Posted August 27, 2021 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Office
Losing weight is never easy. This is especially true after the age of 50, when you become more susceptible to gaining weight and storing excess body fat. This is attributed to loss of muscle mass and metabolic changes, coupled with the tendency to make poor dietary choices and live a sedentary lifestyle.
As we age, hormonal changes lead to decreased muscle mass. From the onset of menopause, women’s estrogen levels begin to decline, and men experience a decline in testosterone after 50. Estrogen and testosterone are two key muscle mass promoting hormones.
What’s more, a decrease in muscle mass comes with a decline in metabolic rate, or metabolism. Unfortunately, this means even if you’re eating the exact same number of calories that you did at age 40, you can still gain weight.
Combine these frustrating truths with an injury or medical condition, and losing weight might seem downright impossible. However, with a few simple adjustments, you can take back control.
SummaCare offers 5 tips to dropping extra pounds in your 50’s and beyond. Getting older doesn’t necessarily have to mean carrying around extra weight in your waistline.
The more muscle mass you have, the better metabolism you’ll enjoy to burn more calories and help you lose weight.
Regular exercise is vital for weight control and heart health, but in particular, it’s important to include strength training at least twice weekly to build muscle mass and maintain bone health after 50.
Lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing bodyweight exercises are all great ways to build muscle. For instance, simply getting up and moving, to walk, run or swim, on a consistent basis will also build muscle.
Getting enough protein is important when trying to lose weight, whereby building back muscle mass and reversing the decline in metabolism. Good sources of protein include lean meats and fish, beans, eggs and low-fat dairy.
Experts recommend approximately 30% to 40% of your daily calories come from a good protein source. Just be sure you spread your protein intake throughout the day and not all at one time. If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, protein supplements can help.
A healthy diet chock full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins is crucial to warding off extra pounds. But it’s not just about what you eat, but rather when you eat, that matters.
Research has shown intermittent fasting can lead to calorie restriction, fat loss without losing muscle mass, and smaller waistlines, as well as improved blood pressure and resting heart rates.
Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that alternates between fasting and eating on a regular basis. It works by extending the period in which your body has burned through the calories consumed that day and begins burning stored fat.
There are various methods you could try. One approach is the 5:2 method, whereby limiting your calorie intake to 500 - 600 calories one or two days a week; then eat your normal diet the rest of the week. Another approach is the 16/8 method, only eating during an 8-hour window, say from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and fasting the other 16 hours.
In addition to a whole host of health benefits, a good night’s rest contributes to better weight control.
When you’re sleep-deprived, it affects the hormones in your brain that regulate appetite. Lack of sleep not only knocks your appetite hormones out of balance causing you to eat more, but also causes you to have less motivation to get moving. It’s a recipe for weight gain.
The older you get, falling asleep and staying asleep may become more difficult, yet the same amount of hours of sleep is still required regardless. Aim for seven to nine hours each night. If you have problems sleeping at night, catch up on your rest during the day with a short nap.
For many, stress leads to unhealthy behaviors, such as emotional and mindless eating with little motivation to exercise. In addition, researchers have found a body under high stress produces the hormone cortisol. All of these factors at play contribute to weight gain.
So instead of turning to food for comfort, keep your stress in check with breathing exercises, meditation or even aromatherapy. It’s also important to have someone you can turn to in times of high stress.
Whether maintaining a healthy weight is something you’ve battled your entire life or just in your 50’s, there is plenty you can do to maintain a healthy and sustainable weight.