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Bodybuilding For Babyboomers - Proper Nutrition And A Sound Training Program!

All of your nutrional needs are answered by Richard and Diane. Find out the best ways to improve your body with nutrition...


First let me say that you look GREAT!! I'm looking for nutritional information. I'm 5'8, 39 years old and weigh about 178 (mostly fat). I've just started working out after an 8-year layoff. I really enjoy my new workout and want to get the most out of it. My goal is to get bigger and lose the fat. I would love to have the six-pack abs in a year as well as a good overall body.

In my teens and early 20's I competed in numerous triathlons so I do remember what it takes to commit and I'm committed to this endeavor. I get really confused when reading about the different supplements and diets (specific diet plans). It seems that most people are MUCH younger than I and it's difficult to find proper nutritional and supplemental information for people my age. I'm really excited and am willing to give most anything a try. I realize this is a broad request but any help you can provide will help.

Rick G, Ringgold, GA

Diane's response:

Rick, you've taken the first step by acknowledging the need to lose body fat and understanding the commitment level necessary. You will see a difference in training now as compared to your triathlete days in your teens and twenties.

You will need to work harder and smarter because you are fighting nature with a metabolic slowdown and the natural loss of muscle mass once you hit your forties. But, with proper nutrition, adequate rest and recovery time, and a sound training program, you can achieve a great physique. Supplements for babyboomers? Richard and I could write a book on the subject! For now, let's start with a few basics.

You need to be sure you are getting enough protein. Plan on at least 1-1/2 grams per pound of bodyweight. The bulk of your protein should come from real food, but supplement with whey due to the high biological value.

Because of your age, Rick, it will be essential to not only get enough protein, but also, time the protein around your workouts. I'll let Richard take over with a discussion of the window of opportunity.

Richard's response:

Rick, let me point out immediately that to "get bigger" and "lose fat" and get "six-pack" abs simultaneously is extremely difficult. Now, I 'm not saying that it's impossible to gain muscle while you lose fat, but don't count on massive muscular gains when the main goal is, and should be, to lose fat. "Getting "bigger" is easy if you just want to fill out your clothes and don't care if it is fat rather than lean muscle.

The bottom line is that while you are gaining muscle and losing fat, your weight and measurements (other than waist which should shrink) may stay the same! That is, while your body composition--percentage of body fat--changes, your measurements may remain fairly stable. The good thing is that you will look bigger! Others will think you have gained weight because your muscles are more defined and separated so that they look bigger, though you really just lost fat and either retained or gained a little muscle.

Finally, a caveat: without drugs, the maximum amount of muscle most people can gain is 10 lbs. per year! Don't get discouraged. Ten pounds is a lot of muscle; just imagine God handed you ten pounds of beef and said you could add it wherever you wanted to your physique!

A major point I must make is that you are entering a new world when you leave the triathlete world and enter the world of bodybuilding. Of primary importance in the whole anabolic process of gaining muscle is adequate protein and rest. How much protein has been a source of much misunderstanding. Bodybuilders have long cried that they needed more protein than the government's supposed RDA, and now research has proven the bodybuilders to be correct: those engaged in resistance training do need significantly more protein in their diets than sedentary people.

They also need more protein than endurance athletes such as triathletes. Dr. Peter Lemon at Kent State University recommends 1.2 grams per kilogram per day for endurance work and 1.7-1.8 grams per kilogram per day for strength. Many bodybuilding coaches would argue that Lemon is still too low for the competitive bodybuilder attempting to gain obscene mass!

Another important point that Diane alluded to above is the "window of opportunity." She is referring to the opportunity to supply your fit physique with the nutrients it needs at the time it needs them. It seems that it is not only the amount of protein ingested, but when it is ingested that results in maximum nitrogen retention (read, "muscle building"). Though I disagree with some who say one can only digest around 20-30 grams of protein per sitting (where's the research that supports this claim?), I do agree that one should NEVER go hungry. So every two or three hours should see you eating AT LEAST 20-30 grams of protein.

Particularly important is the need within an hour or so of a hard workout for a solid protein meal of at least 30-50 grams of protein. In other words, don't work out late and go to bed without a protein meal! If you do, an important window of growth will be lost. Since exercise depletes glucose and glycogen from the muscles and liver storage, the body's most immediate nutritional need after exercise is carbohydrate. I would recommend that you take in at least 30-50 grams of carbohydrate immediately after training.

Finally, I can't stress enough the importance of a good night's sleep. Growth hormone levels rise within a half and hour or so after sleep begins and no bodybuilder in his right mind wants to miss this important part of gaining muscle. Though some genetic wonders like Arnold Schwarzenegger seem to be able to thrive on 4 hours per night, most normal human beings need 6-10. So make adequate sleep a part of your training regime!

Diane again:

Adequate recovery time is critical for older lifters, so plan two or three off days into your schedule. A supplement that is getting lots of positive press these days is glutamine. Essentially, glutamine aids the immune system and shortens the recovery process. Study after study is showing the safety of glutamine with precautions currently limited to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and diabetics. For more information on glutamine, check out my article on the subject.

Creatine, is another supplement that middle-aged lifters should add to their arsenal. Studies will show that as you age you lose skeletal muscle size, type II fiber diameter, mitochondrial enzyme activity and high-energy phosphate metabolism. You see it as a loss in muscle mass, strength and endurance. Researchers believe that reduced levels of phosphocreatine due to aging are responsible for the declines you see.

Studies show that with the use of creatine supplementation middle-aged people will make greater gains in phosphocreatine levels when compared to younger subjects undergoing the same training and nutrition program. I'll have more on creatine and it's benefits for babyboomers in an upcoming article.

Good luck with your training, Rick. Be sure to keep us posted on your legendary results!

Diane and Richard

Smith, S., et al. "Creatine supplementation and age influence muscle metabolism during exercise." Journal of Applied Physiology. Volume 85, Issue4, 1349-1356. October 1998.

Copyright 2002. Diane Fields, Member Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved. The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.

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