Taking shots of cheap whiskey, sleeping on futons, staying up until 4 in the morning—there are a lot of habits you’re probably happy to leave to your 20-year-old self. But the beautiful mystery of eating a whole pepperoni pizza and actually losing five pounds? Those are glory days worth mourning. Once you’re over 40, suddenly ditching a few pesky lbs and losing your gut seems to take monumental effort.
“The chemical messengers that control our metabolism begin to decline in our early 30s which makes it very difficult to maintain an ideal body weight or even lose unhealthy fat weight,” says Robert Kominiarek, D.O., medical director and hormone specialist at the Alpha Male Medical Institute in Springboro, OH. Once you hit 40, add lower testosterone, higher blood glucose, and higher insulin levels to the list of physiological changes that now make losing extra insulation about as difficult as keeping your full head of hair.
There’s another big reason to put your energy into eating well: you probably don’t have as much time to focus on working out. “In your 20s, the first instinct to drop pounds is often to hit the gym with increased intensity. But for those of us who are older and might be leading busier lives, running to the gym for an hour each evening isn’t always a feasible option,” says Pam Nisevich Bede, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian for Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition. (These 8 at-home workouts can certainly come in handy!) “A healthy diet is now your best friend when trying to lose weight.” It comes with added perks, though: A balanced diet can also energize your day, allowing you to make healthier decisions, and fuel your workouts most efficiently, she adds.
Here’s what you need to consider now that you’re over 40.
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