Health through the ages – How to stay lean for life

As our bodies age, weight becomes easier to gain and harder to lose, (no) thanks to changes in our bodies and often our lifestyles too. Here’s a look at some changes you can make specific to each decade to stay lean for life!

Your 30s
Your 40s
Your 50s+

Your 30s

Women generally lose about 1% of their muscle mass each year starting around age 30, which gradually slows your metabolism. This is also the time when many women juggle young children, as well as a career – leaving little free time for exercise.

Get enough protein. Strength training is really important to keep your muscle mass during this time, so eat enough protein to fuel your muscles, help ward off hunger and even boost your metabolism.

Got milk? Eating a calcium-rich diet will not only slow the bone loss that also starts during this decade, but research suggests that it can help the body burn more fat too.

Quality not quantity. You probably don’t have an hour to spend at gym anyway, so try 20 minutes of interval training – alternating short bursts of high-intensity exercise with short recovery periods – for the best results.

Don’t stress. Stress increases levels of the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite, slows your metabolism and prompts the body to store fat. Take a proper lunch break away from your desk, limit your caffeine intake, stay hydrated and get lots of Vitamin C to lower your cortisol levels.

Don’t skip meals. Healthy eating is probably not at the top of your very long to-do list, but eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day can help you resist unhealthy choices at dinner time.

Your 40s

By age 40, you’ve lost up to 10% of your muscle mass, which means you’re burning about 100 calories less a day than 10 years ago. You’re also nearing perimenopause (if you haven’t hit it already), which could cause weight gain especially in the tummy, hips and thighs.

Get more active. A slowing metabolism makes it even harder to get rid of the extra kilos, so take your workout up a notch, and incorporate full-body strength training two to three times a week.

Think whole. You don’t have as much flexibility with your daily calories anymore, so focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods like fresh veggies and fruit, and wholegrain foods like brown rice and oats.

Stop picking. A few bites of your child’s leftovers can add up to hundreds of extra calories over the course of a week. Make the kids put their own plates in the sink to avoid the temptation, and stock up on snacks that the kids love, but you don’t, to prevent snacking with them.

Cut out refined carbs. As you head towards menopause, your Estrogen levels start to drop, causing your body to store what you eat as fat, instead of burning it as energy. Cut out refined carbs to help prevent an expanding waistline.

Get spicy. Turn the heat up in the kitchen and down on the thermostat. Eating spicy foods and living in cooler temperatures revs up your metabolism and helps you burn more fat.

Your 50s+

Your 50s is a time of great transition as your body goes through perimenopause or menopause. Besides fluctuating hormone levels, your metabolism also slows down even further, which can cause the numbers on the scale to creep up – if you let it.

Reduce portion sizes. Your body is burning about 200 fewer calories a day than it did at 30, so you need to reduce your portion sizes and snack more mindfully.

Fill up on fibre. High-fibre foods like whole grains and beans take longer to digest and keeps blood sugar levels steady, preventing you from getting hungry as quickly.

Stay active. Aim for 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day, or if you’re short on time, 30 minutes of vigorous activity will do the trick too.

Eat purposefully. Magnesium helps reduce stress by suppressing the release of cortisol, so stock up on spinach, almonds and black beans. Foods rich in Vitamin B6 give you extra energy during the day and help you sleep better at night, so eat lots of chicken, turkey and bananas.

Boost your mood. Menopause increases women’s risk of depression, which could have you reaching for refined carbs in order for your brain to release the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. However, this is a temporary rush that leads to an even lower low, setting you up for a constant cycle of cravings. To boost your mood, space meals and snacks no more than five hours apart and make sure they contain a filling mix of complex carbs like whole-grain crackers or fruit, plus lean protein.

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