The Manual - How to look young

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This week's invaluable life advice comes courtesy of Esquire's in-house personal trainer James Mitchell. Here's his guide to looking your most youthful.

As I slip into my mid-thirties I've noticed that my friends are starting to look middle-aged; less hair, more wrinkles, more fat. Aside from stumbling upon the fountain of eternal youth, reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass are two of the most effective ways of putting off that middle-aged look for as long as possible. Here's how.

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1. Know where your calories come from
Diet is without a doubt the most important aspect of "looking" fit. As you get older and your metabolism starts slowing down, understanding where calories come from is the key to keeping your body fat under control. Per gram, fats are the most calorie-dense foods followed by carbohydrates which is why you should make filling up on protein and veg, not pasta and potatoes, a lifetime habit.

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2. Eat more (often, that is)
Most people struggle with hitting the ideal of five meals a day as it can be tricky around a busy work schedule, but there are solutions. I find using a protein shake, or a handful of nuts, mid-morning and mid-afternoon, coupled with a piece of fruit, a reliable way of getting those protein-rich meals in during the day. Don't be surprised if your stomach takes a few days to adjust, so make sure you stay in well-ventilated areas.

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3. Take an interval
The longer you stay on the cardio equipment, the more calories you will burn, right? Actually, current research doesn't back this up. Shorter, higher-intensity interval training is the way to go. The idea is simple - keep the intensity at about 80 per cent for a couple of minutes, then drop down to 60 per cent to recover for another couple of minutes and repeat. Not only will this really help you shift the pounds, but it is also a far more effective way of improving your cardiovascular fitness than steady-state training.

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4. Realise that resistance isn't futile
Contrary to popular belief, weight-training is one of the best ways of reducing body fat. Why? Firstly, when you lift weights at a decent intensity you will burn calories. Second, you keep burning calories after the workout as your body carries out the repair work on your muscles. Finally, carrying a little more muscle leads to a higher metabolism, which, yes, means burning more calories. I tend to favour total body workouts, using either super sets or a circuit style, when trying to lose weight in order to keep time down to a minimum and training intensity high.

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5. Understand overload
One of the main reasons that people fail to achieve their targets with weight training is that they don't get the resistance right. Let's get one thing straight, if you are always comfortable and never struggling when lifting weights you are not using enough weight. In order to work a muscle hard enough to make gains you need to overload it - that means lifting until you lose form and cannot continue. The amount of reps that you do before this happens is the factor that will decide how the muscle develops. Basically, fewer reps equal bigger muscles, and more reps equal better endurance for a leaner - and younger - look.