Most people over the age of 50 often say how much harder it is to stay in shape or lose weight now that they are older.
The main reason why that is is because they've lost muscle mass as they've gotten older, a process called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia begins in the 20's and 30's and is a natural process of aging as well as immobility.
In other words all those nights of Netflix & chill combined with getting older causes us to lose muscle mass, which in turn results in having a lower metabolism as well as lower strength and mobility.
But all is not lost... In fact many people can not only limit the effects of sarcopenia but can in fact add muscle as they get older. To be fair it's not easy but it can be done... in fact it SHOULD be done.
So if you want to add muscle or limit muscle loss or maybe you've tried to to build muscle but aren't quite getting the results you want, there are probably things you need to be doing or perhaps have been doing wrong.
Most people who are looking to add muscle focus on meaningless things, such as following the latest muscle-building celebrity workout, or buying a weight-gain supplement.
This usually means that the more important things are being ignored.
For the goal of building muscle mass, you have to:
1. Eat big!
Establishing caloric balance or even a surplus will massively optimize your muscle gains.
Keep in mind it's not just how much you eat but WHAT you eat that matters.
Your caloric intake should be made up of good amounts of all 3 macronutrients - Protein, fats, and carbs but protein is the key.
Protein is synthesized by the body into amino acids which are then in turn used to repair and build muscle. If you don't eat enough protein to facilitate that growth it's not going to happen.
So how much should you be eating? The honest answer is it depends on the person but a good rule of thumb to shoot for is 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight
2. Lift big!
If your workouts are not challenging enough, you‘ll have a hard time gaining muscle whatsoever. Doing 20 reps with those 3lb dumbbells that so many people have done for years, decades even isn't going to get it done.
To add strength and muscle you need to focus on challenging sets of 5-12reps, which bring you close to failure. Put another way you need to choose a weight that the last 1-2 reps of each set are very hard, but still doable with good form.
But there's another factor that most people never do which is you keep progressing the amount of weight you are lifting. You body will adapt (by adding muscle) and if you don't add more weight you're body won't be stimulated to add even more muscle.
Progressing the weights will create a good stimulus for growth, by consistently doing sets that challenge you in a new way.
3. Recover well!
Though training big and eating big are the two detrimental factors for muscle gain, recovery is actually where the magic happens. The two most important aspects of recovery are your sleep and the time frame between the separate workouts.
Generally, it is recommended that you sleep 7-8 hours per night and train each muscle group once every 2-4 days depending on how you recover.
This gives your body adequate time to recover properly which in turn will not only enable you to work harder while you do workout but also decreases the risk of inury.
So how to you put it all together?
As someone who is in his late 50's my goal is to maintain my muscle mass and thus I do all of the above.
A typical week for me involves 2-3 strength training sessions focused on full body exercises.
One routine I like is called 5x5 which is 5 sets of 5 reps of a given exercise. This allows me to use some pretty serious weight which in turn builds muscle mass but doesn't' leave me so fatigued that my form slips or I get so sore I can't move after.
I actually like to call this 5x5x5x5 because not only do I do 5 sets of 5 reps but I rest for up to
5 minutes in between. I also only do 5 exercises: Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Overhead Press and the Bent Over Row.
I split the exercises into 2 different workouts as follows:
Workout A: Squats, Bench Press, Bentover Row
Workout B: Squat, Deadlifts, Overhead Press
Most weeks I do just the 2 workouts with at least 2 (but usually 3 ) days in between but sometimes when I'm feeling my Wheaties I'll do a third or if I'm getting bored do an ancillary workout that focuses on my arms or core.
I also do 2-3 "cardio" workouts each week usually going for walks or riding my bike.
Truth is I get plenty of cardio from my lifting so I do these mostly for my mental health as it's my "me time"
By doing all of the above, you will create a good muscle growth stimulus, grant sufficient nutrients & time for the body to recover and grow stronger.
This is how you gain muscle, slow down the effects of sarcopenia and have a happier, healthier life!