Some of my followers have been asking me about a day in the life of my diet.
But how exactly does a diet look for the older guy who is on a muscle quest?
I have been holding off a bit in the past to discuss this because there are two things one never talks about and that is politics and diet! Both have fanatic followers. Lol…so, let me break the one rule here and talk about which diet structure is best suited for the older guy who is on a muscle journey. Be kind guys, I am just digging into the science here. If you disagree with me, don’t get mad at me, go check the science.
For the older guy, it is all about finding a macro that is healthy AND will produce fat loss and muscle-building results.
What is such a macro?
Older than 50? Well, then such a macro should be closer to 35/35/30 (protein/carbs/fat – that means 35% of your calories should come from protein sources, 35% from carbs, and 30% from fats). Before we continue, macros are NOT the holy grail. 5% up or down is not going to break your efforts. Just try and stick to the macro as best as you can and don’t stress too much about slight deviations.
Why 35% from protein? (Minimum 30% and maximum 40%)
- Below 30% and the body will struggle to build muscle due to too little protein consumption.
- Above 40% and the older guy places too much strain on the kidneys with excess protein intake. Protein is the food group that places the most strain on kidneys. When young the healthy kidneys can handle the strain but as we age (especially after 50) that strain on the kidneys already functioning less optimal is not a wise idea and WILL shorten your kidney’s lifespan.
- Furthermore, above 40% and you start increasing the risk for colon and other intestinal cancers with the excess meat/protein consumption.
Extra protein is not used efficiently by the body and may impose a metabolic burden on the bones, kidneys, and liver. Moreover, high-protein/high-meat diets may also be associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease due to intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol or even cancer:
National Library of Medicine Paper published in 2013 discussing the risks and damage of too high protein intake: CLICK HERE
Why 35% from carbs? (Minimum 30% and maximum 40%)
- Above 40% and you will have too much energy added to your system which it can’t use, and the result will be fat storage.
- Below 30% and your body will have too little energy which will result in the body struggling to build muscle.
Why 30% from fat? (Minimum 25% and maximum 35%)
- Why fat at all? Because it plays a very critical role in ensuring your endocrine system (aka Testosterone) is functioning optimally.
- Above 35% and you will start adding fat to your frame due to excess energy. But more dangerous than that is the risk of kidney damage due to too high fat intake.
- Below 25% and the endocrine system will not function optimally.
Multiple scientific studies have been done in the past that show a clear link between a drastic increase in cancer risk and high fat intake. Here are just 4 of them:
Multiple scientific studies have shown evidence that high-fat diet consumption leads to renal lipid accumulation, increases inflammatory cytokines, induces glomeruli retraction, and renal dysfunction, basically resulting in kidney damage
What diet options are out there?
Ok, now that we have determined the safe macro targets for older men seeking a muscled physique, let’s see if any of the popular diet choices out there make the grade
- Intermittent Fasting (IF).
The key here is “older guy” because the older body deals less well with certain diets and in fact, some can be downright dangerous for the older individual.
All these diets have a large following and have proven themselves to be worthy fat loss contenders. But are they healthy and the right approach for the older body muscle seeker?
Let’s start with Keto and Banting.
There are some differences between these two, but they are mostly the same diet approach, so I am grouping them together.
Typical macro: 10-35% protein, 5-10% carbs, 65-90% from fat.
Does it make the grade on protein intake and energy provided? Yes, and yes. Both have a big enough protein content and energy is mainly provided by eating fat instead of carbs. So, at first glance, it can produce wanted results for fat loss and muscle gain.
Multiple scientific studies have been done in the past that show a clear link between a drastic increase in cancer risk and high fat intake. See the studies listed at beginning of the document.
Conclusion: A younger body may be more immune to these severe negatives, but for the older body, this is not a friendly diet and is potentially dangerous. It provides enough protein and energy, but the accompanying dangers simply outweigh any benefits for the older person.
Next up, the Paleo diet
Interesting one, the original diet from before time.
Typical macro: 30% protein, 30% carbs, 40% from fat.
Does it make the grade on protein intake and energy provided? Maybe and maybe. This diet can fit neither in a cutting or mass-building plan. It fits in the middle, which is not the best option for those trying to maximize muscle mass or fat reduction.
The Paleo diet can be a very healthy option for someone not seeking to add muscle mass. Clearly one of the better diet choices.
Protein intake is just a tad too low and fat intake is just a tad too high.
Conclusion: Not a no, but also not a yes. If your aim is a fit and muscled physique past 50, it might be difficult to obtain it on the Paleo diet.
Similar to Keto macros.
Typical macro: 15-20% protein, 0-10% carbs, 70-80% from fat.
Meat, meat, and more meat! Generally, bodybuilders love this diet for obvious reasons.
Does it make the grade on protein intake and energy provided? no and yes.
Surprisingly it is not that high in protein intake due to calories derived from the fat intake which is HUGE. The protein might be too little for effective muscle building. This diet gives us same cancer and kidney damage risks as that of the Keto/Banting diets. Many scientific studies have confirmed these risks when excess fat is consumed.
It sounds like a good option for a bodybuilder, but it is not. The protein intake is too low and the fat intake way too high. So, it is a NO.
Typical macro: 15% protein, 50% Carbs, and 35% fats.
For the non-muscle seeker that is a perfect and rather healthy balance. For the muscle seeker, not so much. The 15% protein macro simply is not sufficient to add decent muscle size. So, it might tick nearly all boxes except the muscle box.
A fairly recent large-scale study showed that this is the diet most people reach success on in long term: https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/intermittent-fasting-sheds-more-weight-mediterranean-healthier
Does it make the grade on protein intake and energy provided? No, and yes!
Not much except that the protein intake is insufficient, and the fat content may be just a tad too high.
A healthy choice but not sufficient for the guy trying to add muscles. The perfect fit would be a drop in fat and an increase in protein macro. So, it is a potential “yes” if the above macro changes are met.
Eish, how can people punish themselves like this? But the truth is, and no one can dispute the fact, this can be a very healthy option. A complicated option nonetheless for a guy that wants to add muscle size though! However, every single person that has ever crossed my path that was vegan/vegetarian struggled to add muscle and they eventually abandoned this diet method altogether. Their instincts for meat overcome their urge to be healthy. Now, this does not mean it is not possible to add muscle with this diet, just… difficult.
But vegan/vegetarianism is not a diet as such, it just specifies that you do not eat certain animal products or by-products. You still need to define a macro for your diet and stick to it. So although it might not be the wisest choice for a muscle seeker, with enough effort he can still get the right macros in for muscle growth and fat loss.
But I can already hear the IF crowd screaming “What about IF”!
Well, IF (like vegan/vegetarian) is not a diet as such but just a structure you apply to any diet out there. Should you wish to apply it to your diet, go ahead.
I personally do not apply IF myself. For the simple reason I get enough results through the specific diet I follow and at this age (58), I do not want to force a slower metabolism with too long fasting windows. It’s a personal choice. But generally, IF is something you can try if the fasting window is not too long.
What diet do I follow?
This is a choice each person must make for himself. With the knowledge I have after nearly 20 years in the fitness/nutrition field, it is a combination of the Carnivore, the Mediterranean, and the Paleo diet with a frequent small meal plan. The target macros (as stated at the beginning of the article) for the older muscle seeker is roughly 35% (protein) / 35% (carbs) / 30% (fat).
It is a healthy diet structure that is friendly to the older body (kidneys, liver, and cholesterol and does not increase the risk for cancer overtly) and it is one that supports muscle growth and fat loss.
This is the first part of a three-part series of articles. The next article (Part II) will give you a day in the life of such a diet showing you what I eat, macros and calories. The last part (Part III) will show you the process you must apply to force results with the diet.
There are many roads leading to Rome. I do not proclaim to have the perfect solution but a simple and educated solution rooted in science. There might be other approaches that work effectively as well. In the end, we carry the consequences for every decision we make in life. Following the right diet is an important one!
The ADVANCED SYSTEM II coaching was specifically developed to give the older guy the best approach with diet, training and supplements while also addressing bloodwork and natural testosterone levels. Want to signup or find out more? CLICK HERE
Choose wisely and train hard!