Am I too old to gain muscle?

I don’t know?

Ernestine Shepherd (at 70- she is now 79)

Mark Sisson of

JK…I do know!

Aging can have negative effects on muscle.  Many studies have shown that adults who are not doing exercise designed to prevent muscle loss tend to lose 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade.  Most folks are pretty familiar with this age-related muscle loss (called sarcopenia) and think it is a foregone conclusion that they need to lose muscle as they age.  This is simply not true. Aging has many additional effects that may impact muscle growth these include: hormonal changes, metabolic changes (insulin resistance, excessive body fat, inflammation etc) and neurological changes. Yet, studies have shown that most of these can be counteracted.  It will probably not surprise you that healthy nutrition, the right kind of exercise and appropriate recovery are the prescription. 

Gaining muscle and preventing muscle loss is possible no matter your age.  The basics are the same and they start with healthy nutrition. Most adults are not getting enough protein to protect their existing muscle and definitely not enough to gain more muscle.  If you want to gain muscle you need get more protein. Let me say that again, you need more protein. For most people with healthy organs, the RDA intake of .8g/kg or .36g/lb is woefully short of the mark.  We normally suggest that most of our clients start at around 1g/lb of lean body mass they are trying to support or attain. It is pretty simple, without the proper building blocks, the body will not build or maintain muscle.  How much you need will depend on your lean body mass, your metabolic rate, your daily activity, and how hard/often you are working out. If you want accurate measurements you need to get tested.

The second part of gaining muscle and maintaining strength is intelligent resistance training.  No matter your age, sex, height, weight, day of the month you were born…you need to do resistance training to gain or maintain strength and muscle mass.  Just as importantly without exposure to resistance training, you will also likely lose bone mass as well. You need an intelligently designed program that includes bodyweight exercise as well as weight training.  The number of sets and reps should provide adequate stimulus for muscle growth. Each person is different and we highly recommend working with a coach. Study after study has shown that resistance training alone is almost as effective in anti-aging as hormone replacement therapy with none of the side effects.  Bottom line. If you have normal hormone levels for your age and if you want to gain muscle, an intelligently designed weight lifting program will get you there. No matter your age.

The last big part of gaining muscle at YOUR age is to ensure that you have adequate rest and recovery.  This is probably one of the things that will change the most when you adjust for age. To be direct, you can work your young self a lot harder with less recovery than you can your older self.  Metabolically and hormonally you adapt more quickly when you are younger. Each person is different, but in general, this looks like more recovery days, more days of lower intensity and additional focus on other modes of recovery (chiropractic, physical therapy, yoga, etc). Perhaps the biggest thing any athlete of any age can work on is to ensure they are getting enough quality sleep.  This can be extremely hard when life, family, job and other pressures kick in. For the older athlete, quality sleep is key.

You can gain muscle at any age.  It can be harder and it often helps to get the assistance of a qualified coach.  The keys are the same: healthy nutrition, intelligent exercise (resistance) and adequate recovery. 

We have helped hundreds of folks of all ages with nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle.  We can help you.

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