Is Losing Weight Harder As You Get Older? And What's The Best Way To Lose Weight Over 40?
As you get older, things seem tougher than they used to. Waking up in the morning with more creaks, bangs, and pops than ever before. Joints aching after an over-zealous workout. And, of course, the eternal struggle to lose weight. But why is it so much harder to lose weight over 40? Is there something you need to adjust or tweak with your nutrition? Or is it simply the case that Mother Nature's a bitch?
As I approach 40 myself (38 at the time of writing) I'm becoming increasingly aware that my body isn't quite what it used to be. I'm not ready for the scrap heap yet, and I'm not sizing up my 6' x 2' wooden box, but I'm conscious of the need to adjust.
And you may well be in the same, slightly-battered boat. Maybe wondering why it's so hard to lose weight over 40. So, in this article, you'll get the answers you need.
Here's what you're going to find out over the next few minutes;
- Why your metabolism is working against you and what you need to do about it.
- How inactivity could be your worst enemy.
- The role of hormones and how they make it more difficult to lose weight over 40.
- The fundamentals of optimal training and nutrition for the over 40's.
So if this sounds like what you need, put the pipe, slippers, and zimmer frame to one side. Because you're not done yet. I'm going to show you there's still plenty of life in the old dog. And hey, you might still be able to show these youngsters a thing or two.
Your Metabolism Starts To Slow
Ah, metabolism. Many people's favourite subject when it comes to losing weight, whatever their age. Often, a slow metabolism is cited as the sole cause for a lack of southerly movement on the scales. Either that, or it's a damaged metabolism. But what's the real deal here?
Your metabolism does slow down as you get older. So if you want to lose weight over 40, you need to figure out what that means for you, and adjust what you're doing accordingly.
Let me demonstrate by using an example.
As you can see, your metabolism slows progressively with age by around 47 calories every 10 years. And while this example, doesn't take into account changes in body composition, it does provide a rough indication of the changes you might experience.
In real terms, you may experience a slow down in metabolism to the tune of one small piece of fruit, every 10 years. In the grand scheme of things, it's nothing. A 15 minute power walk would burn more than that, and steady your metabolic ship.
So, yes your metabolism WILL slow down. And yes you may need to eat slightly less, or move more. But it's not the huge difference maker you might think.
You Become Less Active
There's a tendency to become less active, the older you get. At 20, you were like a dog with two dicks. Running around with boundless energy. Like the Duracell bunny on a cocktail of MDMA and PCP, nothing could stop you. Out drinking all night, then up first thing in the morning to hit the gym and do it all over again.
But then you hot your 30's. Hangovers became unpleasant, as did smashing yourself in the gym with every workout.
Certainly, as you get older, your priorities and attentions shift. You have responsibilities, like a mortgage and a family. You know... adult stuff. And so, your health and fitness priorities may shift too. Of course, you still want to look great and be in shape, but your motivations change.
It's less about impressing the opposite sex. And more about being leaner, healthier, and stronger, so you can live life to the fullest.
Although, in the midst of those desires, it's common for activity levels to decrease. The long hours at work mean your day-to-day activity is not what it used to be. And making time for the gym becomes a challenge.
Simply put, the realities of adulthood often make it harder to lose weight over 40, because activity decrease. And as activity decreases, so does the amount of calories you burn. But the amount of calories you consume, never really balances out as quick, right?
What About Muscle Mass Loss?
You might think that muscle mass loss is a big issue as you get older. And with less muscle, that means burning slightly fewer calories, which further impacts the all-important energy balance equation. But while there's some natural muscle loss over time, the situation isn't all doom and gloom.
Rates of sarcopenia (muscle loss) increase as you get older. With the most noticeable increases starting after the ages of 40-50, and becoming most significant in the 60-70 year old range. This issue is also most prevalent in post-menopausal women.
However, these increased rates of muscle loss only apply to 'untrained' people, ie those not lifting some heavy-ass weight and making 'ze gains'.
So what's the issue here? What can we learn to prevent your gains from wasting away as you get older?
The Causes Of Sarcopenia
Muscle loss isn't caused by decreasing rates of muscle protein synthesis (the building of new muscle) or increased rates of muscle protein breakdown. As these remain largely unchanged. So what IS at play here?
Well, it's more to do with your muscles not responding to the anabolic stimulus like they used to. Be that resistance training, essential amino acids (EAA's), or a resistance to the anabolic action of insulin.
What About Training Itself
"Ah!...Ah!...! I believe them bones are me." Sang the great Layne Staley (seriously, how many nutritionists are getting Alice In Chains, grunge references into their articles?).
Whilst you might think the song is a reference to your mortality and the fact we're all going to die some day, I think ol' Layne was suffering with getting older and a couple of tough leg days. And those bones started to feel it.
It's not ageist to say, it's a fact of life, adjusting you training volume and intensity as you get older is a MUST. So if you want to lose weight over 40 and stay in shape, you'll need to make logical adjustments.
Training with a structured plan that increases volume over time is sensible. Regular deload weeks are essential. Because you simply can't increase volume infinitely. Your joints need a rest. And don't be frightened to modify your workouts if you pick up a strain or niggle. It's important to listen to your body.
In fact, these tips are things you should be doing anyway, regardless of age. However, you could say there's less room for error as you get older.
Essentially, it comes down to listening to your body and not treating it with the complete disrespect you may have done in your 20's.
Lose Weight Over 40? Those Fucking Hormones Are At It Again
Ladies, I'm going to start with you. The menopause screws with your hormones and there's not much you can do about it. And I know that sounds harsh, but you've come to know and love I only speak the blunt truth.
You're likely to experience a significant reduction in estrogen, which can cause your fat distribution to change. These changes lead to a less 'female' gynoid fat distribution and a more 'male' android fat distribution (I told you anything Android was shit). But what the hell does this mean?
In general terms, it means more fat distribution around the midsection. So you could well be in a calorie deficit and losing body from your whole body, yet seemingly 'gaining' body fat around your tummy. But, in actual fact, it's merely a redistribution of body fat from other areas, such as the hips and thighs. So on the plus side... #bootygains.
And guys, you don't get off scot-free either. Over time, testosterone production is likely to decline to a degree. And that might affect those gains too.
So, when it comes to hormones, what can you actually do, if anything?
The mildly depressing truth, is not that much. Outside of specific hormone replacement therapy, your options are limited to the basics. Resistance training, healthy body fat levels, maximise sleep, and maintain a healthy diet, full of essential vitamins and minerals. Boring, but true.
The Fundamentals Of Training And Nutrition To Lose Weight Over 40
When it comes to trying to lose weight over 40, things do get more challenging. But you can maximise your efforts.
First things first is the calorie deficit. Despite reductions in hormones and potential fat redistribution, the principles of a calorie deficit still apply. So calculate how many calories you need to eat in order to lose weight, and stick with it for long enough to results. Not forgetting to monitor and adjust in those first few weeks so you get things dialled in.
But what about everything else?
Ok. So there are a number of studies conducted on the "elderly" that could be somewhat useful here. And while you're not technically classed as elderly until you're at least 60, there's learning to be taken that may help now, and as you age.
Adequate protein intake will be important for the retention of muscle mass (alongside resistance training), with adequate leucine becoming increasingly important with age. In addition to that that, proven supplements such as fish oil and creatine have a positive effect. With fish oil promoting increased muscle mass and strength, as well as greater muscle sensitivity in women. And creatine supporting the prevention of sarcopenia.
So you can see, the nutrition and training practices you may already be adopting have benefit as you age, albeit with slightly different physiological impacts.
Bottom line, calorie deficit, protein, resistance training, sleep, fish oil, and creatine, work now AND in the future.
Although, do bear in mind that these recommendations don't take into consideration any illnesses and diseases you may be more susceptible to, as you get older.
The Bottom Line On The Best Way To Lose Weight Over 40
Trying to lose weight over 40 does come with additional challenges, but it's very much possible to live a lean, healthy, and happy life at any age.
Despite the challenges of trying to lose weight over the age of 40, the most basic of principles still apply. A calorie deficit, combined with a diet rich in nutrients is always going to lead to the most significant results. Maintaining a level of resistance training and protein intake will help with body composition and prevention of sarcopenia in later life. Then, maximising health nutrition through adequate sleep, reducing stress, and supplementing with proven products, such as creatine and fish oil (if not already in your natural diet) will ensure you're doing everything possible.
After that, it's a case of time and patience doing their thing, which is often the hardest part of the whole equation.
So stick the middle finger up at fat loss. Because it's possible at any age. And hey, life begins at 40, right?
Your Next Step To Mastering Nutrition And Shaping A Leaner, Healthier, Stronger Body
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
If you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.