First let me start this by saying that you are an athlete. I don’t care if you started last week or 40 years ago – if you’re concerned about your strength, speed, and performance in general, you’re not just “working out”. I’d say 99.8% of the nutrition advice you get on a daily basis is geared towards sedentary populations who just need to improve their health. In other words, it doesn’t apply to you and you need a different approach. To make matters more complicated, things change as you get older and what may have worked well twenty years ago isn’t going to cut it anymore. As one masters athlete put it, “We have more years of brainwashing to undo. And we may be a little stubborn.”
Here are five tips that masters athletes need to keep in mind if they want to maximize their results. Let’s get started:
1. Fuel properly. As the body ages, the hormones that allow us to recover and get better become compromised. That makes fueling yourself properly even more important. Especially as a masters athlete that’s new to fitness or you have been eating in a very restricted way, changing that will help you get better results quickly but you are just getting to par at that point.
2. Build muscle. If you look at many of the people with the most muscle in the gym, many of them seem to have arrived with all that lean mass. As we age, we lose lean body mass (for a number of reasons) and for that reasons, Masters athletes need to apply some level of of emphasis to building muscle. On your most challenging strength days, you should be eating a Calorie surplus and YES, the scale should go up. You are trying to add lean tissue – it won’t appear out of thin air. This is a long process unless you were previously carrying a lot of muscle, so stick to it.
3. Don’t push the limit of intensity too often. Instead, focus on developing a well-rounded engine and build all of your energy systems. High Intensity WOD’s are a piece of the puzzle but if you just get good doing everything at high intensity, your body simply adjusts to that. Even if you’re doing burpees, air squats, or even barbell movement. Just because you change exercises doesn’t mean you have necessarily changed domains and functioning well at your redline is only one part of the equation. True variance includes high intensity, rep work with short rests, and LONG endurance. For an example of this type of programming, check out The Master WOD.
4. Change up your focus. Insulin is a building hormone and at high intensity you are not building – your body is just trying to survive. There are two ways to address fat loss: lose adipose tissue and gain lean mass. When you focus too much on one or the other over LONG periods of time, your body simply adjusts and your progress is compromised. For masters athletes, patience is the key in both instances.
5. If you are using WODs to control your weight, STOP. You exercise to get better at exercise. As we touched on in rule #1, masters athletes have limited recovery ability. You need to train smarter, not harder! If you are sick or injured, stay home and get better. You can easily keep fat off without working out compromised assuming that you are nourishing your body most of the time. Yes, the scale will probably go up a bit when you aren’t moving very much but you have my permission to be OK with this; it’s normal. Don’t, however, use this as an excuse for 2 weeks of bad behavior. I am not suggesting you should just stay home and do nothing. Do what you can but don’t over-exert yourself and miss the point of rest.