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Mastering Your Body

You can be fabulous and fitter than ever after 40 — really!

With ever-improving knowledge of nutrition, exercise and skin care (ahem, Botox), you have the potential to be healthier, live longer and look better than ever. But there’s one über-important factor preventing you from cannonballing gleefully into the fountain of youth: your hormones.

After age 30, a woman’s estrogen/progesterone balance falters, her already low (in comparison to men) testosterone declines and her growth-hormone levels begin their steady march south. Weight gain, decreased muscle mass, insomnia and low libido are a few of the symptoms that accompany this internal disruption. Hormone-replacement therapy can help some effects, but there’s not much a woman can do to reverse this natural and inevitable decline. Or is there?

According to research you can prevent and even reverse some effects of aging just by being active, eating healthy and being smart. Here are some science-backed strategies to help you turn back the clock a tick or two, or at least hit the pause button on Father Time.

HIIT It — Hard

High-intensity interval training has been shown in numerous studies to stimulate the release of human growth hormone, which is responsible for an increase in exercise capacity, fat metabolism, bone density and muscle mass — all points of concern for masters athletes. But the amount of HGH released is directly related to the intensity of the activity being done and the muscle fibers being activated. The fast-twitch and super-fast-twitch fibers that produce the most growth hormone response are only activated during high-intensity exercise when you train at or above your anaerobic threshold. Sprints, Tabatas, barbell complexes and anything else that redlines your heart rate (and makes you want to hurl) is an activity that effectively uses those fibers and pumps you full of HGH.

Furthermore, according to research published in Cell Metabolism in March 2017, HIIT performed during aerobic activity caused a 69 percent increase in mitochondrial activity, boosting energy levels and endurance potential. Add to that the protective effect that intense exercise has on your telomeres, the bookends of your chromosomes that protect them from damage, and you’re actually preventing aging at a cellular level.

Restore, Recover and Refuel — the Right Way

Although you may be able to smoke that 20-something at your gym in an all-out sprint, research has confirmed that your masters body takes longer to recover than it used to. Schedule at least one or two days off from training each week to allow for adequate recovery, and take in more protein postworkout than your collegiate compadres — about 35 to 40 grams per meal or shake — with an emphasis on whey. A study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise suggests that whey should be the protein of choice because it is rich in leucine, an amino acid known for its anabolic capacity.

Also consider using an electrical muscle stimulation (e-stim) machine as a recovery tool. These compact gadgets pass a mild electrical current through strategically placed electrodes into your muscles to cause an involuntary contraction of the tissue that flushes out wastes and brings in fresh blood for nourishment, accelerating recovery without causing fatigue.

You May Have Limits, But Not Limitations

No matter what your age, it’s key to stride toward your fitness goals with the unrelenting focus of a charging bull — but as a master, do so with aplomb. Know when your body is telling you to quit, lighten up or take a day off. And always use your own achievements as a yardstick of success rather than comparing yourself to someone who is 20 (or 30 or 40) years your junior.

Having said that, every time you enter the gym you’re afforded an opportunity to better yourself, to go somewhere you didn’t think was possible and to do something that scares the heck out of you. Toe the edge of discomfort every day and remember that just because you might not lift pound-for-pound with the college kids does not mean you can’t still be a badass. Cheers to every Wonder Woman. You girls rock. #oldchicksrule