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Reversing Somatopause- Middle Age Metabolic Slowdown

It starts in your 30’s then progresses as you continue into your middle age years. You start to lose lean muscle, gain weight, and see a sharp decrease in energy. What’s the cause? It’s a series of hormonal changes that is commonly referred to as “somatopause.”

Basically both men and women will see a decline in androgen and growth hormones levels with aging. While hormone replacement therapy is an option there’s also a way to reverse the effects of “somatopause” with one simple type of exercise.

The Fitness Fix For Middle Age Somatopause

When you look at how people in their 30’s to 50’s exercise, you’ll find one thing almost always lacking- anaerobic exercise. This is the short burst, “get-you-out-of-breath quickly” type of exercise.

Most people in this age group do low-moderate intensity cardio workouts (30-60 minutes on a treadmill, elliptical, bike, etc) along with light resistance training typically done on machines.

This type of exercise may burn a few calories but it does next to NOTHING for increasing growth hormone and testosterone levels.

High intensity, short burst types of anaerobic exercise is the missing ingredient in the fitness programs for people ages 30 and above. Research has shown this type of exercise to be best at reversing the effects of somatopause.

Why is it that most people quit doing anaerobic exercise?

The short answer is because there seems to be a big misconception on what type of exercise works best as we age. The reality is we should never stop doing anaerobic or burst training exercise. It gets more and more beneficial as we age.

Watch kids when they’re outside playing.

Are they moving methodically at the same pace for long periods of time, or do you typically see them running, chasing, zig-zaging, and going all out in short-bursts until they’re totally spent and exhausted?

There are lessons to be learned here by watching kids complete their style of “exercise.”

In both your resistance and cardio workouts you’ll want to incorporate anaerobic exercise through the use of burst training. As the name implies, this is just a means of doing short “bursts” of high intensity movement followed by brief recovery periods.

With resistance workouts you can accomplish this by combining exercises in “super-sets”, completing 3-4 exercises in a row with minimal rest, or doing anything that will work you at a high intensity for a short period of time.

This is way different than the typical “3 sets of 10 reps” on each exercise and rest two minutes between sets talking to people in the gym.

If you want to create a hormonal response (increase growth hormone) you have to work at these higher intensities. The good news is your workouts will be short-sweet and over quickly. High intensity, short duration, burst training workouts take less than 30 minutes to complete while producing better results than typical health club workouts on machines taking twice the time to complete.

Burst training can be completed with your cardio workouts by doing interval training. While slow paced cardio is beneficial for developing an aerobic base, healthy individuals should look to progress to higher intensity, short duration workouts for maximum benefits.

You Have To Apply Some EFFORT For Growth Hormone Release!

There are four main benchmarks that must be achieved in order to see an exercise-induced growth hormone release.

Oxygen Debt

Oxygen demand is an important regulator in the body’s release of growth hormone during exercise. The objective with high-intensity, burst training exercise is to get you in a short-term “winded state.”

After 10-30 seconds of 90-100% maximal high intensity effort on something like sprinting, weight lifting, etc, the body experiences an “oxygen debt.” During the recovery period your body tries to replenish oxygen by raising heart rate and increasing respiration. It’s this oxygen debt that works to trigger a growth hormone release.

Muscle Burn

That burning feeling you get in your muscles when you’re training hard is a result of lactic acid. While discomforting it’s a positive sign. The problem is most people who experience this burning sensation during exercise typically stop. If they only knew how helpful it would be to push on a little bit more.

Researchers have found that growth hormone is commonly released 16 minutes after reaching the “lactic acid threshold.” Reaching the “burn” phase in your training is a good sign that you’re able to start releasing growth hormone.

Increased Body Temperature

If you’re not sweating during your workouts chances are you’ve not reached the necessary intensity to produce a growth hormone release. You need to raise your body temperature just a little for the hormonal response to kick in.

No this doesn’t mean working out in a sweat suit or some other crazy idea! You just need to raise your body temperature slightly which will not be difficult if you’re training with intensity.

Adrenal Response

For your body to release growth hormone there must be an adrenal response. Specifically, it’s the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and nor-epinephrine by your adrenal glands during high intensity exercise that triggers a growth hormone response. If you don’t work at a high enough intensity (the old “3 sets of 10, take two minutes and talk between each set” workout) you simply won’t see a change in your hormonal responses.

Getting The Most From Your Workouts

Typically by the end of 20-30 minutes of high-intensity exercise you’ll experience a rise in growth hormone. The levels will continue to rise after your workout and peak about one hour later. Once peaked, the growth hormone levels return back to normal after a few hours.

You’ve got a golden window of opportunity here that you won’t want to miss out on though. If you do things correctly, this can be a several hour window to turn your body into a fat burning machine.

Hear are a few strategies to follow that will help you maximize your results in a fitness program.

Don’t eat a high fat meal before training

Researchers have found that eating a high fat meal before working out can stop the release of growth hormone. This is due to the fat triggering an increase in the hormone “somatostatin,” which inhibits growth hormone release.

Take 2 grams of L-Glutamine before training

This is an inexpensive amino acid that can help stimulate growth hormone release.

Drink plenty of water during your training session

Research has shown that if you’re not hydrated you’ll see a significant reduction in growth hormone release in high-intensity exercise.

Limit sugar for two hours after training

While you’ll need a small amount of carbohydrate with some protein post-workout, you’ll want to minimize your sugar intake. This means no Gatorade drinks, etc. While these “electrolyte replenishing” drinks work fine for young athletes then can wreck havoc on the hormonal responses in middle age adults going through somatopause. See below for some good examples of post-workout choices.

Take 15-25 grams of protein after training

Try and get between 15-25 grams of fast-assimilating protein (whey protein is ideal) post-workout combined with a small amount of carbohydrate. This is the best strategy for speeding up the recovery process and extending the growth hormone release window.

A lot of protein shakes contain far too much protein for most individuals and too much is just as counterproductive as not enough. The idea is to get a small amount of both protein and carbs in quickly then wait a couple of hours before eating your next meal.

I like products like Advocare post-workout recovery shakes or making your own whey protein smoothie with water, 1 scoop whey protein, and ½ cup berries.

The recipe for reversing the effects of somatopause is simple. Train with intensity (get yourself out of breath- do some sprinting, lift something heavy, push yourself!), follow a primal nutrition diet, and get plenty of rest.

That’s it if you want to lose unwanted body fat, get trim and toned again, increase your energy and turn back the aging process.

A word of advice: If you’re new to an exercise routine, starting back after a while, or if you’ve simply been working out without much intensity – please go slow!

Take your time and progress to higher levels of intensities little by little. The last thing I want is to see you go out and try and doing some sprints and pull a hamstring or suffer some other type of injury.

Play it smart and know your limits. It’s always a good idea to get with your physician first then seek the counsel of a certified personal trainer who can help design you a fitness program to meet your needs.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more about the amazing benefits of burst training and how it helps drop fat and increase lean muscle in record time. Shaping Concepts provides local residents with a free test drive of our Charleston personal fitness programs with a two session no-obligations trial.

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Category: Hormones & Health.