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June 12, 2020
Gaby - Clients have asked me to help them drop a couple of stone or a few dress sizes. No one ever asked me to help them drop ten years. And in just 8 weeks! I know it’s not fully possible metabolically, but visually and by various metrics I think I can make it happen with Michael. He is less fit than normal following a torn shoulder tendon, repaired by the talented Carlos Cobiella, and a long convalescence. I also know that when he does the work his body responds quickly. But between me and you he’s going to have to work a lot harder than he realises. Next week we’ll show the different resistance exercises we’re using, and how they pair up into supersets.
Michael - Yes, it’s me. I’m the guinea pig. And as mentioned last week I have just 7 weeks left to a significant birthday. Looking and feeling as fit as ten years ago seems like a clean simple goal. I have a decent enough torso picture from back then that I’d like to work to. I’m going public to help with my own discipline and share some of the ideas and techniques that we’ll be using. And also, the areas of health and fitness that I think make a difference.Is it vanity or a zest for life that drives this? Probably both – my working world is in health and beauty – where looks matter, and I do treasure and savour living every day - we have eternity to sleep. And good health isn’t an entitlement or something that the NHS can always fix. I know I have to take responsibility to put the effort in. Our bodies really are the only home we truly ever own. And having an extra store of energy keeps us on the front foot in life. It helps us welcome what the day brings rather than fearing overwhelm. That’s going to be even more important post lockdown.
But I don’t feel so fit at the moment. Not helped by a shoulder operation 18 months ago, and a year- long convalescence. I lost over half a stone. Sadly, all above the waist. Lockdown hasn’t helped, but I’m not sure what part. My morning 5k run is already 10% slower, and that can’t only be because I’m 3 months older. Everything just seems more of an effort. Even a large gin and tonic feels like a dumbbell some mornings! I think Netflix should take most of the blame, or at least the short hop from dining table to comfy sofa and lounge screen.
Obviously, this won’t work when they’re 18, but I hope to prolong it for a few more years.
I know if I’m not clear on the ‘why’, the commitment to the goal will fall away. I need the reason ‘why’ to make sure I stay ‘on purpose’.
Why am I doing thisIt came out of a conversation with my friend and trainer Luke Gray when I restarted training recently after an 18 months absence. Can you get me looking like this photo? I asked. Showing a shot from 2010 on a birthday in Greece. We’re both hitting the same milestone this summer so we can work on it together.
What happens if I don’tThere is energy in momentum. That’s to say things are helped to continue in the way they’re going for better or worse. And yes, we’re all ageing and heading in one direction. But if we neglect our health the decline can be alarmingly fast.
I remember conversations with our closest cousin. He was born at the end of the war and followed a classic South London working class cycle of work (which he rarely said he enjoyed) followed by the pub. More like an older brother, when we were growing up in the bomb-site ridden streets off the Old Kent Road, he didn’t look after his health and drank too much. We tried to encourage new ways as we all got older, but in his early 40s he just kept saying it was too late to change. If he was younger, he would. He died at 52.
My eldest brother was the closest to him and locked into a similar post-war male lifestyle of excessive drinking and smoking. We were astonished at how his body could withstand the punishment he gave it from the taverns of South London which featured so markedly in his world. Our interventions had little effect. But when his body said enough is enough, the downward spiral of health issues over his last 5 years was terrifying to watch. Tragically he died at just 67.
My life goal in health is to die young as late as possible. Living with a personal trainer helps. Gaby is very good at subtle encouragement, “I’ve thrown your old running shoes away, here’s a new pair………….are you still here?”
HowIt’s much easier to follow a routine every day and at the same time if possible. Each morning I run 5k or cycle 10k, or take a yoga session or play tennis, plus a 20-minute resistance workout with weights or bodyweight followed by a stretch.
1. Aerobica. Runningb. Cyclingc. Tennis
2. Stretching - and yoga
3. Resistance - Weight bearing exercise to strengthen bone and build muscle
We'll follow up each week to let you know how it's going and give detailed information on a key health topic. The first one is below.
Muscle loss with ageing is called sarcopenia. Too much Netflix and too little protein speeds it up. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 8% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. That soon adds up. As much as 1% each year after 40. After 50 up to 3% each year. An average of 30% loss of muscle power between 50 and 70. Scary stuff.So keeping the muscles alive and active not only helps slow down the loss of muscle tissue, meaning you get to delay wrinkly skin and not being able to open a jar of mustard, but it also affects hormone balances. Loss of muscle tissue increases your chances of metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes as it helps regulate blood sugar, insulin and other hormones. Loss of muscle in men also leads to lower testosterone and hence a higher ratio of oestrogen. One effect of this is moobs. Muscle loss also brings forward the risk of mortality due to frailty.Sarcopenia is slow and insidious not something you get once you hit old age. Barely noticeable over short periods, dramatic across 5-10 years blocks. That's why it's so vital to retain as much lean muscle mass from your thirties and forties onward.
How to prevent and even reverse muscle loss as you get older.
Long chain protein molecules break down into smaller chain amino acids. These are the building blocks of muscle. One amino acid, called leucine, is particularly good at switching on your body's muscle-building system. Once that’s activated, the body is more receptive to any other type of amino acid from your protein smorgasbord. Dairy products - like milk, Greek yogurt. Lean meat, fish, edamame and tofu are all good sources of leucine.
Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper. Goes the saying and most of us do the opposite. But emerging research suggests a consistent, moderate 30-gram dose of protein each mealtime appears to be optimal for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. More isn't better as the body doesn’t store much protein. Excess is either eliminated or stored as fat. 30 grams of protein is a cup of Greek yoghurt with some nuts or about 150gms of salmon or 120gms of beef. Soybean sprouts, peas and beans are high in protein for vegetarian options. The meat industry like you to make the link between your muscle and animal flesh but there’s plenty of protein in vegetables. It’s where the cows get theirs.
Take in some protein about an hour or so before, or soon after your workout. The combination of protein and exercise can increase muscle-building potential by up to 100 percent.About 20 minutes of resistance training, three times a week is recommended, but even two short resistance workouts each week can improve muscle mass and strength. It’s important to tax the muscles and vary your workouts. Mix up the exercises and the number of reps and the weight you use. Try heavy weights and fewer reps some days and easier weights but more reps on other days.
These essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and help boost everything from heart health to mood. And a growing body of research has also linked omega-3s with muscle maintenance, suggesting they improve the way your muscles use protein, and could actually help treat sarcopenia.
“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease” – Buddha
Getting enough good quality sleep allows the body to repair itself and recover. And it’s best if we go to sleep and wake up at similar times each day. Sleep isn’t the same quality if it starts late and you wake up later to compensate. These types of patterns tend to interfere with the circadian rhythm - the body’s natural 24-hour cycle.
Sleep also produces human growth hormone (HGH), to build up the muscles worked during exercise. It’s one of the primary compounds that allows muscles to recover and grow and the peak daily production is about an hour after falling asleep. We need HGH to assimilate the amino acids in the protein we eat, and without a good amount of quality sleep, the body cannot do this well.
If you're deficient (your doctor can do a simple blood test) consider upping your daily intake with Vitamin D rich foods, taking a supplement or living somewhere nearer the equator. Recent studies found that getting adequate vitamin D helps with muscle protein synthesis and fights inflammation, both of which mean better muscle strength.
As you age, your body becomes less able to make vitamin D through sun exposure (it takes four times longer in people over 60), and it can be hard to get enough through diet so a supplement may help. I use ‘Better You’ Vitamin DLux3000 spray outside of the summer months.
Aerobic exercise improves your body's response to insulin, and insulin helps with muscle health and repair. Cardio improves blood flow to flood the muscles with nutrients and take away waste. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio, such as brisk walking, running, biking or swimming, three or more days a week.
We like to bring exercise into our travel too, and a favourite road biking location is the Tramuntana Mountain range in Mallorca. This UNESCO World Heritage site is stunningly beautiful and so good for biking that many of Europe’s professional teams train there.
We also had a great time ‘fat biking’ on snow in the Wyoming wilderness. Hundreds of square miles of beautiful virgin landscape with just the odd grizzly bear and bison to wave to.
Michael Van Clarke
January 27, 2023
January 19, 2023
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