I have a lot of clients that are over the age of forty, and damn near every one of them in one way or another asks me “can you build muscle after 40”
YES, WHY THE HELL NOT
Since when did 40 become the new 90, why do we have this stigma that when we hit 40 our testosterone, bones, muscles, and metabolism all take a shit and we can no longer get in shape or do what we want.
I just turned 40 (and no this isn’t why I’m writing this post) and I will be the first to tell you that my body doesn’t feel or perform like it did when I was in my twenties, but with the right training, diet, and habits you can reach whatever goal you desire.
I’m 40, Is It Too Late To Build Muscle (that’s funny)
Unless you’re using it as an excuse a number can not prevent you from doing something you want to do.
Unless you’re not tall enough to ride a roller coaster, in that case, a number can prevent you from doing something.
The guidelines and science behind building muscle stays the same whether you’re 55 or 25 but there are some things you need to know about your body after the age of 40.
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How Does Your Bones, Muscles, Joints, Testosterone And Metabolism Change Once You’re 40 Years Old.
Your Bones After 40
By the age of thirty, you have achieved peak bone density, when you’re young your body replaces damaged bone with newer healthier bone, but as you get older your body doesn’t replace it as quickly.
Between 30 and 40 years old your body replaces as much bone as it loses but once you hit 40 a smaller amount of bone is replaced which can lead to them becoming thinner and brittle.
There are many physical and nutritional habits you can practice to keep your bones healthy.
How To Keep Your Bones Healthy After 40
- Eat Your Vegetables – Remember when your parents would tell you to eat your vegetables, there was a good reason for it. Vegetables are a great source of vitamin C, which helps increase cells that help rebuild bone in older individuals, and when you’re young it helps you reach peak bone density by the time you’re 30.
- Lift weights – Studies have been done that show when older men and women partake in strength training and high impact exercises their bone density, strength, size increased, and most importantly the reduction of bone loss. This is just another reason on an already long list of reasons to start or continue to weight train.
- Protein consumption – Bones are made up of 50% protein so common sense will tell you that a low protein diet will hurt your bone health while a high protein diet will help your body build and maintain your bone. If you’re having trouble getting enough protein in your diet, try a whey protein powder.
- Don’t go crazy with calorie deficits – This is for those of you that are cutting or trying to lose weight, very-low-calorie diets (under a 1000 calories per day) will start to reduce your muscle mass along with your bone density, you want to be at the very least 1200 calories a day. Changing your body takes time and if you’re on the extreme side of things you’ll only cause more problems later on down the road.
- Calcium, Calcium, Calcium – Bone is made of primarily calcium, we’ve all heard drink enough milk to keep your bones strong. This is because dairy products are high in calcium. The recommended amount per day is 1000 mg but you need to spread it throughout the day for maximum absorption.
Your Joints After 40
Your joints are made up of living active tissues that are susceptible to damage from lack of water and normal wear and tear. The first sign of aging come from the cartilage and synovium wearing away, there is also lubricant called synovial fluid that cushions the joints.
These 3 materials act like a shock absorber and allow the bone to slide smoothly, when they start to deteriorate your bones will start to touch and grind together causing pain and arthritis.
How To keep Your Joints Healthy After 40
- Stay Hydrated – Your joints are living tissue and need water to stay flexible, when your body doesn’t have an efficient amount of water it start to pull water from your skin, muscles and joints. This allows toxins to seep into your joints and cause inflammation, swelling and overtime can lead to tearing.
- Pay Attention To Your Weight – Common sense will tell you that the more weight you’re carrying around will increase the load and stress on your joints, besides the dozens of other health problems being overweight causes, joint health is definitely linked to it as well. That’s why so many overweight people have bad, backs, knees and hips due to how these parts of your body have to hold up almost all of your body weight.
- Muscles Are Joints Best Friends – Well defined muscles will help support your joints and strengthen your ligaments, this is especially true for your spine, knees, hips and ankles. Instead of your joints being solely responsible for holding you up it now becomes a team effort lessening the wear and tear on your joints and keeping them healthier longer.
- Stay Active – Being inactive is horrible for your joints, it causes stiffness and inflammation. At the very least you should take a walk or stretch, but the best way to keep your joints flexible is to do cardio training a few times a week.
Your Muscles After 40
Sometime in your thirties (it’s different for everyone) your body actually stops maintaining your muscle mass on a full time basis, this means for someone who doesn’t lead an active lifestyle or doesn’t workout you can start to lose 3% to 5% of your muscle mass per decade.
The good news is you can completely reverse this by strength training. No matter what age you are, if your body is put under stress it will find a way to alleviate it. If you’re lifting weights your body wants to adapt to this problem, it does this by adding muscle mass to your frame to make you cope with this new founded stress.
How To Keep Your Muscles Healthy After 40
- Provide the correct nutrients in your diet – If you don’t give your body the right type of nutrients that support muscle maintenance and growth then your results will suffer. Make sure you’re including the 3 major macronutrients of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates into your nutrition plan.
- Strength training – Have you heard the old saying “if you don’t use it you’ll lose it” It may sound like a cliche but it is absolutely true, you will not maintain your lean muscle mass if you just sit around all day being lazy, and this is especially true once you start to get older.
- Drink Enough Water – Your body is made up of 70% water so imagine what your cells feel like when you’re dehydrated, every function your body does on a daily basis requires water, and this includes building and maintaining lean muscle mass.
Your Metabolism After 40
Unfortunately as we get older it becomes much harder to lose weight and a hell of a lot easier to gain weight. It will actually slow down by about 5% every decade after 40, this means you have to be more disciplined with what you eat and drink and to make sure you’re more active than ever.
How to elevate your metabolism after 40
- Drink and eat foods high in antioxidants – Antioxidants help kill off free radicals in your body helping promote healthy skin, metabolism and digestive issues. Foods high in antioxidants are blueberries, dark chocolate, strawberries, pecans, artichokes and goji berries. Drinks high in antioxidants are pomegranate juice, concord grape juice, blueberry juice, blackberry juice, green tea and rooibos tea.
- Water, water and more water – I’m hoping you’re starting to see the trend here of drinking enough water, I really can’t stress the importance of it when it comes to keeping all aspects of your life healthy and fit. Plus if you’re trying to lose weight drinking water can help you feel full when you’re having a craving.
- Make a super smoothie – Start your day off by taking a mixture of the ingredients I listed above that are high in antioxidants and make a healthy smoothie that will kickstart your metabolism while also fueling your body with an extremely healthy breakfast.
Your Testosterone Levels After 40
The average male has 679 ng/dl of testosterone with it peaking at age 20 and can diminish by 1% every year from age 30 to 50. Testosterone plays an important role in the health of men and women, it is the main sexual hormone in males and is also found in small amounts in women.
Adequate testosterone levels are important for disease resistance, body composition, libido, energy levels and general health. It also plays a major role in muscle development and mood.
How to boost your testosterone naturally
- Lift weights – Cardio and strength training exercises boost your testosterone, Lifting weights helps your testosterone more than cardio, especially if you’re lifting heavyweights.
- Get your beauty sleep – Not getting enough sleep can change how your body produces hormones and chemicals including testosterone, aim for 7 to 8 hours per night. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep you may want to see your DR.
- Don’t eat like crap – Eat a proper diet that includes whole foods and a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, this will ensure that your body keeps all of your chemicals and hormones at satisfactory levels for optimal health and performance.
- Get rid of extra fat – Studies have found that overweight males between 15 and 20 had 50% less testosterone when compared to males in the same age group that wasn’t overweight.
- Get your vitamin D – Taking Vitamin D supplements or getting at least 30 minutes of sunlight per day has been shown to regulate testosterone levels.
- Find your happy place – Long term stress increases a chemical called cortisol in your body which can lead to excess fat storage, mood swings, and low testosterone.
It’s clear that your body changes once you start to get older but there are plenty of ways to counteract or slow these changes down, you only have to make some adjustments to your diet and activity levels.
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The Best Nutrition Plan To Build Muscle When You’re Over 40
To figure out your nutrition plan you first need to know what your goal is, you’re either going to start off on a cutting phase or a bulking cycle.
- Bulking – This is when you want to start to build muscle mass, in order to do this you need to be on a calorie surplus.
- Cutting – This is when you feel like you have to much excess body fat and you want to slim down before building muscle.
To find out how many calories you need to eat per day go to my calorie calculator and follow the instructions.
This nutrition plan is formed around a diet of 2000 calories a day, most people that are bulking are going to be on a higher daily calorie diet. I wanted to base it on a nice round number so that you could easily change it to your calorie needs. If you have trouble modifying the diet to fit your calorie needs, email me or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help you.
Meal 1 (Breakfast)
|1 Whole Egg||69||8||0||5|
|1 Egg White||16||5||0||0|
|2 slices of ezekiel toast||170||8||30||2|
|2 teaspoons strawberry jam||36||0||9||0|
|135 grams blueberries||80||1||19||0|
Meal 2 (Shake)
|1/2 scoop of whey protein powder||65||12||2||1|
|250 ml of unsweetened almond milk||31||1||0||3|
|20g of natural peanut butter||130||6||4||10|
|2 ice cubes||0||0||0||0|
Meal 3 (Lunch)
|75g cooked chicken breast or 75g of|
turkey breast or 75g of shrimp or 95g
|250g of cooked white or brown rice||287||7||58||3|
|125g of cooked broccoli||48||3||9||0|
Meal 4 (Snack)
|50g oatmeal dry measurement||191||7||34||3|
|2 teaspoons honey||48||0||12||0|
|30g mixed nuts||195||6||9||15|
Meal 5 (Dinner)
|85g cooked lean beef||149||26||0||5|
|255g sweet potato||204||5||46||0|
|125g cooked carrots||44||1||10||0|
|1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil||45||0||0||5|
This is only an example and is not meant to be taken as your only choice, you can easily modify this to your liking or just use it as a guideline just remember to include all 3 major macronutrients into your diet plan.
Best Workouts For Someone Over 40
There are 3 different types of thinking out there when it comes to fitness routines when you’re older, these are.
- Isolation moves – This is when you will workout 4 to 5 days a week with each workout targeting normally 2 muscle groups. Many people prefer this method because it is less stressful due to the lighter amount of weight you’ll be using. One negative is that you need to find time to workout 4 to 5 times a week.
- Multi joint exercises – These workouts are based around moves like squats, deadlifts and overhead presses where you’re using heavier weights and working multiple muscle groups in one move. The benefit of these types of exercises are while the workout may take longer you only have to do them 2 or 3 times a week since you’re working out your entire body. I personally prefer these types of moves only because I enjoy lifting heavy and they burn the most calories making them a great way to keep excess fat from accumulating.
- Full body split routine – This is where you would do your upper body one day then your lower body another day and keep alternating, some people feel like they can give a more intense workout when they split their full body workouts into 2 different days.
I’m going mix moves up between free weights and machines because I feel this is the best way to hit all of the muscle groups. If you only have access to free weights email me or leave a comment below telling me which exercise you need a substitute for and I’ll tell you the best free weight option for that exercise.
I’m going to give examples of both types of fitness routines that way you can experiment on your own and decide which method works best for you.
Monday- Back – Shoulders – Biceps
|Overhand pull up||3||5-7|
|Chest supported T-bar row||3||8-10|
|Lat pull in||2||8-10|
|Standing one arm cable curl||3 per arm||8-10|
|Supinating dumbbell curl||2||5-7 per arm|
Wednesday – Legs
|Barbell hip thrust||2||8-10|
|45 Degree leg press||3||8-10|
|Lying leg curl||3||8-10|
|Standing machine calf raise||3||8-10|
Thursday – Chest – Shoulders – Triceps – Abs
|Flat barbell press||3||5-7|
|Incline dumbbell press||2||5-7|
|Incline bench dumbbell lateral raise||3||10-12|
|One arm overhead cable extension||3 per arm||8-10|
|Narrow grip dip||2||8-10|
|Hanging leg raise||2||10-12|
|Side plank||2 per side||30 to 60 seconds|
Remember this is just an example and you can modify it a thousand different ways to create a plan that works best for you.
Full Body Workout Routine
|Flat Dumbbell Press||3||5-7|
|Lying leg curl||3||8-10|
|Standing cable lateral raise||2 per arm||10-12|
|Incline dumbbell curl||2||8-10|
|standing machine calf raise||3||8-10|
There is a healthy debate evolving around how many times per week you should do a full body workout. My personal preference is twice a week, here’s why.
Full body workouts are very demanding and labor intensive, if you’re not in peak physical shape it will it take a couple days for your body to recover, and if you’re back in the gym lifting weights before your body has ample time to recover you’re going to hurt yourself rather than adding muscle mass.
When you lift weights you’re only sparking the steps needed for your body to build muscle, but your body doesn’t actually repair your muscle until your at rest.
Thus is why i believe that training your entire body more than 2 times a week is actually detriment and will cause adverse results rather than positive ones.
Full Body Split Routine
Split routines are the best of both worlds, you get to lift heavy weights perform high intensity moves while still being able to workout every other day without worrying about over training any one body part.
|Overhand pull up||3||5-7|
|Flat dumbbel press||3||5-7|
|Chest supported T bar row||3||8-10|
|Seated overhead dumbbell press||3||5-7|
|Incline cable fly||2||8-10|
|Standing one arm cable curl||3 per arm||8-10|
|One arm overhead cable extension||3 per arm||8-10|
|Romanian dumbbell deadlift||3||8-10|
|Walking dumbbell lunge||2||5-7 per leg|
|Lying leg curl||3||8-10|
|Seated machine hip abduction||2||10-12|
|Leg press calf raise||3||8-10|
|Kneeling rope crunch||2||10-12|
|Hanging leg raise||1||10-12|
How Often Should You Do Cardio
Which workout routine you pick is going to determine how often you do cardio workouts.
A couple things you need to take into consideration when deciding how much cardio to do per week are, don’t do so much cardio that you put yourself into a calorie deficit instead of a calorie surplus.
You also want to watch doing to much cardio and not giving your muscle time to repair themselves, this is especially true after leg day.
- Full body workouts – The day after you do a full body workout you’ll either want to take a day off or do a very light cardio day to loosen and stretch your muscles.
- Isolated exercises – If you’re motivated enough you can do cardio training the day after your strength training workouts, this way you can workout 5 or 6 times a week if you want, just make sure not to over do it because this can lead to your body not getting enough rest.
- Split workouts – This is basically the same premise as full body workouts but since they’re not as strennous you might be able to get away with a higher intensity cardio than if you were doing full body workouts.
Cardio Workouts For When You’re Over 40
Cardiovascular exercises are any aerobic exercise that makes your heart beat faster, gets your blood flowing quicker and forces your body to bring oxygen to your organs and muscles which will create a fat burning effect.
The graph below is just a sample to show you how you could incorporate different types of cardio any day of the week, this will obviously change depending on what days you’re weight training.
|Mon||HIIT training||15-25 minutes||Sprint interval workouts|
|Tues||Moderate intensity||40-60 minutes||Jogging|
|Wed||Low intensity||All day||Try to walk 8000 12000 steps|
|Thurs||High intensity||35-60 minutes||Treadmill, elliptical, rowing|
|Fri||Moderate intensity||30-40 minutes||Circuit training|
|Sat||Low intensity||45-60 minutes||yoga, bike ride, swimming|
|Sun||Static stretching||30 minutes||Stretch each body part, yoga|
Tips To Help You Prevent Injury When Working Out
- Listen to your body – No one knows your body like you do, if you wake up and you’re hurting worse than normal, try warming up to loosen your muscles but in the end if you don’t feel comfortable working out than wait one more day. It’s better than injuring yourself and not being able to workout for days, weeks or months.
- Learn to use compression sleeves – Many people including myself notice less fatigue, swelling and soreness throughout the muscles while wearing a compression sleeve. This leads to longer more productive workouts because of better circulation.
- Don’t push yourself – I have seen many older men come in to the gym and try to lift like they were 20 years old again, The weights will make you remember your age faster then any person can. Drop your ego at the door and be smart about how you approach your fitness routine.
- Stretch and warm up properly – I can’t emphasize how important it is to spend enough time warming up especially as you get older. Warming up increases your heart rate, circulation, loosens the joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. It also prepares the central nervous system to lift heavy and hard.
- Try different techniques to see what fits you best – One way to workout doesn’t fit all, try super sets, drop sets, tri sets and circuit sets. These are great ways to bring versatility to your routine and when incorporated correctly will give you great results.
- Don’t ignore rest days – There is such a thing as overtraining, no matter what the dumbass 20 year old at your gym says. If you don’t rest enough
At no point does turning 40 or even 50 keep you from building muscle and becoming healthier, you just have to be smart and know how to develop a fitness and nutrition plan that works to your strengths and in no time you’ll be putting your kids to shame.