by Kelly Martinsen
Twenty years ago, Craig Cooper—co-founder of Boost Mobile USA, serial entrepreneur, health advocate, founder and president of Cooperative Health and Performance Research Labs, and, most recently, author—embarked on a journey into the world of health initially to stave off a number of serious medical issues that doctors told him were his “genetic destiny.” His book, Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick-Ass Life After 40, is written for men approaching middle age and is the direct result of that 20-year quest.
“Middle age should be seen as a time of opportunity, not as a time of crisis!”—Craig Cooper
My first question was obvious: How did you go from mobile company founder to health advocate? Cooper’s response was passionate indicating that he has always been focused on living a life to its fullest, or what he calls “thriving”. When he entered middle age and began receiving different doctors’ opinions regarding his health, including a diagnosis of a high PSA (prostate-specific antigen) and a propensity toward diabetes, he began searching for information on men’s health, specifically looking for books geared toward thriving in middle age, and what he noticed was a lack of material. “There are a lot of books on wellness but not a lot of information geared specifically towards us,” says Cooper, referring to middle-aged men that don’t want to simply accept the natural aging process.
So, what’s different as men age? I asked him. In a word, “everything,” he says. The diet and exercise needs of a man in his 20s is completely different than the needs of a middle-aged man. Physiologically what is happening in a man’s body at this time in his life is different. In a man’s 40s, his testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone), which was high in his younger years, is now declining and with that decline comes inflammation and weight gain, among other things. So, the exercise, foods and supplements men choose as they age need to be tailored to naturally counteract this natural decline.
When discussing exercise, it became apparent that Cooper is not a fan of long-distance running. “Listen, the effects of that sort of continual training negates what a man in middle age needs, which is again to increase HGH and testosterone and to lower inflammation.” Marathon training has the opposite physiological effect on the body and is actually linked to increased inflammation and a decrease in HGH and testosterone.
Since I was interviewing Cooper just two weeks post his running the NYC Marathon for the Chris Klug Foundation, I had to seek clarification. He explained that while it is a great thing to do once or twice in a man’s lifetime, “it is not healthy as a lifetime pursuit,” and adds: “Look at the ultra-athletes—you hardly hear about them anymore. The [Ironman athletes] in Australia were the sickest people [and]the ultra-athletes developed overtraining syndrome.” That’s not to say that when a man hits 40, he should stop training or take up golf (which Cooper likes for a nice afternoon but does not consider exercise). Instead, Cooper offers an exercise plan in his book that is challenging and focuses on getting the utmost results. What’s even more remarkable is that they are often completed in around a half hour, which takes “I don’t have time” right out of a man’s lexicon!
On the nutrition front, Cooper is adamant: “I look at food as fuel. If I am sitting all day in my car, I am not going to eat the same dinner when I get home as I would if I were active all day training. That just wouldn’t make sense.” Cooper knows not only the right carb-to-protein balance needed for a middle-aged man to perform at his peak but also describes in his book his use of “IF” (intermittent fasting), which he utilizes to keep his blood sugar in check. “Basically, I fast on Tuesdays; nothing complicated,” he says with a laugh. Cooper finds he “looks forward to those days,” citing studies indicating intermittent fasting decreases insulin levels and inflammation and boosts HGH levels. When talking about effects on insulin, Cooper asks, “Adult-onset diabetes is an epidemic; 30 years ago, we never even heard about it, did we?”
Having been diagnosed with a high PSA, often an early warning of impending prostate cancer, Cooper feverishly researched nutritional links and preventive measures, which are discussed at length in his book and shared on his foundation’s website, Prostate.net. The website’s primary goal is to educate men about prostate cancer risk and prevention strategies.
When considering vegan, Paleo, gluten-free, ultra-low carb and various other extreme diets, Cooper doesn’t recommend an-all-or nothing protocol. While he primarily eats a plant-based diet, he will allow for indulgences, including eating meat three times a month and grains that are not gluten-free. Cooper believes in a balance verses the extreme diet plans listed above. He chuckles a bit when sharing some wisdom from friend, workout partner “and one of the fittest men on the planet,” professional surfer Laird Hamilton: “You can’t become too precious or else you become too precious.” For men, and women, for that matter, in middle age, the goal is to be strong, healthy and capable, which is definitely not to become precious.
Craig Cooper’s book, Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick-Ass Life After 40, can be purchased at Amazon.com.