There is a common myth that you can’t gain muscle mass after the age of 40. PoppyCock!!!
Can you build muscle after 40? You BET!
Yes, when you were 20, it was a whole lot easier to get muscles, but studies have shown that anyone can build muscle after 40. In fact, it’s possible to add muscle up into your 60s, 70s, 80s, and even your 90’s You’re saying “no way.” But it’s true.
CAN YOU REALLY GAIN MUSCLE AFTER 40?
Marcas Bamman, director of the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama states that men and women in their 60s and 70s, who began weight training, developed muscles that were as large and strong as those of someone 20- 30 years younger. Kind of amazing because we all have been led to believe that you shouldn’t even try building muscles after you get to the age of 50.
So why has this not been known until recently?…and how can this be true?
First, we’re gonna explore the way muscles are built. Stick with me here. This is important to know.
THE SCIENCE OF MUSCLES (maybe a little boring but you really need to understand this)
There is a science to gaining muscle and losing fat. The good news is, both of those are related. And your age only minimally affects your ability to gain muscle and burn fat.
Yes, it’s true.
There are different types of muscle. For instance, your heart is a muscle, your eye is a muscle, but that’s not the kind of muscle we’ll be talking about here.
For our purposes we’re talking about gaining muscle, so that would be skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle is composed of thread-like fibers and is the basic unit of contraction.
Your muscles contract when they receive a motor neuron signal. Motor neurons tell your muscles to contract, and the better your brain gets at sending those signals, the stronger you get. Remember this…..your brain sends the signals.
MUSCLE GROWTH FACTS
When you work out properly, you will break down muscle fibers and subsequently, the body will repair those muscles by fusing the muscle fibers together to form a stronger strand. These strands (myofibrils) increase in thickness and number to try and be prepared for another breakdown. This causes muscle growth.
Can you actually add muscle to what you already have? YES. There are cells called satellite cells that are activated to add nuclei to the existing muscles and thus add size and strength to your muscle structure.
WHAT MAKES MUSCLES GROW?
The simple answer is Stress
In order to produce muscle growth, you have to apply stress greater than what your body or muscles have previously adapted to.
How do you do this? Lift progressively heavier and heavier weights, or shorten the time for each exercise, or lengthen the eccentric portion of your lift.
Muscle Damage – If you ever get sore after a workout, this is a good thing because it means that you have caused a release of inflammatory molecules and immune cells that will activate satellite cells which will go to work increasing the size and strength of your muscles. I feel good when after a few days the body part I worked out is sore. You know you’re making progress.
Metabolic Stress is the “pump” that bodybuilders talk about. Scientists used to poo-poo this, but have recently discovered that this “pump” is an effect of metabolic stress, which causes cell swelling around the muscle, which helps to contribute to muscle growth.
Hormones are another component of muscle growth. In particular, Mecho-Growth Factor (MGF) and testosterone are the two most vital hormones that promote muscle growth.
Testosterone is an important part of gaining muscle. There is definitely truth to the fact that testosterone can stimulate our growth hormone responses, which can help to activate tissue growth.
This is why women shouldn’t worry about getting too many muscles. Most don’t have enough testosterone to gain much muscle unless they take testosterone shots.
WHY MUSCLES NEED TO REST
If you don’t give your body adequate rest after a workout, you will probably do more harm than good. This is why you probably should work out every other day or make sure that you don’t do the same muscle group more than twice a week. The muscle response to a workout lasts for about 24 to 48 hours, and what you eat in that period also will affect your muscle response.
WHY FAST MUSCLE GROWTH IS NOT EASY
Muscle repair takes time and is relatively slow for the majority of people. You won’t see visible growth or increased strength for several weeks or maybe, months, and you’ll only see improvement if you are consistent in your workouts.
And of course, we all have different genetics that varies from folks like me, who find it very difficult to gain size and strength, to the natural Ectomorphs who look like Greek gods with only occasional visits to the gym.
When I lived in LA there was a guy, who had an almost perfect body, who would arrive at the gym, do a couple of very intense exercises for about 10 minutes and then leave. I always wondered if that was all he did or did he do this 5 times a day. Or was he just one of those that was naturally buff. It made me jealous because I have to work very hard to look just OK.
To ensure you’re doing your best to grow muscle, muscle protein synthesis must exceed muscle protein breakdown.
This requires that you consume an adequate amount of protein and carbohydrates to help the cells process and rebuild broken down muscle tissue.
Now that we know the mechanics of building muscle, how does that help you build muscle?
FIRST – Where Do We Start?
I’d say that motivation is the MOST important part of any workout.
It doesn’t matter how much you know about the mechanics of how muscles are built. It does matter how much you realize what a good thing it is to do resistance training. If you aren’t committed to actually starting a workout program, none of this matters.
The working out is easy compared to finding the motivation to start a program and continue with it to make a difference in your life.
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but exercising is a lifetime commitment, if you want to get healthy, stay healthy and live a long, vibrant life, then you need to exercise regularly. Going to the gym once won’t really help very much. It’s a lifetime commitment.
Each person has to find their own motivation, but there are some common ones, ones that work for those people who are able to stick to a workout program.
I personally am committed to working out because I am a single man, and I want to be attractive and have a nice body so that it’s easier to find a date. If I was overweight or out of shape, that would make finding a date a lot harder. Yes, it’s shallow, but unless someone is attracted to you initially, you’ll never get to show them the wonderful you inside. 🙂
DON’T BE IN DENIAL ABOUT THIS. Your physical being is the first thing someone sees. Don’t limit your possibilities by being out of shape.
When you know you’re taking positive steps toward becoming healthier and more in shape, you’ll develop a confidence that you might not have had if you were sitting on the couch every night with a bag of Doritos watching TV. You will develop a confidence in many aspects of your life, not just the physical, because of the way you feel from taking positive steps to improve your health.
Even if I’m not the best looking guy in the room, I have an attitude of self-importance that people sense when we meet in business and social settings. People are attracted to folks who exude a self-confidence and assuredness. It gives you authority.
So many studies have shown that gaining muscle mass, maintaining an appropriate weight, and eating a healthy diet can slow the aging process. We know the secret to the Fountain of Youth and we often ignore it. Primarily because it takes work. It means exercising, eating healthy food and maintaining an active life.
LIVE VIBRANT LIFE:
Wanting to live an active, interesting life right up until the end is a HUGE motivation for me. I fear becoming what I see in some of my fellow baby boomers, who are not taking care of themselves. They are headed for an unfulfilled, restricted future life because their physical body will constrict them from living to the fullest. I would think this alone would be motivation for anyone who is over the age of 50.
I have too much to do still, and I want to be in shape to be able to do all the things on my bucket list. I’ve got a huge bucket list, and if I weren’t in great shape, many of those things on my list would have to be crossed off due to physical limitations.
Here is a thoughtfull video on building muscle after 40, and even 50.
If you aren’t doing any resistance training, commit to starting a program. I don’t mean carve out many hours of your day. I’m saying schedule a few hours a week to start a program of resistance/weight training. It can be as little as 1/2 hour a day, 3 or 4 days a week. That’s a great start.
A married couple recently asked me about weight training (since they know I’m a gym goer). They have a regular routine of walking. They walk almost every day and a couple of miles each time. They asked me about resistance training because they were concerned they needed to be doing more than just walking. They had an intuitive feeling that they needed to be doing more as they grow older.
They are right.
They need to add a couple of days a week doing some type of resistance/weight training. It can be at a gym or at home. Either works.
Here was my suggestion to them. Maybe it applies to you:
Join a gym near where you live. Why join a gym? My thinking is that if you pay for something, you may be more inclined to go because you don’t want to waste your money. Now, hundreds and hundreds of people join gyms and only go for a week or two, or NEVER. So, it takes more than joining a gym, but it’s a good start.
Going to a gym can be a pleasant event, and no this scene is not what most gyms look like. Many folks are afraid this is what they’re going to encounter at the local gym. Just a fantasy.
The question of whether or not someone over 40 can gain muscle is not a question anymore.
There is conclusive evidence that almost anyone can gain muscle if they’re motivated to start a muscle building program and if they’re consistent enough to see results.
Whether you’re 40 or 90, you can still see the positive benefits of doing resistance training. Now, someone 90 is not going to get the same results as the 40-year-old, but if you start early enough in life and continue throughout your life, you’ll be amazed at how improved your life can be over the long haul.
It’s NEVER too late to start, and you’re NEVER too old to see positive effects on your physical and mental well being.
I’m headed to the gym. See you there.