This is a great question, and I was just listening to some valuable information on the protein and weight bearing exercise needs for older individuals. I think I can help you out here (seeing as I’m over 40 as well!)
I’d like to point out that the answer I provide is for women and men. It’s very beneficial for women to weight train at this age. We lose 3% to 5% muscle mass every decade after the age of 30. It makes sense then for optimum body composition, to weight train regularly, despite our age. Here are a few things to assess when trying to increase muscle mass.
Increase your protein intake
One thing I must mention first, is that as we age, our protein needs increase dramatically. This is because we become susceptible to a phenomenon called anabolic resistance. This lowers your bodies ability to break down and synthesize protein.
If you weight train, or are active every day, it’s essential to increase your protein intake. Perhaps this could mean a protein shake after your workout, or a snack before bed. Your total amount of daily protein intake doesn’t have to be a huge amount, but it does need to be more than the recommended daily intake (the recommended daily intake is only aimed at sedentary individuals). If you are confused at how much is too much, use the size of your palm as an indicator of your portion size.
Lifting less to gain more
We can’t keep up with the same intensity as we did during the age of 20. It’s not realistic to do crazy long sets and multiple workouts during one day in order to make the adequate gains. We must train smarter, not harder.
Use moderate to heavy weight regularly. Aim for 10–12 reps with your given weight, and keep a set of lighter weights by your side. If you are fatigued, you can continue to finish off your sets with the lighter weight.
Keep your longer and more challenging sessions for the weekends (or your day off) where you can focus on more rest in between to get the maximum returns.
Be aware of your form
Don’t forget to focus on your form, and posture during each repetition of any given exercise. The mind muscle connection is essential for building strength and accumulating gains as a result. Perform the movements with full flexion and extension, or decrease the weights until you are strong enough to progress.
Tempo is your friend
Time under tension is what builds and strengthens muscle. Make sure you feel the burning sensation, and practice every repetition with impeccable tempo. Slow and controlled movements are the fruits of your muscle labour.
Take time away from training
Training hard every day of the week is going to accumulate fatigue and make it difficult for us to recover from workouts. That means, we lose the muscle gain we could have gained due to lack of rest. Take one day off, or even two a week to recuperate from workouts. Use another form of activity during that time, that’s low impact, such as walking or a yoga class. This will provide you with recovery and still give you the buzz of having exercised.
Keep your eye on signs of over-training
If you have difficulty sleeping, a reduction in energy, aches that wont ease after a couple of days, then you could be moving towards over-training. The best thing to do at this stage, is take an extra day or two off. Better yet, a week will really allow your muscles and body to recover immensely. When it’s time to get back into it again, you will have a high level or motivation and more strength to perform at your best.
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