Think it’s impossible to lose belly fat after 50? Think Again. Research reveals you can fight fat after 50. Here’s how to succeed.
“Is it possible to lose belly fat after age 50?”
That’s the #1 question I get from women over the age of 50. Yes, it is possible. It might take more effort on both the food and fitness front, but it can be done. However, we should face up to reality. Body composition changes as we age, including a redistribution of body fat with more fat settling in the abdomen (the dreaded “belly fat”). Add to that the need for fewer calories and for many, a decrease in exercise intensity and duration leading to weight creep.
While there are no magic foods or miracle supplements that can burn fat, there is plenty you can do to halt the march of excess body fat, and even reverse it, with these eating and exercise tips.
How to Eat Right
- Reduce — but don’t restrict.
Giving up entire food groups only leads to feeling deprived. Instead of saying, “I’ll never eat bread again,” learn to scale back portions to enjoy all foods.
- Make your calories count.
After the age of 50 our need for energy (calories) decreases, but we still need the vitamins, minerals, and fibers from foods. Make your choices count by selecting nutrient-rich foods. An orange is better than orange juice, but orange juice is better than orange drink. Choose fiber-rich foods to fill you up. Here are some foods that naturally reduce hunger.
- Include protein at every meal.
We need more protein as we get older and it is best for our muscles (and to keep hunger in check) if we spread protein throughout the day. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein at every meal. Yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat are good choices, but don’t over look plant-based proteins like soy, nuts, beans, and peas.
- Apps can be great for tracking calories, but don’t be a slave to the tracker. Most track only calories and not needed nutrients, like calcium, vitamin D, or vitamin B12, so pay attention to what you eat as well as how much.
How to Exercise Right
- Break a sweat.
All physical activity is good activity, but to burn fat push yourself to do more than strolling around the neighborhood. Bump up the intensity of your aerobic exercise, slowly at first, until you get in better cardio shape. Think about trying high-intensity functional fitness like CrossFit or boot camp-style workouts
- Build muscle by strength training at least two days each week.
Muscle is our body’s energy driver…the more muscle you have the more calories you burn every day. Strength training should be progressive, that is lifting a bit heavier weight at each session. If you are doing bicep curls with the same 3-pound weights every day you won’t build muscle. Starting around age 40, we lose 10-15% muscle mass and strength every decade, so it pays to work out to keep your muscles strong and functional. For me, keeping my muscles functioning well means I can lift a 50-pound bag of dog food in my shopping cart!
- Make haste slowly. As we get older, pay attention to warm up and cool down exercises to avoid injury. A 55-year old can be more fit than a person 35, but it might take some patience to get there!
Dr. Chris Rosenbloom is the author of Food & Fitness After 50 (with co-author Dr. Bob Murray), a guide to eating well, moving well, and being well in your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. Her website is chrisrosenbloom.com to learn more about the book.