24 Jun Men in Their 20s May Have Some Growing To Do
“Man…when I was in my 20s I could eat whatever I wanted, workout once a week, and pack on muscle like a bull. Now I look sideways at a hot dog and I gain 10 lbs. What the hell?”
Yep. The struggle is real, guys. When we get older we have to work harder to pack on slabs of beef and keep off the layer of belly fat, man boobs, and artery-clogging jiggles. It also takes us a lot longer to recover from injuries, which can slow down our training even more. And don’t even get me started on the sex drive. What is this vicious cycle of nature all about?
Here’s some harsh reality we have to deal with: testosterone levels drop by as much as 50% when we reach age 30, and continue to decline as we age. This leaves the door open to a higher estrogen balance, which leads to things like the dreaded man boobs, lower muscle density, and a whole host of other problems. These things can be fixed and reversed, of course, but we need to acknowledge the reality first.
But there’s another side to this coin. One we often neglect in our constant quest to prove ourselves as men and take flight in the world of our own kingship.
Chemically and biologically, men in their early to mid-20s are still going through puberty.
In terms of biology, our natural environment was harsh. We had to breed while we were still young, and we couldn’t really be expected to live very far beyond our 30s. Our biology reflects this. Our brains, for example, are hardwired for adventure until around age 25 to 28. That’s something that happens when we hit puberty. It gets us excited when we think about risk activities like extreme sports, skydiving, or roller coasters. In most men, that drifts away after age 30, when our care and concern is needed more at home, growing food and providing wisdom instead of chasing food and being mentally primed for combat. Our activities now are rarely life-threatening, but they’re reflected in that change of attitude towards risk.
Studies have actually shown that men who engage in high-risk activities in their 20s, and keep active in those pursuits into their 30s, tend to have higher testosterone levels than their colleagues who don’t continue. However, studies also show that men in their 20s who sustain minor injuries are more likely to ignore those injuries. They can tolerate a higher threshold of pain, and seem to heal miraculously in a very short period of time. But those injury sites become chronic problems as they reach their 30s and 40s.
So, why does this matter?
Well, there are a few key takeaways from this knowledge. First, recognize that men in their 20s are still, biologically, adolescents. This means they will tend to make decisions and engage in activities that are typically adolescent in nature. There’s a reason all us old farts say things like, “if I knew in my 20s this would be a problem now, I would have done things differently.” It’s not a coincidence; nor is it a coincidence that we sometimes see younger men as frustratingly pigheaded in their process and decision making, or men in their 20s see their dads as dull, old-fashioned, and not very much fun. They are, from a very real biological perspective, working with the mindset of boys who just happen to have legal agency over their bad decisions. That’s why they can get obsessed with video games, sports, drinking, fighting, and sex. Because they can.
This tendency can lead to other distortions as well. Divorce rates across the board hover around 50%, but the number increases significantly among those married in their 20s. Why? Because people in that age group seldom really know who they are, or what their place in the world is. Without that knowledge, the expectation to carry this over to a life-long relationship with a single partner becomes overwhelming in its challenges.
Second, when training younger men we have to be very cognizant of the things they put their bodies through. Injury prevention at this age is more important than starting a 401k or savings plan. 15 to 20 years down the road a torn ACL will become chronic bursitis; tendonitis in the rotator cuff will become a level 2 tear; excessive compression in the lumbar spine will become a herniated disc; plantar fasciitis from lifts that are too heavy will become arthritic knees.
We don’t feel these injuries when we’re younger, but they’re money in the pain bank. Injuries charge interest.
Third, we have to recognize that older men can regain some of that extra confidence by understanding they can increase their testosterone levels as well. There are chemical and medical interventions, of course, but there are also physical ones. Less processed food. Fewer estrogen factors in the diet and skin care. And, most importantly, strength and resistance training. The latter, with emphasis on heavy lifts in the legs and glutes, is an almost guaranteed step to enhancing overall testosterone levels, which will improve mood, metabolism, and even sex drive.
Finally, because we’re now aware of the fact that younger men are functioning on a different level and for different reasons, perhaps it’s smarter to continue to mentor them. We like to push them through a job training cycle with the intent that when they’re finished they’ll be experts. In truth, they’re still learning, and they need the guidance not of teachers or instructors, but of leaders. These braves in our tribes are ready to take on tasks for work, but they need real guidance and wisdom to move through the world.
That’s something age, experience, and wisdom can provide.