Now that you’re 40 and over, you’ve probably got a whole lot more going on in your life than when you were 20. During your 20s and 30s, most people worry about just three big things; work life, social life and love life. A lot of your out-of-work pursuits at that age probably revolved around looking good and having fun. Your enthusiasm for training was probably a lot higher as well, especially since you were most likely making regular gains.
As you crept close to 40 and beyond though, while things seem to be more stable in a sense, you also seem to have less time. You’ve got more responsibilities and fitness and results seem to have slumped. However, this is really the perfect time to reassess your priorities and focus on things you can control. This is also the perfect time for you to get healthy and start building muscle so you can maximise your quality of life later on. Whether you’ve let yourself go or just want to find a way to boost your gains again, we’ve got the perfect guide to help you build some serious muscle after 40.
Strength & Weight Training for Over 40s
A lot of trainers in their 40s often ask whether it’s still possible to build substantial amounts of muscle at that age. The answer is a resounding YES! Whether you’re in your early 40s or late 40s, muscle building is definitely still achievable. However, you’re going to have to be patient because you’re going to have a couple of things working against you now that you’re a bit older. Here are 3 tips to help maximise muscle gain for over 40s:
- Increase risk of injury is one of the main concerns for trainers over 40. Decreased physical activity and more lax ligaments and tendons means that you’re going to have to go a bit slower than you would have in your teens and 20s. Start with machine based exercises, which have more stability and slowly increase the amount of weight lifted. Form is extra important as jerky movements only increase your chance of injury.
- Rest Up – As you age, fatigue tends to set in faster and recovery processes tend to take slightly longer. To build muscle, power and strength, make sure you rest adequately between sets. As you progress, you can definitely increase the intensity by decreasing rest periods, however, it’s important to continue resting up well on your days off and getting enough sleep. On particular heavy training days, make sure you get a good 8 hours if possible to help support maximum gains.
- Keep it Simple – Most training routines you see these days are either too complex or too unstructured. They often incorporate a wide variety of exercises, most performed at submaximal efforts. Building muscle isn’t rocket science. Stick to the basics and rather focus on lifting to fatigue, keeping in mind the first point.
Cardio for Over 40s
While building muscle mass with weight training is important, to further increase your potential for future gains, cardio is incredibly crucial. Not only does cardio help to improve a range of metabolic functions, which can be help prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, research has shown that performing cardio when you’re older helps to support mitochondrial biogenesis. That is, it helps to boost the energy generating potential of your muscles. Translation? More energy to work out and more gains. To get the most out of your cardio after 40, here are 3 tips:
- As you age, fatigue tends to set in a lot faster, lung volumes and degree of blood flow decreases and functioning of the central nervous system declines. All that means is you should start slow and build up in small increments. Particular exercises are also more taxing than others, such as rowing/erg machine and running, so interval training might be an ideal mode of training rather than steady state exercise. You’ll find that interval training will also offer better results.
- Impact injuries are also a cause for concern. Try to vary your cardio routines with a range of different exercises and training modalities. Go from higher impact activities such as running, sprinting and skipping to lower impact ones such as swimming, cycling and the cross trainer. Varying the exercises will also be better for your overall metabolism.
- While structured cardio is important, incidental increases in heart rate is also key to keeping you healthy and lean. Make sure you have an active break from work every 3 hours. This can be as little as 5-10 minutes of walking or climbing stairs. Even dynamic stretches will get your heart rate up and support muscle building processes.
Food, Diet & Nutrition for Over 40s
As most of you already know, your metabolism will decline as you age. Everything you eat and drink will be more easily stored as fat and attention to diet quality becomes all the more important. To build maximum amounts of muscle, you also want to show that off by decreasing your body fat percentage. To help you do this, here are some great tips to get your diet in check:
- Boost Your Protein – The majority of your protein intake should be from actual foods. Aim for a higher protein diet with lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and dairy.
- Lay off the Junk – This may be obvious, but it is also one of the most common traits that seem to reoccur whenever anyone starts a diet. People often falter during and around work times, especially during after work drinks and business meetings. They indulge in all sorts of snacks which are going to wreak havoc on your fat percentage. To help combat this, spend some time buying or preparing higher protein or lower calorie snacks. Making the time to eat more regularly (4-5 meals/day) will also help you maintain hunger levels and avoid you from gorging yourself.
- More Vegetables – Effective muscle building requires more than just protein. The right micronutrients can really make a significant difference to muscle function and neural pathways. While the average person tends to consume enough of most food groups, vegetables and fruits is where people falter. While fruits are beneficial, vegetables are even better and packed more with nutrients to help you perform and recover better. Aim for 5 serves a day and use two in a smoothie if needed, but don’t throw away the fibre.
Supplements for Over 40s
When it comes to supplementation, most of the recommendations still apply. Your foundation supplements for muscle building will continue to be protein and creatine. Ensure you have 1-2 serves of protein at least to compensate for increased protein needs as you age. Creatine dosing recommendations remain the same and depends whether you’re loading or maintaining, but 5g/day is a good figure to stick with. Further from that though, there are a couple of supplements that you want to incorporate which will help boost your muscle gain capacity.
- Testosterone Support Supplements – As you know, testosterone levels tend to decline as you age, which can result in decreased capacity to build muscle, strength declines, increased fat mass and decreased sex strive. None of these are ideal, but you can help to alleviate many of these negative side effects with the right test support supplements. You can also stack these with anti-estrogen products for even more pronounced effect.
- Growth Hormone Support Supplements – As with testosterone, your levels of growth hormone will decrease as you age. In fact, growth hormone secretions can drop by as much as 60-70% between your mid 20s and your mid 40s. Drops in growth hormone also negatively affects body composition, making it harder to gain muscle and easier to gain fat. Which is why a good growth hormone optimiser supplement can help you to continue to build muscle, even as you age.
- Joint Support Supplements – Besides affecting muscles, ageing will impact bones and joints. Brittleness and pain often occurs which can hamper your training effort and recovery. Besides exercise, investing in a good joint supplement can ease some of these symptoms and also improve your long term prospects. Adding an omega 3 supplement can also be beneficial.
Gaining Muscle for Over 40s
Just because you’ve hit your 40s is no reason not to continue to train. In fact, there would be more reasons to actually continue to work out. Studies have shown that you can still hit the same level of muscle protein synthesis or muscle building as you age, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t be hitting the weights and aiming to pack on some lean mass. Now that you know what to do, there’s really no better time than now to hit the gym again.