Staying in shape is challenging in middle age. Long gone is the white-hot metabolism of young adulthood that burns off the worst diets with little effort.
Muscle mass in men begins to decline as early as your thirties but picks up steam at age 40, where you’re likely to lose a pound of lean mass a year if you don’t engage in physical activity. If we’re lucky enough to reach 65, that’s more than 25 pounds of lean mass that have disappeared.
To reverse this trend, many men head to the weight room and start pumping iron, figuring that’s the quickest and most efficient way to maintain that lean mass and even add to it. Resistance training is a proven method to build lean muscle with countless available exercises, whether you’re performing a traditional body-parts routine inspired by bodybuilding, a more functional core training regime, or a more modern CrossFit program.
Yoga, yoga for men, in particular, is a better option. It’s not that over-40 men can’t handle the stress of traditional strength training or benefit from it. It’s just that when it comes to building muscle after 40, yoga might be the path of least resistance.
That doesn’t make yoga easy, but the all-bodyweight routines make the practice most valuable for over 40 men, who are more likely than their younger counterparts to spend their days hunched over computers, wedged behind steering wheels, or cramped into airline seats.
As a result, their hips and glute muscles tighten, and their bodies fall out of their natural alignment, which causes a chain (of pain) reaction. When the hips and glutes don’t operate properly, more pressure is placed on the knees. Since guys sit hunched over, their shoulders round and necks jut forward, which places more pressure on the back. Indeed, back pain isn’t an ailment so much as it is a symptom of other issues.
A mid-career guy who goes from the office to the weight room with this tight, deactivated body is risking a host of injuries. If nothing else, he’s not in the best position to get the most out of his workout and build muscle.
Yoga, on the other hand, counteracts the damage done by hours of sitting and puts men in a better position to build muscle through bodyweight movements of yoga. Whereas guys in the weight room might look at a pre-workout stretching routine as a prelude to training, if they warm up at all, yoga is an integrated program.
The core training trend that became popular in the early 2000s showed guys the importance of stabilizing the tiny muscles around the hips, midsection, and shoulders to create greater mobility and stability to produce more efficient functional movement that mimics the motions of everyday life. That’s good, but yoga, too, accomplishes that and builds muscle in one workout, which can be done anywhere with no equipment other than perhaps a mat.
When it comes to building muscle after 40, it’s not just about yoga. Nutrition and sleep play equally important roles.
Best Post-Workout Meal for Muscle Gain
An integrated nutrition program is crucial, but for now, let’s talk about post-workout nutrition. At the end of a workout, your cells are wide open and screaming for nutrients. If you haven’t had a balanced meal within hours of your training session, eating immediately after can jumpstart the recovery process by replenishing glycogen stores, strengthening the immune system, and stimulating muscle protein synthesis and repair.
One of the top training goals is to create lean mass, which burns more calories at rest and during training. But by not eating immediately following a workout, our bodies first turn to our hard-earned lean mass for energy. As much as we’d like to think the body would look to its fat stores, it doesn’t work that way. By losing lean mass, you’re creating a body that burns calories less efficiently.
Ideally, your post-workout nutrition should consist of both protein and carbohydrates. Each nutrient plays an important role; protein helps aid with tissue repair and carbohydrates help to replace muscle glycogen or your energy stores. Both maximize the recovery process. It is recommended to optimize the ratio of carbohydrates to protein in your post-workout shake. Aim for about 20-30 grams of protein and the number of carbohydrates will depend on the intensity level of your training session. A 1:1 ratio is ideal for lower to moderate training intensity sessions lasting 60 minutes or longer, a 2:1 ratio for moderate to high intensity, and a 3:1 for high-intensity, long-duration type of sessions.
Increase Deep Sleep for Maximum Recovery
Getting adequate sleep is crucial to building muscle, especially after age 40. During sleep, your brain can repair, restore, and lock in all that you’ve accomplished that day. Your body does the same. This is where the majority of your hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone are released. It’s when your fascia, muscles, and neuromuscular system go through an upgrade from the stimulus you gave it that day on the yoga mat.
Without sleep, recovery cannot happen. Deep sleep releases the optimal growth hormone and testosterone necessary for your body to recover from the stimulation it received that day. This results in increases in lean body mass, decreases in body fat, and an overall improved recovery of all of the body’s physical systems. Deep sleep is important for restoring muscle and building immunity.
The foundation of great sleep is consistency, getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night during the same timeframe. High achievers sometimes pride themselves on how they’re able to operate on little sleep. It’s important to manage time and performance and this starts with sleep. If you choose to prioritize other things over sleep, you are deficit spending with your performance and health.
In an ideal world, you’d go to sleep at the same time each night, so that your body can continue to build a rhythm to your day and ultimately to your sleep. The more sleep you get before midnight, the better night’s sleep you will receive. You’ll undergo more REM and deep sleep, releasing more positive hormones.
Eight hours is considered the gold standard for sleep. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults regardless of age, though people typically get less than that.
About Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.
Dean Pohlman is an E-RYT 200 certified yoga instructor and the founder of Man Flow Yoga. Dean is widely considered to be an authority on Yoga for Men. He has worked with physical therapists to create yoga programs for back health and spinal recovery. His workouts and programs have been used by professional and collegiate athletes, athletic trainers, and personal trainers; and have been recommended by physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals.
Dean is a successfully published author through DK Publishing (Yoga Fitness for Men), selling 35,000 copies worldwide in English, French, and German; in addition to being a co-producer of the Body by Yoga DVD Series, which has sold over 40,000 copies on Amazon since its release in 2016.
Man Flow Yoga has been featured in Muscle & Fitness Magazine, Mens’ Health, The Chicago Sun, New York Magazine, and many more major news media outlets.