If you’re finding it more difficult to maintain your figure as you get older, you’re not alone.
Middle age brings many physical and physiological changes that can lead to weight gain and muscle loss, particularly for women. Change is inevitable, but there are a few ways you can fight age-related challenges to live a healthy and active life in your prime.
Pace Your Protein Intake
As you age, the amount of protein you need increases. What your body used to be able to accomplish with 10-20 grams of protein now requires upwards of 30 grams to achieve the same results.
Studies have shown that adults from 50-85 years old who consume 30-45 grams of protein in each meal have increased muscle and strength (1, 2). Additionally, even distribution of protein throughout the day has proven to be an effective strategy for weight loss, specifically fat loss (3).
Up the Intensity of Your Workouts
When most people think of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) they may picture impressive feats of athleticism such as sprinting up stairs or moving around large amounts of weights. A workout regimen that can seem intimidating and unsafe to many older adults.
However, HIIT can be any workout that involves intense bursts of maximum effort followed by short periods of recovery. As with any exercise routine, it’s best to get clearance from a doctor before hitting the gym.
HIIT has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. HIIT has been shown to help older adults preserve muscle mass as they age, while promoting weight loss, and reducing body fat, specifically belly fat (4, 5).
Additionally, new research suggests that upping the intensity of your workout five times a week is associated with longer telomere length, slowing the rate of aging at a cellular level (6). Opting for a HIIT session can help you get out of your workout rut, and see improved results in less time.
Strive for Muscle Gains
Incorporate strength training into your regimen. A gradual loss of muscle is associated with aging even without any change in activity or diet. The loss of hard-earned muscle is never desirable and can make weight loss that much harder.
Muscle plays a key role in the regulation of your resting energy expenditure and metabolism (7). The more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns each day without any added activity. Building muscle and losing body fat often go hand in hand. Resistance training can help you build and maintain your muscle.
Make Sleep a Priority
No matter how old you are, getting a good night’s sleep should be a priority. Lacking as little as an hour of quality sleep is associated with weight gain and poor health with age (8, 9). Be sure to practice proper eating habits, including regularly consuming quality protein at breakfast. In addition, be sure you are getting enough sleep and taking a quality daily supplement.
Don’t Forget Fiber
Almost everyone can benefit from increasing their daily fiber intake. But meeting the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber, 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, is especially important for older adults.
However, an estimated 95 percent of Americans are regularly falling short of their body’s needs, and missing out on the many health benefits associated with dietary fiber (10). Studies have shown that not only does fiber help improve satiety, digestive health, and regularity, but an increased intake of fiber is also associated with reductions in belly fat and healthy aging (11, 12).
- Farsijani, S., Payette, H., Morais, J. A., Shatenstein, B., Gaudreau, P., & Chevalier, S. (2017). Even mealtime distribution of protein intake is associated with greater muscle strength, but not with 3-y physical function decline, in free-living older adults: the Quebec longitudinal study on Nutrition as a Determinant of Successful Aging (NuAge study). The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.146555
- Loenneke JP, Loprinzi PD, Murphy CH & Phillips SM. Per meal dose and frequency of protein consumption is associated with lean mass and muscle performance. Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr 7.
- Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Gentile CL, Nindl BC, Brestoff JR & Ruby M. Increased protein intake and meal frequency reduces abdominal fat during energy balance and energy deficit. Obesity. 2013 Jul; 21(7):1357-66.
- Shiraev T, Barclay G. Evidence based exercise – clinical benefits of high intensity interval training. Aust Fam Physician. 2012 Dec;41(12):960-2. PMID: 23210120
- Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. J Obes. 2011;2011:868305. doi: 10.1155/2011/868305. Epub 2010 Nov 24. DOI: 10.1155/2011/868305
- Tucker LA. Physical activity and telomere length in U.S. men and women: An NHANES investigation. Prev Med 2017 Jul; 100: 145-151. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.027
- Ravussin E, Lillioja S, Anderson TE, Christin L & Bogardus C. Determinants of 24-hour energy expenditure in man. Methods and results using a respiratory chamber. J Clin Invest. 1986 Dec; 78(6):1568-78.
- Chaput JP, Tremblay A. Sleeping Habits Predict the Magnitude of Fat Loss in Adults Exposed to Moderate Caloric Restriction. Obes Facts 2012;5:561-6. doi: 10.1159/000342054
- Prather AA, Puterman E, Lin J et al. Shorter leukocyte telomere length in midlife women with poor sleep quality. J Aging Res 2011;2011:721390. doi: 4061/2011/721390
- King DE, Mainous AG 3rd, Lambourne CA. Trends in dietary fiber intake in the United States, 1999-2008. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 May;112(5):642-8.
- Park Y,Subar AF, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A. Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Jun 27;171(12):1061-8. Epub 2011 Feb 14. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.18.
- G. Hairston, M. Z. Vitolins, J. M. Norris, A. M. Anderson, A. J. Hanley, and L. E. Wagenknecht. Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study. Obesity.(Silver.Spring), 2011. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.18.