You’ve Hit 40 Years Of Age, What Do You See? Are Your Best Days Behind You? Are You Half As Strong As You Use To Be In The Gym? Or Are You Saving The Best For Last? Do You Feel Less & Less Relevant In Life? Or Are You Still The Main Attraction At Pool Side On Your Summer Holidays?
Popular school of thought would tell you that as you hit 40 years of age, that your best years have passed you by… I call bullshit! In this article, we will explore the 3 most common roadblocks the over 40’s will face and then we will discuss the solutions and practical steps the over 40’s can implement in their everyday life to guide them to a fulfilling life of happiness and GREAT health!
Being in great physical shape requires more than just regular bouts of exercise, it requires a balanced lifestyle, a good amount of meaningful relationships with friends and family, a balanced approach to nutrition and a healthy, strong and positive mind that is ready for whatever life will throws your way!
Road Block #1 – Your Internal Language
The biggest road block we will all face as we get older is our own personal dialogue, our internal language or the war the rages on inside our head. “I’m too old for that!” or “My body can’t keep up anymore…’ Blah blah blah!
It’s natural as we go through life and the years go by that there may / will have been things, situations and or circumstances that we have faced that have hardened us and made us that little bit cynical and negative, such as: divorce, illness, career challenges and pressure or abusive relationships / situations etc. Such things have that ability to scare us and cause us to take on the “victim” mentality in life.
Playing the victim in life will disempower you, it will disable you and make it extremely difficult for you to look forward in life as you will be stuck in the past and shackled to that thing or situation that keeps going round in your head.
That needs to change! Your own internal language can be your own biggest enemy as it can be you biggest ally or your supreme strength. If you have lots of negative, victim focused and self defeating talk going on in your head, it is going to be virtually impossible for you to be the BEST version of you. Your internal language needs to change, a practical way to do this is to work is to develop your new “happy habits” and to some degree start to approach life with an angle of personal duty and responsibility for your future.
Taking responsibility doesn’t mean you’re at fault, it means that you’re responsible for what happens to you going forward from there or how you respond to that situation. It is said that it is not necessarily what happens to you in life that matters, rather it is how you respond to those situations that matters.
Taking responsibility for your life is the most important thing you can do in your life. No one will do it for you. If you don’t like the direction your life is going, change it. If you don’t like how your body looks, do something about it. Don’t blame anyone else, or anything else, that wont help you. Rather start training your brain to be solution focused. The brain is HIGHLY trainable and adaptable.
Some practical things you can do daily to re-train your brain to be solution focused and to put you in the drivers seat in life again are:
- Begin your days with gratitude. Each morning, write down three things that you’re grateful for. Three different things everyday, this will condition your brain to hunt for positives in your life and look for things that will make you smile. “The way you start your day will most likely be the way you finish your day”.
- Start journal. Two minutes a day is a good place to start, write about one positive experience, or a “win” for the day. Be detailed, this will cause your brain to re-experience that event over again. Your subconscious brain doesn’t know the difference and will think you’re living that event again, I call this double dipping in life joys!
- Get centred. Meditation is such a powerful way to get your feet on the ground in life. Nothing crazy or fancy is needed, just pushing stop, relaxing and start to watch your breathing go in and out of your diaphragm for about two minutes. This gets your brain to focus on the moment, in the now and away from negativity that we are so easily drawn to. A great way to enhance this experience is to stand on one leg whilst you meditate and breathe, the unbalancing of being on one leg will get you brain to get right into the present moment.
- Do a daily act of kindness and expect nothing in return. A practical way to do this is to write an email or send a text message to someone you know and thank them for being a good friend or for helping you in someway in your life. Showing appreciation is powerful and a great way to walk through this life. Try it for one day and see how the world will smile with you.
- Exercise everyday. Besides all the powerful health benefits, exercise produces powerful “happy hormones”, those being endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. They are addictive and better than any synthetic drug in the world. In addition to that, as your body starts to physically change and the results of your handwork become evident to the world, your self confidence will greatly improve. One complaint I hear so often form new clients is how they lack self esteem. Sure, this is not the complete answer, but it’s certainly a positive step in the right direction in most cases.
Road Block #2 – A Lack Of Precious Time
The second biggest road block we will all face is competing pressure for our time and attention. How many times have you used the excuse “I don’t have time to eat healthy?” or “I don’t have time to exercise”.
The problem with this is that once again, it makes you a “victim” of your circumstances and disables you from being able to make things happen in your favour to create the result you want and need.
Life will always present you with whatever you focus your attention and mind on. If you convince yourself that there is “no time” then that’s exactly what you will have in life “no time”. You will fill your day with useless activities or operate with a level of inefficiency that will create “no time” for you to exercise and eat healthy. Work will get in the way. Family and children will get in the way. Basically, life will get in the way if you let it.
Take control and responsibility for your time, own it, it’s yours!
- Make time. Book it in your diary. If you don’t book it in, no one else will. Make you a priority in your day. Not only will your body and health be better for it but I GUARANTEE you that you will also begin to operate at a higher level of efficiency because you are feeling your best. If you REALLY want it, you will find a way.
- Get help where possible. If you’re a mother or a father of young children, plan with each other how you can work that exercise into your schedules, swapping child minding responsibilities or arranging with family or paid carers to come by for the required time.
- Operate with the 1% rule. The 1% rule suggests that you don’t have to be 100% better by tomorrow. If all you can dedicate is 10 minutes to exercise today do that. If all you can commit to with your diet this week is a healthy breakfast, start with that. Just be that little bit better everyday and before you know when you look back, you would have come a long way and achieved so much.
- F.D.I.. “Just friggin’ do it.” Sometimes, we need to stop talking about getting fit, stop learning another “5 Steps To The Perfect Abs” and just friggin’ do it! Get solution focused, excuses are not going to help you. Make excuses a thing of the past and take action. The best plan in the world is useless without action.
Road Block #3 – A Body On The Decline
For the men, once upon a time you would have looked at a set of dumbbells and you would have put on muscle. You’re a raging bull, you could go out all night then get up the next morning on reduced sleep, work all day then hit the gym in the afternoon and still put on muscle. You had a unquenchable sex drive and with still enough energy to chop down trees after the fact. Now, 5 minutes in the sack is like a marathon and one beer goes straight to your gut then expands that spare tyre around your waist.
For the ladies, perhaps all you had to do was go for a brisk walk from time to time to maintain your bikini body… Or attending pilates 3 days a week was enough to keep your physique tight and toned. But now, I bet you so much as look at a piece of cheesecake and your jeans will explode! Well, maybe not quite (Thank “god” for the law of thermodynamics!).
Why Is This You Ask?
Research shows that on average, individuals experience a 2-4% decline in their resting metabolic rate (RMR) with each passing decade after the age of 25. Sad yes I know. But what does this mean for you then? It means that most people can look forward to an ever-declining metabolic rate, this reduction makes it harder to keep the body fat off and maintain a lean and muscular physique.
So What’s The Point You Ask?
The great news is, you can change that! Let’s explore some of the things you can do to keep your metabolic rate super charged and operating at its full potential to keep you healthy and lean but first you need to understand a little about energy…
Your RMR is simply a measure by which we can determine your energy requirements for you to break even or the amount of energy you would need to consume at rest to neither put on weight nor lose weight over a 24 hour period. This is referred to as your your energy balance. Your RMR is influenced by your movement, your bouts of exercise, environmental variability and food ingestion.
Understanding your energy balance requirements is crucial in the battle of the bulge for everyone. Although these calculations are still somewhat an estimation, it does give us some clarity and an indication of what your individual energy balance needs could be.
The Low Down On Our Metabolism
All food(s) we eat contain potential energy. This potential energy is stored in our system and has the potential to be converted into work or kinetic energy. If we ingest more energy than that which we require for our activities of daily living (ADL’s) and exceed our energy balance requirements, then that energy is stored, typically as body fat, this is know as energy surplus.
If the energy we ingest is less than that which we require for our ADL’s, then this is know as energy deficit and this would mean we would generally lose weight or mass.
So the body has a need for energy to perform, operate and function as we know. The expression of that energy is measured in Calories. This energy required is referred to as our metabolism. The consequences of energy imbalance lead to either weight gain or weight loss as discussed above.
Our metabolism adjusts itself over time to match our energy intake and lifestyle changes. In most cases when Calorie intake is lower than the amount needed to maintain normal function our metabolism decreases over time. This metabolic adaptation or decline occurs for three reasons:
- lowering of thyroid hormone output
- reduced thermic effect of feeding (TEF)
- reduced muscle mass with inactivity or ageing
What Can I Do To Prevent This You Ask?
Move more. Get active! Before we discuss dedicated bouts of exercise and complex plans and regimes, let’s focus on just moving more throughout our day and life. Some examples of ways to do this are:
- Walk to work when possible
- Walk to the grocery store when possible
- Gardening, doing tasks around the house instead of hiring someone
- Clean the house yourself instead of hiring someone
- Get a dog, walk it every morning and afternoon after work
- Instead of booking a lazy holiday, plan an active holiday!
Improve your nutrition.
- Regular portion controlled meals – will up-regulate your metabolism and help you to control your energy balance by not waiting until you’re “dying of hunger” before you eat as this most often leads to over eating.
- Unprocessed whole foods – Digestion, absorption and assimilation of ingested unprocessed whole foods is an active process and it requires energy to brake these foods down. This increases your metabolism, the extent of this depends on which macronutrients we eat as protein rich foods are harder to break down, this is known as the thermic effect of feeding (TEF).
- Increasing your protein intake – will effect your energy balance directly through TEF. A healthy adult can consume between 15-25g of protein every 3 to 4 hours. Interestingly, Proteins tend to also increase satiety (the feeling of being full) and prevent us form consuming too much food.
- Achieving caloric deficit – is necessary though if you have a weight loss goal but be careful to NOT push too hard! Creating approximately a 500 k/cal daily deficit is the recommended figure 2-5 days a week only in a weight loss program that is aimed at keeping your metabolism functioning optimally whilst working towards your fat loss targets.
Note: Pushing too hard or “over dieting” will begin to work against you over time! Prolonged periods of caloric deficit, generally greater than 4 to 5 days will start to have a negative effect on your metabolism. So DON’T starve yourself, work with your body in a sensible way.
One of the greatest culprits as we age in the reduction in our metabolisms, is the loss of muscle tissue. The average person will lose about 2-3 kilos of lean muscle mass every decade, because muscle is so metabolically active, the muscle loss is probably directly responsible for the metabolic decline. This then suggests that the metabolic decline isn’t so much or exclusively aged related, rather it is largely lifestyle related. As we get older we play less sports, do less and move less. The more muscle we lose as the years go on, the more our metabolism will reduce accordingly.
This muscle loss is known or referred to as Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a age and lifestyle related condition that over time causes muscle atrophy / breakdown. The best form of treatment for Sarcopenia is exercise, more specifically strength / resistance training.
Regular bouts of (relative) intense resistance training are needed to preserve lean muscle and or in best cases, increase lean muscle.
Recommendation: Don’t try to be a hero, progress slowly and get professional help to design you a periodised strength program. You will not put on muscle when you’re injured.
It’s easy, fun and you can do it anywhere! The idea here is simply to disturb your metabolism above baseline and get your body burning more energy during and after the bout of exercise…
The great thing about this modality of exercise is that you don’t have to be an expert to walk, swim, bike ride, jog or do some stair/hill sprints!
The main focus is to create an EPOC effect (expired post-exercise oxygen consumption). This effect simply has your body burning more energy for a period of time after your exercise session(s). You may even be asleep and still be burning a greater amount of energy and fat!
Sleep / Rest.
While there are many reasons that lack of sleep could influence body fat, one of them may be the decreased growth hormone (GH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and increased cortisol, most notably in the evening.
Moreover, chronic sleep deprivation results in elevated sympathetic nerve activity and a slowed insulin response. This is the perfect storm of peripheral effects to accentuate obesity:
- Lowered glucose tolerance (GT)
- Increased sympathovagal balance
- Increased evening and nocturnal cortisol levels
- Lowered leptin
- Insufficient thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
So, a lack of sleep may lead to more body fat simply because more time spent not sleeping means more time to eat and stuff your face. And those junk food commercials start looking pretty appealing at 1 a.m when your body starts to crave sugar as we get increasingly tired.
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