The pressure on women to be all things to all people is enormous. We are told we ‘can have it all’ but are not informed about about the cost. If you believe all you see on Instagram, you probably think that your over 40 body does not meet ‘the standard’. As we know, social media is plumped, filled and enhanced to paint a perky picture that most of us cannot achieve. The question is, would we want to? 
Realistically, as we enter midlife, strange things start happening to our bodies. Gravity kicks in, we gain ‘curves and muffin tops’, skin loses it’s elasticity and our temperature gauge goes haywire. This all happens while we are still juggling work, home and caring commitments. So, many women throw their health and well-being on the back burner, to support others. “How on earth can I find time to exercise and eat well with everything else that’s going on?” This comes down to CHOICE. We only have so much time and WE decide how we spend it. Like everything else, taking time to invest in ourselves needs to be scheduled. Think of it as another meeting or commitment that you CANNOT miss. It’s important to look at your week and think, what can I stop doing so that I can take time to exercise? I know this isn’t easy, but we all have time that we waste or do not use well. Think about the hours you spend watching tv, browsing social media or doing housework that needs doing again the next day. If your house is anything like mine, 24 hours after cleaning, it looks like we have been burgled. What’s the point? I’m not saying, don’t clean, browse social media or watch tv, but rather be aware of how much time you spend on these and other activities. Would it be possible to use this time differently? 
If we want to build a strong and fit physique, post 40,this will take some time and focus. Boo, I hear you cry! Yes, sorry about that. It’s like anything else, if you want to get positive results, you have to put in the leg work. Think about your career or anything else, you’ve progressed in. It didn’t just happen – you worked hard, consistently to achieve the results. You focused on something you wanted and you went for it. It’s the same with your physique. 
What do we mean by peak physique? 
This will be personal to you. We all have different body shapes and types and more importantly, different goals. You need to establish what you want and how much you want it. Do you want to lose weight, tone up, build up your cardio levels, improve flexibility or move without discomfort? The first step is getting clear on this. When you know what you want, you can focus your exercise to achieve that goal. This will help with your motivation and sticking power. Understanding ‘why is this important to me?’ is the first step. If you want to build an aesthetic physique after 40 there are a couple of factors that make a real difference – building muscle and losing body fat. Most bodies that are in great shape share these two factors. The great news is that building muscle tone can also help you burn more fat. Yay! 
Can You Still Build Muscle After 40? 
As we get older building muscle is a little harder to gain but it is still possible. After 40, men and women alike experience a range of hormonal and physiological changes that can cause muscle loss (plus increased weight gain, and lower energy levels). Testosterone drops in men and this is the hormone that helps build muscle. Woman have low levels of testosterone, which is why we are not as muscular as men. Many women are afraid of strength training in case they get too muscular but this just doesn’t happen. You’d have to train very heavy weights every day, eat an enormous amount of protein and take steroids for this to be the case. I have been strength training seriously for the last 4 years or so and I haven’t bulked at all. If anything, I have become leaner and people have asked me if I have lost weight. In fact, I have gained a little weight due to increased muscle mass. Why is this important? Muscle burns more calories than body fat, even at rest. I have noticed that I need more calories now to maintain my weight. Great news for those wanting weight loss! 
How Important is Nutrition? 
A healthy diet is the most important ingredient in achieving body transformation after 40. You can workout as much as you like but if your diet sucks, you will limit your results and not feel as great as you could. You cannot ‘out train’ a poor or calorie heavy diet. Plus, your body won’t have the correct nutrients required to build muscle and burn fat in order to transform your body. So, what do you need to know? 
STEP ONE – Understand your daily calorie consumption. Whoever says that calories do not count is talking nonsense. Calories are units of energy. If you consume more than you burn then you will gain weight. It’s as simple as that. Get used to weighing your food to achieve an accurate log. Recording what you eat either manually or on an app will help you track your intake and make adjustments. We all need differing amounts of calories depending on our age, height, and activity levels. The guideline for women is 2,000 calories per day but most women need less than this, especially if they are trying to lose weight or if they are achieving low levels of activity. 
STEP TWO – Understand your food groups. Most of the food we eat falls into protein, carbohydrate and fats. Contrary to the 2020 health industry, none of these food groups are bad. They are all required for healthy bodily functions. Diets which demonise certain food groups are not helpful. Generally, people lose weight in the short term on these diets as they are eating less calories overall. Most people need to get 45 – 55% of the diet from carbohydrates, 25 – 30% from fat and 20-30% from protein. These are guidelines and they they vary depending on your activity levels and types, plus your fitness goals. The key here is understanding what you are eating. If you want to build more muscle tone, then having a sufficient amount of protein is very important. 
STEP 3– Don’t forget alcohol. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram (carbohydrate and protein have 4 calories and fat 9 calories), so recording this is critical. I love a glass of wine but if it’s a regular habit, you might be taking in lots of excess calories that don’t add any nutritional value. Record it and see. 
What’s the Best Way to Build Muscle? 
You don’t have to join a muscle gym to build muscle. Most gyms have strength equipment and free weights available and the staff can show you how these work. However, you don’t even have to join the gym to get the benefits of muscle-toning workouts. 
If you prefer to work out at home, there are endless options to help you put on some muscle. You can find many home-based, no equipment workouts by doing a search on YouTube. 
Resistance bands are a great way to tone muscle in the comfort of your own home or garden 
Resistance bands are also a great at-home workout tool. They are cheap, versatile, and don’t take up any floor space. You can literally do a full body workout with just one or two bands. Another great thing about bands is that they are easy on the joints. 
You can also get a great workout with no equipment at all by just using your own body weight. The key is slow and controlled movements, focusing on good technique and range. If you do this, you should ‘feel the burn’. This tells you that you are working your muscles enough to create growth. And that’s what we want. 
Being over 40 doesn’t mean we can’t have a lean healthy body. It just means we have to adjust our lifestyle and increase our determination to get there. For most people, this is a matter of health and mobility rather than how they look in a swimsuit. Being confident and feeling good about how you look is definitely a bonus. When we feel good, confidence follows. 
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