Some of us give up the foods we love, such as pasta, cheese and butter. Some of us do not change our diets as we age and the weight piles on.
But it is possible to maintain a healthy weight after age 50 without living on nuts and berries.
You just need to pump it up.
Strength training, also known as weightlifting, can boost your metabolism, add muscle mass and burn those pesky calories.
The AARP publication Healthy Living offered this and other tips in its June issue.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we lose 10% of our muscle mass by age 50. And that means we burn fewer calories if we do not change our diet and exercise regimens.
“Muscle is more metabolically active — it burns more calories than fat,” according to Dr. William Yancy Jr., director of the Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center in Durham, North Carolina.
“So having a higher ratio of muscle to fat will mean you burn more energy — just while sitting,” he said in the Healthy Living article. “To build that muscle, you have to exercise, and that burns calories, too.”
We should pair exercise with high-quality protein such as eggs and low-fat meats. A study in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating equal amounts of protein at all three meals can boost muscle strength.
And we should drink plenty of water. The process of bringing liquid to body temperature requires energy which burns calories, according to the report.
“Fluid intake is also important to the complex cycle of converting protein and carbohydrates into usable energy,” according to Dr. Holly Lofton, director of the NYU Langone Medical Weight Management Program in New York City.
Retired dietitian and health educator Eileen Liddy of Farmington offered her take on these tips.
“I would stress doing a combination of cardiovascular and strength training for the best results,” she said in an email interview.
As to increase protein intake, she said it is OK so long as it does not increase calories. So, decrease other calories if you eat more protein.
Another hurdle for us older folks — both women and men — is declining hormonal levels.
“The decline in estrogen in women can lead to a change of depositing fat around the hips to more around the abdomen,” Yancy said. “This can lead to insulin resistance, which furthers weight gain and makes weight loss difficult.”
In men, decreased testosterone leads to loss of muscle, which slows the metabolism, he said.
The best way to deal with this is to reduce our intake of refined sugars and starches, eat more protein and whole foods, and exercise regularly.
But we don’t have to sweat it all the time. Walking is good cardio exercise and can be done outside or inside.
Liddy said she is not familiar with hormones that regulate appetite and satiety, “but I would say again: Don’t add foods without taking away other foods to keep the calories the same.”
She recommends keeping track of body mass index, which calculates weight and height to measure our bodies’ fatness.
A BMI greater than 30 is not good, Liddy said. We can find out our BMI by asking our medical care providers to calculate it. If you do not have a medical provider and you have internet access, you can go to Calculate Your BMI — Standard BMI Calculator (nih.gov).
If you do not have internet access, you or a friend or relative can go to your local library and use the computer there, she suggested.
“Ask the librarian for help, if needed,” Liddy said. “Librarians love to help people research things.”
Sleep deprivation also can affect weight. A study in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine found sleep-deprived participants ate more — and went for high-calorie fare.
The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to go to bed and get up at the same times every day, if possible. Bedtime rituals, including turning off devices, changing into pajamas and brushing teeth an hour before sleep, can help signal the body and mind to slow down.
Plus, all that cardio and strength training should help us sleep like babies.
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