Bodybuilding is a lifestyle that incorporates strict nutrition and detailed exercise programs to gain lean muscle mass and minimize body fat. As you age, your body naturally loses lean muscle tissue and your metabolism slows down, leading to weight gain. However, bodybuilding can combat these natural occurrences.
Nutrition is critical for all bodybuilders, but your needs change as you age. Bodybuilders require a high protein diet to support the growth and repair of muscle tissue. This will continue even in your 40s. However, you should monitor carbohydrate and fat intact more strictly because of your slower metabolism and tendency to store body fat. This does not mean you cut them completely from your diet but choose whole grains and unsaturated fats to support your health and build muscle.
Resistance training should be the focus of your bodybuilding program because you need to lift weight in order to gain muscle. However, your body will not recover as quickly as it did when you were younger. You might need more time off between sessions, so consider doing a three-day training split where you work each muscle one time per week with a day off between sessions. You also might need to lighten the load, or weight, to protect your joints, tendons and ligaments.
Cardiovascular exercise becomes even more important as you age because your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. It's also essential because of your slower metabolism. You need cardio to reduce your body fat and show muscular definition. You need to perform three to five sessions of cardio each week for at least 20 to 30 minutes. This might be enough to keep your body fat under control as well when combined with resistance exercise and a healthful diet. Consider low-impact activities to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your joints. Increase duration to 30 to 60 minutes if you need to lose weight.
Consider hiring a coach and dietitian who are experienced in working with bodybuilders older than 40. They can give you valuable insight as well as an exercise program and diet that are specifically suited to your needs and goals. Also understand that bodybuilding is a major commitment not only in the gym but in food preparation as well. Look at your lifestyle and determine whether bodybuilding is feasible.
- "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning"; National Strength and Conditioning Association; 2008
- American Council on Exercise: Older Adult Fitness
- "Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook"; Nancy Clark, MS, RD; 2008
- "ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription"; American College of Sports Medicine; 2010