Aging is inevitable – but aging well is a choice.
40. Now that’s a scary number. I’ve been dreading 40 for 364 days now. Tomorrow is my 40th birthday.
I don’t know why I’m so worried. Maybe it’s having more fine lines or knowing this is the decade I’ll see my first grey hair. Maybe it’s because I’m not where I thought I’d be in life – but I know a lot of women feel like something is missing at this stage so possibly the questioning is part of moving on to a new decade.
On the up side, I love what I do and I’m starting to get this whole “running a business” thing figured out. About 8000 women read my blog last month. Two years ago, I struggled to get 200 people a month to read my stuff. I also get to work with so many fantastic women who, in turn, inspire and support me and have become good friends.
Plus, I can say that, without a doubt, my health and physique are better now than they were at 30. So that’s pretty cool!
Tomorrow I’ll turn 40 and there’s nothing I can do about it. Aging is inevitable. But how we age is largely up to us.
That’s why I want to hit my 40s with everything I’ve got.
I’ve been working on upgrading my training, nutrition and supplement regime to slow down aging and to optimize my cognitive function when I’m older. I’ve been absolutely binging on aging research lately – so you will see that theme in a lot of my upcoming blog posts. I’m really getting obsessed about brain health and you’ll be hearing more about that too.
In honor of my 40th birthday, I thought it would be interesting to let you know what I’m up to training and nutrition wise. I’ll also talk about what supplements are in my anti-aging arsenal.
I hope you find this article both useful and inspiring. I hope it encourages you to think more long term about your health and fitness.
While I go into detail about what I’m up to, the underlying theme is that you ultimately are the creator of your destiny. This applies whether you are 20 years old or 40 years old at the moment.
Every action you take today impacts who you will be when you are older.
My Current Training Program
At some point you need to stop fighting against your body and be thankful for what you have. Too many women waste their best body years obsessing over the small things.
I’m finding 40 very motivating for my training. I know it gets harder to build muscle the older we get so my focus lately has been to pack on as much muscle as I can. Building muscle is so much more fun than trying to lose weight and obsessing over the scale.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going for the big, beefy look but I am trying to bring up areas like my shoulders and glutes so I have an athletic looking physique (and hopefully prevent some of the sagginess that comes with aging).
Building and retaining muscle is also essential to avoiding the frailty that seems inevitable as we age. The quality of your later years depends on the prevention of sarcopenia – age-related loss of muscle mass that starts as early as your 30s.
Lifting weights is one of the best investments you can make for your future.
The longer you’ve been training the harder it gets to build muscle. That’s just the way it works. It means that someone like myself, who has been properly training for over 10 years, is going to find it hard to make any real “gains”.
However, I did have some setbacks to my training last year (a knee injury and feeling out of sorts at my local gym which has become ridiculously busy). So I feel like I’ve got some ground to make up and I’ve been training really hard lately.
I’ve also fine-tuned my training program. When I first started training, I followed a traditional “bodybuilding” split where you train each muscle group once a week (so you have a shoulder day, a back day, a leg day, etc). However, a more effective approach to muscle building is to hit muscle groups more than once a week, which is what I’m doing now.
Basically, your muscles need to be stimulated more often than every 7 days. That means if your goal is to build bigger shoulders (yes, I’m obsessed with shoulders) an optimal training program would hit them more than once a week. But you can’t always go heavy (or you risk injuries) so you might hit them heavy once, then program in some medium-lighter work later in the week.
Here’s what my week looks like:
Sunday: Glutes (heavy) + hamstrings (light)
Monday: Shoulders (heavy)
Tuesday: Back + rear delts (light) + biceps (light)
Wednesday: Hamstrings (heavy) + glutes (medium)
Thursday: Rear delts + shoulders (medium-light) + triceps (light)
Friday: Rest or a leisure activity like walking or biking outside + light glute work
Saturday: Biceps and triceps (heavy) + shoulders (light)
Adding cardio to this program would be too much and probably counteract my primary goal of losing muscle. However, most days I walk or bike outside. I also do at least 20 minutes of mobility work daily, including a lot of hip stretches to counteract sitting while working and trigger point release work with a ball and foam roller. This sort of routine is absolutely essential for preventing injury and keeping my body functioning optimally.
What I’m Eating
Who cares what you weigh, if you look better than before….
In the last couple of months, I’ve been fine tuning my diet to support my efforts in the gym to build muscle. What does that mean? Well, for start, it means I get to eat more. I’m not worrying about losing or even maintaining my current weight – because to gain muscle, you need a calorie surplus. You need to gain weight. Hopefully a lot of that weight will be muscle but some of it will be fat too. That’s just how it works.
To gain muscle, you need to gain weight.
For the first year or so of training, someone new to training might be able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. But usually muscle gain comes with some fat gain too. Most women can’t bear the idea of gaining weight. But you need to realize that one of the reasons you may never reach your “ideal weight” is because you have more muscle now than you did when you were once at that ideal weight you keep chasing. Who cares if you look better now – than you did before?
Now there are ways to shift your body into building more muscle than fat – have good genetics, weight train, manage stress, get enough sleep, eat lots of protein and make sure your extra calories are from high quality, nutritious food.
You also don’t want to go overboard with the extra calories. I’ve only added about 100-150 extra calories per day on top of my maintenance calories. However, I am calorie cycling to make sure my higher calorie days are on my hardest training days for muscle groups I’m trying to build. Here’s what that looks like:
2500 to 2600 calories – Upper body training days
2400 calories – Leg training days
2300 calories – Rest days
I keep my protein and fat intake relatively constant so the extra calories come from carbs (usually in the form of more fruit in my post-workout shake and some extra rice with dinner). I’m pushing my protein fairly high to help with muscle building (usually about 2g of protein per kg of body weight but sometimes I go over). Here’s what my current macro split looks like:
Remember, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to eat 50% of your diet from carbs unless you are very active, muscular and training hard most days. If you want some help figuring out your macros and what works for you, you can check out my nutrition program here.
The reality is most of us aren’t getting enough nutrients through our diet and supplements are the only way to make up the shortfall.
Take myself for example – I eat 2400 or more calories almost everyday and I make a big effort to eat 10 or more servings of vegetables and fruit (2-3 of the 10 are fruit) everyday without fail. I consume a lot of superfoods and “colors of the rainbow” everyday and I don’t eat any junk food at all. Yet I fall short of iron and zinc as soon as I stop supplementing. I can’t sleep unless I take magnesium and I’m having more problems with my gums despite being absolutely fanatic about flossing and brushing. I also know that despite all the food I eat, I fall short on calcium most days.
One of the ways I make up my mineral shortfall is by drinking Gerolsteiner water everyday, which is very high in minerals. In addition to my daily Gerolsteiner, here’s my current supplement regime and some notes explaining why and how I use each supplement. If you follow the link you can find out the exact brand I use.
General Health Supplements
Magnesium (200-300mg an hour before bed for better sleep, hormone balance)
Vitamin D (1000IU per day unless I’ve been able to expose my skin to sun)
Fish oil (reducing inflammation, brain health and better skin)
Curcumin (1g per day, for better periods, hormone balance, reducing inflammation and joint pain, brain health)
Magnesium Threonate (I’ve just started taking this for anxiety, brain health and mood and take 2 capsules around 4pm most days)
Ginger (1-1.5g the week before and during my period, excellent for heavy periods and period pain)
CoQ10 (I take this 3 days a week to help with gum health, usually at lunch because it can be energizing and affect sleep if I take it later in the day)
Green tea (anti-aging, focus and immunity)
All natural pre-trainer (for a boost before I train)
Creatine (for muscle building and anti-aging)
*I’m not taking anything for digestion because my fiber intake is always high and I eat kimchi everyday for probiotics (a traditional Korean dish made from by fermenting vegetables).
Your 80 Year Old Destiny
On my birthday I’ll be celebrating 40 good, healthy years on this earth. But I’ll also be looking to the future and planning for 40 more (well hopefully 60 more because I want to live to 100 at least!).
I want to have active hobbies when I’m older – like weight training, dancing, dog agility training, and traveling. I’m going to need my body and brain to function well for the lifestyle I want when I’m older.
What kind of lifestyle do you want in your 80s? 90s? Remember everything you do now impacts on who you will be when you are older. I truly believe that most people fail to plan for their older age. They may have financial plans in place but an even greater investment needs to be made into health and fitness.
You are creating your 80 year-old destiny right now.
Some of it will be luck – but most of it is in your hands. You only get one life, one body, one brain – so what are you doing to look after it?