by Robert Maxwell
First off, I want to warn you about the offence this article might and probably will cause. That said, I won't apologize, because what I'm about to say is 100 percent factual, and sometimes the truth hurts. If you’re a guy over 50, chances are you’ve spent some time thinking about aging. Maybe you’re concerned about the growing effects of time on your body. If not, you should be. As a young buck, you might not put much stock in my opinion, and that’s fine. That’s why I want to share some simple facts and numbers that will probably get you thinking about aging more than you have in a while. As with so many things, you need the bad news for the good news to make sense. So here it is. Testosterone is the hormone that makes you a man. It’s responsible for your deeper voice, beard growth, sex drive, bone density. and greater muscle and strength than women. It’s even the stuff responsible for masculinizing your brain. Ever wonder why your wife or girlfriend thinks so differently than you? She doesn’t have testosterone coursing through her brain, causing her to categorize life in specific, non-mixable boxes. That’s a man thing. But back to that bad news. Testosterone levels naturally peak in the late teen years, at around 300 to 1200 nanograms per decilitre of blood. Once you hit 30, testosterone starts decreasing at a discouragingly fast 1 percent per year. That means by 60, you’ll be running on 30 percent less testosterone. At 80, it’s 50 percent less. This bombshell makes it easy to see why so many old men are frail and weak. It’s not some unfathomable quality of aging. It’s too little testosterone to stay strong and virile. So what can you do about it? To understand the answer, you first need to realize how men typically age. In general, us males tend to get older in one of three ways.
FAT AND WEAK
Very few men stay the same shape as their younger selves. In general, they either get slowly smaller or slowly bigger, neither in a good way. The slowly bigger variety tend to eat the same way they always did, but with less and less physical activity, leading to a greater caloric surplus, and higher bodyfat. Their heavier mass makes them feel even more lethargic, so they move around even less, causing a vicious circle of inactivity, weight gain, and weakness. Add to this the fact that naturally draining testosterone causes men to put on fat more easily while losing muscle mass and bone density, and you’ve got a truly destructive recipe.
THIN AND WEAK
Men who remained slim through their younger years tend to get slimmer with age. Often they’re somewhat health conscious, and watch what they eat to avoid weight gain. Trouble is, their testosterone is still dropping, leading to lost muscle, weaker bones, and less vitality. Eating lots of veggies and not enough meat is a common pitfall for these guys. They’re pretty good at avoiding fattening desserts, but not great at getting enough of the good stuff. They often understand the value of exercise, almost always of the cardio variety. This leads to stronger heart and lungs than their non-exercising counterparts, but ever dwindling muscle and strength.
SKINNY-FAT AND WEAK
This is the worst of both worlds. Often referred to as owners of the “dad bod” physique, these guys have thin, weak arms and legs, but a large, jiggling belly hanging over their waistbands. Because men tend to put on fat on the belly more than the limbs, this unfortunate shape is fairly common amongst older males. Like the other two groups, lack of activity and dwindling testosterone cause these guys to lose muscle in their limbs while gaining fat and becoming increasingly predisposed to do both faster in future years. Of all men 50 and older who gain excessive belly fat, only a small percentage ever muster the motivation to lose it. Unfortunately, those who do often transition from skinny-fat and weak to simply thin and weak.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
I won’t beat around the bush. If you fall into any of the categories above, you need to start lifting weights, ASAP. Doing so slows down your draining testosterone, grows and strengthens your muscles, improves your bone density, and makes you less prone to putting on fat. I have never seen an aging, non strength training man who doesn’t fall into one of the above three categories. If you recognize yourself in one of these descriptions, do yourself a huge favour and pick up a barbell. There are a great many men in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond who have successfully staved off many of the ravages of time and inactivity by doing just that. I’ve even written about some of them on this website. Don’t wait until you’re a year older, have less strength, more bodyfat and less testosterone. Start preserving and increasing your virility now.
Robert Maxwell is an online strength and fitness coach and founder of The Man Factory. Are you a man 50 or older? Become your best self at www.manfactorytraining.com/strength-north-of-50