Abs After 40

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Once we hit our forties, we have to admit that our physiques are harder to maintain than ever before. What worked in our twenties and thirties does not seem to be working in our forties! Is it over? Are we destined to fade away into our senior years?

I say NOOOO! As we age, our hormone balance changes, which is natural, and along with those changes body composition will also change. Mid-life means that there will be gradual increased fat deposits and muscle loss (called sarcopenia) but we can maintain healthy and attractive bodies beyond our middle years with some adjustments to our diets and exercise regimens. In my book Second Chance at Health-Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating, I discuss diet and exercise regimens that work for middle aged people.

In my experience middle age men and women will often ask me what the best exercise, and my answer is the one that you will do. They laugh, I laugh, but it’s true. More knowledge is not going to change your middle. Applying your knowledge will!

The Six Pack Abs are Just in the Cooler

Abs after 40 are NOT impossible to obtain! The first bit of information that a middle aged person should obtain is their body fat percentage. I have found that many of my clients do not have an absence of abdominal muscles, but as the saying goes “their four or six pack is just in the cooler”. If this is the case, and there is abdominal fat around the trunk of the person versus visceral fat, which I will discuss later in the article, then lowering the body fat will often be what reveals their abdominal muscles.

Body fat percentage recommendations vary depending on age and gender, but generally speaking for an adult middle aged male the body fat percentage should be between 8-19.9%, and 23-33.9 % for adult females. When body fat percentage is higher than these, the muscles that are there are covered in fat tissue! The way to reduce body fat is by changing your diet!

The Tanita scale is a specialized scale that will give you data using electrical impedence to determine many parameters, but the ones that I find most important are total body fat and visceral body fat percentage (for this article). Visceral body fat is the fat that is located around the body organs in the abdominal cavity. Those with high visceral body fat tend to be apple shaped, and have a large protruding round abdomen. This type of abdominal fat is more resistant to fat loss than fat that is not considered visceral fat. Losing visceral fat is not impossible, but it takes more dedication and more time to lose than the other type.

Lose the Cooler

So my suggestion for those with body fat higher than their recommended is to LOSE to the highest number in the range, 19.9% for males and 33.9% for females, and then assess how you feel about your abs! I bet you will be pleasantly surprised that they ARE there, and had been all along! If you feel that you want more definition, and then seek to be closer to the lower end of the normal range.

For those with visceral fat, your goal will be the same body fat percentage; however, losing fat in the abdomen will be later than in other areas of the body. I have seen men get frustrated that they lose their butts and then still have a large protruding belly. I tell them to persevere and eventually that visceral fat will disappear and then they can remodel their bodies through proper exercise.

So how do you get abs after 40? FIND them! Lose your body fat to within normal range and on the lower range if you want smashing abs.

Good Ab Exercises to Do

Of course I have some suggestions to build them as well! The best exercises for abs over 40 include the old school sit ups, crunches, side crunches, lower leg lefts, flutter kicks and planks (regular and side)! The BEST exercises for abs are the ones that you will do.
You can start out with 3 sets of 10 progressing to 5 sets of 10. My rule of thumb for the number of repetitions that I aim for is my age! Progress to doing the number of repetitions to your age in years! That way you will always be doing more! So your goal will be 3 to 5 sets of say 42, then next year 43 and so on!

Mid-life is not the time to give up on yourself, indeed, at mid-life you can take your second chance at health and head into your retirement years looking and feeling awesome! You won’t be looking like a twenty something, but you will look and feel like a healthy 50 something!

I have written a book just for us in middle age, called Second Chance at Health: Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating! In my book you will find suggestions for eating plans and exercise plans that can help you get your body fat percentage to within normal limits to find those abs!

Order my book now to discover the BEST diet and exercise plans for YOU!

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Muscle Mass in Middle Age and How to Maintain It

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Building and maintaining muscle becomes more difficult as we age, but it is not impossible. In my book Second Chance at Health-Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating, I discuss exercise plans that can help you maintain muscle mass. I also have suggestions about diet changes that can prevent muscle loss during weight loss.

A question often asked by my patients is “How do I build muscle now that I am 55?” When I get asked that question I first clarify what they are asking. Do they feel like they are feeling weak or that they are concerned about their appearance? Identifying the difference helps me guide the conversation. If I discover that they are feeling weak, I will do further medical investigation as there are some serious health conditions that can result in weakness. If they have no health symptoms that would warrant further medical examination, I start a discussion about the natural physical changes that occur in middle age.

Physical Changes as We Age

There are many physical changes that occur during middle age such as decreased muscle mass and an increase in body fat deposits and this begins to occur at age 40. Ensuring an active lifestyle and a clean diet can delay the inevitable! Muscle mass loss is a natural process and loss of strength and functionality can come along with it. Maintaining muscle mass in middle age is important as it can help us move into our senior years with a decreased risk for injury. Along with our natural muscle mass loss, the increase in body fat in middle age can make it appear that we have less muscle than we actually do!

While there is no recommendation for a certain weight of muscle mass there is a recommendation for body fat. Increased body fat can result in an increased risk for many chronic conditions. I discuss the most common ones at length in my book Second Chance at Health: Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating that is going to be available mid August 2018, so make sure to pre-order!

Body Fat Percentage

Appropriate body fat percentages vary based on age and sex. They typically range from between 8%-19.9% for middle age males and 23%-33.9% for females.  Middle age men and women often exceed those body fat percentages. I work in an industry with a large male population and I am often asked for advice on building muscle after they reach 55 years old. Typically they want me to tell them to take protein supplements and go to the gym to bulk up, but that is not what I tell them.

What I tell them is that they have enough muscle! It’s just all covered up with excess body fat! I recommend that we determine  their body composition using the Tanita scale. The Tanita scale gives a reading of body fat percentage along with a recommended percentage, and when the body fat is within normal limits the muscle that is there is more readily visible which is really what people want.

If  numbers reveal a high body fat percentage, then decreasing the body fat will reveal the muscles! Yes, muscle mass in middle age will tend to decrease due to changes in hormones; this affects both males and females, but the higher body fat will give the appearance of even less muscle.

Shredding

Body builders call it shredding and most often this is done through serious dietary restriction. However, if you are not a body builder, the best diet that I have found to lose bod fat almost effortlessly is the ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets are eating plans that utilize high fat, low carbohydrate and adequate protein amount to induce nutritional ketosis, which forces the body to mobilize fat for energy needs. This eating plan was initially formulated to manage refractory seizures and was subsequently found to have other benefits including managing excess fat stores in healthy adults. This plan is another option for middle-aged adults struggling with increased fat stores that occur due to hormone changes. Clean foods are the best options to eat when choosing this plan. The specific percentages for the macronutrients counted in a ketogenic diet, specifically fat, protein and carbohydrates will vary depending on your gender, age, height, weight and weight loss goal.

Maintaining Muscle Mass

To maintain muscle mass during weight loss it is important to monitor muscle mass weekly with the Tanita scale. A calorie reduced diet without enough protein can result in the body using the muscle mass for energy rather than the fat stores. If this happens, the Tanita scale data will show that fat loss is stalled and the weight loss is from muscle mass loss. This can be remedied by consuming an increased amount of protein, more to the 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram range (or about 20 grams of protein) protein a day. These additional protein calories will allow your body to access the stored fat for energy rather than utilizing its own muscle mass. You can choose lean animal protein, or protein shakes which are a convenient way to get the additional protein. Just watch out for them if they also have a high carbohydrate content- check the nutrition label.

Decreasing the amount of cardio exercise that one is doing can also stop the body’s consumption of muscle mass for energy while on a calorie restricted diet. When on a calorie restricted diet, limiting cardio/aerobic exercise to 30 minutes is adequate. Bodyweight calisthenics is a fantastic method to maintain muscle mass, strength and tone in middle age.

If muscle building remains to be a goal, then diet higher in protein along with a body building work out plan with weights. This type of information is beyond the scope of my expertise, and I recommend that you consult a personal trainer who is educated in body building for the middle aged person.

Adequate Protein to Maintain Muscle is Needed

For those just wanting to maintain muscle mass in middle age it is important to eat adequate protein, which is usually .8 grams per kilogram of body weight, but can be increased to 1.2 -1.5 grams per kilogram if you are already at .8 grams per kilogram and still losing muscle mass. The protein should be high quality, clean protein that is low to medium fat. Ensuring that you get enough vitamin D has also been shown in studies to be important in muscle mass maintenance.

In my opinion as a middle aged person revealing your muscle mass by losing the excess body fat and maintaining what you have is better for your health!

You can purchase my book and discover the BEST diet and exercise plans today!

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Are Cheat Days Ok on A Diet?

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This question is posed many times and like many other topics related to the human experience the verdict is out. You can find data to support “cheat days” and you can find data that tells you to avoid them like the plague. In my book, Second Chance at Health-Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating, I describe diets that can be tailored to your likes, and needs. If you choose the BEST diet for you, then I venture to say you won’t need a cheat day. But if you do decide to “cheat” read the information below and decide for yourself if it’s worth it.

So to answer that question, I believe the answer is yes and no. How is that for clarification?

In my experience this is not a black and white discussion. The answer depends on many variables. These variables include your personality type, the type of diet you are on, how long you have on the diet, and even what you plan on eating on those “cheat days”. Let’s address each variable individually.

What’s Your Diet Personality?

Personality type, this is my first one to address because this is most important one. If you have the personality type that feels deprived and cannot focus on the plan long term if you are not “allowed a cheat day”, then I would say that a cheat day is allowed for you, but only if this allows you to remain focused on working your plan until your goal is met. In the grand scheme of things, a cheat day calories, or a cheat meal will likely not prevent the goal from being reached, but it may delay the result. If you are agreeable to a delayed result in order to stay the course, then I think a cheat day is alright. The frequency of the “cheat day”, as well as what you are doing on the “cheat day” should be planned out the best that you can. However, if you know that you are an “all or none” person and that one cheat meal or cheat day will derail you as you berate yourself “that I’ve cheated and failed, may as well forget it”, then I would not recommend any cheat days at all for you!

What’s Your Diet Type?

The type of diet that you are going to cheat on needs to be considered before deciding if a cheat day or cheat meal is going to sabotage your plan. Cheat days can have benefits in some type of diets, for instance, on calorie restricted diets, leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells that inhibits hunger, and longer term lower calorie diets can decrease leptin, so the theory is that a cheat day on a longer term calorie restricted diet can stabilize these levels and decrease the risk of runaway hunger. Additionally, on longer term low calorie diets they thyroid can be affected resulting in a sluggish metabolism, and that is not what you want during a weight loss plan.

However, on some diets, cheat days will negate the work that you have done, specifically, on a ketogenic diet, a cheat meal with significant carbohydrates will result in loss of ketosis. This means that body fat is no longer being utilized for energy and the body is using the carbohydrates.

If you are on a ketogenic diet, a cheat day or meal with significantly higher amounts of carbohydrates will cause you to begin using carbohydrates for energy again and you will no longer by using fat energy for metabolism, and thus no longer be “in ketosis”. Your body stores glucose in the form of glycogen in the muscles and the liver. Excess carbohydrates are stored as triglycerides inside of fat cells.

Ketones are a byproduct of fat metabolism, and in the absence of fat metabolism, ketones are not usually present in the body. This will stall your fat loss, but not necessarily your weight loss if you are still consuming fewer calories than you are expending.

My experience with diets that induce ketosis is that returning to ketosis after a cheat day or meal takes less time than converting to ketosis at the beginning of the diet. When one starts a ketogenic diet after being on a typical SAD diet (Standard American Diet that is rich in red meat, processed foods, and salt) it can take 2 days to a week to induce ketosis as the carbohydrate stores are utilized for energy. The variability occurs due to activity level, life style, and your historical carbohydrate intake. If you have been on a keto diet and have been in ketosis for some time, then a cheat meal will affect you for at minimum 12-16 hours as your body processes the carbohydrates, but it can be up to 1-3 days depending on your activity level and what you ate.

I don’t recommend cheating on ketogenic diets, because the purpose of the diet is to utilize fat for energy and by introducing carbohydrates again then you are defeating the purpose of the diet. Some ketogenic diets utilize alternating timeframes of higher carbohydrate meals or days with lower carbohydrate meals or days, and these are very sustainable plans.

If you have made diet changes to lose weight, the data shows that biologically it might not make a difference in the long run. If you are losing fat, and have a cheat day, the fat loss may stall, and you may gain weight, but it is water weight will be temporary. Weight may increase as water retention occurs with increased carbohydrate intake because carbohydrates attract and hold onto more water than proteins. For every gram of carbohydrate the body stores 3 grams of water.

Is this a New Diet?

How long you have been on the diet is also to be considered. There are studies that show that cheat days for those addressing obesity with slower weight loss, enhance motivation and may help dieters stay the course for the final result! So in this case an occasional cheat day or meal is not likely to derail the plan significantly.

What are You Cheating With?

What you “cheat” with can impact the results on our diet. For example, if you are cheating with a larger portion of steak on a ketogenic diet, and an additional serving of vegetables, the damage is going to be minimal! On a calorie restricted diet, indulging in larger portions will affect your calorie intake that day but may not have an overall impact on your end result. Another example is if you are on a diabetic diet and you cheat with sweets, then your blood sugar will be adversely affected which results in uncontrolled blood sugar levels, perhaps resulting in increased medicine!

So the answer to the original question, “Are cheat days ok on a diet? The eating plan that you choose to be on should be sustainable to the point of you not WANTING to have a cheat meal! I believe the answer is that balance is the key to sustainable and successful eating plans.

My Ebook discusses many eating plans and direction on how to choose one based on your individual goals, personality and needs. My approach to eating plans involves choosing the one that is best suited to you! The BEST diet is the one that you will follow, and if this includes needing to have a cheat day or cheat meal, then certain diets should be avoided.

I have developed decision trees to help you identify what type of eating plan would work best and be most sustainable to you.

You can order your copy of my book to discover your best plan using my decision trees. Click on my book below.

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