I hate to break it to you ladies, but if you’ve been skirting by on a not so perfect diet, too much wine, late nights, and not taking care of yourself, you’re in for a surprise once you leave the 30’s behind! Youth has this wonderful way of allowing us to “get away with” many unhealthy habits. But the body is in fact taking stock! Truthfully, you may not even notice a huge difference in your 40’s, but I promise that the foundations you lay down now, will dictate how your 50s and 60s go!
There are many reasons why we tend to gain weight more easily as we age, and why it’s even harder to get it off. It’s not like our bodies just shut down after 40, although it may seem like that sometimes! But it is true that things do move a bit… “slower”. How the body reacts to age is very individual, but in general we tend to see a trend toward slow weight gain over the years, and an increasingly difficult time trying to lose weight.
Studies indicate that we can lose up to 8% of muscle mass every decade after 40! And the decline really worsens after 60. With the slight loss in muscle mass as the years go by, we will see a subsequent lowering of the metabolism. And as we all know, muscle is very metabolically active. So it stands to reason that the less we have of it, the less fat we’ll be burning! So what does that mean for you? Get yourself into the gym and lift weights! You can significantly slow down and even stop age related muscle loss if you regularly lift weights. But you need to really challenge the muscle. I’m not talking 5 lb dumbbells here and there. You need to follow the progressive overload principle – start with a weight you’re comfortable with and can lift safely for 10-15 reps, for about 2-3 sets. But as it becomes easier, you NEED to go heavier. You will not stimulate new muscle growth if you continue to lift the same amount weight year in and year out. If you need guidance with this, find yourself a trainer and learn proper form. Get yourself a program and stick to it. I can’t stress the importance of this enough!
As we move further along into our 50s and 60s, we may also inadvertently move less in our day to day activities. As we’re heading into retirement, there may be a lot more sitting around than there used to be. With less running around and being “busy”, we’re just not getting the same amount of daily movement. This overall reduction in activity burns less calories overall and therefore makes it easier to gain weight, and harder to maintain the weight you had in your younger more active years. This is were we can consciously add in more NEAT into our day. NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Essentially it’s all the calories we’re burning when we’re not “working out”. Just by fidgeting, parking further away and walking to the store, doing laundry, vacuuming, walking with a friend, etc you can significantly improve your body composition. This has been well studied, so don’t scoff at the idea of smaller movements making an impact. Don’t get lazy ladies, keep moving in little ways during the day because it truly does add up!
With less muscle, and less overall movement, we definitely need to look at our total food intake as well. The metabolism isn’t what it used to be in our twenties ladies. So it stands to reason that we can’t eat like we did in our 20’s either! Gone are the days when cheat meals (or cheat weekends) can easily be “burned off”. Nope, sorry! We have to tighten the reigns a bit and stick to a healthy and balanced food plan most of the time. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a treat here and there, it just means we can’t indulge the way we used to and expect our weight to stay the same. This holds true for alcohol too. Are you sipping wine in the evening to relax? Does one glass turn into two? This seemingly innocent habit can wreak havoc on your fat loss efforts. Not only are you consuming excess sugars with every glass, you’re also likely to eat more than you would otherwise. PLUS, the liver needs to work on clearing the alcohol from the body, so it essentially shuts down all other fat burning metabolic processes until the alcohol is dealt with. So not only are you drinking and eating excess calories, you’ve just stopped burning those calories as fuel and are now storing them as fat!
On the flip side, we need to make sure we’re eating ENOUGH food. Sometimes with less movement comes a lowered appetite. In particular women are notorious for skipping out on protein. If you plan on building muscle in the weight room, you’re going to need to up the protein! The RDA for protein is a measly 0.8gm per kg of bodyweight. So a 145 lb female would need about 52 grams of protein. However, that’s how much you should consume just to keep the body from malnutrition and sickness. It is NOT the amount you need to be a healthy and thriving women! Research actually suggests that we would benefit from doubling that number, or even taking it a bit higher. Upping your protein will help keep you satisfied, keep blood sugar and appetite levels even, help you recover and build muscle, and make fat loss and/or weight maintenance SO much easier! A good place to start is to make sure you’re getting 30 grams of protein with 3 meals a day. That’s a total of 90 gm. Still not that high, but much better then 52 grams! If you need help in figuring out your protein intake requirements and creating a sustainable food plan for yourself, a nutrition coach may be just what you need.
And finally, as we age our sleep can also change. This happens more so as we hit our 50s, when perimenopause and menopause are upon us, but it can really happen at any stage of life too. Sleep is super important in regulating our appetites, our energy, and our hormones. In fact it easily could be the number one thing on anyone’s list at any stage of life! In our 40s we’re typically at a very career driven stage in our lives, or we’re running around taking care of growing children. We can put sleep off in order to get things done or to relax after the house is quiet at night. This sets us up for bad patterns later on in life. Lack of sleep can significantly affect our weight, so turn off the Netflix, put the work away, and get yourself to bed! If you struggle with sleep due to hormonal shifts, a few key sleep hygiene habits might help. Try some soothing essential oils, shut all devices off an hour before bed, do some light stretching, take a bath, meditate, etc. We must get the body into a calm and relaxed state in order to fell asleep easier.
SO, lets recap! 5 Things You Can do To Prevent Weight Gain After 40:
- Lift Weights, and make sure they’re heavy enough!
- Keep moving – NEAT
- Watch your total food intake (and skip the “cheat days” and daily glass of wine)
- Eat enough protein – MIN 90gm per day
- Get your zzzzz’s
And let’s be honest ladies, if you’re in your 20’s and 30’s, this all pertains to you as well! We think we can get away with things in our younger years, we feel somewhat invincible. But trust me, it catches up with you!
Have questions? Are you relating with any (or all) of the above and are between 40-60 years old? I’d love to help you out! Send me an email and let’s chat!
In Wellness, Krista