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Old School

It’s been said that perfecting your physique is an art form, and a deceitful one, at that. To present your physical assets in their best light, you have to learn to cheat your angles so that you look as good as possible from every direction. As you age, cheating becomes even more critical. You not only have to fool those who see your physique, but you also have to learn how to trick your mind and body, encouraging each of them to respond as if they’re still as young and vibrant as they were two (or more) decades earlier.

If there’s one thing that’s never in question, it’s that you should continue to work out to maintain muscle mass, helping to keep your muscles as full as possible, allowing you to appear more youthful. “If you’re an experienced weight trainer, then aging brings a major advantage,” says Jeff Feliciano, research and food science manager at Weider Global Nutrition. “Muscle size comes back easily. When you weight-train after previous youthful success, your muscles seem to grow right in front of your eyes.” However, there’s also no doubt that there are downsides to possessing an aging body. Feliciano explains that older physiques have had more time to accumulate muscle scar tissue, undesirable changes in DNA, and harmful substances such as heavy metals and endocrine disrupters that are pervasive in the environment and our food supply.

As you age, you not only have to deal with physical and hormonal changes, but you also have to contend with the psychological ones. These include going through a mental adjustment process about your appearance and performance that’s not unlike the five stages of grief that Kubler-Ross identified. These stages progress from denial through anger, bargaining and depression before ultimately reaching acceptance. “Planning and accepting your aging process is the best strategy for making the most of the situation,” Feliciano says.

To achieve your optimal self, then, support your physicality in three ways: through your training, nutrition and supplementation regimens. “The good news is that unlike when you were young, you’ll appreciate the payoff so much more,” Feliciano says. To get on the path to a more youthful outlook and appearance, we provide you with all the training, nutrition and supplement tools you’ll need to achieve your, er, advanced goals.


Here’s the good news: “As you pass 40 — and even approach 50 or go beyond — it’s not that difficult to maintain most of your muscle mass, so long as you train smart,” Feliciano says. After all, you’ve finally attained that quality that many pro bodybuilders spend years trying to attain: muscle maturity.

But here’s the bad news: If you’re still training with heavy weights like a bodybuilder in his prime, you’re asking for trouble. “The wear and tear on your joints will eventually catch up with you, and the risk of a severe soft-tissue injury rises as you age,” Feliciano says. Because recovery time from injury increases as you age, you should be doing all that you can to avoid a biceps or pectoral tear. That means it’s time to make some adaptations to your workouts and in your thinking. Ask yourself seriously how much do you really care about your one-rep max for bench press at this stage in your life. “I hope you don’t at all,” Feliciano says. “Instead, you should focus on getting better results from smarter, less strenuous training.”

A couple of things should be apparent to you at this point in your life. For one, it’s even more critical to warm up before working out. “A wise man once said that the most dangerous reps are the first couple, while you’re trying to find your biomechanically safe groove,” Feliciano says. He recommends that you spend five to 10 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill at the beginning of every workout and then perform some very light (or no-weight) range-of-motion work before you begin your first true weight-training sets.

 In addition, consider making the following adaptations to your training program:

Check in with your body before you begin weight training.
If you feel overtrained or lethargic because of previous workouts, then you should take the day (or even two) off before taxing your body with weights again. This also applies to how you should approach individual exercises within your workouts. “Some days you simply might not feel safe or stable in a particular exercise,” Feliciano says. If that’s the case, walk away from that exercise for that workout. While your younger self may have attempted to push through this “laziness,” at this point in life, it’s a much better idea to wait for a better day.

Feliciano recommends that you “test” each individual exercise throughout your workout. “Think about booting up your target muscles for each weight move,” he says. “Hold the weight in the start position, considering how it feels that day.” If it feels OK, then begin to slowly contract your target muscles. Continue the rep and, if you aren’t getting any negative feedback, then continue to work to your potential through the rest of the set.

Train with lighter weights and higher reps.
While heavy weights may have built your physique back in the day, now they’re much more likely to tear it down. This has to do with many factors, including how effectively your nerves fire to activate target muscles. “Nerve problems become an increasing problem as you age, and sometimes nerves misfire under heavy loads,” Feliciano says. Working out with lighter weights and high reps still allows muscle fibers to fire and reduces the risk of injury.

“View the glass as half full and strategize about how you can fill it a bit more by using smart ideas rather than by trying to work out the same way you did when you were younger,” Feliciano says. High reps and lighter weight will pump your muscles, supporting fullness. Add a sustained contraction at the peak of each rep for additional stimulation with little risk.

Vary cardio exercises.
Everyone has a preferred version of cardio, but you might have already learned that it’s possible to do too much of a good thing. By changing up the types of cardio you perform, you not only keep your body guessing, increasing the amount of body fat that you’re able to burn, but you also spare your joints by working them in different ways.

“Performing the same type of cardio over and over may also weaken collateral muscle groups,” Feliciano says. Too much time on a stationary bike may reduce strength in your lower back; too much time running on a treadmill (“which is not at all the same activity as running,” Feliciano says) may weaken your hamstrings. While these activities are great for increasing aerobic capacity and burning calories and body fat, you shouldn’t overemphasize any one of them.

If you’re a runner, try the stationary bike or elliptical when you’re at the gym. If you bike, then try the rowing machine or treadmill. And if you’re a gym trainer without a sport, then it’s particularly important to choose different forms of cardio from one session to another to make certain that you aren’t unknowingly creating muscular weakness.

Vary cardio intensity.
Instead of performing every cardio session at the same level of intensity, regardless of where that falls along the zero-to-60 spectrum, strive to vary levels of cardio intensity for varying lengths of time. It’s great to include moderate levels of cardio to burn calories, helping to control body fat. “However, you can also use one of the most effective fat-burning strategies: high-intensity interval training,” Feliciano suggests.

To do this, include a specific number of HIIT sessions in your cardio work. For each interval, go as hard as you can for 60 to 90 seconds, then take as long as you need to recover. Slowly work up until you’re able to perform four to five of these intervals during a 15- to 20-minute cardio workout. Emphasize the effort in your intensity intervals over other aspects of your cardio training (in other words, rest longer, if you need, to allow for full recovery before your next work interval). You’ll burn more body fat and encourage better insulin sensitivity, and you may even recover more quickly.

Then, for your next cardio workout, perform steady-state cardio on a different type of equipment. In your subsequent cardio session, use the HIIT strategy on a different type of equipment from your previous HIIT session. (It can be the same as your most recent steady-state cardio — just keep changing them up.)

Include more cross-training in your workouts.
You may prefer to weight-train during almost every workout but, at this life stage, other forms of exercise can offer ample benefits, so long as you choose wisely. One strategy is to alternate workouts between cardio, flexibility, balance and other forms of exercise, in addition to weight training. Consider taking a yoga or Pilates class on your non-weightlifting days. Also, consider performing more than one type of exercise in a session, doing each for a shorter length of time. Not only will this help you reduce the volume of your weight training, but it will also allow you to focus on physical skills that are important for an aging body. “As you age, these physical skills diminish, and training to maintain or improve them helps you stay youthful,” Feliciano says. While you should reduce weight training to three to four days per week, you can still work out more frequently. Just vary your version of activity.



Here’s one way you can put together a weekly workout based on this advice. Remember, this is just an example, and you should make adjustments based on how your body is responding to exercise. Don’t force anything; but you also can include more exercise on days — or during phases — when your body feels more vibrant.


  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes on treadmill
  • Pre-weight-train: perform a test set for the target muscle group
  • Weight-train legs: four exercises for three sets each


  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes on stationary bike
  • Pre-weight-train: perform a test set for each target muscle group
  • Weight-train chest: two exercises for four sets each
  • Weight-train triceps: two exercises for three sets each


  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes on treadmill
  • HIIT cardio session for 15 to 20 minutes (treadmill or stationary bike) or
  • Yoga, Pilates or other activity (individual sport, power walk, hike, etc.) or
  • Rest


  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes on elliptical trainer
  • Pre-weight-train: perform a test set for your target muscle group
  • Weight-train back: four exercises for three sets each


  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes on recumbent bike
  • Pre-weight-train: perform a test set for each target muscle group
  • Weight-train shoulders: two exercises for four sets each
  • Weight-train biceps: two exercises for three sets each


  • HIIT cardio session for 15 to 20 minutes (treadmill, bike or rower —
  • choose a different style of cardio than the previous HIIT) or
  • Yoga, Pilates or other activity (individual sport, power walk, hike, etc.)


  • Rest

The primary nutrition goal of most youthful, athletic weight trainers may be to fuel muscle growth, but that changes as you age. “After you reach 40, your primary nutrition goal should shift to fueling muscle maintenance while keeping body fat in check,” Feliciano says. A younger person can focus his or her diet strictly on achieving an impressive physique, but at your age, you should strive to improve the quality of your life and increase longevity. If you’re “eating” toward these goals, then a more attractive appearance will naturally follow.

In addition, proper food choices fuel your day-to-day activities and thought processes in more significant ways than they did when you were younger. “Good nutrition choices also help you improve your memory and mental performance so that you can use your experience to stay in the game,” Feliciano says. With that said, here are the nutrition checkpoints you should consider implementing after you reach 40:

Eat an appropriate amount of calories every day.
At this stage of your life, your daily calorie intake depends on your goals. If you’re trying to whittle away at that spare tire, aim for 10 calories per pound of bodyweight per day. If you’re trying to maintain muscle mass, then aim to consume about 13 to 14 calories per pound of bodyweight, increasing or decreasing that depending on your individual metabolic needs.

Consume six meals a day.
As people age, they often begin to eat fewer meals a day, believing this is a good way to reduce calorie consumption. “But that’s exactly what you do not want to do!” Feliciano says. “Eating fewer meals means you surpass the ideal time between meals to maintain metabolism.” This reduces the body’s ability to burn body fat and increases the likelihood that you’ll burn valuable muscle tissue.

So, no matter your age, you should eat like a bodybuilder, consuming six meals a day, spacing them about two to three hours apart, providing a steady source of quality calories and nutrients to keep your metabolism humming. The key is to consume the total number of calories per day that’s right for you, split fairly evenly between these meals.

Eat plenty of protein.
All aging athletes — whether overweight or underweight or right on target — need adequate protein to avoid losing muscle mass. You can’t maintain muscle mass unless you’re providing your body with all the amino acids it needs for physiological processes, including muscle maintenance. To achieve this, you should consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. “As we age, we naturally lose a certain amount of muscle mass every year,” Feliciano says. Feeding your body protein helps slow this process, as does exercising.

Another factor to consider is that age can blunt protein absorption, increasing the body’s need for it. “Think about your body as a car engine that’s becoming less efficient,” Feliciano says. You need more “fuel” in the form of protein to reduce this effect.

However, people tend to want to cut out foods — like eggs, dairy and meat — that are high in saturated fats. Because many of these foods are also high in protein, the net effect is a significant reduction in protein intake. Current research shows that saturated fat does not have deleterious effects on the bodies of those who exercise regularly and eat a balanced lower-carb diet. Aim to get sufficient protein from a variety of sources, including poultry, eggs, fish, lean beef and dairy.

Eat appropriate carbs.
That’s both quantity and quality. Regardless of your goal or age, you need to get in plenty of fibrous carbs from sources such as vegetables, fruits and legumes. This becomes even more crucial as you age. “Diets high in fiber help fight diseases that an aging population encounters, particularly immune dysfunction that begins with a poorly maintained GI tract,” Feliciano says. These carb-based foods are rich in an assortment of phytochemicals, the same ones that best support DNA health. And, because they’re low in calories, the downsides of carbs don’t apply to these foods.

If you’re trying to reduce body-fat levels, cut back on sugar and starchy carbs —the ones that encourage excess insulin release and body-fat storage. If you’re trying to maintain muscle mass without adding body fat, then aim to eat about 1 gram of slow-digesting carbs (such as brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and whole-grain breads) per pound of bodyweight per day.

Eat appropriate fats.
Again, that’s quantity and quality. While many Americans consume too much dietary fat, few in the USA get in enough healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in food sources like fatty fish, olive and canola oil, avocadoes, and seeds and nuts. But even saturated “bad” fats play an important role in providing raw materials to build hormones such as testosterone (which declines as men age). So it’s crucial to get in a base line of both types of fats.

A good rule of thumb is to get in 20 percent of your daily calories from dietary fats, split evenly between healthy and saturated fats (good sources of saturated fats include whole eggs, lean red meat and dairy). This holds true whatever your goal.

Here’s an example of how you can construct a daily diet. Key tenets of a healthy diet include varying food sources from day to day, getting in plenty of different fruits and vegetables, proteins and carbs. While this plan includes seven meals, you can think of the preworkout and postworkout meals as two halves of the same meal. On days when you don’t work out, you can replace both with a small midafternoon snack that’s high in protein and low in carbs (such as two hard-boiled eggs or a roll made from cheese and sliced deli meat).

This plan is based on a 180-pound, 40-plus male trying to maintain muscle mass and bodyweight while aiming for a moderate reduction in body fat.


  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2-4 egg whites
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1 slice cantaloupe

Midmorning Snack

  • 4 ounces cottage cheese
  • 1 ounce pecans
  • 1 ounce dried berries


  • 6 ounces chicken breast
  • ¼ medium avocado
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread

Preworkout Meal

  • 20 grams of whey protein
  • 1 apple

Postworkout Meal

  • 20-30 grams of whey protein
  • 10-16 ounces Gatorade


  • 8 ounces lean steak
  • 1 medium baked sweet potato
  • 8 ounces asparagus

Late-Night Snack

  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 ounce almonds

Supplements are beneficial for supporting muscle growth when you’re young, but they’re essential for supporting health and muscle maintenance as you age. To supplement for maximal muscle mass in an aging population, you need to consider a few different issues that you likely overlooked when you were younger.

In addition to supplying your body with the raw materials it needs for building and maintaining muscle mass, supplementing addresses other factors critical to the aging body. These include ensuring adequate energy, good focus and cognitive function; supporting proper hormone levels; improving joint and ligament strength; and assisting the body in recovering from exercise.

To ensure a healthy base line, take a quality multivitamin/mineral supplement with breakfast and dinner each day. Deficits in vital vitamins or minerals may manifest themselves in more profoundly negative ways than they did when you were younger.

Here are some of the other supplements that can help provide the physical and psychological environments necessary for you to achieve your goals:

Take supplements to boost energy.
Arginine and citrulline are amino acids that help improve endothelialfunction, which can otherwise create problems with blood pressure levels and other pathologies linked to coronary heart disease. Basically, arginine and citrulline normalize nitric-oxide signaling, helping to deliver nutrients to muscles — and pump them up when you weight-train. They also allow you to lift more weight for more reps. “Another advantage of supplementing arginine and citrulline is that they help blunt harmful aging effects that can accumulate over time,” Feliciano says. Even if you have not had a prior heart problem, you should take 1.5 grams of arginine and 1.5 grams of citrulline, with 50 milligrams of Pycnogenol, which also improves nitric-oxide levels, before and after workouts.

Green-tea extract: This supplement helps you relax and maintain mental acuity without causing an inability to sleep (like caffeine does) because it contains the amino acid theanine, which increases the levels of GABA, a critical neurotransmitter. Take 500 milligrams of green-tea extract twice a day.


Take supplements to enhance cognitive function and focus.
Fish oil: We’ve already established that Americans don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids through diet alone. Research has demonstrated that fish oil not only helps improve cognition in an aging population but also helps burn body fat. “Choose a product that has been processed to eliminate heavy metals like mercury,” Feliciano recommends. Take 2 to 3 grams of fish oil two to three times a day for a total of up to 9 grams per day.

Tart-cherry extract: Known by many as a great source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, tart-cherry extract has gained popularity recently. “Tart-cherry extract may reduce joint pain that’s actually nerve pain related to inflammation,” Feliciano says. This type of pain is not related to joint pathology, but it’s often misdiagnosed as being osteoarthritis related. Tart-cherry extract also improves cognitive function and is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that it reduces oxidative damage due to acute stress (such as exercise) in an aging population.Follow the label information for dosing because products are sold in different concentrations.

Take supplements to support muscle maintenance.
Protein powder: The best way to ensure that you’re getting all the protein you need to support muscle maintenance is to have a protein shake before and after workouts, along with other times of day. “Target at least 20 grams of protein before and after workouts to help jump-start the recovery process,” Feliciano says. You also can have a shake upon waking or at bedtime to ensure that your body gets a steady stream of amino acids. Protein shakes make excellent meal replacements.

Creatine monohydrate: This amino-acid-like compound helps improve the amount of weight you can lift or the amount of reps you can perform, ultimately helping you achieve your goals. “It also helps to maintain hydration,” Feliciano says. You may notice your muscles are fuller as soon as you begin supplementing with it. Take 2 to 5 grams of creatine monohydrate before and after workouts for a total of up to 10 grams per day.

Take supplements to repair and strengthen joints.
Glucosamine: An amino sugar that provides the raw materials that help strengthen joint cartilage, glucosamine helps prevent joint injury and can repair damage once it has occurred. It also provides glycosaminoglycans, which are key components of cartilage. Take 2 to 3 doses of 500 milligrams of glucosamine for a total of up to 1,500 milligrams per day.

Methyl-sulfonyl-methane: This organosulfur compound is found in the body and our food supply, and it provides benefits for supporting joint health. Supplemental MSM delivers a form of sulfur that’s easily absorbed into the body, and it strengthens tendons, ligaments and muscles, providing integrity to connective tissue. Take two doses of 500 milligrams daily.

Take supplements to support testosterone levels.
Tribulus terrestris:
“If your testosterone levels aren’t low and you aren’t challenging them at the gym, then you may not need Tribulus,” Feliciano says. “But that becomes less likely after 40.” Tribulus terrestris plants contain furostanol saponins, steroid-like compounds that help boost testosterone levels. As you age, too much of a good thing — i.e., exercise — may reduce testosterone levels. Consider taking Tribulus if you feel weak, drained or depressed after hard training sessions. Take 250 to 500 milligrams one to three times a day. “One way you’ll know Tribulus is working is that your beard growth — among other things — will be faster and more robust,” Feliciano says.

D-aspartic acid: This amino acid is produced in the pituitary gland and testicles and helps increase the release of luteinizing hormone, a key player in bolstering testosterone levels. Research has shown that supplementing with D-aspartic acid helps increase testosterone levels by 40 percent or more. That becomes increasingly important as T levels decline with age. For best results, take 3 grams of D-aspartic acid upon rising.

Take supplements to speed recovery.
Glutamine: Not only is this the most prevalent amino acid in the human body, but it’s also, perhaps, the best for helping you recover from training. In addition, it aids digestion and enhances immune function. Take 5 to 10 grams of glutamine up to four times a day.

Branched-chain amino acids: These aminos are particularly beneficial to older weight trainers for their recovery benefits.They also blunt cortisol and reduce muscle soreness after workouts. Thus, BCAAs help repair muscle tissue stressed by exercise, allowing you to feel ready to train again sooner. Take 3 to 5 grams of BCAAs before and after workouts.


Here’s an overview of our basic supplement recommendations to help you make sure that you’re getting everything you need to make the most of your physique and health.

Upon Waking

  • Whey protein shake, if desired (15 to 20 grams)
  • Glutamine (5 to 10 grams)
  • MSM (500 milligrams)
  • D-aspartic acid (3 grams)


  • Multivitamin/mineral
  • Green-tea extract (500 milligrams)
  • Fish oil (2 to 3 grams)
  • Glucosamine (500 milligrams)
  • Tart-cherry extract (follow label dosing)
  • Tribulus terrestris (250 to 500 milligrams)


  • Fish oil (2 to 3 grams)
  • Glucosamine (500 milligrams)


  • Green-tea extract (500 milligrams)
  • Creatine monohydrate (2 to 5 grams)
  • Glutamine (5 to 10 grams)
  • BCAAs (3 to 5 grams)
  • Arginine (1.5 grams)
  • Citrulline (1.5 grams)
  • Pycnogenol (50 milligrams)
  • Tribulus terrestris (250 to 500 milligrams)


  • Creatine monohydrate (2 to 5 grams)
  • Glutamine (5 to 10 grams)
  • BCAAs (5 grams)
  • Whey protein shake (20 to 25 grams)
  • Arginine (1.5 grams)
  • Citrulline (1.5 grams)
  • Pycnogenol (50 milligrams)
  • Tribulus terrestris (250 to 500 milligrams)


  • Fish oil (2 to 3 grams)
  • Glucosamine (500 milligrams)
  • Multivitamin/mineral
  • Tart-cherry extract (follow label dosing)

Before Bed

  • Casein protein shake, if desired (20 to 25 grams)
  • MSM (500 milligrams)
  • Green-tea extract (500 milligrams)