My Top 5 Tips For Staying Lean Over 40!

40 can be a tough time if you’re trying to stay or get lean.  Around the age of 40 we experience hormonal shifts that can make it feel like it’s impossible to lose weight.  The good news is it’s not impossible – it just takes a bit more thought and effort.

Here are my top 5 tips for staying lean over 40:

  1. Eat enough of the right stuff

When you suddenly find that you’re struggling to keep weight off it can be tempting to cut calories.  Don’t do it!  You need to fuel your body correctly and sufficiently or you’ll end up making things worse.  If you don’t get enough food your body will slow its metabolism down in order to conserve calories and fat so it can survive.

A sedentary woman should not go below 1500 calories and a sedentary man should not go below 2000.  If you’re conscious of your weight most likely you’re leading an active lifestyle.  This means you need more calories.  You can get a rough idea of how many by using an online calorie calculator.

It’s not as simple as just eating the correct amount of calories though!  You need to eat the right amounts of the right foods.  Cut out sugar and processed foods as much as possible – save them for your cheat day if you have to have them.  Try experimenting with your macro-nutrients.  A good place to start is 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% healthy fats.  Use My Fitness Pal to help you keep track.

You should also include a good probiotic in your diet.  Most people are not digesting their food properly because their gut flora has been thrown off by sugar, processed foods and exposure to antibiotics.  If you’re not digesting what you’re eating, even the healthiest diet will not result in optimum health.  You can buy probiotics in capsule form or eat yogurt and/or other fermented foods.

  1. Use a food journal!

For most people over 40 you can’t just estimate what you’re eating like you could in your 20s.  You need to weigh, measure and track!  I know it sounds like a pain in the ass (and it can be) but commit to at least one week of measuring and weighing.  After a week you’ll become more familiar with what a proper serving size looks like and you may even find that you don’t mind weighing an measuring your food.  I use My Fitness Pal to keep track and it’s been a game changer.

  1. Strength train and do not over-do cardio!

If you don’t strength train, start now!  Hire a trainer for a few sessions so you can learn how to do it properly.  If you already strength train make sure you’re going heavy enough and mix it up every 4-6 weeks.  Do heavy weights that cause momentary muscle failure within 8-10 reps.  After about 4 weeks of that switch to lighter weights where you can do 12-15 reps.  After that try adding some plyo moves to your workout…..the possibilities are endless!  If you need help with a program I can help you 😉

Do cardio but don’t do too much.  20-30 minutes per session 3-6 days a week is enough.  Do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  If you do too much cardio all you’re doing is training your body to store more fat.  And, when you over tax your body with cardio your body may need to burn muscle for fuel.  This is the last thing you want.  Low muscle means low metabolism.

  1. Drink water.

Hydration is key.  A dehydrated body is a sick body.  Did you know that when you’re dehydrated you won’t burn fat as efficiently?  Aim for 3-4 litres per day.  You can keep track of this on My Fitness Pal too.

  1. Get your rest.

You need to rest.  When you don’t get enough sleep your cortisol levels rise and this can lead to a cascade of events that will cause your body to store fat.  If you have trouble sleeping try using melatonin or magnesium at night.  You can also try meditation and making sure your bedroom is dark and kept at a cool temperature.

Being Over 40 Is No Excuse!

Don’t fall into the habit of blaming your age for your weight.  You can lose weight and stay lean at any age, it just takes a bit more thought and effort.  If it’s really worth it to you, you will be lean and healthy for the rest of your life.

How To Get Lean Without Getting Bulky

One question I get asked a lot from my female clients is how to get lean without getting bulky.  First of all, I want to stress to the women that lifting heavy will not make you bulky.  You won’t start looking like the hulk if you start lifting.  Women simply don’t have enough testosterone to build huge muscles.  The female bodybuilders that you see have to work REALLY hard to look the way they do.  Their training is super intense and their diet and supplements (if they use supplements) are planned specifically to support that kind of building.

I think where the confusion lies is when women gain some muscle but don’t lose fat or put fat on due to following the wrong type of nutrition plan.  Fat lies on top of the muscle so if you’re carrying extra fat or put fat on you might get a ‘bulky’ look.  This isn’t too hard to fix though.  Let’s look at what you have to do if you want to get lean without getting bulky.

How To Get Lean Without Getting Bulky

  • Watch your carb intake.

You don’t need to eliminate carbs but you do need to be aware of what carbs you’re eating and how much you’re eating.  Carbs are a very important part of your diet – they provide energy and also help with your strength.   You need the right kinds of carbs though.  Eliminate processed carbs such as crackers, commercial cereals, desserts etc.  Limit your intake of carbs such as rice, potatoes and pasta.  Be super careful about grains too as they cause inflammation.  If you need to eat bread get sprouted bread (in the refrigerated section).  Limit your fruit intake as well since eating a lot of it can result is spikes and crashes in blood sugar.  I recommend 1-2 servings a day and consume them early in the day when you’ll be sure to use the sugar for energy.  Eat lots of veggies.  Try to keep your carbs to about 30-35% of your total daily food intake.

  • Increase protein and make sure you’re getting enough fat.

We need protein to build and maintain muscle.  Did you know that more muscle means a higher metabolism?  Try upping your protein to about 40% of your daily food intake.  This might sound like a lot but it gets great results for most people.

Fat is another super important macronutrient that too many people are afraid of.  You NEED healthy fats in your diet in order for your body to be healthy!  Healthy fats are natural fats such as olive oil, hemp seed oil, coconut oil and yes! BUTTER!  You absolutely need dietary fat if you want your metabolism to run at an optimum level.  Be sure to keep your fat intake to about 20-25% of your daily food intake.

  • LIFT!!!!!

If you want a lean strong body you need to lift heavy!  Don’t be afraid of the heavy weights ladies!!!!  If you start a strength training program and start to notice your clothes are fitting tighter it’s because your nutrition is off and your body is hanging onto or adding more fat.  Remember, working out does NOT justify eating whatever you want.  You have to get your nutrition right if you want to get lean.  Don’t use the scale as your gage though.  5lbs of muscle takes up way less space than 5lbs of fat, but the scale doesn’t differentiate between fat weight and lean weight.

  • Don’t overdo the cardio.

I know it’s tempting.  Many people, including myself make this mistake.  I thought that the way to lose weight and look toned and strong was to do cardio until the weight fell off.  This doesn’t work.  If anything, it does the opposite.  Too much cardio will actually hinder muscle growth.  Actually, if you’re overdoing your cardio, your body becomes catabolic and actually starts to ‘eat’ your muscle for fuel!  Less muscle means a slower metabolism which leads to weight gain and frustration.  Aim for 30-45 minutes of cardio 3-4 days per week.

Another thing that will cause your body to become catabolic?  Starving yourself.  To figure out approximately how many calories you need per day use this calorie calculator.

A Balanced Approach To Your Health & Fitness

I think where most people go wrong is they assume they have to go extreme at the gym and with their diet in order to get the results they want.  Extreme’s not going to work for the average person.  You need to eat healthy and exercise in a balanced and healthy way.

Figure out how many calories you need to eat and calculate  your macros to be about 40% protein, 35% carbs and 25% fat.  Use an app such as My Fitness Pal to track your macros.  Track your results.  If you’re not getting the results you want try tweaking something – maybe you need a bit less of something or a little more of something.

Get someone to help you design a proper workout program or search for something online.  Again, track your results and if you’re not getting what you want out of it try tweaking a thing or two.  Every body is different and will react differently to nutrition and exercise so you need to be ready to try a few things before you find what works for you.

Need help?  Ask me!