Top Three Secrets To Muscle Growth That Nobody Talks About [For Men Over 40]

Outside of resistance training and regular cardio, there are a few things that are completely within your control to continue growing muscle and carve the physique you want in your 40’s and beyond.  These three things, in no particular order, aren’t secrets or sexy but will make a world of difference in how you feel, look, and perform in the gym.

Older man working out with battle ropes
This guy gets it

Secret #1 – Sleep

How many of you out there can get a restful 8 hours of sleep per night?  How many of us are guilty of staying up way too late endlessly scrolling our phones, working on projects, or mindlessly watching something on TV?  I know I’m guilty of that more of than not.  I also have my 1-year-old co-sleeping and he often flips around kicking his baby feet to my face and back often waking me up.  

Scrolling on your phone in bed is killing your sleep gains
Sacrificing sleep for memes

In the year that my oldest son was sleeping in his bed and the youngest one wasn’t even conceived yet my wife and I had the best sleep and were able to function like normal human beings. As we grow older we generally sleep less than we did in our younger days so why not raise the quality of sleep rather than the quantity?  

HGH is released during sleep and as we get older our bodies release less and less of that vital muscle-inducing hormone.  Hold onto as much as you can by following these tips for a better night’s sleep.

Best tips for raising the quality of sleep

  • Cut out blue light-emitting electronics at least one hour before bedtime.  
  • Use blackout curtains if you get light from outside your bedroom windows
  • Lower the temperature in your bedroom between 60F and 67F (15C and 18C)
  • Have a bedtime routine
  • Try raising your body temperature slightly before bed by taking a bath or shower
  • If there is a lot of street noise try a white noise machine (I use a Bluetooth speaker with an old out-of-commission phone to play ocean sounds) 

An old phone and a Bluetooth speaker make a great white noise generator
An old phone and a Bluetooth speaker make a great white noise machine.

Secret #2 – Eat Better

Red meat and vegetables
Flesh and leaf

We all know we have to eat better.  Focusing on whole foods without the processed stuff (i.e. anything that comes in a shelf-stable box) is a literal game changer.  Being a father I’m often cleaning up my kids’ leftovers (AKA “daddy scraps”) which I have to factor into my daily caloric intake.  We’re all doing the best we can and sometimes if I have to eat some chicken nuggets or finish a sandwich I’ll make that sacrifice. 😀

The old cliches are true. Especially as we age our metabolisms slow down. You can’t out train a poor diet. Garbage in, garbage out. Abs are made in the kitchen. ad nauseum.

Best tips for eating better

  • Focus on whole foods (nothing is better than produce, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.)
  • If you have to eat something that comes in a box try to make sure it has 5 ingredients listed on it or less
  • Make sure you can pronounce those ingredients!
  • Shop along the outside edges of the grocery store. That’s where the produce and meat (flesh and leaf) are located. Try to avoid the aisles if possible.
  • If you choose to follow a diet think about something that fits your lifestyle and you can maintain for the long term ( I use intermittent fasting in my life 12/8 sometimes 18/6 sometimes OMAD)
  • Try to get a gauge of the macros required for your fitness goals.  In general I usually just use my hand as a guide.  

Secret #3 – Manage Your Stress

A stressed out man
Stress is a fitness killer.

Manage your stress as much as possible.  Though widely known as the body’s stress hormone, Cortisol has a variety of effects on different functions throughout the body.  Extended high levels of stress increase your cortisol which is catabolic to muscle.  While you may need to see a doctor for a formal diagnosis elevated cortisol can lead to weight gain, irritability, headaches, and decreased immune system function

Stress can come from many places, internally and externally, making it difficult to be completely free from it.  Control how you respond to it.  I personally, use deep breathing and meditation practices to change how I react to stressful situations. 

Best Tips For Managing Your Stress

  • Reduce interactions with toxic individuals
  • Exercise regularly
  • Clean up your nutrition
  • Find time to relax 
  • Engage in hobbies
  • Start deep breathing exercises or meditation practices


So there you go.  These are the top three secrets to unlocking your muscle-building potential even if you’re over 40.  If pharmaceutical companies could distill even one of these into pill form they’d be sitting on a gold mine.  While these are often easier said than done try at least one of the tips in each section and try to stick with it to see if it will make a difference for you.  Personally, as a dad of 2 young boys, I sorely need to optimize my sleep as much as possible.