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Muscle Size and Cardio Lies

Train each body-part very intensely but only once a week. Take a moderate-pace walk or a leisurely swim every third or fourth day—skip the bike altogether.

Q: I’m a 54-year-old man who’s been lifting weights and riding a stationary bike six days a week for the past 15 years. I’ve put on some muscle; however, I can’t get my abs to show and keep my size. When I follow the advice of many bodybuilders to slowly cut out a lot of carbohydrates, increase protein, limit fats and pick up the cardio, I lose almost all of my muscle mass, and I still can’t see my abs. Is there something wrong with me, or am I missing something?

A: For most men, accumulating bodyfat around the waist is very dangerous—especially when you’re in your 40s or older. The longer that fat stays there, the less your chance of getting it all off. Plus, it stretches the skin—especially in the lower abdomen. I usually ask people when they last saw their abs. The longer ago it was, the harder it will be to diet away midsection fat and not lose muscle. 

I don’t believe in doing too much cardio—especially when restricting calorie intake. You lose muscle and retain fat. Basically, the more muscle you carry, the more fat you burn, even at rest. So riding a bike every day when trying to get ripped is the exact opposite of what you need to do.

Find the most leverage-advantageous exercises for each bodypart and stick with them for about a year. In other words, don’t follow anyone else’s routine—create your own according to the biomechanics of your body.

Eat 1 1/2 to two grams of protein for every lean pound you’re carrying. Let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and have 20 percent bodyfat. That means you have 160 pounds of lean mass, which requires 240 to 329 grams of protein a day—divided over three or four meals. Now multiply the number of protein grams by 1.25 to find your carbohydrate grams per day. Make sure that you get the vast majority of those carbohydrates in the form of steamed vegetables; you may be able to have one or two small pieces of fruit. 

For fats take in small amounts of monounsaturated nuts and molecularly distilled fish oils. Don’t eat any saturated fat at all. Studies have concluded that you need to overindulge in good calories every 18 to 20 days to keep the furnace of metabolism burning efficiently. On those days you should still stick with good, real, food—such as grapes, nuts, watermelon. Stay away from all processed food and all types of bread and pasta. 

Train each body-part very intensely but only once a week. Take a moderate-pace walk or a leisurely swim every third or fourth day—skip the bike altogether.

It will take time. I put on too much weight over the past four or five years due to a severe injury; however, after two years of dieting and training, I’m seeing my abs come in again—along with a lot of other muscular detail. My advice is to be really strict and stick with that plan. You may go down in weight at first—and lose a bit of muscle—but I believe that if you stay exactly with the program, you’ll find yourself building muscle without the fat as time goes on. The keys are to train intensely but briefly; eat healthfully, but only real foods; increase calories once every 18 days for just that day; and be sure you get enough protein, vegetables and nuts. IM

 Editor’s note: Contact Paul Burke via e-mail at [email protected]. Burke has a master’s degree in integrated studies from Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He’s been a champion bodybuilder and arm wrestler, and he’s considered a leader in the field of over-40 fitness training. You can purchase his book, Burke’s Law—a New Fitness Paradigm for the Mature Male, from Home Gym Warehouse. Call (800) 447-0008, or visit His “Burke’s Law” training DVD is also now available.

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