We all will endure the process of getting older. As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density due to declining levels of key hormones and the outright cruelty of Father Time. But you don’t have to end up losing muscle and moving like an old man. The key to aging like fine wine is to take care of your body now. You will not be able to recover as fast as you once did in your twenties, but that does not mean you can’t feel and look awesome.
Follow these tips to stay lean, muscular, and moving like an athlete, even well into your 30’s.
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1) Feed Your Muscles
According to the good folks at WebMD, “People who are physically inactive can lose as much as 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30.” Yikes. That is not the news you want to hear if you’ve been an iron-loving gym rat your whole life. But there’s a good way to counteract that decline now.
If you’re lifting weights and trying to watch your body fat, you might be depriving yourself of protein. Men get very busy in our thirties, due to more demands at work and at home. Men who lift serious iron need a lot of protein – and perhaps more than you think. Between 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight should be your goal each day. Protein provides the building blocks (amino acids) for muscle tissue and other soft tissues in the body. If you want to delay the loss of muscle mass that is bearing down on you like a freight train, strive to eat 30-60 grams of protein per meal (3-6 meals per day). Focus on complete protein sources, such as eggs, fish, chicken, whey protein, wild game, yogurt and red meat.
If you are having trouble getting all of your protein in form whole foods – as is often the case when you’re battling a busy work schedule – try consuming whey protein shakes and amino acid drinks to make up the difference.
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2) Stretch and Move Daily
Flexibility decreases in your 30s, not only because you’re likely sit in an office chair for hours each day, but also because many of the activities you do in your spare time — running, weightlifting, even basketball — don’t call for full range of motion. Research shows there’s actually a shortening of both muscle and connective tissue that occurs as you age.
To assuage the effects of this inhumane phenomenon, make sure to perform a proper dynamic warm-up before each workout session that includes foam rolling, stretching and mobility work. In your 20s, you were able to perform a couple warm-up sets and then go right into an intense workout. In your 30s, you may pay for this by having more soreness and reduce range of motion. You also must turn on your nervous system to perform optimally, further making the case for a solid warm-up.
Another way you can prevent groaning like a walrus every time you move is simply getting out of your chair at work every 20 minutes. This will keep your hips and shoulders from getting tighter and help keep range of motion and synovial fluid in those areas.
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3) Keep Your Heart Pumping
The heart is a muscle just like any other and, as you age, you lose some strength not only in your muscles, but also in your heart. Stamina peaks around 31 or 32 for most individuals. Within the next five years, your aerobic capacity declines. Starting in your 30s, your body’s ability to extract oxygen from your blood diminishes, your cholesterol counts and blood pressure rises, and fatty deposits begin to build up on the walls of your arteries, says Dr. Jordan Metzl, M.D., author of The Young Athlete: A Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide for Parents.
To combat your heart’s aging process, maintain your aerobic capacity with regular interval training. Perform three interval workouts a week on an off-lifting day or after you lift weights. I suggest sprinting for 30 seconds and then walking for 90 seconds. Perform 4-10 rounds, depending on your fitness level. Not only will this help your ticker, but it will also increase testosterone (see below) and growth hormone levels, thus improving fat loss and muscle building capabilities.
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4) Increase Your T
Testosterone is a hormone associated with perceived hallmarks of masculinity such as libido, aggression, muscle mass and low levels body fat. As you age, your testosterone can drop significantly, hindering your ability to build muscle, and strength and lose body fat. From about the age of 30 on, men experience a decrease in their sex hormone levels of about 1.5 percent per year. The decline testosterone level is associated with decreased muscle mass and bone density, lowered insulin resistance, and feelings of depression, according to researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care Systems and the University of Washington at Seattle.
Luckily, men in their thirties have a great chance at keeping their testosterone levels elevated. Strength training can naturally increase the production of testosterone in men. “Sometimes it’s 15 minutes after exercise that testosterone is elevated. Sometimes it can be up to an hour,” says Todd Schroeder, PhD, who studies exercise and hormones in older men at the University of Southern California.
Try performing at least three strength-training sessions per week that last 30-60 minutes. Make sure to include large movements, such as squats, deadlifts, presses and pullups, which work more muscle at one time, increasing protein synthesis and cranking up your body’s production of anabolic hormones like testosterone.