Staying Fit After 40
Are you over 40? Or you are at least, very close? Do you wonder if you have seen more days on Earth than you have days ahead of you? Do the ladies and gents in the gym approach you with 'Excuse me, Sir/Madam ...'?
Well, welcome to the 40+ club... :)
Updated: June 15, 2022.
Of course, this article is not only for 40 or older people, but for many people having many obligations, very little free time, but also a burning desire to stay fit ...
Becoming and staying fit after a certain age is harder than 10, 20, or more years ago. Metabolism is slowing down, regeneration is not as fast as before, building new muscle tissue is becoming harder and harder, exercises that were hardly challenging in the youth are really hard and maybe even painful to do now, etc.
But, before one gets depressed, all is not lost.
On contrary, many people reach their maximum strength after 40. Of course, age does take a toll on the body, but if we can't do the things aged 40 or more as we did before, at least we can make them smarter!
Nutrition and Diet
Besides getting enough sleep, proper nutrition and diet are the most important things in staying fit after 40 or so.
Metabolism is slowing down and calorie maintenance levels are declining. In order to keep fat levels low, the first thing to do is to limit carbohydrate and bad fats intake.
That means avoiding simple carbs (sugar, white pasta, white rice, white flour, etc) and limiting complex carbs to green and leafy vegetables, some fruits, and similar plant sources.
Bad fats are commonly found in fatty red meat cuts, but also in various foods like margarine and similar.
Yolks or no yolks, the question is that ... eat yolks from omega-3 and organic eggs, avoid egg yolks from 'ordinary' eggs.
Protein sources should be in the form of lean cuts of poultry (turkey and chicken breast, for example), fish of various kinds, preferably from fish that is lower in the food chain, occasionally lean cuts of red meat, egg whites, whole eggs (again, choose omega-3 and/or organic eggs). If you have access to grass-fed cattle, feel free to increase red meat intake in the form of eating it more frequently, but be aware of the amounts.
Actually, for any person wanting to stay fit, regardless if he/she is an active athlete or not, a combination of a Carbohydrate Cycling Diet and a Mediterranean Diet is highly recommended - and it is practically a lifestyle for many 40+ people.
People often believe that being on a diet means being hungry and eating boring food day after day. That is wrong - food doesn't have to be boring, especially in Mediterranean Diet, but a portion control simply must exist.
Real food is real food. But, in order to achieve goals, some supplementation won't hurt, on contrary, it can help.
Joint Support Supplements - even if you are avoiding high-impact sports and/or exercises, be wary about your joints. From time to time, take some joint support supplement and increase omega-3 and other essential fatty acids intake (fish and fish oil, various nuts, etc.) and be sure to consume more than enough zinc, magnesium, sulfur, and other minerals and vitamins important for joints, tendons, ligaments, etc health.
Again, a diet based on Mediterranean Diet foods will provide you with plenty of such micronutrients. If in doubt, take some multivitamin and multimineral supplements combined with some omega-3 pills or fish oil.
Remember that olive oil, no matter how good and healthy it is, doesn't have omega-3! But it has other compounds, so a tablespoon of olive oil here and there can only help!
Whey protein is important for Post Workout Meal (PWM) shakes and can be used for breakfasts and daily snacks and meals only if it is slowed down with other foods, for example with low fat and/or cottage cheese in various smoothies, with oats and similar.
Meal Replacement Powders (MRP) are very important if you don't have much time for cooking and carrying your meals with you. Again, remember that real food is real food. Before buying MRP supplements, inform yourself about them and be sure always to read the labels.
Cheaper MRPs are based on whey protein concentrate (and some slower protein sources) with some oats to slow the whey down. Be sure to choose MRP based on slower egg, milk, or casein protein with or without oats or other sources of complex carbs and fibers.
Fat content in MRPs is low and in order to increase fats intake when consuming those shakes, take some omega-3 and CLA pills - if you consider it necessary. If not, some good fish (with olive oil) and grass-fed beef (portion control!) here and there is more than enough.
Dieting pills as part of proper nutrition can provide you with the energy boost required for living throughout the day on reasonably low amounts of calories and thus, help you in losing fat. But, if one thinks that eating 'as usual' and taking these pills leads to fat loss, then you are going to be very disappointed. So, before going for such pills, get your nutrition under control.
BCAA supplementation plays a very important role if you are trying to lose fat while trying to keep as much as possible of precious muscles on your frame. Again, nutrition must be perfect. Since BCAA supplements in tablet form are more expensive (per gram of BCAA) than supplements in powdered form, go for powdered ones. Maybe you will change your opinion after tasting pure BCAA crystals, but there are much worse-tasting supplements out there :o)
Other supplements like Glutamine, Creatine, etc are important, but that depends on your goals and other things like health issues and similar.
Volume, intensity, and choice of sports vary significantly.
Low joints impact physical activity is very important regardless if it is walking, swimming, riding a bike, or rowing. Such exercises hardly build new muscle tissue (HIIT anyone?) but are very important in increasing daily energy expenditure, increasing stamina, self-confidence, and a general feeling of being well.
Sports like basketball, handball, football, and similar are very good for developing strength and agility, losing fat, building new muscles, and for social interaction. But they are also putting stress on many joints, especially ankles and knees.
Martial Arts range from Aikido and Tai-Chi-Chuan to BJJ, boxing, and MMA. They are fantastic for melting fats and building muscles, stamina, speed, agility, etc, just be careful about your joints and try to avoid injuries.
Gym workouts have numerous advantages - one goes to the gym when one has time. Gym workouts can be full-body and/or split workouts.
If you have time for 2 gym sessions per week, go for full-body workouts. If you have time for 3 or more gym workouts per week, then go for split workouts. Of course, this is just a general rule.
If you have never been to the gym, every gym must have an instructor that will show you the basics - how to properly execute the exercises and will probably give you some general workout program that will be good for several weeks, until your body adapts. After that, change the program according to your preferences and needs.
Few more notes:
- forget your ego when going to the gym - at least, leave it on the gym doorstep. The last thing you need is to push yourself above your limits and injure yourself.
- dieting is optional, but consider a diet as a way of life. Cheat meals? Go for them, but don't overdo them. You will have plenty of social opportunities like birthdays, weddings and similar to relax your dieting regime and eat more than you usually do.
- alcohol? Again, here and there, live a little bit, after all, we are all humans. But, in the long run, avoid it.
If you work out regularly, get enough of sleep and eat properly, you will have more strength and stamina than at least 95% of people half your age.
Good luck! There are still plenty of days ahead, so don't spend them being weak! :)
P.S. This article was written when the author was slightly over 40 and the article was updated regularly. And the author is almost 50. But, the 50ies are the new 40ies, right? ;)