes
½ handful cilantro.
Blend and enjoy!
For more information on Yuri, visit http://yurielkaim.com/.