If you’re like many women over 40, you’ve probably noticed that it’s become a lot easier to gain a few pounds than to lose them.
The foods that you ate without care in your 20s and 30s now stick to your body like glue, adding bulk to your midsection.
Exercise that you did to lose it in your 20s just doesn’t work in your 40s and well, it is just plain frustrating.
[Related article: Worst exercise for the over 35s and what to do instead]
And whether we like it or not (or want to truly accept it), we are conscious of aging and not just solely for aesthetics but for our joints, immune system, energy levels.
We are just more conscious of wanting to be our best selves and live full and long lives, right.
Though we talk about wanting to “age gracefully,” the truth is that when it comes to getting older, we’re programmed to dread an inevitable decline: in our health, our looks, our sexual relationships, even the pleasure we take in living life.
And this is why I bang on all the time to my Warrior Kettlebell Goddesses about building lean muscle.
The good news: The solution to a slim, firm body at 40-plus is simple: building lean muscle through strength training (kettlebells are my choice for this) and a food cycling programme that takes account of hormones and insulin resistance and why I advocate carb cycling.
Research shows that, when combined with a little but regular strength training, what you eat and when you eat it are your metabolic secret weapons for building muscle mass, the body’s prime calorie-burning tissue and a key driver of your metabolism.
[Related article: What is Carb Cycling and what does it mean for fatloss in your 40s? ]
“The main culprit that slows metabolism and often leads to yo-yo dieting is what I call shrinking muscle syndrome,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center. Starting at age 30, most people begin to lose about half a pound of the metabolism-revving tissue each year. Poof! Gone, just like that. And at age 50, the rate doubles. “The average sedentary woman may have lost nearly 15 pounds of muscle by the time she reaches her late 50s, a change that could cause her to gain nearly the same amount in body fat,” says Wayne Westcott, PhD, a Prevention advisory board member and the director of fitness research at Quincy College in Massachusetts.
But too-tight jeans, a puffy midsection, and an increased risk of diabetes don’t have to be your future. (Your chances of winding up with all of the above increase with each pound of muscle you lose.)
Building Lean Muscle is Key
However, spending hours on end running on a treadmill, doing situps, or bench-pressing extraordinarily heavy weights doesn’t have to be part of the equation to your slim body in your 40s. In fact, it never should be. Make no mistake, exercise does take dedicated work on your part, but it doesn’t require you to sacrifice all of your time and energy.
My clients are always stunned at just how little they have to exercise to achieve real and lasting results. That’s the pleasant surprise I want you to experience.
According to a January 2015 story in U. S. News and World Report, nearly two-thirds of dieters regain the weight they’ve lost on a diet within the first year. 1 That’s a lot of people, especially when you consider that roughly 45 million people will try a new diet every year, according to figures from Boston Medical Center. That’s a lot of time and energy being wasted, but the diet industry just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
I’m telling you these statistics, though, because I don’t want to mislead you, and I want you to know that I won’t push any miracle pills or programs your way. I want to tell you the truth. That begins with telling you why dieting is pointless. Aside from the misery of it all, your body simply isn’t programmed to respond to a diet in the way you’ve been told it will. Let me explain. Your body is always using energy to perform all manner of external and internal functions, even when you’re sleeping. This rate of energy use is called your basal metabolic rate.
You gain energy from the food you eat in the form of calories, and this keeps your metabolic rate chugging along. If you eat more than you burn, your fat storage increases. Thus, the only way to make sure you’re expending more energy than you’re ingesting and storing is to increase your basal metabolic rate. The only way to increase your basal metabolic rate is to increase your lean muscle.
This is precisely why diets don’t work.
When you diet, you deprive yourself of food and energy, and in the short term, this means that you lose weight. However, this also means that you gradually lower your basal metabolic rate. When you’ve achieved the weight-loss results you were aiming for and you start eating normally again, your food and energy intake will far exceed your lowered basal metabolic rate, and all the weight will start piling on again. It’s an ugly and pointless cycle. Thus, the only way to truly lose weight and keep it off is to take a multitiered approach: First, you have to incorporate healthier foods into your diet that promote hormonal balance and reduce inflammation inside your body. Second, you have to change your daily lifestyle to reduce stress and support positive growth. Finally, you have to exercise. That’s right, you have to exercise.
Through exercise, you will gain lean muscle, which will increase your basal metabolic rate. With this increase, you will gradually become a fat-burning machine, even when you’re not working out.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting that you become a bodybuilder. That degree of pumped-up muscle isn’t required to unlock the fat-burning properties of this program. I know this is especially a concern for women, most of whom want to avoid the muscled look. I assure you this is not what we’re going for. I simply want you to be fit and firm. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to hit the gym 7 days a week. What I’m about to share with you flies in the face of convention. I think you’ll find it to be a breath of fresh air. The key here is to make sure you’re getting the right type and amount of exercise, and thankfully, utilizing Warrior Goddess Kettlebell Training method is the perfect way to do both.
Plus, Resistance Training Can Reverse the Aging Process
According to an article published by Len Kravitz PHD, human aging is associated with a loss of muscle, deficit in muscular strength, and impairment in performing some activities of daily life. Typically, these changes start to occur at the age of 40, and progressively worsen with aging.
Sarcopenia can be defined as the natural age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and muscle function. It is estimated that 7% of adults over 70 and 20% over 80 are affected by a very debilitating sarcopenia, which costs the global health care system more than 18 billion dollars a year.
The causes of this muscle aging are multi-factorial with theories and research suggesting it is related to oxidative stress (condition in which antioxidant levels are lower than normal), cell death, inflammation (immune response to injury or infection), hormonal dysregulation, inactivity, alternations in protein turnover and mitochondrial (the ATP energy factory in cells) dysfunction.
Resistance training with older populations has been shown to reduce markers of oxidative stress and increase the anti-oxidant enzyme activity, which ultimately means less chance of susceptibility to degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Melov and colleagues investigated the question whether resistance training actually effects some of the gene expressions associated with muscle aging, thus reversing the aging process.
Older and younger samples were chosen for this study. The twenty-six older volunteers (mean age = 68 yrs) self-reported doing walking, gardening, tennis, or cycling on three or more times per week.
The twenty-five younger subjects (mean age = 24 yrs) were relatively inactive, self-reporting only modest recreational activity. The researchers chose the more untrained younger population as they felt this was helpful in looking at the effects of aging and not just inactivity for their analysis. All subjects went through a medical evaluation, health history assessment, resting electrocardiogram (for detection of any heart irregular rhythms), and submaximal graded exercise test on a cycle ergometer before being admitted into the study. Subjects (all non-smokers) were excluded if they showed any orthopedic limitations to exercise, as well as evidence of heart disease or kidney problems.
 Melov S., Tarnopolsky M.A., Beckman K., Felkey K., and Hubbard A. (2007) Resistance Exercise Reverses Aging in Human Skeletal Muscle. PLoS ONE 2(5): e465. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000465
The researchers identified 596 differentially expressed genes (meaning atypical to other genes being analyzed). Of these, after 26 weeks of resistance training the researchers identified 179 genes associated with age and exercise showing a reversal of their gene expression. This means quite literally that the resistance training was not only slowing, but also reversing the aging process at the gene level. The gene expressions of the resistance trained older subjects demonstrated characteristics similar to those of the younger group. The researchers also noted that mitochondrial impairment, normally seen with inactivity, was reversing with the 6 months of resistance training.
In muscular strength, the peak isometric strength of the older population was initially 59% lower than the younger population. After 26 weeks of training, the older population peak strength was only 38% of the younger group.
This novel study demonstrated that resistance training can reverse aspects of aging at the gene level. For years personal trainers and fitness professionals have exclaimed the functional movement and health benefits of resistance exercise.
Now, trainers just like me can share with their clients that regular, progressive resistance training also improves the muscle’s longevity profile at the molecular level. It is well known that long-term resistance training is associated with a lower risk to age-associated morbidity and mortality. This original study may be a first step in explaining how some of these positive changes occur.
Here’s how to safeguard muscle mass and turn up the heat on your body’s natural calorie-frying furnace.
Here’s how to get started:
• Eat the right foods at the right time in the right amounts and for the right purpose. Eat clean, protein-rich foods to support calorie-burning muscle mass, and follow a calorie cycling diet.- why not find out more about the 7 Day Carb Cycle
• Strength-train twice a week to fight muscle loss – why not access my free kettlebell workouts
• Squeeze in quickie interval cardio workouts like sprint training 1-2 times a week to hike all-day calorie burn- don’t know where to start, it’s all included in the 28 Day Warrior Goddess Kettlebell Training Beginners programme
• Your hormone type has a tremendous influence on your overall metabolic balance. These hormones, in turn, impact your metabolism. However, you can influence them based on how you eat, exercise, manage stress, and move. This turns what is normally seen as a fat-burning disadvantage for women into a kind of female “superpower”. But to take advantage of it, you need to know a little bit more about your specific hormone type. Learn more in our Metabolism Masterclass.