“You are too old, time to hang up the posing trunks!”
Wait one second! Just because father time is creeping in does not mean we have to move on to playing golf and shuffleboard just yet. Yes, old age really stinks for bodybuilding, but we love what we do and all it takes is adjustments to programming to accommodate the extra mileage we have accrued. Let's dive into things to consider for the 35+ lifter and what can be done to keep progressing towards your bodybuilding goals.
Leave the Ego Lifting to the Young Bucks
Most of us fell into bodybuilding from a love of training. Training was therapy and we can not lose the very thing that got us started. As we age, training must be adapted as injuries crop up from years of lifting heavy. But we still want to train hard and challenge ourselves like we did when we were younger. I have 4 tips to allow you to continue to do so.
- Never Lift Through the Pain
- Pain is a huge red flag that an exercise is not right for your body. Pain causes decreased activation of muscles surrounding the painful joint or area, which leads to poor training stimulus. So, if it hurts, find exercises that don’t hurt, and don’t be stubborn and attached to lifts.
- Move to the Higher Rep Range
- Age can come with more risk of injury and a lot can be avoided by simply using a lighter load. I know you still want to challenge yourself and go for PRs and you absolutely can. Just move up the rep range to the next bracket. Instead of 6-10 reps, move to 10-15 or 15-20 reps for your lifts. The lighter load will be easier on joints and connective tissue, but hypertrophy will not be limited at all.
- Move Compound Lifts Later in the Session
- I loved starting sessions with a squat or a bench press. But with age, it takes more to warm up the other joints before compound lifts. So, we can move those lifts to the middle of the session if you are feeling more joint pain than muscle pump in the movements.
- Slow Down the Pace
- Another way to reduce load and increase safety is to slow down the reps. Moving fast from eccentric to concentric can be riskier for injury so move the eccentric speed to 4 seconds and concentric to 2 seconds. Need to reduce risk even more add a 1-second pause in the transition point from eccentric to concentric.
Food is the Anabolic Fuel
A term that has been thrown around in the older lifter community is “anabolic resistance”. What we have seen in older untrained adults is they have blunted anabolic response to protein feedings (1). However, the masters level competitors are not the same and are not susceptible to the same “anabolic resistance” to dietary protein. Recommendations for protein intake are 1.6-2.4g/kg of the body per day and 0.3-0.4 g/kg per meal from high-quality protein sources.
Another consideration is ensuring adequate Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are common in athletes and the impacts are beyond just bone health into immune function, testosterone levels, injury recovery, inflammation reduction, and improved anabolic response. Levels of 1500-2000IU per day are required in athletes with insufficiency status (serum 25 (OH) D<20 nmol/L) (2).
Gut health is a hot topic and it should be as we are seeing the gut microbiome associated with many systems of the body and having important roles in metabolic process, vitamin production, immune system function, and inflammatory response. We see a decrease in bacterial diversity with age which is less than ideal. The best thing you can do for gut health is a whole-food-based approach with adequate fiber intake from fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. For females, the recommendation is 25g per day, and for males 38g per day or 14g per 1000 calories. Fiber will support a healthy microbiome and is the one thing I see lacking in many bodybuilding diets of only chicken and white rice.
Dreaming for Gains
I feel like sleep is an area we can improve on no matter if we are young or old. However, as we age we do see a shift in the sleep schedule to fall asleep early and wake up earlier in the morning. This can also come with lower quality sleep from waking up more frequently to pee or even from aches and pains. On the topic of schedule, one night off your normal sleep schedule can take longer to recoup from than when you were younger. These changes in sleep can come with slow recovery times as sleep is one of our greatest tools for recovery. With shorter sleep times, more naps might start happening. I remember always seeing Grandma napping at 2-3 pm every afternoon without fail. These naps too late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep in the evening though.
How to Improve Sleep?
Sleep routine is the highest priority here as our sleep can become more regulated and of higher quality. This means going to bed at the same time and walking at the same time every day. We want to limit those times staying up on the weekends as it really will dig harder into your recovery time and then your quality workout time. We also want to taper fluids in the evening to limit waking up to pee. Also, look into better pillows and mattresses to prevent waking from painful sleeping positions. In your lifetime you will spend more time in your bed than your car, so let's not be cheap asses on buying a mattress.
One thing to limit is bedroom distractions. Keep the bedroom for sleep and sex only. Don’t make this the place to have the tv blaring or windows up to see all the neighborhood activity. We want the bedroom to be as peaceful and quiet as possible. Another thing to limit is caffeine 7-8 hours prior to bedtime. I know you might say “I can still fall asleep even with some caffeine”, but it still does impact sleep quality. So, it might be time to go with a stem-free preworkout like Animal Pump Pro.
The last tip, is to get outside early in the day. Sunlight exposure early on helps to regulate your biological clock and make you more alert for the day. As we get older we might enjoy staying indoors more, but still, make it a point to get out early in the day.
Supplements for the Master Level Male
The aging male needs some extra support for testosterone levels, lean muscle mass, cardiovascular health, virility, strength, and endurance. It's important to sustain our performance in and out of the gym as we get older. This is why Animal came out with Animal TNT+ for the mature male.
After 30 years old testosterone levels start to decline and unfortunately so does sexual function. Animal TNT+ includes Testofen in place as it has been shown to increase testosterone levels by 112% in older men and increase sexual function(3).
Prostate health comes more to mind with the aging male. Saw Palmetto is one thing included within TNT+ to aid in lowering inflammation of the prostate and inhibit testosterone conversion to DHT, which may have more impact on enlarging the prostate(4).
Training performance is of high priority always as we are bodybuilders. Blood flow and circulation can be an impacting factor in the equation of excellent training, so Nitrosigine is an aid in TNT+. Nitrosigine has been proven to increase skeletal muscle blood flow for potential improvements in training(5).
Stress is going to happen at any age, but with age, the same life stressors can be less tolerated. Ashwagandha has been recognized for its positive impact on mood, cognition, improvement in stress tolerance from exercise, and strength increases. This is the recovery herb we want in place for hard training(6).
Don’t let a number define your bodybuilding journey or end it. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle that can be carried out into old age. Use the tips above to keep the gains coming!
Moore DR. Protein Requirements for Master Athletes: Just Older Versions of Their Younger Selves. Sports Med. 2021;51(Suppl 1):13-30. doi:10.1007/s40279-021-01510-0
Strasser B, Pesta D, Rittweger J, Burtscher J, Burtscher M. Nutrition for Older Athletes: Focus on Sex-Differences. Nutrients. 2021 Apr 22;13(5):1409. doi: 10.3390/nu13051409. PMID: 33922108; PMCID: PMC8143537.
Rao A, Steels E, Inder WJ, Abraham S, Vitetta L. Testofen, a specialised Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract reduces age-related symptoms of androgen decrease, increases testosterone levels and improves sexual function in healthy aging males in a double-blind randomised clinical study. Aging Male. 2016 Jun;19(2):134-42. doi: 10.3109/13685538.2015.1135323. Epub 2016 Jan 20. PMID: 26791805.
Kwon Y. Use of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) extract for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2019 Apr 17;28(6):1599-1606. doi: 10.1007/s10068-019-00605-9. PMID: 31807332; PMCID: PMC6859144.
Rogers JM, Gills J, Gray M. Acute effects of Nitrosigine® and citrulline malate on vasodilation in young adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2020 Feb 24;17(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12970-020-00343-y. PMID: 32093766; PMCID: PMC7041093.
Ziegenfuss TN, Kedia AW, Sandrock JE, Raub BJ, Kerksick CM, Lopez HL. Effects of an Aqueous Extract of Withania somnifera on Strength Training Adaptations and Recovery: The STAR Trial. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1807. Published 2018 Nov 20. doi:10.3390/nu10111807