Each year we lose an average of 1lb of lean muscle. Now that may not sound like much, but when you bear in mind that muscle is the one thing we have control of that drives your metabolism, we want to keep as much of it as possible. Not only that but studies show the more of our muscle we can take with us in to later life the longer and the better our quality of life is likely to be.
So, is there anything we can do to future proof our bodies?
Yes, fortunately the loss of muscle as we age can not only be stopped but reversed. Our muscles still react to weight training in the same way they would in your teens or early twenties. But there are differences in the way we need to train.
1 Training frequency
While muscles are still capable of growth the recovery rate reduces, especially if we have been inactive for a while. whereas in our twenties training everyday may have been possible now you should be thinking 3 to 5 times a week, with at least 1 day off if not 2 before training the same muscle groups.
Don’t rush! Building muscle shouldn’t be about ego anymore. While you obviously need to move some resistance to overload your muscles to make them grow, you can do this with lighter weight by just slowing your tempo. Try lowering the weight for anywhere between 2 and 4 seconds with a short pause each end, rather than beating the reps out as fast as you can.
There are exceptions to this rule. The first is high blood pressure. If you suffer with high blood pressure do not hold the weight static at each end. Instead just keep a continual movement going for the desired reps, and avoid holding your breath. This is because holding a weight still increases the blood pressure higher than at any other stage in the lift.
The second exception is arthritis. If you have arthritis whether rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, increase the length of the holds each end, while ensuring the joints aren’t locked out. This is to reduce wear on the joint; 3 to 10 second hold can work well if you’re in this group. If you are a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer avoid training on days when your arthritis is inflamed. While as a osteoarthritis sufferer you will benefit from pushing the joint through their fullest available range of movement, but only after a thorough warm up.
3 Sets and reps
The key to muscle growth is not the amount of weight you lift but the amount of times you lift. Let’s compare power lifters to bodybuilders the power lift will handle a lot more weight but can still remain comparatively small. Whereas the bodybuilder will perform a much high volume of work with lighter weight, albeit somewhat heavy for the volume he or she is doing.
If your new to resistance exercise start slowly! 1 or 2 sets of 15 to 20 reps will work well for the first month or so. After the initial conditioning, you can then increase the sets to anywhere between 3 and 10 sets. For growth, ideally, we want to work between 8 and 12 reps after our initial conditioning phase. But both higher and lower reps can also work on stubborn areas.
4 Post exercise nutrition
Now is the time to eat your carbs! If you listen to much of today’s hype, carbs are the villain. This is over simplified rubbish at best. Carbohydrate is needed for performance enhancement. Eat them around your workout. This will ensure they are optimized and reduce the storage of body fat, while fueling your muscle growth and repair.
Your muscles become hypersensitive to insulin after exhaustive training. So triggering an insulin spike with a high carb meal will push carbs available protein into the muscles rather than fat cells. Notably however if you only train occasionally, say twice a week or less, your muscles will refuel to the same extent without the high carb meal. If you are training more than that the increased recovery of those meals will prove beneficial.
Your post exercise meal should be high carb with moderate protein and low in fat. If you want to lose fat while still growing muscle, have all your carbs in this one meal.