As guys, we often indulge in a kind of manly denial when it comes to our age. We tend to think we’ll always be as healthy, strong and capable as we are right now. We also tend to minimize the little shifts in our bodies that tell us otherwise. Unfortunately, the cold hard truth is that our bodies do change over time, it’s harder to maintain muscle mass and we will inevitably lose some of our current physical strength and stamina.
After 40, our muscle mass begin to decline. After 50, it can begin to decline faster than it can be replaced. The good news? While no man can expect to have the same strength and vigor at 80 that he had at 20, men are far from being doomed to frailty either. Being proactive today can make all the difference for the future. Here are three things you can do to keep your muscles strong for years to come:
1. Maintain a healthy diet. The mantra “Muscles are built in the kitchen” becomes even more important as you age. You don’t have to count every calorie, but you should consciously avoid eating an excess of high-calorie, nutritionally-poor foods. Your diet should be high in fiber, and the bulk of it should come from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Since your body requires protein to build and maintain muscle, it’s especially important to get enough protein every day. This doesn’t mean you need to add an extra patty to your cheeseburger or invest in expensive powders. One serving of protein is about the size of a deck of cards, and you only need a few servings a day. The amount of protein you need will depend on your age and specific physical condition, so consult your physician about your ideal daily intake.
2. Get proper exercise. Younger men should keep in mind that the more muscle mass they have, the more they’ll be able to keep once it starts decreasing. Older men can stay ahead of muscle mass decline by increasing their activity levels and stepping up their exercise routines. Men of every age should do both cardio and resistance-training exercises several times a week to stay strong and fit.
3. Watch your hormone levels. As we age our essential hormone levels will inevitably decrease. In particular the hormones in association with muscle building like growth hormones, testosterone and DHEA (dephydroepiandrosterone). To ensure you are not deficient in any of these areas it is recommended to take yearly blood tests to track hormonal levels. There are expensive and risky injections that some take to keep these hormones at maximum levels. However there are several over the counter supplements and natural methods including diet and lifestyle that are not as effective but will help maintain higher hormone levels.
4. Stay in tune with your body. Many men believe that watching the scale numbers go down is victory enough. However, if you aren’t exercising properly and don’t have a balanced diet, you could very well be losing muscle mass along with unwanted fat. Invest in a fat monitor or scale, stay away from “miracle” diet pills (which can cause muscle loss), and look for weigh loss products that contain chromium and conjugated linoleic acid. Evidence suggests that these additives may promote fat loss without encouraging muscle loss.