What’s up guys! Today I want to talk about bodybuilding and how it changes as you get older. What things have and haven’t changed for me as I’ve aged?
For context, I’ve been lifting for the last 12 years, but have only seriously focused on exercise and diet in the last 4.
Ok, so here are the things that have changed.
My metabolism has slowed down significantly. When younger, I could get away with not tracking my diet and was still able to maintain a flat stomach (though I definitely didn’t have defined abs. My diet was largely pizza, fish and chips and KFC, 5 to 6 times a week without much impact.
Lifting weights without diet control was sufficient for a reasonably fit body. Now, diet control is essential. Lifting weights alone will result in muscle gain but hardly any definition (and WILL give me a belly).
DISCIPLINE AND PATIENCE
This is the most significant benefit I’ve noticed as I’ve aged.
Because I’ve experienced more in life (and endured more hardships) I reference those experiences to fuel my motivation and discipline.
I’ve also experienced that good things take time and imbed this into everything I do in life, including fitness. This is different to just intellectually understanding the principle, which I did when I was younger. Only through life experiences have I lived this on an experiential level which has made me truly believe and abide by it.
It’s actually much easier for me to get shredded now because the emotional resistance in giving up short term pleasures (ie. junk food and partying) is substantially lower.
Aside from the development of discipline and patience the second most beneficial change has been the enhancement of self awareness and with that, a greater understanding of my preferences, habits and thought processes.
This is more crucial than you think because getting and staying shredded is more about mindset and managing your food cravings than it is about technical knowledge on diet and training. I’ve found that I’ve often needed to objectively observe my habits, then develop strategies to work with those habits so I end up still doing the right behaviour.
For example, I understand that the risk of me skipping a gym session is highest if I leave training till after work on a weekday. Therefore, I’ve learned to make sure I do my training either in the mornings or weekends to avoid skipping gym sessions.
Another example is the understanding I’ve developed over my food cravings. I’ve observed that what I crave most about eating chips is not the taste but the act of eating a snack, little by little, each time whilst watching a movie. This knowledge has allowed me to satisfy my preferences and cravings in a low calorie manner and not have my diet feel like it’s a chore. This awareness has allowed me to design a low calorie diet for myself that I can continue on in perpetuity because I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything.
The reason why I lift has changed as well. I initially started lifting only for dating purposes but as I’ve aged, this goal has evolved to be more about dealing with life stresses, improving mental clarity and promoting emotional health.
As I age further, I anticipate my fitness goal will evolve again to be more functional based. That is, i’ll desire to slow down the degradation of my muscles, maintain my existing motor skills and improve longevity. This is why I continue to lift, as an investment into my future so I sustain this habit.
TOLERANCE TO FOODS AND CERTAIN SUPPLEMENTS
As I've aged, I’ve noticed I tolerate fewer foods that I used to use for bodybuilding. Artificial sweeteners are something I can no longer consume in the same quantities as I did when younger. The same is with protein powders.
Further, my ability to digest lactose and eat certain fibres have also decreased. I suspect this is due to the wear and tear of my body, development of allergies and the weakening of gut bacteria.
When younger, I was quite invincible but over the years, I’ve become more vulnerable to injuries. This occurs most around my joints. As a result, I’ve been more cautious about my lifting and have emphasized warm ups, dynamic stretching and good form. I avoid doing one rep max lifts at all costs due to the risk.
Alright, those are the things that have changed.
What about the things that haven’t changed?
ABILITY TO GAIN MUSCLE
This is an interesting one. As I’ve aged, my body’s ability to generate new muscle fibres hasn’t changed. In fact, I am currently the most muscular I’ve ever been in my life. Scientifically speaking, I am not sure why this is and maybe this will change as I continue to age further.
This one likely goes hand in hand with my ability to build muscle. As I’ve aged, I haven’t noticed any reduction in strength. Again, I am the strongest I’ve ever been in my life.
Since we’re all unique, everything I’ve said above may not be your experience.
But I wanted to share MY experiences as a rough guide on the aspects of body building that can potentially change for you.