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Losing weight after 50 is not as hard as you might think. You just need to know how to go about it

It’s never too late. Are you telling yourself that there’s no point in trying to slim down as you are over 50 anyway? Banish those thoughts right now! Treat your body in exactly the same way as if you were 20 years younger. Not only will you feel amazing, but a healthy diet and regular exercise will also make you healthier.

Why does burning off fat get slower with age?

The older we are, the more slowly our bodies burn fat, regardless of whether we are resting or exercising. This is completely natural. It is also the reason why losing weight will now most likely take you longer than it would ten years ago. The amount of the body’s active mass, mainly muscles that facilitate fat burning, starts to gradually decrease as early as after the age of 30. This process gets faster once a person hits 65. Don’t let this dishearten you, though. It’s never too late to make a change, especially one that will help you age much more slowly.

So what happens to the body as we age? The body undergoes major hormonal changes which results in more fat being stored in the abdominal area. This increases the risk of developing some serious conditions, such as fatty liver disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The ageing process is also linked to the body’s decreased ability to regenerate, i.e. to repair and remove damaged cells. “Such cells then work less efficiently, they tend to build up in the body where they produce more harmful substances and accelerate the process of ageing as a result,” explains Pavla Staňková, a specialist consultant for KetoDiet, whose research includes the study of a metabolic syndrome linked to obesity. That’s why it is very important to pay attention to what you eat and to make sure you choose a suitable physical activity that you will engage in on a regular basis.

Ageing differences between women and men

As you have already found out in one of our previous articleswomen and men differ when it comes to gaining, or rather losing weight.  And how about ageing?

Ageing in men is affected by the fall in testosterone levels, which results in a gradual loss of muscle and bone mass and slowly leads to obesity. The first drop in testosterone levels occurs as early as after the age of 30 at an approximate rate of 1% per year. Simultaneously, basal energy expenditure also decreases, which means that in order to function properly, the body requires less and less energy. This process accelerates significantly after 40. This means that if you don’t want to start gaining weight, a change to your diet is a must.

Women also tend to experience a gradual increase in fat levels as they age, as well as a drop in their energy expenditure. However, the breaking point occurs a bit later than in men – during menopause. At that point, women lose their metabolic advantage over men of storing fat predominantly in the buttocks and thighs, rather than in the abdominal area. “With the declining levels of oestrogen, which helps regulate energy intake and expenditure, women are more prone to overeating and thus gaining weight. On top of that, the female body experiences a bone loss, which can reach up to 20 per cent 5-7 years after the menopause,” explains Pavla Staňková, an expert on metabolism.

How to lose weight after 50

There’s no doubt about the fact that those who haven’t been overweight or obese before they turned 50 have a better starting position. However, even those of you with an extra kilo or two don’t have to throw in the towel. As you already know, a slight weight gain linked to increased fat levels is absolutely normal. Did you know that being too thin at a higher age can actually lead to health problems?

A good-quality diet lies at the heart of your success

Although nutritional advice as to what a healthy and balanced diet promoting a successful weight loss should look like keeps evolving, the main message remains the same. “We should steer clear of the so-called western diet which is full of calories, saturated fats, simple sugars, processed foods and is very low in fruit, vegetables, nuts and fibre,” according to Pavla Staňková.

Also, our digestive system changes with age and the body doesn’t absorb many important vitamins and minerals as readily as it used to.

A healthy diet (and not only after 50) should therefore contain:

  • fewer calories, which in actual practice means reducing the intake of carbohydrates, especially simple sugars, and saturated fats (usually animal)
  • more healthy fats, found in such foods as fish, nuts and seeds, which are a source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids
  • plenty of vitamins and minerals (pay extra attention to zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium) and fibre, which aids digestion (make sure you eat several portions of vegetables and at least one piece of fruit a day)
  • sufficient amount of quality protein – with age, the daily protein allowance increases up to 1.5g per kilo of an ideal weight (as opposed to the usual recommendation of 0.8g – 1.3g per kilo per day). Go for lean meat, eggs, fermented dairy products and plant-based protein, such as pulses. If you are short of time or just don’t feel like making it, supplement your diet with a quick-to-make protein meal or drink that will safely replace one or two of your daily portions.

Why should I consume more protein?

Increasing your protein intake will help you prevent the loss of muscle mass and it will increase your muscle strength. As a result, it will boost your metabolism. Protein is also good for your bones, immune system, blood pressure regulation and it helps with wound healing. Protein will also make you feel fuller, so losing weight will be easier. The problem is that a lot of people actually reduce their protein intake as they grow old. This might be because they find it harder to digest or have problems with their teeth, which means they try to avoid meat when they can.

Don’t forget!

  • Drink plenty of water, at least 2 litres a day. As we get older, we don’t feel thirst as readily as we used to, so make sure you stay hydrated. To add some variety, you can have some unsweetened tea alongside water. Just remember that coffee and soup do not count as part of your daily fluid intake.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid too much alcohol.
  • Remember to see your doctor for regular routine checks.
  • If you have a good and varied diet, there is no need to consume any extra dietary supplements or products.

Don’t be asking whether to exercise, but how!

There’s no point looking for a magic pill that will help you stop time and lose weight for good measure. It doesn’t exist! It is exercise that is the most accessible and easiest complement to a healthy diet. So why not make getting old fun? “It has been found that a physical activity greatly benefits even those who haven’t started exercising until later on in their lives. Exercise helps slow down the age-related decrease in muscle mass and it can actually play a more important role than dietary restrictions when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight in old age,” explains Pavla Staňková, a biochemist and lecturer at the faculty of medicine.

Research confirms that people who are physically active not only live longer but also have a better quality of life!

Exercise at later stages of life should ideally consist of the following components: endurance, strength, stretching and balance. However, it is always important to take into account your current state of health.  Sometimes, we tend to tell ourselves: I won’t be able to manage, I’m in pain, etc. Try to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Look for ways to be active and not for reasons to stay at home.

Ideal forms of exercise are walking (have a go at Nordic walking too!) and cycling. You can also make use of gym equipment, such as a stepper or treadmill, where you can set the speed at a brisk walk (depending on your ability) and those old excuses about bad weather just won’t cut it anymore! If you have trouble with your hips, exercise in water. Aqua aerobics, for instance, is a great way to get moving and you can ask your friends to join you too. You will get to spend time with your friends as well as getting a kick out being active. What’s not to like?

If “rhythmic” forms of exercise are not suitable for you, try strength and stretching exercises instead. This should ideally be done under the guidance of an experienced trainer who will tailor your training programme to suit your needs. Carefully planned training sessions can help slow down the muscle mass and bone loss, maintain joint flexibility and prevent chronic pain.

TIP! To maintain your stability and thus prevent the risk of falls in old age, try Tai Chi. It is a great form of balance exercise.

Now that you know which exercise you are going to go for, it is important that you stick with it. Make sure you exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes and always remember to spend a bit of extra time to do some stretches before and after the workout. Be prepared that your efforts won’t bring immediate results, as is often expected these days. If up until now you haven’t been very physically active, it will take at least a couple of months before you can see some visible results. One of your goals will therefore be to find an activity that you will enjoy. You won’t believe how quickly it will become a welcome part of your day.

“Let me tell you that we all age differently and that our life expectancy and how fast we age is, to a certain extent, down to hereditary factors. However, external factors also play an important role. These include our lifestyle linked to our diet, physical activity, stress levels and the quality of sleep, as well as our environment and past illnesses. One of the significant factors that accelerate the ageing process is obesity and, often closely linked, diabetes,” concludes Pavla Staňková. That’s why you can’t afford to waste any more time. Change your lifestyle today!


Author: Nikola Nevečeřalová

Photos: KetoDiet, Depositphotos


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