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Many people plow through their twenties and thirties with scant regard to the fact that they’ll have to live the rest of their lives in the same body. If you are approaching your forties and are still exercising in the same way you did when Michael Jordan was playing in the NBA, it’s time for a change. Once you hit the big 4-0, staying trim becomes much more difficult.
The “rules” of fat loss change and you’ll need to adapt to the changes your body is going through if you want to stay lean. Here are four simple fat loss “rules” that will help you win the battle of the bulge in your forties.
Rule 1. Increase your protein intake
The biggest challenge that most people face as they enter their forties is that they naturally start to lose muscle mass. This is bad news if you want to stay lean, as muscle is what helps your body burn stored fat and maintain a healthy weight. Although the cause for muscle loss may be hormonal, the best way to fight against this change is to feed your muscles with exactly what they need: protein.
Increasing your protein intake doesn’t have to be challenging. A quick change you can make is to start eating more lean meat such as turkey, chicken, and fish. If this proves too costly, difficult, or time-consuming, you could consider taking a whey protein powder instead.
Available online or from any good health food store, whey protein powder mixes easily with water, milk, or yogurt and is easily absorbed by your body. Aim to drink two or three whey protein drinks or smoothies per day as snacks between meals and you’ll be surprised by the results after just a few months.
Rule 2. Follow a “10-40-50” approach to strength training
As you move into your forties, forget about the vanity muscles like biceps and abs that you used to fawn over in your 20s and 30s. Your goal should be to preserve as much lean muscle as possible without risking injury. The best strength training approach is called the “10-40-50” plan. It involves spending 10 percent of your time on stretching, 40 percent on weight training, and the other 50 percent on cardiovascular exercise. The order is important: always stretch first and never do strength training after cardio.
To give you a clear idea of how such as workout should look, begin each session with five minutes of light stretching and then spend 20 minutes on a full-body strength training circuit such as pushups, pullups, and leg presses. Follow this with a solid 30 minutes of low-impact cardio such as swimming or cycling, and then wrap up your training with another five minutes of stretching. This approach will help you stay injury-free while remaining in great shape.
Rule 3. Use interval training for cardio
Running may be the gold-standard exercise for fat loss but, once you reach your forties, pounding the pavement will erode your body’s natural shock absorbers – the cartilage – in between your joints. If you push yourself with high-impact exercises like running and sprinting, you risk damaging your tendons, muscles, and ligaments. That’s why the smart money is on using low-impact exercises like cycling and swimming and doing interval training instead.
Interval training is used by Olympic runners to increase their endurance, and involves alternating between low-intensity and high-intensity cardiovascular training. Here’s how it works: Spend three-quarters of your time exercising at a moderate pace and then step up the intensity for the remaining quarter.
Here’s how it looks in practice: When you go cycling, spend three minutes at a moderate pace and then up the pace for one minute. Repeating this pattern for the full 30 minutes will help you stay in shape while looking after your joints.
Rule 4: Use spot-reduction for stubborn areas
Even if you are at a healthy weight, you may enter your forties with an unwanted build-up of fat in certain areas such as under your chin or around your stomach. While these areas could be dealt with through diet and exercise in your 20s and 30s, as you enter middle age they become increasingly harder to shift through traditional means.
In the past, the only way to deal with these stubborn areas would have been invasive surgery such as liposuction. These days, several non-surgical alternatives are available that can help you “spot-reduce” fat in problem areas. For example, “CoolSculpting” is an FDA-approved way of killing fat cells with extremely low temperatures. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to shift a few pounds from around their stomach or other areas, such as their underarms.
One painless, 60-minute CoolSculpting procedure is all it takes to cool fat cells in a specific area and effectively kill around 25 percent of the cells. Following the session, it’s essential to remain active and exercise sensibly to help your body use up this stored fat after it is released; the results should become noticeable in around eight weeks.
Staying in shape after the age of forty is still possible, but you have to understand that you’re playing a new game with different rules than before. These four simple “rules” should help you maintain a healthy weight and work with your body, not against it.