Is it possible to lose fat, build muscle and improve your fitness after 40?

If you’re in your late 30s or over 40, this is a question you might have asked yourself at one point in your life. Turning 40 does not mean everything starts falling apart. 

You can still build a lean and muscular body and get in your best shape by following a few time-tested training and nutrition principles that have worked well for many people.

In all my years as a fitness coach, most of my clients have been over 40 or approaching 40. And by working with them, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting fit and building muscle. 

And I’ve also learnt a lot through my training and nutrition by constantly testing and tweaking my programs to find the best way to maintain peak fitness levels.

So here are the facts you need to know to stay fit and strong in your 40s and beyond.

1. Muscle Loss Starts at 30

From the age of 30, we start losing muscle mass at a rate of 3% to 5% per decade through a process called sarcopenia. And the more muscle we lose, the slower our metabolism becomes. 

Since our muscles are the main drivers of our metabolic rate, any muscle loss negatively impacts our metabolism.

When your metabolism slows down, it becomes easy to gain fat and hard to lose it even if your diet remains the same. But does this mean you are helpless and cannot do anything to slow down or stop this process?

Of course, there is so much you can do.

You can control how much muscle you lose and delay this process by keeping your metabolism up. The best way to fire up your metabolism is to stay active on most days of the week. 

Find opportunities throughout your day to do 10-minute walks, use the stairs, install a pull-up bar at home and use it, or crank out some pushups and squats at random intervals. The options are endless. 

Remember, you are only limited by your creativity.

2. Steady Decline in Strength

As you lose your muscle, your strength levels will also decline. And this will affect your everyday activities unless you slow down or stop the loss of muscle tissue. 

And the only way you can do this is by embracing strength training and making it your go-to form of exercise.

I am a proponent of doing a variety of exercises than not doing none at all. But if you are over 40, you have to think about what your training program entails. Cut down on too much cardio and focus instead on lifting weights to build your strength.

Pushing your muscles against resistance will also improve your mobility and function, and you will be better prepared to handle whatever physical challenges life throws at you.

3. Stiff and Weak Joints

Your joints become weak and lose their mobility and elasticity with age. And for this reason, your choice of exercise matters a lot.

Some exercises might be good, while others might cause more damage to your joints than good. 

When I turned 40, I noticed some clicking in my shoulders and a grinding sensation in my knees whenever I extended my arms overhead or performed some lunges. I knew this was an obvious sign that my joints were slowly tightening and becoming less mobile.

I, however, managed to fix this by doing two things:

  1.  Focusing more on mobility training
  2. Taking omega-3 supplements which are excellent at increasing joint mobility. 

So before you throw your hands up in the air in despair, figure out what joint problem you’re suffering from and what’s causing it by getting a proper check-up, and then take the necessary measures to build strong and stable joints.

4. Think Injury Prevention First

Injury prevention is so important when you’re over 40 for several reasons. 

Your body’s repair mechanisms are less efficient at this time, and this means that your healing ability is low and recovery is slower than it used to be.

Unlike in your twenties when your body could easily bounce back from injury, it is difficult to get back on track after an injury in your 40s. 

A minor training injury can take so long to heal and can derail you from your training program. So always do your best to prevent injuries by training smarter and not harder. Don’t try to set your personal best in every session.

5. Consistency beats intensity. 

When it comes to my training and that of my clients, I’ve learned the best trick to keep going on and on without burning out.

This is having the ability to know when to push and when to take it easy.

If your mentality towards training is to always go hard during every session, chances are that you will not be consistent. 

Because you’re constantly pushing your limits, your body will take longer to recover from your workouts. You are more likely to get injured, especially when you have zero energy to even focus on good form.

So, what’s the solution?

Reduce your intensity and focus instead on being consistent especially if you’re new to exercise or resistance training. Start slow and build it up over time.

And if you have been training on and off, this is not the time to start slowing down. Train harder to continue growing your muscles and improving your strength levels to support you in your 50s and 60s.

6. Focus on Compound Lifts

Over 40

The bulk of your training program must comprise compound exercises that target all your big muscle groups. Exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, presses and rows in every workout must be the foundation of your training routine. 

After completing all the big lifts, add a few core strengthening moves like planks and isolation exercises such as bicep curls. 

Stay away from split routines because they are not effective for the average person. When on a split routine, you train only one muscle group per day, for example, chest and arms or only legs.

These programs are best suited for bodybuilders who have all the time to spend in the gym six days a week.

If you’re short on time and have so many pressing things to handle, you want to get to the gym and do a short but efficient workout that will quickly get you the best results. 

7. Do Your Own Thing

Never compare your ability with that of another person. 

My journey and fitness program can never be ideal for you and your situation. Your fitness level will largely determine what you can and can’t do. 

Focus on yourself and just put in the reps. Sculpting an amazing body is not magic. It’s all about knowing what you want to achieve and grinding it out daily, moving forward a little bit at a time.

If you keep doing this, you’ll be amazed at how far you’d have come after just a few years.

Think long-term, stay consistent and focus on doing your best. 

If you want to learn the basics of building strength and lean muscles, I have a simple dumbbell workout program you can do at home to get started.

Click the link below and tell me a bit about yourself, and I will help you get started on your fitness journey.