Healthy aging Q & A

Healthy aging Q & A

What is the secret to healthy aging?  

We sat down for a little Q & A with our resident fitness guru, 54-year-old Arman Eckelbarger – owner of Trinity Ultimate Fitness centers in southwest Florida and member of the Trim® Medical Team – to get his take.  

As a corporate wellness consultant, age management coach and National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) certified personal trainer with decades of experience, Eckelbarger has much to say on the subject.   He says people need to be mindful about the aging process throughout their lives by living a healthy lifestyle that includes consistent exercise, healthy nutrition, sufficient rest and balanced hormones.

Q: What factors most commonly affect fitness training and recovery?

A.E. “Multiple factors influence fitness training and recovery, especially when you’re talking about older people.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re going to be weaker.  That’s when your hormones do their work.  If they don’t do their work then they’re not going to repair the body and get it ready.  Nutrition is another important factor.  Nutrition is just critical because when you exercise, you’re getting the nutrients into the blood and into the muscles, that they need to get their job done.  If you did not eat well, your body is not going to respond as well.  If you’re not hydrated, that’s a whole other can of worms because your electrolytes are unstable.  And stress.  If you’re pretty stressed out, it’s going to affect your training.”

Q: What’s the most common thing that holds people back from achieving their health and fitness goals?

A.E. “In my work, I’ve seen a lot of different issues. But in general, I’ve found that most people are really misinformed about nutrition. You can’t train your way out of a poor nutrition program. You can try all you want, it’s not going to work.  I’ve tried it first-hand. If you don’t change your nutrition, you’ll get some muscle tone and you’re going to feel a little bit better, but you’re not going to get the results that you’re wanting to have.

Q: What role do hormones play in healthy aging?

A.E. “It’s important to get the hormones reviewed. If your hormones are declining, you’re not going to get the result you’re hoping for.  Hormones are the messengers that tell the body how to operate.  If they’re not working at an optimum level, or some of them are not working well at all, you’re going to struggle.  

Hormones need to be reviewed and analyzed by a doctor, like Brent (Agin, MD).  If they’re not in an optimal range, they can be adjusted with the right protocol.  When you have the right doctor that knows how to do the protocol, to correct the hormone levels – now you’ve got a winning combination.  We’re not talking an overnight sensation, where all of a sudden you feel fantastic, we’re talking gradual increases of energy, and then recovery, and overall just feeling better and getting a better response.

I had to learn that myself.  When I got into my late 40s, I was training and doing all kinds of different things, and I could tell something was wrong.  So I started reading and researching all of this, and once I got my levels checked I found out there was a significant decline, which surprised me because I was living a healthy lifestyle.  

Most people are living hard, eating and drinking way too much, which really affects hormones.  That’s why we have such a crisis with hormone levels being totally out of synch.  Because they’re eating processed food and not enough fats, which isn’t good for hormones, and they’re not really exercising properly, etc. so, when they get their hormones balanced at an optimal level, then everything stays more stable.  

That’s what you want to have if you want to enjoy life.  You’ll have a lot more fun if you’re able to move.  Some people can barely move in their 60s because they haven’t done the things necessary that would keep their body at that level.”

Q: What fitness fads have you fallen into that you think people should avoid.

A.E. “I was on a low fat diet for 28 years.  That’s the trend in my field – eat 5-6 meals and stay away from fat because you get plenty of it anyway – this is totally false.

After doing a lot of research, I’ve learned that low fat diets are not the way to go. Eating this way for so long damaged my thyroid, among other things.

The truth is, fats are essential, you can’t just cut them out of your diet.  

The current American diet is all carbohydrate based.  The philosophy behind low fat diets is that it’s lower calorie and if you watch your calories that will keep you in good shape.  Well, unfortunately what happens is, any carbohydrates you consume that are not utilized will be converted to sugar – they need a place to go.   So if you’re eating a lot of them, which people tend to do, and your muscles are already full of glycogen, cause that’s where they’d be stored, and your liver’s full of glycogen, they have no place to go.   

Your body makes digestive enzymes that take these extra sugars and carbs and store them right to the fat cell. That’s how many people become obese.  They just keep these extra carbs and sugars, and continuously build fat cells and keep reloading and reloading, and the fat cells get bigger and bigger and then the body starts making more fat cells – it’s a vicious cycle.  So now, you don’t burn any fat.  In this case, what you’re burning when you exercise is just the carbohydrates and sugars you just ate.  It doesn’t work. ”

Q: What nutrition program do you recommend to your clients?

A.E. “So I’ve personally transitioned over the past year, or so, to a diet that includes healthy fats, carb cycling and intermittent fasting, which is the philosophy behind the Trim Carb Revolution program that I recommend to my clients.

Intermittent fasting involves a 12-15 hour fast between your last and first meal of the day.  Your body is actually burning fat as you’re sleeping, so the 12-15 hour fast is great because when you wake up, you continue to burn fat.  

But if you wake up and have a big serving of carbohydrates, that causes your insulin to kick in – you just shut down the fat burning process completely.  In that case, your body will run on unsustainable “quick-energy” – carbohydrates and sugar, carbohydrates and sugar.  This ultimately causes cravings that are really difficult to deal with because your leptin hormone – which says, ‘hey I don’t need anythin’g – is getting shut down because you’re going to quick-sugar, quick-energy type foods that keep your insulin levels elevated.

When you skip the carbohydrates in the morning, and consume more protein and fats, now the ketones are what’s being secreted from the fat cell. So now your energy system is changing.  The body stops using quick-energy, and starts using the long-burning, sustainable energy of the ketones.

When people first start eating like this, it can be a little tough because you’re going to have a transition period that can make you a little bit low energy and fatigued for two or three days.  But that will change.  

It happened to me. I was like, man I don’t know if I can do this deal. It was tough for me, you know – I’m training heavy and so the carbohydrate demands are already getting compromised and it takes a little while for the ketones to start getting secreted out of the fat cells. But I hung in there, and all of a sudden I started feeling my stomach really starting to tighten up.  It was just pulling the fat from the abdominal adipose tissue.  From there it was like huh – I mean it was quick.  I could just see everything coming together.  I lost an inch and a half on my waistline. When you have carbohydrates you tend to bloat more, and I don’t have the bloating anymore.  Once my energy came back up, my strength picked right back up, so it was like I didn’t miss a beat.

As you get where you want to be, as far as your weight, you introduce carbs strategically and your body stays in pre-ketosis, which spares your muscle and causes your body to use fat for fuel – that’s the concept behind it.”

Q: What is your training philosophy?

A.E.:“I’ve been training for over 30 years, so I’ve tried a lot of the stuff that’s out there and I’m constantly experimenting with new things. And so metabolically, from things I’ve learned and read, a training regimen in the 30-40 minute cycle is the most efficient to get results.  Then as you get conditioned to it, you keep increasing intensity or adjust the intensity as your recovery improves.

More work is not necessarily better.  Yeah, you might burn more calories, but you’re also affecting the joints and ligaments.  As you get further into your training session, you’ll start to fatigue and your form will get sloppy.  Then you start cheating and over compromising whatever areas are weaker, which causes more strain.  Next thing you know you’ve got a knee pain or a shoulder pain – these types of things start to crop up. So that’s why you want to keep it short and work hard and let the muscles recover and then you’ll be able to be even more efficient the next time you do it.

When you do longer bouts of training, you’re getting diminishing returns at a certain point. Most people can get where they need to be within the 30-40 minute window. Because they’re not looking to be all that and a bag of chips, they’re just wanting to improve how they look and how they feel. A 30-40 minute cycle allows the body to recover much more efficiently.  Without recovery, you’re going to go to work or you’re going to do your day-to-day stuff when you’re really fatigued and tired.  Well, that’s not productive.  We just want the body to be refreshed and also stronger and have more energy.”  

Q: What’s your advice for setting attainable goals?

A.E. “Understanding the time that it takes to get to where you want to be and monitoring it.  Patience is what people lack because they want it now, and that’s very understandable.  Now, if somebody’s younger, their hormones are at a higher level, they’re going to respond much more rapidly than somebody that’s older. So that’s the other factor, because when you’re older, your hormone levels are typically lower, and everything is just working at a slower pace.  There are exceptions that with most people, who haven’t been taking care of themselves and have been living life hard, it’s just tougher to get the response you want because the whole endochrine system has to get back on pace with what it can do.”


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