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Progress from 50 to 51 Years Old

Have trained off on and since high school sports. I was in the worst shape of my life at the end of 2019 after turning 50 and decided to change things. Progress has been better than expected and an anxious to see what the next 12 months of training will bring. Currently, I’m 5’11" at about 195 lbs and a recent DEXA scan indicated 14.2% BF (27 lbs of fat). I’d like to lose 5 to 7 lbs of fat and then start a lean bulk.

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Seriously 14% isn’t fat especially for someone 51.

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At that age, on the dexa chart that is considered lean. You are better than ideal.

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Thanks to both of you for the replies. I have been reading T-Nation for a while, but this is my first time posting and I failed to post the progress photos. At the end of 2019, I was 221lbs and probably high 20’s to low 30’s BF% and I had lost a lot of strength. I started training and eating “better” the week between Christmas and New Year’s 2019. The attached “before” photo is from 8 February 2020. The “after” photos are from last week. I have trained consistently since that last week of 2019 even during the Covid shut downs and my nutrition has been reasonably strict since September 2020. My strength has increased significantly (I haven’t been this strong in 20 years) and, more importantly, my overall health is much better. I’m no longer on blood pressure medication, no longer on allergy medication and my blood work looks better than I can ever remember it. Thanks again for your replies and I look forward to contributing to the community here.

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Losing 5-7 lbs is going to take some determination for you. You don’t have easy weight to drop anymore.

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Looking good, @kp014! Congrats on the progress and welcome to the forums.

I’ll be honest… unless you have a game plan of say jumping on stage in masters comp. I’d say your bodyfat is spot on and way better than majority of men your age and allot of younger ones also. So I wouldn’t worry about needing to lower it.

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I appreciate all of the feedback. I have no desire to compete in bodybuilding, but have thought that a powerlifting competition could be a real challenge for me and I think it would be fun…I have thought that losing a little more fat would be helpful before trying to eat more and gain muscle. A process that will, inevitably, include gaining some fat along the way. Your comments are leading me to reconsider my plan. I definitely would like to increase my calories and move to the next phase of training; being careful not to create a caloric surplus that is too large.

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Better than expected progress? Leaner and stronger with fewer medications?

Give us the details! What’s your training like? What have you been eating?

I had suffered from periodic tremors (similar to Parkinson’s) for most of 2019 and had seen neurologists, cardiologists and an internist with no results. The general consensus was that my condition was either a benign neurological issue that would be annoying, but cause no long term problems or it was a precursor to a more serious condition like MS and that there was little to be done for me. My blood pressure had been slightly elevated for a few years and I was taking a small dose of Lisinprol everyday to keep it in check.

Lastly, my seasonal allergies had been difficult since childhood and I took two prescription nasal sprays daily. Some friends encouraged me to try their nutritionist/eastern medicine practitioner and I gave him a shot, but expected no results. I was wrong - he gave a food list that isn’t too difficult. No gluten, no dairy, little to no added sugar and a meal plan, not unlike you find on T-Nation. The basic meal plan is lean protein, vegetables and good fat with sweet potatoes, legumes, and wild rice two to three times weekly. Fruit is eaten two to three times daily. Limited coffee, no beer, liquor or whiskey, but a couple of glasses of wine per day is ok (I actually cut wine consumption back to only one or two days per week).

My doctor isn’t as concerned with my caloric intake or my macronutrient profile as I am, so I tailored my food list to produce a meal plan with calories and macros similar to what you may find on T-Nation or from many of its contributors. I’ve been eating at about a 400 to 600 kcal/day deficit, with 0.8 to 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight, 25% to 30% of calories from carbs and the rest from fat. Every 4 to 6 weeks, I have taken “diet breaks” for 3 to 5 days and ate at or slightly above maintenance levels. I committed to adhere strictly to the doctor’s plan for 30 days in order to give it a fair trial - the results were pretty amazing. The tremors are resolved (in about 45 days); I was taken off of the blood pressure medicine (in about 60 days); I no longer need my allergy medicine (that took about about 1 week); as attested by my wife, I no longer snore (a couple of weeks) and I have lost a significant amount of fat and regained a lot of strength.

Training - I have lifted weights four to six days per week and I do HIIT cardio at Barry’s Bootcamp three to four days per week. I have done Jeff Nippard’s Full Body Hypertrophy workout and I trained for a couple of months with Menno Henselmans’ online coaching. Currently, I am on week 2 of the “Simple But Brutal” workout that I found on T-Nation. I also have done the T-Nation “Chin-Up Project” during the past several months. Working out hard and eating correctly really works. I don’t think there is anything magic about my workout programming, but I have found these programs (and especially the Barry’s HIIT workouts) to keep me motivated and challenged which, I believe, has resulted in the ability to consistently increase my intensity from session to session (i.e., progressive overload).

Regarding nutrition, I have always understood that calories in/calories out and quality of food makes a big difference in leanness and muscle quality, but I have been really surprised at how much what I eat affects my whole system (not sure why that concept is surprising as it certainly makes a lot of sense, but I had not thought of it this way before). Anyway, apologies if that is more information than anyone desired, but I can talk about this stuff all day - it has made such a difference in my life over the last 15 months or so.

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Great story, great progress, great work!

It’s awesome that you were able to improve your health so much. Periodic Tremors? That must have been scary and fucked up. It’s crazy to think that not great diet and not great exercise can have such intense side effects.

Nippard and Henselman are some modern dudes with new-fangled ideas. You’ve been training since the 80s. Did you learn anything “new” or did was there anything completely different from how you had trained in the past? Like structure of workouts or Diet Breaks or anything else memorable?

Exercise selection was pretty similar to what I have always done - focus on compound exercises and a little isolation work. Definitely more dumbbells and/or cables with Nippard and Menno than we did in college or high school. Biggest difference to me was split and volume. Much higher frequency with Nippard and Menno than I had done in the past and I like that very much. In the past, we did Upper (Mon/Thurs) and lower (Tues/Fri). Jeff and Menno both used full body 5 or 6 days per week. Also, using different rep ranges.

In the past, we basically did 3 or 4 sets of 10 with the same weight or we did decreasing reps (e.g., 12, 10, 8, 6) with increasing weight each set. I really liked Menno’s concept of progression - some exercises he used “linear progression” and others he used “rep range progression”. Those ideas really allowed me to push myself on every set. Whereas in the past, I would have days that the weight was a little light and then I would increase the next week or I would have days where the weight was too heavy and I ended up doing fewer reps and the intensity was less.

The other new concept, for me at least, was being thoughtful about rest periods. In the past, 60 seconds was always the rest period between sets. Jeff and Menno both prescribed different rest periods for different exercises/purposes. The Diet Breaks were actually accidental, but seemed to be effective and then I read more about them and am starting to understand a little of why they might work. After the first several weeks of being very strict on my diet, my schedule interfered and I ate out more than planned which resulted in higher caloric intake, but I still stayed relatively faithful to the food list.

During that time, my weight loss slowed down, but my energy levels were better and my mood was better. Then when I went back to the caloric deficit, the weight loss resumed. After reading more about the diet break concept, I decided to plan for it and it has worked well. Also, after the first 90 days of being very strict on food choices, my doctor suggested bringing a few of the foods back in periodically. To wrap up my stream of consciousness answer to your questions - the other memorable/important thing to me is the Barry’s workouts.

A lot of the literature frowns on too much “cardio”, but for me it was almost more like a competition (with myself) than a workout. To me it was like when I played football. We worked out hard in the gym and then we went out to practice hard. At Barry’s, the work out is 22 minutes of treadmill intervals (jogging, running, incline, flat, sprinting and recovery) and 22 minutes of bodyweight and dumbbell exercises. According to my Apple Watch (however accurate it is), I burn about 600 to 650 kcal in 50 min and I continue burning calories for several hours after the workout. It also provides a very measurable way to see progress - my sprinting and endurance has increased dramatically and my muscular endurance with the dumbbells has been noticeable and carries over to my weight training. In the past the only cardio that really worked for me at all was just running and I hate to run so it was always a slog. Barry’s is a challenge that I look forward to in the same way that I look forward to being able to increase my bench press, squat or deadlift. Thanks, again, for engaging on this thread and asking some great questions.

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Thanks for the well thought out, complete answers.

Sometimes experienced guys kind of slump into the “dead zone” of doing the same BS they always did and get less results, and even though they’re working out, not much is happening. I know this happens to me anyway.

It’s good to see somebody try out some new stuff and Break Through. And for the caveman style diet to make somebody actually look like a caveman.

I get where you’re coming from with the diet breaks. I’ve been trying to loose some weight this year, and I’ve had the same issue, every 6th week or so I inadvertently start eating excessively. Then it takes a week or two to get back on track. I was just speculating about planning some kind of 5th week Chow Down to manage things better.