Beer for dinner: Albert's secret to fitness at 56

Albert Rweyemamu

Albert Rweyemamu poses with dumbbells during his routine exercise at the Workout Warehouse in Nairobi on May 24, 2024. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

“I see you keep fit, and I have a sin to confess,” a sweaty Albert Rweyemamu offers as I prise him away from a leg set for this chat.

“And what’s that?” I implore.

“Don’t judge me, but I do love my beer, you know. I don’t mind having my four bottles daily after work, but that also means I skip dinner. This has been my routine for a couple of years now,” Rweyemamu says with a grin.

It would be hard to believe Albert’s confession if you judged his physique by the scientifically proven fitness principle, ‘you are what you eat.’

At 56, Albert’s body reflects the goals he set many years ago as a young, skinny man—what he describes as a ‘manlier-looking physique’. His pectoral muscles protrude impressively, and his broad shoulders give him a strong appearance, although I note his traps seem to have plateaued.

“Young man, need I remind you I’m 56? I think I’m doing better than most, don’t you agree?” Albert retorts with another grin.

The passionate rancher’s lower body physique is also a testament to the strength training work he has been putting in.

Developing leg muscles is crucial for achieving a more masculine appearance and overall posture; the Ugandan expatriate is well aware of this. This is why dumbbell walking lunges are one of his favourite leg workouts.

Albert Rweyemamu

Albert Rweyemamu doing Leg Press workout during his routine exercise at the Workout Warehouse in Nairobi on May 24, 2024. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

“They not only help build the quad muscles but also improve one’s stability and functionality,” he offers.

Grabbing the 25-kilo dumbbells (each) for a demo, Albert, an insurer by profession, strikes a power victory pose, his forearm veins bulging. His biceps are taut and slightly detailed. He looks like an anatomical drawing and as if he could pull a truck out of a marshland.

The reserved insurer may not look younger than his age, but he looks absolutely in shape, in his 50s.

Skinny young man

Sometime in the 1990s, a younger Albert left his home in Uganda for India to further his studies. Everything felt right except for his body.

“I was too skinny, weighing about 60 kilos. Now I weigh 83, which I guess is my ideal weight. I honestly didn’t feel confident being that skinny; I craved that manlier, masculine physique and that’s what got me to the gym,” Albert recalls.

“Besides getting strong, there is always something more about a good physique that is unique. For instance, when you suit up or dress up, there is that aura and confidence that comes with it,” he points out.

Returning home, the compliments on his newfound frame were astounding and motivating. But life got in the way.

“Back home, I continued hitting the gym, and at some point, I married and got comfortable. I partied a lot and ate everything—lots of nyama choma and beer. You know, all the things you do while you are young,” he laughs.

Before he knew it, Albert says he had ‘ballooned’ to 105 kilos, the heaviest he has ever been.

As he planned to return to the gym, having lost his way, Albert again found himself on a plane, this time to the United Kingdom for his Masters. While in the UK, he had hoped to replicate his India blueprint.

Albert Rweyemamu

Albert Rweyemamu doing Deadlift workout during his routine exercise at the Workout Warehouse in Nairobi on May 24, 2024. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

“That never happened. Instead, I lost so much weight that when I came back, everybody thought I was sick. In the UK, the culture shock hit me hard. I couldn’t find the food I was accustomed to. In the UK, it’s all about sandwiches. Add that to the stress of studies, and I barely ate. My body got accustomed to one meal a day,” he narrates.

Beer for dinner

As a young man who struggled to bulk, Albert was never really bothered with what he ate. He ate anything he could find.

That changed after turning 50.

“With age, a lot happens in our bodies. Now in my 50s, I am more conscious about what I eat. I don’t do wheat at all—no bread, chapatis or cakes, none of that. And there is no dinner for me; I only eat two meals a day.”

For breakfast, vegetables, eggs, and beans (not baked beans, he emphasises) suffice. The next meal, usually between 4 and 6 pm, is the Ugandan staple of mashed matoke and beans with beef on the side.

“I own a ranch back home; that means plenty of meat. I used to do a lot of nyama choma, but I have since drastically scaled down on my consumption. What I enjoy most of the time now is a good sirloin steak.”

“And what about the beer?” I ask.

“Ooh! I would say this compensates for the wheat I don’t consume, haha! I drink a very specific beer called IPA beer, and it’s for three reasons. First, it’s not easy to find, meaning if I can’t find it, I won’t have a bender,” he laughs.

“That’s why it’s slightly expensive compared to other beers. I only know of two manufacturers of IPA here in Kenya. A bottle costs around Sh400,” Albert says.

He adds: “The other reason is that its alcohol content percentage is high, between 6-20 percent compared to the rest, so I can only take a few bottles, and I am good. And lastly, it comes in less quantity, about 330ml compared to the others. That means I don’t consume a lot.”
Albert confesses that he doesn’t mind enjoying his beer every day.

Albert Rweyemamu

Albert Rweyemamu doing dumbbell walking lunge workout during his routine exercise at the Workout Warehouse in Nairobi on May 24, 2024. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

“It’s what I take instead of having dinner. This is just my thing.”

A bad swimmer

Albert has picked up over the years regarding fitness. He summarises them as follows: “Be intentional,” “Be consistent,” and “Be comfortable.”

His workout plan incorporates a lot of activities.

“Over the years, I have learned that no matter how fit you are, if you subject your body to a different kind of activity, you will find it difficult because what happens is that you shock your body. If you stick to a routine, your body gets accustomed to it. That’s why I do strength training; I do a lot of running, go for hikes, and swim even though I am not a good swimmer. That struggle when swimming shocks the body, and in the end, you see results. It has to be a combination of all these things.”

While most people his age suffer from lifestyle diseases, Albert argues this is avoidable.

“We tend to be lazy as we age. If you can walk, then don’t use an Uber. Take the stairs instead of the lift. We were created to be mobile. You constantly have to subject your body to some form of movement and physical activities,” argues the insurer, who at some point suffered from gout.

“There was a time I had gout, but I never set foot in the hospital. Somehow, the conditions just vanished. I can’t remember the last time I fell ill,” he says.

To his agemates struggling with lifestyle ailments, Albert is confident they can improve their situation.

“You just need to be intentional about what you are doing. Consistency is another thing; that means showing up even when you don’t want to. I struggle with swimming, but I still show up. You also need to be comfortable with the activity you engage in; if you don’t fancy weight training, run or walk, and over time, it becomes a habit and a lifestyle.”

His fitness lifestyle comes at a financial cost.

“I love investing in gym kits or just fitness gear. I spend about Sh40,000 or more on gym kicks whenever I travel abroad alone. Sometimes I buy more than I need, but I find that fulfilling- investing in yourself, in a lifestyle you love,” Albert concludes.

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