As Beatles lovers, Barbara and I have sometimes laughed about what it would be like when we turned sixty-four. If you’re a Beatles fan, you know why.
Their song When I’m Sixty-Four is a story about a young man wondering if the love of his life will still cherish him when he’s sixty-four. The man recognizes that growing older changes you. He sings,
“When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine.”
Then he laments,
“Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four”
Well, at sixty-four, Barbara and I still need each other, and we still feed each other. And, as you can see from her recipes, I get fed pretty good.
As far as the negative effects of aging go, we’re not experiencing a lot of downside to being sixty-four. We’re both stronger, healthier, and have more vitality than we had 20 years ago.
However, health officials are constantly reminding us that there is a downside to being 64. We’re told that because of our age, we’re close to that “high risk” category for catching “bad things”. You know what I mean.
That may be so. But it’s not really a major concern for us. Here’s why.
This recent virus has taught us that maintaining good health into old age is critical for helping us survive stressful health events. This is obvious when we consider that a large percentage of older individuals who succumbed to the illness had other health issues such as diabetes, pulmonary disease, heart disease or obesity.
So, over the last 10 years, Barbara and I have done much to strengthen our bodies so that even if we did “catch something bad”, we could quickly heal from it, God willing. And, yes, we also still take all the sensible precautions that are recommended.
But our major strategy for protecting ourselves from the harms of a stressful health event in our older years is to strengthen our bodies to heal quickly or fight off any bad things that may come our way.
In this post, I’ll tell you how we’re doing that.
Two major keys to maintaining good health
In order to maintain good health into your older years, health professionals have stressed two lifestyle areas that you must try to optimize.
The first, of course, is a good diet. Second, health professionals have also stressed our need for a regular exercise program.
Regular exercise is so critical to good health that recently the Academy of Medical Sciences has called it a “miracle cure”.
Since we haven’t shared our current diets and workout programs recently, we thought we’d take the time to give you an update.
As I mentioned before, we don’t feel like 64. Barbara certainly doesn’t look a day over 39 (see why I’m her DH). We’re both stronger than we were at 34 years old, and neither one of us takes any prescription meds.
Okay, let’s get to it. Barb first.
I’ll start by introducing a sensitive issue. Barbara says be very careful when discussing this topic. Okay, I can do that.
Maintaining a healthy weight has been a central focus of our diet plan for at least 10 years.
For Barbara, however, it’s been a 40 year battle. One that she’s actually won! She’s maintained an ideal weight for about 3 years now. She fluctuates about 2.5 pounds in either direction depending upon the season.
Nope, I’m not going to tell you her weight! But it’s ideal. Not only according to me but according to the ideal weight charts from 1960.
This is how she does it:
We don’t count macronutrients anymore. We’ve come to know approximately how much carbohydrates, protein and fat are contained in our food. And since we know what our targets are for our macros, we eat accordingly.
Here’s a general analysis of Barb’s diet.
Limiting carbs is Barbara’s central focus. Her carb intake is always lower than 40 grams a day. Some days lower than thirty. Her carbs come from low glycemic vegetables, but she does like blueberries and the occasional apple.
There is a caveat here. We do drink red wine occasionally. We are currently enjoying the wines from Dry Farms Wines. They are billed as a keto-friendly wine because of their low sugar content. So far they haven’t had any effect on her weight.
Both of us are very conscious of our protein intake. Maintaining good muscle mass is extremely important at our age. In order to do this, we must get adequate protein intake.
Barbara consumes at least 30 grams of protein three times a day. This is the minimum amount someone our age needs. We both eat high quality protein such as beef and chicken. To find out why adequate protein is important for older adults see my post here.
Several years ago Barbara and I went on a ketogenic diet. The problem here is that some keto diets tend to be high in fat. She found out that too much fat in her diet is a no-no!
At first she lost significant weight, but then hit a plateau and couldn’t lose any more. She found that when she cut down her fat intake, the excess weight came off like butter. Maybe it was the extra butter in her coffee, lol.
There is a caveat here as well. She does take 1 tablespoon of MCT oil everyday. Her mom suffered from early Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and she really wants to guard against that. MCT oil is converted directly into ketones in our body. Researchers now know that ketones are an excellent fuel source for the brain in lieu of glucose.
One theory on the cause of AD is the brain’s inability to use glucose as a fuel. This is why AD is commonly called Type 3 diabetes. If the brain can’t utilize glucose, it will essentially be starved and begin to break down. But ketones can replace glucose as a fuel. See my post on Alzheimer’s here.
Remember, though, oil is a type of fat. To minimize its dreaded effect of causing weight gain, Barb puts in some extra time on the treadmill or goes for a walk outside.
One note here is that Barb is 100% gluten-free. She doesn’t have celiac, but three of us in the family have non-celiac gluten sensitivity so she just refrains as well.
Barbara tried intermittent fasting (24 – 48 hours) several years ago. She found that this didn’t help her significantly. What does appear to help is time delayed eating. We generally allow at least 16 hours of fasting between our last meal of the day and our first of the next day.
An overall low-insulin producing diet
Overall, Barbara’s diet can be characterized as a low-insulin producing diet. By limiting high glycemic carbs, her overall glucose intake is low.
Remember that one of insulin’s primary jobs is to transport glucose out of your bloodstream and bring it to cells for energy. If you consume a lot of complex high glycemic carbs over a span of years, you’ll definitely gain weight. I didn’t have to tell you that, right?
But this continued consumption of carbs will also cause an enormous flow of glucose into your bloodstream. That means your pancreas is going to secrete huge amounts of insulin. Over time, this over secretion of insulin can lead to a condition called insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance has been highly associated with Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
As I mentioned, since Barb has a family history of AD, she wants to maintain good insulin sensitivity.
Also, as we age, our body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases and subsequently our glycemic control decreases. That means your chances of developing type 2 diabetes is increased. It’s one of those consequences of making it to your golden years.
So increasing insulin sensitivity is key to maintaining good health, at any age!
Okay, I’ll mention one more caveat. We’ll both have a small piece of 88% dark chocolate once a day with our green tea. The sugar content is pretty negligible, but the taste is divine.
Let’s take a look at supplements.
Barb swears by her collagen supplement. She says it keeps her nails strong and her hair lustrous. Who am I to argue with that? She adds one scoop a day to her first cup of coffee.
Okay, let’s look at vitamins. We both take 5000 IU of vitamin D3 a day. Definitely make sure you get your Vitamin D levels checked. It’s critical to your health. Many people who didn’t do well with the current virus had low vitamin D levels.
We both also take magnesium daily. If you’re on a low-carb diet, you need extra magnesium.
That’s about it for Barb’s diet. Let’s move on to exercise.
Barbara’s exercise program
Barbara and I have been going on a 30 minute brisk walk five days a week for about 10 years. When the weather is bad, she’ll
use our treadmill instead.
While Barbara really enjoys walking, she’ll tell you that it’s not the most important part of her exercise program.
You see, Barb is also a strength trainer. She’s been doing barbell and dumbbell training for over 5 years. (In my next post I’ll explain why strength training is so important for us older adults).
This is her routine (all exercises are done once a week):
Bench Press: Barbara is currently doing 4 sets x 3 repetitions x 45 pounds. That’s an olympic bar with no weights on it. She was up to 65 pounds but reduced after she hurt her shoulder.
No, she didn’t hurt it by lifting weights. I think it was from holding, with one hand, her humongous Lodge cast iron skillet. She’s said she’s feeling better now and is ready to start increasing her weights.
Squat: Because of her shoulder, she had been doing bodyweight squats with a 25 pound weight. She had been doing 3 sets of 5 repetitions. This week she went back to the 45 pound olympic bar for squats with no more shoulder pain. She’ll be gradually adding more weight to get back up to her max of 70 pounds.
Barbara used to have terrible knee pain. Now it’s a thing of the past. She attributes a big part of this to squats.
Overhead Press: She does 3 sets x 5 repetitions with 15 pound dumbbells. She has no pain at all with this exercise now.
Deadlift: Barbara is actually an excellent deadlifter. She was up to 130 pounds for 3 reps. Deadlifts are necessary to build up overall body strength. Unfortunately Barb’s recent shoulder injury prevented her from doing them. However, she says she’s ready to get back to “pulling a lot of weight again.” That means heavy deadlifting in powerlifting lingo.
She’s a pip.
Okay I think that covers her diet and exercise program. If you have any questions, shoot her a message.
First, I’m 100% gluten-free. Fifteen years ago, after trying everything to recover from years of severe chronic fatigue syndrome, I learned about the problems that gluten could cause in the areas of intestinal impermeability. This permeability can allow all kinds of toxins to enter your bloodstream and affect your immune system.
Also, it turned out I had many of the symptoms associated with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. So I ditched the gluten.
Did I feel better immediately? No, it was just the beginning of the journey.
The problem with going GF was that I’m a carboholic. At the time, manufacturers were coming out with their new GF brands (alternatives to wheat products), and I was consuming them like crazy. Thus I ballooned up to 193 pounds. Unfortunately, most of that weight was in my abdomen.
Okay, long story short. I discovered the paleo diet and lost about 10 pounds. I also started feeling much better. Read my post on the differences between a GF and paleo diet.
Then I went low carb and lost another 10 pounds and was feeling even better. I was well enough to even start lifting weights.
Even though I was feeling much better, I still had a big problem. I was carrying too much weight around my abdomen.
My skinny-fat body type
I have a classic skinny-fat body type. Others call it TOFI (thin-outside-fat-inside). The problem with this body type is that while you may not look obese on the outside, on the inside there’s a disproportionate amount of fat stored in your abdomen.
Many skinny-fat individuals also have a lack of lean muscle mass.
So my goal was to see if I could improve my health in this area. Since I was already low carb (< 70 carbs/day), I had to do something more drastic.
I started reading about the benefits of the ketogenic diet (I was consuming <25 grams of carbs/day). This was 3 years ago. See my post on keto diet here.
So I went keto. Within 3 months, I was down to 163 pounds, lost most of the fat around my waist, was making consistent strength gains, and I FELT GREAT. I wasn’t 100%, but I was getting there.
A year and a half ago, I went on a carnivore diet. Have you heard of that diet? I eat a 95% animal based diet.
Because the carnivore diet is the ultimate elimination diet it has lately gained a lot of popularity. So if you have any kind of suspected autoimmune problems, it may be a way to help in that area.
The second reason is because I wanted to increase my protein intake. I was still lifting heavy, and you need protein to make muscle. Also older individuals need more protein, not less protein, than younger people. See my post on protein here.
Now, I’ll get into some specifics.
My diet is protein centered. I consume at least 40 grams of protein three times a day.
Breakfast protein: (like Barb I eat at about 12PM) 3 eggs, bacon or ham, some chicken or ground beef.
Lunch Protein: ground beef (minimum 7 oz.)
Dinner Protein: one of the following — steak, chicken, ground beef, liver
I will supplement with 20 grams of whey protein after working out. I also take a scoop of collagen at 12PM.
There’s been some controversy over the fact that too much protein can damage your kidneys. This recent review says this belief has not been scientifically proven.
My carbs are usually under 25 grams/day. I will have some broccoli or zucchini daily but not a lot. I may have a small portion of white rice after a heavy bench session just to get a glycogen refeed for my muscles.
My fat intake is generally from the food I eat and whatever fat Barb cooks with (olive oil or butter).
I’ll have some dark chocolate daily and some non-fat Greek yogurt after dinner. Like Barb, I’ll occasionally have a small glass of the low-sugar wine.
I take 5000 units of vitamin D3 daily. Magnesium is another important supplement, especially if you’re on a low-carb diet. I take this one. It’s a large tablet and little more difficult to swallow than the one Barb takes.
Like Barbara, I take vitamin K2 daily.
As you can see, my diet, like Barb’s, is insulin friendly. There’s not a lot of glucose in it.
John’s exercise program
Like Barbara, I go for a brisk walk (3.5 mph) at least 5 days a week. While walking will give you some cardiovascular and psychological benefit, it will not build muscle to any significant amount.
And maintaining good muscle mass is critical to aging well. See my upcoming post.
In order to maintain and even increase muscle mass as you age, you must do some kind of resistance training. Yes, you can build muscle even into your eighties.
Currently I’m using the Wendler 5/3/1 barbell program. This program focuses on four main lifts – deadlift, squats, bench press, and overhead press. Each lift is done on one day. So I lift heavy at least four days a week. Each session takes about 40 min.
These are my current 1 repetition maximum lifts. I’m 64 years old and weigh 164 pounds. Just to note, I’ve been lifting for over 6 years. I started by lifting 20 pound dumbbells.
Deadlift: 300 pounds
Squat: 205 (yes, my legs are my weakest link ? )
Bench Press: 190
Overhead Press: 115
These totals represent the strongest I’ve been in over 30 years.
After I became strong enough to use a barbell (45 pounds), I used the Starting Strength Method. In my opinion, this is the best strength training program available for someone who wants to get started, regardless of age. Of course, you should always first check with your doctor before you start any exercise program!
As I’m about to turn 64, I will say that I feel the best that I have in 30 years. I’m stronger and have more vitality than I thought possible only a short 6 years ago.
Okay, so these are our strategies for aging well. We’ve incorporated these into our overall lifestyle so it’s not really difficult to follow.
So far, we think it’s working well. Thanks for reading!
God bless and have a great week!
This article originally appeared on glutenfreehomestead.com.