Many people experience weight gain once they hit 40, especially around their midsection. Despite a healthy diet and regular exercise, your metabolism starts to slow down and it often becomes harder to lose weight. However, losing weight after 40 isn’t impossible. You absolutely can shed pounds at any age—and do so while simultaneously optimizing overall wellness.
Losing weight after 40 years is challenging for both men and women. With that said, losing weight after 40 for males is more challenging compared to females. There is so much research that has been done on weight loss for older women compared to older men. You search the internet, and you will find so many results for specialized diet plans, workout plans, and even lifestyle habits for women over 40 and so little for men of the same age.
“One of the reasons that it’s difficult to lose weight in your 40s is that you are beginning to lose muscle mass, so the composition of your body tissue changes,” explains Keri Peterson, MD, Women’s Health advisor. “Having higher muscle mass raises your metabolism, so your body burns more calories.” So when you’re dealing with the opposite—less muscle mass—that means a slower metabolism. Argh.
For women, in particular, hormonal changes including menopause can make weight loss after 40 difficult.
However, just because you’re getting older doesn’t, that mean you have to resign yourself to upgrading your wardrobe with the next size up every year. Weight loss for women after 40 is definitely possible. And it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle every step of the way.
Another thing that can slow metabolism is menopause, notes Dr. Peterson. Although, for some women, the process doesn’t happen until their 50s, the transitional period into menopause can start in your 40s. And the hormonal changes associated with menopause can also make it harder to lose weight.
But as we get older, age-related weight gain can affect just about anyone. Fortunately, there are some simple dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to promote weight loss and weight management after 40.
Nutrition, physical activity, stress, sleep, etc. still affect your weight loss journey. With the right strategies in place, you can still lose weight after 40.
Why You Gain Weight After 40
Age-related weight gain is often genetic. For many people, it’s simply a byproduct of getting older. While there are many reasons why people gain weight after 40, here are some common biological factors.
- Hormones: For most people, their hormones start to change around the mid-30s and into their 40s.2 This shift, which involves less estrogen production for women and less testosterone production for men, causes fat to start to accumulate around the middle of the body.
- Genetics: Many people are genetically predisposed to weight gain. Scientists discovered that specific genes determine how many fat cells people have and where they’re stored.3 This is something you can’t really change, and if you look at your parents and relatives, you may notice there are certain areas where your family members may tend to store excess fat.
- Muscle loss: Most people start losing muscle mass by the time they reach their 40s and continue to experience a steady decline as they get older. Researchers believe that the number and size of muscle fibers decline with age and that the motor units that stimulate those fibers fire with less regularity over time.4 That’s why strength training is so often recommended to older adults.
- Lower metabolism: There are a couple of things that happen to your metabolism after the age of 40. First, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases, and second, you expend less total energy during exercise.
Tips Losing Weight After 40
All this can be attributed to many factors like loss of muscle mass over time, hormones, slowing down of your metabolism as you get older, lifestyle, the food you eat, sleeping habits, how your body stores fat, and so many other factors.
All this might make you feel like asking, what is really the need of losing weight in your 40s. Can’t you just stick to your habits and enjoy life? Well, if you don’t take care of yourself, it might become challenging to enjoy life as much The need to lose weight after 40 comes from the fact that men actually have a shorter life expectancy than women, and you don’t want to reduce it even more by being overweight or obese. That is not all. Men between the age of 45-55 are twice as likely to have a cardiovascular condition.
This likeliness keeps rising as you get older, and at 55, it is three times more likely. Being obese or overweight increases your chances of developing heart disease. Does that now convince you to look at some weight loss diet plans for men over 40?
Tweak Your Diet
To adjust to your body’s slowing metabolism, it’s important to be aware of the calories you consume, said Kushner. He explained that choosing nutritious foods with fewer calories per bite will still help you feel full and satisfied.
“Instead of eating less of everything and feeling deprived, you want to replace more calorie-dense foods, such as fried foods, high-fat meats, cookies, cakes, candies (and) chips, with nutrient-rich, less calorie-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, salads, bean dishes, broth-based soups and whole grains like oatmeal,” said Kushner, adding that the high water and fiber content of foods like these increase their volume, making them more satisfying for fewer calories.
Load Up On Your Fruits And Veggies
Vegetables in particular are generally low in calories, yet still packed with vitamins and minerals, and you can eat them in large amounts. “These are rich in fiber which makes you feel full and they’re nutrient-dense,” says Dr. Peterson.
Erin Palinski-Wade, RD and nutrition and diabetes expert, adds that you can use fruits and veggies to help exercise portion control, too. “If you aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, it can help you to reduce the portion size of the other foods while feeling just as satisfied,” she explains. “And since vegetables provide few calories, this strategy can reduce your overall calorie intake at each meal, helping to promote weight loss.
Be Careful With Alcohol
Many of my female clients over 40 don’t see the scale move until they cut back on alcohol or take a break from drinking. Alcohol is tricky, because in moderation it may actually support weight management, research suggests. But women who drink heavily or binge drink have an increased obesity risk.
Moderate alcohol consumption means one drink a day (and no, they don’t carry over), which equals five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or a 1.5 ounce shot of distilled spirits.
If you’re downing half a bottle of vino most nights, there could be several issues at play. First, alcohol tends to lower inhibitions and stimulate appetite, so you may wind up eating more, often mindlessly. Also, when alcohol is consumed, breaking it down becomes the body’s top priority. That means foods consumed with alcohol are less likely to be burned. Finally, too much alcohol can disrupt sleep—and a healthy sleep cycle is directly tied to metabolism, weight management, and belly fat accumulation.
If cutting out alcohol altogether isn’t realistic, consider committing to a specific drinking strategy. Cut back gradually, limit alcohol to weekends only, or curb your consumption to a one drink per day max.
Start Weight Training
Women generally have a lower natural muscle mass than their male counterparts, and aging can deplete the little muscle tissue we have, sometimes by as much as 5 percent in a 10-year period, starting after age 30. Fortunately, building some muscle with a light weight-training routine can kill two birds with one stone: you’ll burn some calories doing the exercises, and research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reveals that, even though weight loss is often associated with a slower metabolism, women who added resistance training to their routine actually maintained their resting metabolic rate.
Don’t Force Yourself To Do The Most Popular Plan
“There are many eating patterns that can be used to lose weight,” says William Samuel Yancy, M.D., director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center and associate professor of medicine at Duke University. Many have evidence behind them, whether that’s keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, or anything else. Interestingly, there’s not as much research on what works for men as there is on women, but “for men, sometimes it’s as simple as shortening the time in which you are eating to an 8- to 10-hour window a day,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.N., consultant for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine for the Cleveland Clinic.
Even something as straightforward as not eating after 6 PM can make a big difference—one of her male clients who lost 150 pounds found that to be especially helpful, she says.
If you prefer a specific plan with specific rules, make sure it goes with your lifestyle, which, for most guys, gets increasingly complicated in your 40s with more responsibilities at work, with your family, and maybe even with your aging parents. A vegan diet can be hard to do in a healthy way if you live a grab-and-go existence. Meal prep is going to be a challenge if you’re never home long enough to cook. Don’t just pick what worked for a friend; pick what’s likely to work with your busy, over-40 lifestyle.
Dr. Stanford is emphatic that you need to be sure that the eating style you choose to lose weight after 40 is something you can do for the rest of your life. “If it’s not something you can sustain for the next 20 or 50 years, then why are you doing this at all?,” she points out.
For a sustainable plan, “I don’t like to hyperfocus on calories. It’s important to have a high-quality diet of lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Stanford says. “Processed foods lead to weight gain, so the less processed the food you eat, the better.” And the more satisfied you could end up being. Her example: A nice meal of salmon plus some grains and a vegetable and a salad can give you a lot more volume than a Shake Shack stop would, and would give you more of a sense of being full afterward.
When it comes to the high-quality diet she advocates, “nothing is bizarre—we know that lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are constant no matter how the guidelines for healthy eating have changed over the years,” she says.
Calculate How Many Calories You Need
An important first step to weight loss is understanding the concept of burning calories. As you eat, you take in calories. And as you move your body through exercise, walking, or even breathing, you burn calories. The key to losing weight is burning more calories than you ingest.
You can figure out how many calories you need to maintain or lose weight based on your age, height, current weight, and activity levels. Then you can adjust your diet and exercise plans accordingly.
As you get older, the more you start losing your body’s muscles. On average, men can lose somewhere between 3% and 5% of their muscle mass every decade. It is easy for you to lose your muscle mass as you get older because, for many reasons, you are not as active when you are 40 as you used to be while in your 20s. Apart from being active, now that you are older, there are so many things competing for your energy and time.
There is your family, work, and other responsibilities. This makes working out harder as you don’t have time and energy. If you can maintain your muscles or regain them, you can promote weight loss.
How does that work? You ask. Muscle tissues burn more calories than fat mass. The more muscles you have, the more calories you lose. Now, since you are losing muscles as you grow old, it means you are also burning less and fewer calories as you get older. A good place to start is to do regular strength and resistance training exercises. These exercises will help you build strength and hence burn more calories leading to weight loss.
You have to remember that since you are not as young and as flexible as you used to be, you should ease yourself into these strength training exercises. It is also advisable to consult an expert before joining any strength training exercise program as they know the best exercises for you. Working out the major muscle groups at least 2 to 3 times a week is a nice way to start.
Consume More Protein
When you eat more protein, the body works harder to metabolize and digest it than when you eat carbs or fat. Meaning, protein has a high thermic effect on food (TEF), and the body actively burns more calories, which contributes to weight loss (1).
For women above 40, a high protein meal or consuming high protein snacks is excellent as this helps prevent the breakdown of your lean muscle into energy. Doing so protects your body mass from decreasing and fat from increasing, ultimately speeding up your metabolic rate.
Increase Your Intake of Fiber
Consuming adequate fiber is a great way to manage your weight in your 40s. Aim to eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day to reap these benefits. Fiber helps with your digestive health, disease prevention, weight control, and foods high in fiber help you feel full for longer. While you can go with a supplement, The best way to increase your fiber is to eat foods like lentils, black beans, peas, broccoli, raspberries, pears, and oatmeal.
Cut Back On Sugar And White Foods
All those cakes, cookies, and pastas may taste great, but they’ll wreak havoc on your health. They create big spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels, and if your body doesn’t have a use for that sugar spike, it stores the sugar as fat and places it right around your middle (yup, that’s where that potbelly came from!). The number-one offender, sugar, is often hidden in many foods, so start carefully checking ingredient lists before you buy.
You’ll also want to ditch the foods that turn to sugar upon digestion, like white flour and simple carbohydrates. Trade in “white” foods (white rice, white bread, standard pasta, and potatoes) for healthier versions like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Eliminating refined carbs will convert your body from a carb-burning machine to a fat-burning machine.
Aim To Get Multiple Types Of Movement Each Week
“To achieve and maintain a healthy weight as we age, it’s imperative that we incorporate a ‘movement portfolio’ into our daily lives,” said Kushner. He explained that your portfolio should include activities of daily living (like walking, using the stairs and house cleaning), active fitness activities (like bike riding and using the elliptical machine) and resistance-training exercises. Kushner also recommended trying to reduce the time you spend doing sedentary activities like watching TV. “These targeted action steps will boost metabolism and help maintain muscle mass,” he said.
Here are three ways to build more movement into your life:
- Set a reminder to take stretching or standing breaks every hour.
- Try a free trial of popular fitness apps, like Peloton or Aaptiv, to figure out what types of formal exercise you enjoy.
- Make a plan to work out and then get the plan in motion. For example, if you intend to go for a power walk in the morning, set your alarm earlier, get out your workout clothes and have your water bottle ready.
Avoid Fried Foods
Yeah, you’ve probs heard that diet tip before—as it’s wise for anyone trying to lose weight. Fried foods contain a whole lot of fat and contribute to weight gain—simple as that. But again, in your 40s, you deal with natural physiological changes that make it *even* tougher to shed excess weight, so overdoing it on fried foods has larger consequences. “A 20 year old can get away with eating empty calorie meals. A 40 year old usually cannot on a semi regular basis,” Mirkin points out. “Until we are age 20, [our] bodies are building muscle. After age 20, it stops.”
Instead, swap your fried foods for oven-baked options (think: homemade baked sweet potato fries instead of the fried deal), suggests Palinski-Wade. “You still enjoy the same great-tasting foods but can save around 100 calories or more per meal.” Score.
Up Your Omega-3s
We all know by now that adding omega-3–rich foods to your meals can aid weight loss—flaxseeds, avocado and avocado oil, nuts, and oily fish like salmon are all good options. Research published in Obesity Reviews shows that adding some omega-3s to the subjects’ diet helped them lose more weight, keep it off longer, and stave off hunger pangs. But there are other health benefits that omega-3 fatty acids can have for women over 40. A study published in the journal Menopause suggests that it may help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, as demonstrated in test subjects between the ages of 40 and 55.
Make Sure You’re Sleeping Well
Sleeping enough is important, and if your lifestyle is making you cheat sleep, then think about what you can do to get enough. Sometimes, however, biology is keeping you from enough shuteye, and it’s imperative to solve that. “Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to additional weight gain,” says Dr. Stanford. If you are making all the right efforts to get restorative sleep and still don’t feel restored, consider seeing a sleep doctor, who can drill down on the problem and help you find some solutions.
Count Your Calories
I know it is not easy to count calories for each meal you eat, but it is advisable to do so. First, you need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories your body uses, or needs, to function at rest. Different factors influence your BMR— factors like your weight, age, gender, height, lifestyle, among others.
Once you know your BMR, it is easy to know how many calories you need to consume so that you can maintain your current weight. If you eat more calories than that number, it could result in weight gain (1). Naturally, if you eat fewer calories than that number, it would result in you losing weight. If you want to lose weight healthily, it is recommended to reduce your daily calorie intake by 500 calories a day. This will result in 3500 calories in a week, which equals 1 pound of fat. The recommended amount of weight you should lose is 1 to 2 pounds a week.
Cook Healthy Meals
When you actively participate in preparing your meals, you’re more likely to limit the fat and calories added to the food instead of ordering take-out. Cooking healthy meals allows you to bake, broil, or grill rather than deep-frying your foods.
Fried foods have fat content and contribute significantly to weight gain. Therefore, swap out your high fat cooking habits such as deep-frying and try oven-baked options helping cut down the calories you consume.
Improve Your Gut Health
When you think about losing weight, does your gut come to mind? After all, great health comes from the body’s ability to digest nutrients and eliminate waste — and if your digestive system isn’t in good condition (you feel bloated or constipated frequently or suffer from other digestive discomfort), then you won’t lose weight easily. Instead, it will always be an uphill battle. Heal your digestive health by eating more fiber (at least 35 grams a day), which is found in abundance in foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also get more probiotics — “good” bacteria — in your diet to improve the healthy flora in your intestinal tract, which assists in digestion and elimination.
Probiotics occur naturally in fermented dairy foods, vegetables, and fruit — like yogurt, kefir, pickles, miso, sauerkraut, and even wine. You can also supplement with a high-potency probiotic supplement from a health-food store.