Q. Is it harder to lose weight the older you get?
There are a number of factors as to why it becomes far more of a challenge to lose weight as you get older. I for one can not get away with the treats and junk food I once consumed in my 20’s if I want to maintain a trim physique at the ripe old age of 36 (I know 36 isn’t old).
The truth of the matter is, there is clear evidence that once you hit the age of 30 it becomes significantly harder to maintain a slim build and keep the weight off. This is for several reasons, ranging from losing muscle mass with age to producing less of the sex hormones, such as oestrogen or testosterone, that once were at a very high level. True oestrogen for women only starts to decline generally around the 50-year-old stage (however women can become pre-menopausal in their 30’s) and testosterone for men can decrease from the 30-year-old stage. As these hormones get lower, then the rate of muscle growth starts to decrease.
Below I list three factors that make it more challenging to keep the weight off as you get older and the steps that you need to implement immediately to rectify the situation.
1. Loss of Muscle.
Research has stated that you lose up to 0.5lbs a year of muscle from the age of 30 onwards.
We all know that the job of muscle is to keep your metabolism firing and working hard so you can have the freedom to eat and not starve yourself.
There needs to be a mindset shift as you get older to move away from the “old forms” of weight loss exercises that you once did; for example a 30 min jog or 45 mins on the cross-trainer; and move towards a programme that involves big muscle groups, where you are doing a lot of functional movements such as squatting, lunging, bending, twisting, pushing and pulling. Combining these movements is essential to keep your metabolism the age of a 20 year old!!
2. Fat Increase
This goes hand in hand with lean muscle. The older you get, the more your body composition changes. A fit and healthy, younger version of you may have been made up of strong bones and lots of lean muscle. An older you will generally have more water retention, less muscle and more body fat. So, you may think you weigh the same as five years ago, but the body composition would have changed. The old tricks of a “yoyo” diet that would have shifted the pounds five or ten years ago don’t have the same impact now.
Look at a long term eating plan. Forget the words “fad” or “quick fix”. Look at a meal plan that incorporates a much higher protein intake. For example, a 70kg woman should be eating at least 90g of protein a day and a 90kg man eating a minimum of 115g (this is difficult to do if you don’t know the value of different forms of proteins in foods). Eat foods that are high in folate and fibre such as dark green vegetables. These foods will make you feel much fuller and stop the picking and reaching for the short-term sugar fix. Be smart about the types of food that can act as a thermogenic to speed up metabolism. Think spicy foods – Chillies are great to add to dishes – and don’t shy away from the odd black coffee; Caffeine has many positive health benefits and it will help to kick start your metabolism.
3. Stress Hormones
It’s a fact of life that the older you get, the more responsibilities and worries that you take on. Being in your early 20’s, you are more likely to be carefree and not tied down with the same pressures that a 50 year old would have to deal with. The responsibilities of raising a family and providing for them must not be underestimated. Then, there is the pressure of juggling a career and home-life balance.
When one is stressed, the body produces the hormone cortisol. Its key role is to keep you safe and increase reaction time; think “fight or flight”. However, most of the stress in our life is not a life or death experience, just simply the pressures of living in a busy city like London. This excessive hormonal release in turn gets stored up as body fat.
Find ways that mean when you are ‘on’, you’re ‘on’ but when you are ‘off’, you can truly be ‘off’. It’s ok to have that “London hustle” mentality, but even for the most driven, focused individuals, there needs to be an ‘off button’.
Learn to value quiet time and sleep more. As you get older, appreciate that you can’t burn the candle at both ends. What can you implement immediately to make sure you feel more rested? Is it no to use a smart phone in bed in the evenings, or possibly a form of mediation in the morning before you start the day?
The more you can find that ‘switch-off button’ the lower your cortisol levels will be. I’m not saying that stress won’t factor into your life because that would be a lie. What I’m saying is to find the tools to cope with the pressures that you have as you get older, learning to prioritise your own health at the same time.
I think PGPT client Ian Marcus summaries what it takes to be fit and healthy and keep the weight off when you are older: “You have to train smarter, not harder”. It takes some effort to be fitter at 60 than at 40, but Ian has achieved this.
It is about understanding what your body can and can’t do and knowing how to get to the root of the problem to fix the situation as quickly as possible.
If you are struggling to lose weight the older you get, then drop me an email at email@example.com and (within reason) hopefully I can help you get back on that winning path.
Success in health,