How To Get Leaner And Fitter With Age

Just because you’ve hit a certain age doesn’t mean that you don’t care about getting lean and fit anymore. We all want to look  and feel great, right? And there’s no reason why being a certain age should slow you down.

People have very defined ideas about what people should be like at various ages.

What they should look like.

How they should behave.

Getting those silly notions out of your head is the first step to your physical and emotional freedom.

You don’t have to be tired, weak, and out-of-shape as you get older.

My mission is to help people over 35 get extraordinary results…and feel better than ever.

Over 2/3 of people in North America are overweight or obese.

80% of people don’t exercise even the minimum recommended 2.5hrs a week.

It’s pretty easy to stand out.

If you do the right things, it’s possible to build muscle and be in the best shape of your life at any age.

With some small adaptations, the best way of getting lean and fit as you get older isn’t all that different from your 20s and early 3os.

Do you want to optimize your health and well-being?

Here’s How To Get Leaner And Fitter With Age:

1) Weight Train 3-5X per week

The National Association of Sports Medicine says that after 35, you lose from 0.5% to 1% of your muscle mass per year.

What’s usually left out of that stat is the endnote, which says “if we don’t do anything to prevent it”.

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle tissue, strength, and function, that is generally associated with aging.

There’s evidence to indicate that lack of activity is a major factor in how sarcopenia occurs.

Any form of exercise can reduce muscle mass loss, but weight training is the best choice because it optimizes muscle growth.

Remember if you were able to maintain your muscle mass in your 20s with only a couple of weight training sessions a week, you may now need 3 or 4 days of weight training to maintain and build muscle.

Moderately-heavy, moderate-rep (6-12) training is where most muscle hypertrophy happens.

Normally 30-90 seconds of rest is ideal for muscle growth.

Some trainees, especially older ones, may benefit from longer periods of rest to maximize strength and mechanical tension (provided by the load of the weight you’re using).

Occasionally using a 2 or 3 minute rest period may help you build your muscular potential.

Muscle Building Evidence

We’re not sure how much muscle mass loss over time is due to aging and how much is due to a reduction in frequency and intensity of physical activity.

Research with masters athletes in their 60s showed that their motor units (skeletal muscle plus the motor neuron innervating it) were comparable to active adults in their mid-20s.

Another study by the University of Oklahoma, compared 24 college-aged men with 25 middle-aged (35-50) men during an 8-week split-routine, linear periodized training program.

Strength increases occurred in both groups, but the older men actually lost significantly more fat mass and decreased body fat mass more (through building more muscle) than the college men.

2) Rest More

As we get older, we usually need more rest and recovery from training sessions.

The harder your sessions are, the more rest you’ll need.

Training with weights seven days a week – hard – isn’t beneficial for any natural trainee (steroids allow more frequent training because they enhance recovery).

Your muscles need rest in order to recover and grow.

You want to stimulate your muscles, not annihilate them.

Men tend to need more rest, since they generally have more muscle mass than women.

An older man particularly might need to take longer breaks between weights sessions.

Two days of lifting, followed by a day off, and then another couple of days, is probably better than trying to do 3 or 4 days in a row.

The other important aspect of rest is sleep.

Additional responsibilities (work, family, kids, aging parents, a mortgage) that many of us over 35 have, can limit recovery ability.

Less sleep and poorer quality of sleep can impact how you respond to workouts.

Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night so you can optimize your hormone levels, particularly growth hormone.

This gives your muscles a chance to repair and grow.

3) Eat More Protein

Maximum muscle anabolism (growth) happens only when the body’s protein requirements are met.

Research suggests that a minimum of 30g of protein per meal can help ideally maintain muscle and control body fat levels.

My recommendation is generally 0.8-1g of protein per pound of body weight per day.

So a 170 pound person should eat 136-170 grams of protein per day.

Protein is especially important in older trainees, because the need for protein for muscle repair and recovery increases as we age.

If you feel like you struggle to digest protein, it may be because your levels of the stomach acid HCL are low. This tends to happen with age, as levels of HCL may decline.

That may be why you don’t have the iron-clad stomach of your 20s anymore!

You can try supplementing with digestive enzymes containing HCL. Be cautious if you suffer from acid reflux though, as HCL may make the problem worse.

In some cases, however, acid reflux can be exacerbated by LOW stomach acid.

4) Use Heavy Weights & Do Compound Exercises

Those little plastic weights (most annoyingly in pink) that people use for women’s exercise classes (and prescribed by some misinformed fitness “gurus”) are useful for rehab exercises for small muscle groups or for very elderly, inactive people.

Relatively-heavy weights are the best way of building muscle.

There’s no such thing as “toning”.

You either have muscle or you don’t, surrounded by fat or not.

Less fat surrounding the muscle makes it appear “toned”.

Doing heavy weights, primarily compound exercises (those that use multiple joints, like squats, lunges, shoulder presses, rows, dips, deadlifts), is the most effective way to build muscle.

That doesn’t mean you need to deadlift for 1-3 reps, like powerlifters do.

Stick to the 6-12 rep range most of the time to optimize your muscle building.

But Won’t I Get Too BIG?

Trying to get people to stop worrying about building huge muscles from weight training is one of my missions!

It’s not nearly as easy as you think to build muscle, particularly in people over 35.

And for women over 35…it’s extremely hard.

If you’re still concerned about getting “bulky” from weight training, READ THIS.

5) Eat Plenty Of Veggies And Some Fruit

There aren’t many areas where nearly all nutrition experts agree so the belief in vegetables is unique.

Veggies contain a mix of phytonutrients, substances found in plants that are beneficial to human health.

Phytochemicals act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals.

Free radicals are byproducts of oxygen metabolism in a process called oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress contributes to aging, inflammatory conditions, anthersclerosis, and certain cancers.

This type of stress is thought to contribute to all inflammatory (arthritis, lupus, etc.), ischemic (CVD, stroke) diseases, and hypertension, ulcers, and neurological disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, Muscular dystrophy)

Try to eat a variety of vegetables and some fruit (particularly berries, which are high in fibre).

While we don’t know the exact contribution that antioxidants make to each of these diseases, it’s probably useful to eat a mix of antioxidants from different sources.

6) Take Care of Injuries

While this is important at any age, older weight lifters need to pay closer attention to signals their body is giving them.

If you feel a twinge in your knee or your shoulder when you’re training, make sure to make adjustments or even stop the exercise you’re doing altogether.

Injuries tend to take longer to heal as you get older, so prevention is key.

Although you might have “gotten away” with wrecking your body with training in your 20s, listening to what your body’s telling you pays big dividends when you get older.

Fewer injuries, and injuries treated quickly, means more time spent back training and working towards that coveted muscle.

7) Warm Up Thoroughly and Stretch as Necessary

A warm-up, preferably with a progressive dynamic one, is a good start to any workout.

As you get older, a longer and more thorough warm-up may be beneficial for getting the most from your strength workout, and for preventing injuries.

Stretching after your workout is also useful for preventing tightness in the areas you’ve worked and preventing muscle imbalances.

That’s not to say that you should do a yoga class (unless you really want to) or spend 45 minutes stretching at the end of a weights session.

Most people have tight hamstrings and hip flexors from sitting all day, and can benefit from stretching those muscles after a lower body session.

The chest and neck muscles can also become tight from exercise and poor sitting posture, and benefit from stretching at the end of a session when muscles are pliable.

8) Change Your Attitude

I consider this last point the most important of all.

Stop using your age as an excuse.

If you’re tired or feeling weak, try to find out the actual cause of the issue (there generally is one!) rather than just blaming your age.

Never explain away how you feel by saying, “I’m OLD!”.

It’s sad.

There’s nothing you can do about your age so it’s better to focus on being your best.

Part of the wisdom of age is that you learn to listen to your body more.

Remember that you’re human, that you’ll often slip and fall, and that you don’t need to live up to some ridiculous standard of Photoshopped perfection.

Don’t get caught up when people start using their age as an excuse for not performing the way that they want to.

The best knowledge that comes from age is the management of expectations (set them high, but don’t beat yourself up for failures), and balancing your priorities.

As a mature-minded (we hope!) person over 35, you can decide for yourself what’s important to you.

Your health, your family, your career, and looking and feeling great…not just for your age.

Looking and feeling great.

Period.

Use the confidence and personal strength that comes from “getting through a bunch of crap over the years” to focus on the results you want.

We don’t know the limits of human potential at each age, simply because no one really optimizes their workout and nutrition to the point where they ever achieve 100% of what they are capable of.

So if you get close to your potential with the right workout program and nutrition at 35 or 45 then you’ll be ahead of the vast majority of people in their 20s.

You’ll also likely be ahead of where YOU were in your 20s.

And that’s really what counts.

YOU getting better with age.

Your best days are still ahead of you.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 5-year-old boy. She is a writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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