This is 40. You’re wiser. You know yourself. You’re making strides professionally and possibly reproducing. Then, seemingly overnight, you realize that you’re not bouncing back in quite the same way that you did in your 30s.
Holiday weight—usually all but melted by Valentine’s Day—seems reluctant to budge when you throw your old tricks at it. And by the time summer rolls around, you might look like how you’re used to looking!
If it seems that something important has shifted, you’re right.
Your metabolism is slowing, and your muscle mass is decreasing. That’s a harsh reality, but there are some new tricks for you to learn to keep spry for years, even decades to come. We’ve listed 40 of them for you here so you can tackle 40 the best way possible. And while you’re at it, be sure you’re stocked up on The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
“It’s easy to kick back at the end of a long day and open up a bottle of wine,” says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition NYC. “Before you know it, you’ve had two or three glasses each night!” Wine contains 120 calories per 5 oz pour, and it’s easy to overlook those calories. That means that after a few hefty pours you’ve consumed over 400 calories — and that doesn’t include dinner. “Cut back to one 5 oz pour a day, or scale back your drinking overall by 25% and you’ll see a few pounds come off,” she says. And to blast even more fat, don’t miss these 50 Best-Ever Weight-Loss Secrets From Skinny People!
A natural way of stimulating hGH (human growth hormone) production is getting enough shuteye. “During sleep, the brain releases human growth hormone (hGH) into the bloodstream,” explains Lisa Jubilee, MS, CDN, founder of Living Proof NYC. “This occurs during the first stage of sleep, but during middle age the body produces less hGH. So if you’re in that age bracket and not sleeping well, your efforts to maintain a healthy weight will be compromised. Don’t skimp on sleep!” Even more reason: these 20 Surprising Ways to Lose Weight While You Sleep!
“As we age, our bodies change, and it’s important to prepare for that change,” says holistic health coach Seth Santoro, founder of The Life Chef. He recommends yoga as a hedge against the aging process. Yoga’s benefits have been well documented: It increases flexibility, strengthens core muscles, reduces stress, improves circulation (which also has potential sexual benefits) and can improve quality of sleep. “Most people have sedentary jobs and have tightness throughout their bodies, including hamstrings, hips, lower back — and even chest and neck from sitting at desks most of the day,” he says.
Reaching 40 means that you’ve had four decades to accumulate toxins from food and drink, which can lead to obesity. Many of those come from pesticides and hormones in produce and meat. Choose organic fruits and vegetables and hormone-free meat. Speaking of meat, you can lose weight eating at McDonald’s, if you use this list of Every Menu Item at McDonald’s—Ranked!.
It’s no surprise that as we age, our metabolism slows down, says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Just for Today. Exercising in a different way or at a higher intensity may help get your metabolism back to where it once was. “Changing up your routine can increase the speed at which your body is burning calories,” she says. Try one of these Best Workouts for Weight Loss!
Work and family commitments can often put a squeeze on mealtime. That gets in the way of losing weight, because we’re not giving our stomachs time to register that we’re full. Divide your plate in two. Eat half, and do something else for 30 minutes. It’ll still be there when you get back, but your hunger may have left the building. Also, fill up cheaply and easily with any of these 20 Best-Ever Fat Burning Soups.
Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, recommends freezing some grapes and savoring a handful for a long-lasting sweet snack. “It’s like a handful of mini fruit sorbets,” she says. “With this, you get a sweet snack plus a natural source of antioxidants and other polyphenols that can contribute to heart health and potassium to help lower the risk of high blood pressure – two important concerns as we age.”
In our 20s, we might be keeping a keen eye on the thermostat for financial reasons. When we’re in our 40s, we’re usually in a better financial situation. But being less frugal might actually contribute to your paunch. A striking study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep. Colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of brown fat—fat that keeps you warm by helping you burn through the fat stored in your belly.
According to holistic health coach Seth Santoro, a key element of your strategy for getting fighting fit at 40 is to increase cardio workouts, and to do them in a fasted state. “Hit the gym and do some treadmill sprints on an empty stomach to burn fat,” he says. “Your body is already in a calorie deficit, and it will ignite its fat-burning ability.” Glycogen levels are depleted during sleep, so your body will utilize a greater percentage of your body fat as an energy source.
No one is counting the calories from leftover mac and cheese or cold grilled cheese sandwiches eaten while cleaning up dinner. “These calories count and can make your pants a lot snugger,” says Shapiro. “When you eat, sit down to your own plate of healthy food and leave the kiddie foods to the kids.” And to lose more weight, don’t miss these 20 Weight Loss Tricks You Haven’t Tried.
Getting older means a slowing metabolism. But having a protein shake before hitting the sack may boost it, according to one Florida State University study. Researchers found that men who consumed an evening snack that included 30 grams of protein had a higher resting metabolic rate the next morning than when eating nothing. Protein is more thermogenic than carbs or fat, meaning your body burns more calories digesting it.
Being 40 means that you can have a lot to contend with over the course of a given day. “Always be prepared for a busy or unpredictable day by keeping healthy snacks on you, at your desk, in your car,” says Amy Shapiro. She suggests having almonds or other unsalted nuts, apples, bananas, chia bars, protein bars, or other fruit and nut bars close at hand. Shapiro says that if you have to skip breakfast, lunch, or even dinner during your quest to look your best, you can keep your energy levels up while making healthy choices. “You’ll have no reason to run to the vending machine for chips or stick your hand in the candy bowl,” she says. Need some ideas? Stock up on some of these 50 Best Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss!
After a hard day at work, it’s temping to zone out in front of the TV. But did you know lean people watch less? A recent analysis of studies found that for every two hours spent watching TV, the risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, and early death increased by 20, 15, and 13 percent, respectively. Scientists are still figuring out exactly why sitting is so detrimental to health, but one obvious and partial explanation is that the less we move, the less fuel we require; the surplus blood sugar floods the bloodstream and contributes to diabetes and other weight-related risks that crop up in the 40s and beyond.
“As we approach 40, our metabolism begins to drop and muscle mass declines,” says Jim White, RD, ACSM, founder of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. He suggests resistance training to help to increase a sluggish metabolism while building muscle mass. “Lift two times a week for maintenance and three times a week to see increases in strength gains,” he says.
Many people become more sedentary as they age because the effects of injuries and impact have made working out a painful prospect. That’s why swimming is a great workout. The fact that it’s low impact is just one reason: It also builds endurance. One study of men and women who engaged in swim training for 12 weeks showed that their maximum oxygen consumption improved by 10 percent, and stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat, which indicates the organ’s strength) improved as much as 18 percent.
If you’ve gained girth after 40, it may be a sign that your liver isn’t functioning optimally. Avoiding toxins will help it work more efficiently—and slim your middle. Cut down on sugar, artificial sweeteners, and trans fatty acids. Re-evaluate your need for over-the-counter pain relievers and limit your alcohol consumption to just two servings (preferably of red wine) a couple of times a week.
We know that can be tricky with a demanding job plus family commitments. But if you can extend the amount of time you spend in the sack, you’ll enjoy one of the most blissful ways to keep your metabolism revved all day long. Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours’ sleep.
Much of retaining muscle mass is dependent on exercise. Part of it is down to protein intake. Eat more lean meats, fish, and Greek yogurt, and you’ll put the brakes on the deterioration of your fat-burning engines.
Moore reminds us that vegetables like leafy greens, peppers, and broccoli are naturally lower in calories, so they fill you up without leaving flab behind. Read on for 30 Foods That Melt Love Handles!
Want to sleep better and lose more weight? Have more sex. A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that for every extra hour of sleep women got, their sexual desire increased accordingly. And a separate study showed that the more sex you get, the better you sleep, and the more weight you lose. Now that’s what you call a positive feedback loop.
Muscles are what keeps our metabolism high and as we age, our muscles slowly start to get smaller, therefore allowing our metabolism to slow down. To counteract this, Shapiro recommends that we start lifting weights. “No, you won’t get big and bulky. In fact, you’ll stay lean,” she says. That’s because weight training causes you to burn more calories per workout than cardio sessions, and you continue to burn them post-workout. And that’s not all—click here to discover 40 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat!
“Have yours checked if there’s any doubt, because over 40, thyroid issues are more common,” says Lauren Slayton, MS, RD of Food Trainers.
Pull-ups require a lot of control, and they’re highly effective for building muscle and strength in the upper body—something that diminishes as we age. Pull-ups simultaneously engage the back, shoulders and arms, and by building those three large muscle areas, you’ll help keep your metabolism stoked for years to come. “Another great thing about pull-ups is that they can be done in many different variations, which work different muscles,” says Jim White.
If you have room in your budget, put it to belly-fighting use by getting some light-blocking curtains. They make a huge difference when it comes to falling asleep. Outside light makes it harder for your mind to shut down, even if you think you’re immune to such instinctive signals. Melatonin, the hormone involved in putting your body to sleep (a prime fat-burning opportunity) is compromised when light is present.
“I always recommend picking your poison,” says Shapiro. “Bread or carbs, alcohol or dessert—choose one, not all three.” All of these pack empty calories, so by only having one of the three, you limit your total intake.
As we age, our digestive system may need some help keeping us regular. Kaufman says that fiber helps increase gastrointestinal motility and decreases blood sugar. Her tip? Aim to get more fiber from less processed sources, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. A good goal is 25 to 38 grams daily.
“Metabolism and hormonal changes in your 40s create an ideal environment for excess fat storage in women—especially in the midsection,” says Moore. “In your 40s, activity is essential.” How can you pack in extra activity time? Opt to take the stairs, walk or cycle whenever you have the opportunity. All this extra expenditure adds up. Speaking of losing weight, try these 55 Best-Ever Ways to Boost Your Metabolism!
Yep, you’ve stopped eating sugar, but Splenda, Equal, and their ilk aren’t doing you any favors. In fact, research shows that artificial sweeteners can actually cause weight gain. “Let go of your sweet ‘crutch’ and limit your sweets altogether,” says Shapiro. “My rule is 150 to 200 calories of sweets a day.”
“Sure, coffee helps you keep up with your kids or job, but when did coffee become dessert?” says Shapiro. She suggests keeping your java order simple. For example, add cinnamon instead of sugar. (Cinnamon helps burn fat and regulate blood-sugar levels, by the way.)
Although you shouldn’t go to bed starving (that presents its own sleepytime problems), you also shouldn’t hit the sack completely stuffed. When you eat a large meal before bed, your body works to digest it long into the night — and if your body is still worked up, so are you. The later you fall asleep, the less rest you’ll get, and you’ll wake up feeling groggy and more likely to reach for calorie-dense items. We know that you’re still cool, and you’d like to eat dinner at a more fashionable hour, but supping on the earlier side could be a huge boost to your weight-loss goals. (And avoid these 30 Bad Habits That Lead to a Fat Belly!)
You don’t need as much food as you used to. Remember, you’re not growing anymore! Eat until you’re 80% full,then stop. In Japan, this method is called hara hachi bun me, which roughly translates to “eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full. Remember, you can always eat again later.
Processed foods won’t only make you fat — they’ll add wrinkles, not to mention what they’ll do to your heart. Shapiro says to reach for whole foods including fruits, veggies, grains, lean protein and heart-healthy fats. Your body will process them more efficiently, causing you to use the energy instead of storing it!
Green tea blasts away the sort of flab we get more of as we age. Researchers attribute the fat-burning properties of green tea to catechins, specifically EGCG — the name of a group of antioxidative compounds that fry adipose tissue by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of flab from fat cells (particularly in the belly), then speeding up the liver’s fat-burning capacity. Green tea is so powerful for weight loss that we made it the centerpiece of our new 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost 10 pounds in one week!
“Most 40-year-olds can remember the fat-free craze of the ’90s, when Snackwells was king,” says Shapiro. “Well, those days are over.” She advises that you leave the fat-free fake foods behind and enjoy healthy fats that add flavor to your meals and help you fill up with less. “Coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, salmon are rich in vitamins and minerals that will keep you young and fill you up on smaller portions, and therefore fewer calories.” She says.
After starting Pilates exercises, many people report improvements in flexibility, circulation, posture and core strength, as well as less back, neck and joint pain. Pilates, explains Santoro, has similar benefits to yoga, though the exercises are faster paced and have a greater resistance component, which is great for toning those metabolism-boosting muscles. “You’re moving through and pulling your own body weight on the Pilates reformer machines,” he says, adding that you’ll burn more calories than in a regular yoga session.
“When dining out, order two appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entrée,” says Shapiro. “This is instant portion control, and usually appetizers are lighter overall.”
One of the most important things you can do to lose pounds as you age is to shed water weight. Drinking more water will actually help reduce bloat, as will cutting the amount of salt in your diet — it immediately affects how your kidneys control the water balance in your body. An excess of salt may cause the body to retain water, leading to swelling. Avoid condiments, chips, pretzels, frozen and canned foods, deli meat, bread and other baked goods like they’re the second season of True Detective.
Greek yogurt fanatics have two undeniably strong facts supporting their habit: Quality Greek-style yogurt is low in calories and boasts an impressively high protein count. A six-ounce serving of plain Greek yogurt contains around 100 calories and nearly 20 grams of metabolism-revitalizing protein versus regular low-fat varieties of yogurt, which average nine grams of protein per six ounces and clock in at 100 calories or more. And sprinkle in some chia seeds, and try these 50 Best Chia Seed Recipes on Instagram!
Being in your 40s can mean juggling a lot of commitments and eating on the fly. An irregular eating schedule can undercut your metabolism. Research from John Moores University in Liverpool found that women who fluctuated between eating low- and high-calorie meals were less happy with their bodies than those whose plates contained a similar number of calories from meal to meal. But it’s not just fluctuating meal size that can derail your weight-loss goals. A Hebrew University study from 2012 found that mice that were fed high-fat foods sporadically gained more weight than mice that ate a similar diet on a regular schedule. Your move? Figure out how many calories you need to achieve your desired weight, and evenly divide that number by the three, four or five meals and snacks you eat per day. Aim for each of your meals to be roughly that size and eat them at about the same time each day.
Slayton says that fortysomething clients come into her office saying things like, “I’m doing the same things I always did to lose weight and they’re not working.” “Of course they’re not,” she says. “With each decade, the weight rules change. Generally, we have to eat less and be more careful to get the same result. Once you realize this, isn’t it kind of liberating?”