Beating The Aging Process
It is something we all experience, yet it can manifest itself in different ways. Some people use it as an excuse to relent to the pressures of life; to quit striving for success. While others seize it as an opportunity to chart new territory; to use their collected experiences and gained wisdom to make the best of whatever situation they might find themselves in. It is all pervading, all encompassing, yet largely irrelevant depending on one's mindset. One thing is certain, however: there is no escaping it and if we are unprepared, or ill-equipped, it will catch us off guard and bring us to our knees quite literally.
The Aging Process
The mere phrase provokes fear in some, a sense of adventure in others. Why is it that the inevitable and unique unfolding of biological events that mark this process is expressed so differently from person to person? While some people seem to remain eternally youthful - indeed appear to be in their prime well into their 40s and 50s - some suffer such a drastic decline that it appears they already have one foot in the grave with the other just begging to follow it?
Aging expresses itself in the form of biological decline due to the processes associated with the running and rebuilding of our cellular structure working less effectively over time. What was once rebuilt with a modicum of effort now takes much longer with the finished product, the various cells comprising our body, being less structurally sound than before. The physical manifestation of this process includes the appearance of wrinkled skin, shriveled, weaker muscles and, internally, a compromised capacity to fight disease and to function at a biological level.
As a visual marker of ill health, age is without equal: as people get older they tend to reflect physically the internal decline that will determine how long they live and to what extent they will experience what is perceived as being a "good quality of life". One look and it is often easy to see how one is faring health-wise. At 60, some people look like wrinkled prunes with the posture and energy levels of tree sloths on Prozac, while others walk tall while demonstrating good muscle tone and a confident manner. The latter is obviously the desired state, but how do we get there?
For this feature on aging, I have interviewed a man who looks better today, at 39 years old, than he has ever looked. What is more, he feels better and believes that he will continue to improve, mentally and physically, as the years tick by. Of course I am speaking of none other than the ever-youthful Mr. Tony Catanzaro. But before we get to the interview - which provides an extensive overview of what Tony feels is the best way to combat "aging" - I will outline a list of factors that I personally feel will enable anyone to beat father time. Here they are:
1. Do Not Smoke
The voluntary and systematic suffocation and destruction of all of the cells of our body through the inhalation of poisonous smoke, itself comprised of over 4000 toxic chemicals, would have to be one of the most insane and ridiculous practices known to man. Yet millions do it, and millions die from it each year. This most "relaxing", "pleasurable" and "confidence-building" pursuit also costs a fortune, approximately $75,000 dollars over the course of a smoker's lifetime. It is also the number one entirely preventable cause of death, one that furthermore adversely affects the health, and has been known to kill, millions of non-smokers who are forced to suck down filthy cigarette fumes.
If you smoke, the best way to delay the adverse effects of aging is to quit now, as this habit will systematically destroy, or contribute to the ill health of, every organ in your body. Thus ends the sermon.
2. Become A Bodybuilder
The bodybuilding diet, comprised of an optimal ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, along with valuable supplements to build and nourish the body, will provide an ideal platform from which to experience good health and delay any negative effects of aging. Furthermore, the resistance training that is the hallmark of any good bodybuilding program will help to offset osteoporosis - bone degradation - while ensuring a degree of muscle mass to enable a strong base of structural support and the promotion of sufficient physical abilities as we grow old. As the bodybuilding lifestyle requires one to consistently eat well and train regularly, it becomes part of one's daily routine to where it is established as everyday practice, not an activity that should require great deal of effort to maintain.
3. Maintain An Optimal Sleep Schedule
It is during the hours of sleep that we recover to the extent that we can power through each day with enough energy in reserve, to overcome any unexpected obstacles that may arise. As we age, sleep is thought to be less of a crucial requirement, but this could be because people typically do not stress their bodies or minds enough to warrant the extensive recovery needed to lay down new neural pathways or rebuild sore muscles. If aging is to be something that presents new challenges and opportunities for personal growth - as it should - then it follows that sleep is as necessary a requirement during this state as it was when were in our "prime".
4. Eliminate Negative Stress
Stress can be good or bad depending on what form it takes or the context in which it occurs. To learn a new task, a positive challenge, to be sure, requires an incredible amount of stress. Each time we extend ourselves physically, mentally or emotionally we place our bodies on high alert, which necessarily involves the output of various stress hormones in lesser or greater quantities. From such stress we will then need to relax (discussed soon) to lay down the neural pathways necessary for optimal, physical, and intellectual memory consolidation.
Training the body with weights is immensely stressful. It is an activity that requires a solid nutrition plan and plenty of quality sleep. It is not something we can do whenever we wish, otherwise we would become ill due to over training. Yet no one can argue that it is a negative thing to do. It is the bad stress we need to eliminate, to live healthy, productive lives. Each time we enter into an unnecessary argument or 'fume' at rush hour traffic or become upset over events beyond our control (various wars or examples of abuse - we should be proactive about such matters - if we wish - not mindlessly stressed) we release the stress hormone cortisol, which, if produced beyond what is needed for immediate requirements (another article), can interfere with recovery and even cause cellular destruction on its own accord.
So, it is best to see things for how they are, in perspective, and not dwell on what cannot be changed. Be proactive, not mired in the mindless negativity that results from unnecessary stress.
5. Rest Whenever Possible
Take a lesson from the infants of this world (not the adult ones), who so depend on our care and nurturance: when we rest, we grow - physically and mentally. In fact, without the calming of the mind and body that results from periodic rest we would all be bundles of stress, ticking time bombs ready to explode at a moment's provocation. Do not mistake idleness for laziness: when we sit and do nothing, or perhaps read a book or watch television, we recharge our biological batteries. We reacquire the physical and mental resources needed to again work and perform to our full capacity. As we age, rest becomes an easier proposition, in that we have more time on our hands. However, if we are to live a vigorous lifestyle into our later years - as, again, we should - rest becomes something worthy of reconsidering and structuring into our lives accordingly.
Tony Catanzaro Talks Aging
[ David Robson ] Tony. You are approaching 40, yet looking younger than ever. What are your secrets to maintaining a youthful appearance?
[ Tony Catanzaro ] Well David, I'm a personal friend of father time. I give him lessons on how to stay in shape and he slows down my aging by 90%. All kidding aside, I have to say it is self-respect. Ask yourself: how does anything age quickly? Here are some answers: neglect, abuse, lack of life balance, and chemicals and sickness - both mental and physical. I've learned that to stay young you must always have respect for yourself and for others.
[ DR ] What is one example of how self-respect can help to prevent age related physical and mental decline?
[ TC ] Well it's as simple as this: if you have self-respect you're not going to let yourself go. Too many people take better care of their lawn then they do of themselves. I see this all the time. People who are middle-aged or older are always asking me "what do I need to do to get rid of this gut" or telling me they want to lose weight. They tell me they diet but can't seem to lose unwanted body fat. You see, what happened was when they were younger they ate a certain diet and followed a certain routine. But as they got older their lifestyle caught up with them. It's just like owning a car. If don't want the car to age you have to take care of it from day one. You have to drive it carefully, keep it in the garage, keep it clean, refrain from abusing it, and keep it running great. The same goes for us, as well. If you're out of shape it's not something you did wrong a few days ago, it's something you did wrong from the beginning.
[ DR ] So what is it about the bodybuilding lifestyle that keeps you looking and feeling young Tony?
[ TC ] I have always said there's a little bit of God in those weights. Bodybuilding is the greatest thing you can do to stay young and healthy. I used to train with a friend of mine who was hearing impaired. I was 26 years old at the time and he was 43; he looked great for his age and I would always tell people, "Look at Steve, he has abs and is in better shape than guys half his age!" He used to tell me in sign language that working out was like the fountain of youth - now that I am about to turn 40 I look back and can see that he was right.
[ DR ] Is there any excuse for not staying in optimal shape as we age. People are forever blaming their genetics and busy lifestyle on letting themselves go. Just why is it important to keep mentally and physically well conditioned as we age?
[ TC ] There's absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not taking care of yourself as you age. I find these to be the biggest excuses people make: I don't have time, I have kids, I have to take them to practice, I have injuries, and so on. I've heard every excuse in the book, but the truth is if you want something you have to be willing to do what's necessary to get it. As we get older, it's only natural we should slow down but that doesn't mean we must stop! It means slow down a little, but if you understand that aging is a natural process that we all go through and that it is not a bad thing, you will then age gracefully and have no problems doing this. It's all in your attitude; I actually look forward to growing old as I will look back at my life and hopefully be able to say I was happy with it.
[ DR ] Many people approaching middle age complain that they do not have the time to work out and eat right. What advice would you give these people?
[ TC ] Simply make the time. I'm sure these people have time to gab on the phone or email or gossip about why they don't have time to stay in shape. I tell you, the time people spend saying they don't have the time [to stay in shape] they could use to work out and stay healthy. How can you not have time to get healthy? It's not something that should be taken lightly. When you wake up in the morning you brush your teeth, comb your hair, and get dressed. So should you eat right and exercise! It's not something that should be thought of as a challenge - it should be a part of your everyday life.
[ DR ] As most of us know, too much of anything can be bad. How do you achieve balance in life, which includes just enough training and optimal nutrition to ensure ongoing physical, emotional and mental well being?
[ TC ] Yes, balance is key to anything in life. To maintain proper balance, I always say try to stay in the middle. I'll explain: weight training should never be too heavy or too light. Cardio should never be too long or short. Your diet should never be too strict or too loose. You must always understand that a proper balance is key to success. I train with weights five days a week for an hour. I train cardio every day for 30 minutes, moving my whole body using elliptical or light jogging. I keep a balanced diet of 40% carbs, 40% protein and 20% fats. If I eat something I'm not supposed to I won't feel bad about doing so. I have to remain happy and listen to my body and what it needs from me. My body is my best friend!
[ DR ] It is well established that one's mental outlook can be just as important a determinant of aging well as physical activity is. How do you stay mentally sharp and what is most important in terms of maintaining the right mindset?
[ TC ] I always say to myself, "Nobody is going to do it for me, so it's time for me to go to work!" It's easy for me to say I don't feel like training today, or I don't feel like eating this grilled chicken, or I don't feel like doing cardio today, but instead, I'll do it tomorrow. Well, you know what happens then? Tomorrow comes and you'll have another excuse. Look at how many people who say, "I'm starting my diet on Monday." What about starting it right now? You wouldn't say, "I'll pick up my million dollar check on Monday." You'll say, "Where is it and how fast can I cash it." You see what I mean?
[ DR ] I see exactly what you mean Tony. What kind of foods must one eat more of as they age and what supplements would you recommend a middle aged person include in their anti aging program?
[ TC ] I have to say this goes back to balance, but I would also say calcium is crucial as you age because our bones do become more brittle over time. Also our bodies aren't producing as much growth hormone so it wouldn't be a bad idea to eat healthy fats like natural peanut butter, avocados and olive oils, mostly before bed as this will help trigger growth hormone production.
[ DR ] Should one increase their training intensity as they age, or is it a better option to cut back and include more rest and relaxation to enhance recovery?
[ TC ] This all depends on the person's health and well being. But, no, I don't believe in cutting back as long as you are maintaining a proper balance and are not lifting excessively heavy and are sure to follow a good nutrition program you are good to go.
[ DR ] How hard is it for you to maintain your shape now that you are 'middle aged'? Compared to when you were in your 20s and early 30s what must you now do to stay ahead of the game?
[ TC ] I have no fear of being out of shape. To me being in shape is not something I struggle with, as it's always there. If you don't fear something it can never be an issue. To stay on top of the game, I must always have respect for myself and who I am. I have to thank God for leading me in this direction in life. I owe everything to God and hope to inspire others to do the same. With God on your side who dares to challenge you?
[ DR ] How can the middle aged design their lifestyle to allow for the inclusion of proper exercise and nutrition?
[ TC ] Always understand that just like when we were young we followed a program, a system. From experience we know what works and what doesn't. Use your knowledge and wisdom to listen to your body. Never think of yourself as anything less than the best.
[ DR ] What tips would you provide to one who has found themselves out of shape and wishing to reclaim great physical development?
[ TC ] Get motivated. You can do it! Set a goal for yourself, or set a date. I had a client of mine who turned 50 years old this past May. He started training with me in February and did a 12-week program. He was so committed and did everything I told him to; he never even missed a session. We had a few major snowstorms and he would still come in on time, he wanted it so bad and was willing to pay the price for it. I'm happy to say he turned 50 and had a great birthday party. He lost over 40 pounds and looks great today. You see, he didn't make any excuses, he did what he had to do and that's what makes you a success!
[ DR ] People often say that the increased stress associated with greater responsibilities they have as they age makes them feel tired and run down. How can we minimize our stress levels as we age?
[ TC ] Stress is stress no matter how young or old you are. Granted, as we get older, we have much more responsibilities, kids, mortgages, jobs, and marriages, but I say don't think of it as stress. What if you no longer had these "stressful" events? It's not how much stress you have, it's the way you look at it. Don't look at yourself as being under stress, because then you will be. Instead, look at yourself as a person who has a lot going on and that God is working with you, not against you.
[ DR ] As people age they often feel guilty if they miss an exercise session or healthy meal, which forms a vicious cycle that prevents them from establishing ongoing healthy habits. They eventually might even quit trying altogether. What should one do if they miss a meal or an exercise session? Is it such a big deal?
[ TC ] Staying on a schedule 24/7 is very difficult and almost impossible to follow. Don't stress out if you find yourself eating something you wouldn't normally eat - if you're enjoying it, great! Just understand it's a treat not something you're going to eat regularly. If you miss a training or cardio session, don't stress it; understand that tomorrow is another day. You see, in order to be a success you have to first dump the stress.
[ DR ] How important is quality sleep as we age? And how do we ensure we get enough of it?
[ TC ] Sleep is always important no matter how you look at it. Sleep is sleep and we all need it young and old. Try to form good sleeping habits and stick with them. As we age it is said that we require less sleep. However, to maintain a youthful complexion and to recover from your exercise program, sleep is something you can never neglect at any age. Aim for at least eight hours of quality, unbroken sleep each night.
[ DR ] What nutritional supplements might help us as we age? Do you personally take any? Which ones and why?
[ TC ] As you know, I always say, "If God made it use it, if man made it lose it." So if you're eating your daily serving of fruits and vegetables you should be fine. I do stress these supplements for improve health and vitality though:
[ DR ] Assuming both are equally important, what might be more important as we age, if we had to pick one to focus on primarily: cardio or weight training?
[ TC ] Like I always said, weights are the father, cardio is the mother, and your diet is God. They are all so critical and you have to maintain an optimal balance in order to stay healthy. It's like the father, the son and the Holy Spirit - its all one, baby!
[ DR ] It is thought that for each year after the age of 30, men lose approximately two percent of their testosterone production. How can men naturally increase their testosterone levels as they age?
[ TC ] I have to say I don't believe in this. I don't even think about it; it's just like anything if you give it any thought: good or bad, it's going to become a reality. My testosterone is actually right in the middle. I know guys twenty years older than me who have twice as much as I have and they complain about not having strength and endurance. So, it's all irrelevant in my eyes. To me it's just a number and I save numbers for my calculator. If you want to increase it, stay healthy and eat right and let God do his job.
[ DR ] Growth hormone is another anabolic component that for men tends to diminish with age. How can the production of this hormone be sustained at healthy levels as we age?
[ TC ] I hear this all the time. To me, growth hormone is nothing more than another phrase to describe the worry men feel as they grow old and age. Don't worry about your growth hormone - if you had any serious problems with it you would be dead in a couple of weeks. You see, we all have a healthy growth hormone level; its released as we sleep, just like plants grow at night, so do we. If you're getting a good amount of rest at night and you eat healthy fats you're good to go.
[ DR ] Women tend to have a particularly difficult time losing body fat as they age, especially if they have given birth and have become perhaps a little too comfortable in their marriage. How can these women offset such weight gain?
[ TC ] Yes, this is true and I'll explain why. Women have less muscle than men. That's why their body fat tends to be higher. To combat this, woman need to train with weights. If a woman builds up their lean body mass they will look lean, not flabby. Most women do not understand this, therefore they're on the treadmill for hours and hours, yet they eat very little protein and do not pay enough attention to the importance of weight training. The trick to staying lean and looking your best is the proper combination of weight training, cardio, positive thinking and a balanced diet. Remember, staying young is all in your attitude. Don't hang around people who are poisoning your mind or body with their attitude and lifestyle. Hang around people who make you feel good and will encourage you. Stay healthy both mentally and physically. And remember, God loves you!