It’s no myth that it can get a little bit harder to lose weight as we age. However, it is a myth that it’s super hard or even impossible to lose stubborn excess fat.
I’m so tired of hearing people say “When I turned 35 my metabolism slowed down and the fat started to accumulate.” Stop making excuses! It’s possible to lose body fat as you age and it’s definitely no rocket science!
It’s you, not your metabolism!
Yes, it is true that the metabolism usually decreases slightly as we age. Slightly being the operative word.
Meaning, older people burn on average fewer calories than younger people when at rest. However, this is not inevitable. It’s mostly due to a decrease in the lean body mass because they have less muscle mass. Here’s the problem: People get sedentary as they get older and don’t adjust their caloric intake.
Muscle tissue is active and requires energy. Fat, on the other hand, is passive – it functions as storage for energy.
The more lean muscle you can manage to maintain as you age, the better you age, the healthier you are, and the more calories you’ll burn. However, a natural decline in muscle mass and strength occurs. But this doesn’t make it impossible to lose weight.
That’s why it’s so important to stay active as we grow older and to get a decent protein intake.
Most of the weight gain and muscle loss as we age is preventable – and even reversible.
How to lose weight when you get older
As our muscle mass decreases, our caloric needs decrease, too. When it comes to weight loss there is no difference between a 20-year-old and a 50-year-old. Calories are king.
Plus, study after study has shown, that a diet high in protein will lead to better results across the board. Even when consumed calories are equal.
This, in part, comes down to the thermic effect of food. To keep it short, 20-30% of the calories you consume from protein are needed to digest the food. Therefore 200g of protein will increase your daily expenditure by 160-240 kcal. Fat has basically no thermic effect and does not increase your expenditure.
Calories in, calories out still hold true though! But by consuming higher amounts of protein, your overall deficit becomes bigger due to a higher caloric expenditure. Simple math.
The higher amount of protein will also spare muscle on a fat loss diet, which means you’ll not lose as much muscle mass as you would on a diet low in protein (your body will not only burn fat on a deficit but muscle too!). Which is especially important as we age.
So high protein it is. In general, aim for roughly 2g per kg of body weight or 1g per pound of body weight per day. Going a little bit higher than that could be necessary to protect muscles even more, depending on your genetics. But don’t do 300g protein diets like some bodybuilders do! Your kidneys will thank you.
Now that we have protein figured out, we have fat and carbs left. Depending on your body type, genetics and preferences, you should have one of them high and one low. Don’t do high fat AND high carb! Some people do better with high carbs, some better on high fat.
Remember that no hyped food trend should eliminate whole food groups from your diet. And why not eat a very wholesome and nutritious diet and enjoy a chocolate bar every now and then? You don’t have to feel guilty if you crave something sweet.
Furthermore, you don’t have to do any sport to lose weight. Again, caloric deficit is all you need.
However, if you want to workout make sure to focus on weight lifting, instead of cardio. Yes, even the ladies. You won’t get “too muscular”, that’s a myth!
How to build muscle
Listen, it’s never too late to build or rebuild muscle mass.
Let’s take a look at a study done by the University of Oklahoma, where 24 18-22-year-olds and 25 35-50-year-olds followed the same weightlifting routine for 8 weeks.
The results show that the middle-aged men built even a little bit more on average than the younger men.
Furthermore, you can lose body fat while gaining lean muscle mass. This comes down to two things:
- Eat at a moderate calorie deficit for fat loss: Aim for 10-15% below your caloric maintenance level.
- Get stronger in the gym: Focus on heavy compound exercises. When you’re hitting the gym, do squats, deadlifts, military presses and bench presses at least once every week. Aim for a 4-8 rep range, so go heavy! If you train your muscles with not enough intensity, you won’t trigger muscle repair. Which means you might as well stayed at home.
Don’t even think about biceps curls, damn crunches and triceps extensions. That’s not a heavy workout!
See, you can get in shape at any age. Age is not a limit. Here are a few tips for middle-aged people to build those muscles:
Take it easy
Heavy compound weightlifting is the best way to build lean muscle mass. However, it will also demand a lot from your body by putting large amounts of stress on your joints.
If you’re new to weightlifting, start in the 8-10 rep range and stay there until you feel comfortable.
Forget about no pain no gain
If you suffer from any issues, don’t ignore it. Especially when it comes to deadlifts, squats and pressing, you have to stop when you feel any pain. Never try to fight through pain or you might end up injured and have to skip the gym for months.
Instead, work around the pain and try to not put too much stress on hurting body parts.
Rest is important
Not just as we age, but also as younger individuals we need adequate rest to recover properly. If you ignore the signs your body is sending you, you’ll end up overtrained (been there, done that).
Plus, aging can make recovery take slightly longer. Make sure to get plenty of sleep and get enough protein in.