So, you just finished your 20s. You finally moved out of Mom’s place, and you’re carrying a bit of timber. I understand… middle age certainly isn’t for everyone.
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It wasn’t for my Ford Pinto, either. At age 10, I pushed that thing past the limit, and it caught fire.
In order for you to avoid catching fire when giving it your all, follow these 4 steps to get shredded in your 30s.
Is It Harder to Get Ripped As You Age?
The overarching idea behind this article is to help you gain muscle mass in your 30s while also losing weight. A simple idea, but we have to consider the fact that your age might make a difference. Or will it?
Let’s discuss the three main things:
Training won’t really be affected that much. There are studies showing certain individuals might experience lower levels of anabolic hormones such as testosterone, HGH, and IGF-1, but these are usually in people with poor overall health.
Recovery might actually be affected. In your 30s, you probably have a stressful job and way more responsibilities. You’re probably sleeping far less than usual, which would make physical activity a lot harder, as well as recovery.
Diet is the only factor science has actually determined to be a concern. See, not only does insulin resistance increase with age but your ability to metabolize amino acids also decreases. This means your carbs (or any extra calories, really) are more likely to add a few pounds, and your protein synthesis rates are way down.
So, it might be harder to get shredded as you age. That said, there are ways around this, and even when you consider the factors mentioned, it doesn’t happen with everyone.
A Few More Tips to Keep In Mind
Before we get to the list, let’s do a smaller list of basic things you should be doing just for overall health and… to not die:
- You should try to eat healthier food whenever you can. I’m not saying you should never enjoy cheat meals like most people, but be aware that you’re an adult now, with adult money.
- You should definitely be eating fruits and veggies every day.
- Driving everywhere you go might not be the healthiest thing. Taking a lot of steps per day won’t magically give you a healthy and good physique, but it will help with overall well-being.
- Consuming too much alcohol could also have health effects on your life.
- Having your physical done when needed is something older adults do. Do not skip this!
Now that the adulting part is done, we can finally get to help you bump up your growth hormone and build muscle! Let’s get started, shall we?
Step 1 – Lift Heavy Weights a Few Days a Week
Before we even start, “heavy” is relative. What’s heavy to world record holder Becca Swanson might seem immovable to you.
Here she is breaking the world record bench for women (551 lbs):
Anyways, let’s face it. To build muscle, you need to be lifting weights with all the major muscle groups (and the minor ones, too!).
Building muscle is actually a remarkably easy thing to do:
- Practice progressive resistance training, meaning the load increases week to week.
- Train to within 4 reps of failure — around 20% of your sets can be taken to complete failure.
- Exercise selection plays a role, and your training sessions should be filled with movements you can do pain-free and that is stable.
- There will come a point where the enjoyment of any training program matters. If you don’t enjoy the lifting style, you’re far less likely to stick to it.
With those things mentioned, let’s look at what I believe to be the best program for someone in their 30s to build lean muscle while also losing body fat:
Day 1: Upper Body and Cardio
- Standing Overhead Barbell Press, 2 sets x 10 – 15 reps
- Incline Barbell Bench, 2 sets x 6 – 10 reps
- Bent-Over Row, 3 sets x 8 – 15 reps
- Pull-Ups, 2 sets to failure
- Dumbbell Curls, 2 sets x 15 – 20 reps
- Close-Grip Bench Press, 2 sets x 10 – 15 reps
- 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio
Day 2: Cardio
- 60 minutes of low-intensity cardio
Day 3: Lower Body and Cardio
- Barbell Squats, 3 sets x 8 – 15 reps
- Single-Leg Press, 2 sets x 10 reps
- Walking Lunges, 3 sets x 20 reps per leg
- Seated Hamstring Curl, 2 sets x 6 – 10 reps
- Leg Extension, 2 sets x 6 – 10 reps
- 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio
Day 4: Off
This might not be the best workout plan to get you in shape, but it’s a start. Change each workout as needed, depending on your recovery and what’s in your gym. Weight training will help with muscle growth, whereas cardio (and diet) will help with weight loss.
Some people might try to tell you that you need compound movements. Sure, they’re great, and almost every training program has them. That said, if your body just doesn’t react to them, don’t do ’em.
Most of us started lifting with these compound movements, and in time, we learned that the best movements are the ones that build strength without running the risk of injury. Pick the best exercises for you, not the “best exercises.”
Step 2 – Eat Like an Adult
Does that mean no more Coco Pops? Most probably… I hate to be the person to take your tasty carbs, but you’re the one that chose to be an adult with a job and taxes!
Younger people can get away with having a poor diet, and as a kid, you probably didn’t even like the unique taste of dry chicken breasts along with cinnamon oats. To be fair, I’m pretty sure you don’t like those things now, either.
Reducing body fat comes down to one simple thing: energy levels.
To lose weight (fat), you need to eat fewer calories than you are expending. The energy difference would need to come from somewhere, and that somewhere would be within the body. Now, technically, the body can burn both body fat and body muscle mass… What a predicament!
Luckily, there are things we can do to avoid this and protect our fragile lean mass:
- Eat 150 – 250 fewer calories than maintenance (which you can calculate here).
- Consume at least 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Consume at least 0.6 grams of fat per pound of body weight.
- The remainder of your calories should be “used” on carbohydrates.
These are the basics of muscle gains and fat loss. As you lose weight, your metabolism has to adapt and slow this. So when weight loss stops, simply remove another 150 – 250 calories. This should keep fat loss going.
Other tips include:
- Eat complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, oats, and high-fiber veggies.
- Processed food is okay, but unprocessed food seems to have more minerals and vitamins.
- Stick to the protein sources you can digest (and afford). The lean options tend to be best (chicken/turkey breast, fish, eggs, etc.).
- Your fat sources should be a combination of animal fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil and avocados (which allows for health and testosterone production).
The one thing every single “good diet” on the planet has is sustainability. A diet would mean nothing if you couldn’t stick with it. No matter how much weight loss or muscle growth is achieved, if you don’t keep doing it for months on end, you won’t really make progress.
As you might be thinking, yes, there are certain supplements that could help you, such as protein powders and creatine. Both are exceptional for building muscle, and the former might even help with fat loss.
Those That Need to Build Muscle (and Not Lose Fat)
Some of you might be hitting the weights to gain lean body mass. Some of you go to the gym to gain and not lose fat. That’s all good.
Your diet just needs to be adjusted slightly:
- Eat 150 – 250 more calories than maintenance (which you can calculate here).
- Consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
- Consume at least 0.6 grams of fat per pound of body weight.
- The remainder of your calories should be ‘used’ on carbohydrates.
When weight gain stops, simply add an additional 150 – 250 calories. You should be gaining about 0.5 – 1.0% of your total body weight per week. Everything else remains the same (you might not need the cardio exercise…).
Step 3 – Learn to Recover
As mentioned, this is one that older adults seem to struggle with. Years ago, they had the opportunity to sleep for as many hours as they wanted daily. Now, however, times have changed, and they simply cannot afford this.
Here’s how you can still get the most out of your recovery efforts:
- Try to improve your sleep hygiene (better bedding, colder room, less light exposure, etc.).
- While progressive resistance training is great, taking it too far too often isn’t… You can gain lean mass without always going to failure.
- Soft tissue massage might help the recovery process.
- Removing as many stressful things from your life as possible will also help. This will take some time, but in a few years, you’ll thank your younger self for letting go of stressful people and things.
- Weight loss will make a lot of life less pleasant. Try to enjoy every moment for what it is.
The point of this section is to remind you to relax and recover your muscles as soon as you leave the gym. Training is fun, and diet gets you lean, but focus on recovery, and you’ll see your lean muscle skyrocket.
Step 4 – Learn to Work
Look. As we age, we have worse blood flow and worse sleep. We’re eating crap food, our fitness becomes less important, four workouts per week becomes one or maybe two, and strength training becomes far less important than it ever was.
That’s all fine and dandy. But these things do pack on top of one another. Simply going to the gym a few times per week will already be an improvement over none, but you won’t look like a celebrity any time soon.
That said, the more effort you put in, the slower the aging process will be. And the greater chance you have of enjoying good food without ruining your good physique.
Fitness is a long-term investment, and skipping the small things — like not sleeping enough at night — will only slow the process.
This is your life. This is your decision.
You only have one body. So take care of it. The best way to do that is to focus on muscle-building efforts as well as getting nice and lean.
Ripped In Your 30s Conclusion
Muscle mass is attractive. It’s healthy. It offers you safety. And, if all else fails, it’s bragging rights.
It’s damn hard building muscle. It’s hard losing fat, and doing all of this in middle age might be even harder.
That said, you can do a few things to make your muscle-building even more effective. First, regularly test your testosterone and growth hormone levels to see if you’re still healthy.
You should also:
- Lift heavy weights a few days per week (and practice progressive resistance training
- Eat like an adult, including healthy foods like lean meats and healthy fats
- Learn to recover, and sleep at least 8 hours per night
- Learn to work!
- Start training a few times per week.
And that’s it. Fitness doesn’t change as you age. You just need more protein!