tl;dr: I’m 36; working out (weightlifting) is “something I also do with my life”; I’m not keen on dramatic lifestyle changes due to feeling chronically overwhelmed finding time for work+chores+gym+people+vidya+sleep. I hit the gym 3-5 times a week using a complicated routine, eat “not bad but not great.”
My progress is modest but so are my goals: look better, build strength to counter ageing and desk work, make the 1RM estimates for the benchmark lifts crawl up.
If I were to plateau with my current approach - or even right now - what do you think is something I could change to restore or improve progress that’s likely to give me the biggest bang for my proverbial buck? (In terms of time, money, and headspace.)
Wall of text for context and clarification:
When I first started looking into lifting, the general consensus from research (primarily Liam Rosen’s guide and the r/fitness wiki, and whichever other material seemed to have more answers for a newbie than raised additional questions) centered around two points:
- stick to a fairly simple Starting-Strength-like routine until you milk it for all it’s worth
- drastically restructure your diet to include several times more protein and a good chunk more calories than before
I wouldn’t say I was particularly good at follow-through with either back then - living with ADHD means that you forget half the things you were meant to be doing and everything else takes longer than you think it does, so you end up cutting corners in one place to keep a much more important plate from crashing down.
Around my 30, training mostly 3x5+-some arms and calves I’d plateau somewhere just shy of 100%BW back squats, which I understand to be an underwhelming result all things considered. I did gain about 10kg during this time and looked better as a result. Two rough years wiped a good chunk of that out and I’d bottomed out at 65kg BW thanks to 60h work weeks, anxiety, and modafinil while trying to put out the worst fires.
Fast forward to last summer, I hit 35, got a new gym membership, then a few months later switched to a 6-day push/pull/legs powerbuilding split that I usually do 3 days on, 1 day off (-ish); a far cry from starter routines. This let me move past all my plateaus, while sticking to eating decent-but-not-optimized.
This has left me questioning the general advice as being entirely appropriate for my circumstances and set of priorities. It seems that most of the hard science and conventional wisdom comes from or is based on young men training to be athletes; i.e., a lot closer to their prime, and able+willing to commit more resources. Similarly, a lot of online fitness culture is based on the attitude “well if you’re not willing to do what it takes there’s no helping you”; more power to those guys, but I have things I enjoy (and things I don’t but have to do anyway) that aren’t chasing gains. Like what I assume is most people, I have to budget my life between all of them with compromises all over the place.
Say re: programming, my intuition is the complex routine has a lot more recovery time for a given muscle group; and that despite being relatively untrained in terms of lift standards, my age means I benefit from more intensity+longer recovery.
As for diet, I recall seeing an answer elsewhere on the site mention that after 30, I can reasonably expect to gain around 1.5kg of muscle per year; in light of this, advice telling me to take in at least 150g (or more) protein every day - almost 55kg a year - seems wildly disproportionate. It’s a massive outlay of time and money to get to that number, and I’d rather not go through the bother to have 97% of it end up as very smelly pee.
(I do try to have at least a whey shake, then finish the carton of milk after a workout, which should handily clear my RDA on its own. Anything beyond that is somewhat incidental: the only high protein food I keep in stock is eggs and eat them regularly but not daily; close to never buy raw meat of any kind but I do eat it when I have lunch out.)
Or, of course, I could be wrong about some/all of the above; but it’s hard to research these specifics for a lay person. (Most of Google hits for things like “working out in your 30s” give me generalities for an audience that’s never lifted a weight in their life.)
Generally, what I’m interested in is: am I doing something glaringly wrong by straying from things which are advised for beginners where my physique probably belongs? And are there changes I could implement that would bring a significant improvement given the cost of implementing them?