Getting old happens to all of us. As we age our body changes in many ways and one of these ways is how our muscles act and specifically how they recover from stress.
The sad truth is once we get to a certain age our muscles start to breakdown and shrink on their own this itself is bad news but it does not mean older people can not train.
With a proper recovery plan this loss of lean muscle mass, strength and overall fitness can be prevented and training whether in or out of the gym can actually assist in the prevention of this natural muscle loss even leading to the building of muscle.
Most people believe this natural loss of muscle mass starts to begin around 40 years of age and this can be true although it is not true for everybody.
Certain individuals have better genetics than others and may not experience muscle loss until later on in life so taking that into consideration we will be talking about muscle recovery over 50.
Why Do You Lose Muscle After 50?
As mentioned before while you age many things change in your body health wise. Unfortunately a lot of these changes lead to the natural decrease of one’s muscle mass.
Recovering from a training session is hard enough already, imagine having to recover from this natural loss of muscle on top of a training session.
The biggest factor playing in an older person’s muscles loss is the massive decrease of the body ability to produce certain hormones.
Hormones that help build muscle such as melatonin testosterone and even human growth hormone can be affected.
The toll one’s joints have taken throughout their life can also play a factor in the loss of muscle.
As the more stress one’s joints have taken the more likely joint injury or problems are to happen and with an increase in joint pain a lack of mobility and physical activity come along with it.
The final common key factor that leads to muscle loss with the gain of age is the slow down of one’s metabolism as they get older.
When metabolism starts to slow down the processing of nutrients in the body slow down along with it this also leads to more excess body fat.
The key nutrient to be considered here is protein. With protein not being utilized as well the more likely it is for the rate of muscle breakdown to surpass the rate of muscle repair thus leading to muscle loss.
How Do You Fight Muscle Loss After 50?
Because of the potential for decreasing muscle and bone mass after the age of 50 this makes resisting training more important now than ever before.
Not only will it prompt your body into wanting to repair your muscles through things such as protein synthesis but it will also stop your aged metabolism from slowing.
A resistance training program done right with a variety of exercises will also put your body to the test constantly making yourself stronger in turn lowering the chances of injuries that may weaken your muscles and hinder recovery.
I recommend a push pull legs program as it offers the variety of exercises needed along with many other benefits that would have great positive effect especially on individuals over 50. (See What’s Push Pull Legs?)
The Warm Up
Warming up is always effective but as you age and especially into your 50s warming up becomes exceptionally more important.
Warming up before a workout increases your body temperature, gets your blood flowing, and increases your range of motion. All of which gets your muscles ready for a good safe workout
Along with warming up stretching is a must do movement and no longer an option once you hit 50. As when you age flexibility starts to decrease naturally along with your muscle mass.
Breakdown of collagenous tendons may begin alongside the breakdown of skeletal muscle, and the breakdown of these tendons will decrease mobility and flexibility only putting your muscle mass in a higher risk of loss.
As you get older the repair and recovery time of your muscles along with that of the rest of your body drastically decreases.
What may have been a quick recovery time in your teens and early adult years can very easily take your body twice the amount of time or even more than that to recover.
How much more recovery time you will need depends on your prior training experience. If you have been training and eating well for years and years you might not have to adjust your rest times very much.
Keep your rest days the same and take it on a day by day basis if you are tired, extra soar, or feel you need more rest then take the extra rest.
If you are just starting training or relatively new to it (Less than 4 years) then your recovery time will definitely take a toll and I recommend 48 hours of recovery for smaller muscle groups and 72 hours of rest for larger muscle groups.
I would not recommend resistance training 2 days in a row so ensure to space your workouts out appropriately maybe even taking a week off every month if you are elderly.
You definitely want to stay active on your rest days with some active recovery. Active recovery can be something as simple as a yoga routine or going on a walk.
This will keep your joints moving, maintain mobilization and keep your blood moving, increasing circulation and helping speed up your recovery without beating yourself up. As long as you do not lift weights on these days light or heavy just avoid it.
Another form of active recover which is highly recommended especially for someone with aged joints an an aged heart is swimming. Swimming offers many benefits especially when it comes to cardio and all while keeping tension of your joints.(see Can Swimming Help Muscle Recovery?)
How Much Sleep For Muscle Recovery After 50?
Of course one of the most important things for muscle recovery after 50 is the same as the most important thing before 50 which is not only taking proper days to rest but also getting the proper rest you need during the night.
If you are training over the age 50 I recommend simply getting as much sleep as possible. No amount of sleep you can possibly get will be too much.
As a minimum requirement make sure you get at least 10 hours of sleep every night. If your sleeping drops your release of recovery promoting hormones will drop along with it.
What To Eat For Muscle Recovery After 50
Eating in your 50s will feel a lot different in the sense that the effect of everything you eat seems to be multiplied and your food decisions will have a much bigger impact than what they used to.
This means that you will have to be a lot more careful with your nutrition habits and cannot afford the same mistakes and slip ups you may have made in your younger years as the consequences will be much greater now.
For muscle recovery your diet should always be protein focused but now that you are reaching your 50s it should be so more then ever. Individuals over the age of 50 should eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight in order to ensure muscle recovery.
The younger generation may be able to get away with 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight easily but not for an older person whose body may be trying to break down muscle on its own without stimulation.
With this said if you are having more intense training sessions and feel you are constantly putting yourself to the test I would aim for 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Remember not all food is equal in value
There is a huge difference in 30 grams of protein from chicken breast and 30 grams of protein from boxed frozen hamburgers.
The difference is the quality of these calories and macronutrients, a cleaner food like chicken offers the cleaner better quality and quality of food sources is much more important as you age.
I would also recommend staring to take a supplement called creatine if you don’t already..
It aids in muscle recovery and definitely will have a more noticeable effect as you get older. It is usually tasteless and can be mixed with water for easy consumption.
Aging happens to everyone but not everyone takes it the same way and that is the difference. It tends to discourage a lot of people from doing things that seem harder than they used to be.
Even if they are things that they loved or are healthy to partake in like exercise.
After reading this I hope you realize it does not have to be hard to stay fit no matter what age you are. Training and daily muscle recovery just needs a little more attention as you get older that’s all.
The fundamentals stay relatively the same and with a little more attention on recovery and less recklessness while lifting you can reach your goals and get the body you want at any age .