Fit over 40 women… are they really just genetic anomalies who miraculously keep their six pack abs well into their 40’s and 50’s? Maybe you think they spend hours upon hours in the gym sculpting the perfect butt and snacking on celery…. Well, if you have ever wondered how to stay fit after 40, I have some really good news for you. It is absolutely possible. In fact, I am proof. Just before I turned 48 this year, I took part in the fitness photo shoot that ended up on the cover of the newest FITBODY Magazine. As a mom, wife, and entrepreneur running the full FITBODY brand, let me tell you, time is tight. I definitely do not have the luxury of spending hours upon hours a day working out and food-wise, well, let’s just say that this fit over 40 woman has an appetite. I happen to like celery, but l am also partial to burgers and wine. So how do you do it? How do you stay fit after 40 as you begin heading into menopause with hormones shifting, skin sagging and energy waining? Whether you are noticing that it is easier to gain weight now or that the same old tricks that helped you drop that last 10 pounds just don’t work, let me share with you some of my best fit over 40 women secrets…
Fill Up On Fruits & Veggies
Fit women over 40 know that vegetables and fruits are nutritional gems with tons of nutrients and super low calories. And talk about fiber. Veggies in particular are super filling and help stave off hunger allowing you to eat less total calories in your quest on how to stay fit over 40. I suggest filling your plate half full of veggies for lunch and dinner meals and then including fruits as a snack 2-4 times a day. Whole fruits, like grapefruit and berries along with leafy green vegetables tend to be excellent choices.
Start the Morning Right
Breaking that fast first thing in the morning might not be in vogue with the latest intermittent fasting gurus, but what I can tell you is that including a healthy breakfast packed with protein has been the recommendation of health experts and doctors for ages. And for good reasons. A healthy morning meal can curb early afternoon hunger helping you avoid that snack attack mid-day. There is also something deeply profound about starting your morning in a positive direction. When you eat a healthy breakfast you set the rest of your day on track to keep making healthy choices. Additionally, high protein breakfast foods like eggs are highly recommended for women as they enter menopause because of their high protein and iron content. Staying fit over 40 means making good, consistent choices.
Fit Over 40 Women
Load Calories Earlier in the Day
While the quality of your food is most important, there are benefits to eating the majority of your calories and carbs early in the day if you want to stay fit over 40. Ideally try to get in about 70% of your daily calories before 4 pm.
Be Your Own Chef
Whether you realize it or not, restaurants load seemingly healthy options with extra oil, sugar and butter that can add up calories quickly. They also have ridiculously large portion sizes that can derail your best efforts to stay fit and healthy. While you don’t want to avoid eating out altogether, be sure that most of your meals are cooked at home in your own kitchen. When you are in control of your food preparation, you make better choices.
How to Stay Fit After 40
Watch Your Calorie Intake
We all know that eating too many calories causes weight gain but did you know that too little calories can be just as damaging to your metabolism. Finding that happy medium where you are taking in enough to fuel your workouts and day but not so much that you add fat takes some balance. I recommend women that want to get fit over 40 start with their resting metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns at rest) and adding 200-300 to account for daily activity if you are trying to lose weight and are exercising at least 30 mins daily. If you are trying to stay fit after 40 and want to maintain, take your resting metabolic rate and add 500-700 calories. Tracking your calories with an app like My Fitness Pal helps you pay attention to your food and make better choices for the long haul.
Avoid Sugar, Except in Moderation
Sugar in enemy number one for fit women over 40. Sugary coffee drinks, sodas, juices, desserts, energy drinks… no matter where it comes from added sugar spikes your insulin and causes serious cravings. Cut back on sugar to avoid adding body fat. Making the jump to water or zero-cal drinks can also lower your risk for disease like diabetes.
Wine Once a Week
While there is some research that moderate alcohol intake can be beneficial for certain group, the bottom line is that most alcoholic drinks are full of empty calories that lower your inhibitions and make you more susceptible to snacking. Have you ever noticed that your will power to avoid those fancy cheese and crackers seems nonexistent after a few drinks? Women that value middle age fitness keep alcohol consumption limited. I recommend having 1-3 drinks once a week if you really want to stay on track.
Middle Age Fitness
Between sitting most of the day at desk jobs, long car or train commutes, and family activities, many 40-somethings don’t have a lot of free time for fitness & working out. However it is important — for your weight and your overall health — to fit in at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate physical activity. This can be anything from a brisk walking or even yard work to a short run or plyomentrics every week.
Regular exercise during middle age can help prevent chronic health conditions for years to come. It also helps those years-to-come exist in the first place. One study of 18,000 individuals with an average age of 49 years confirmed their previous history of fitness was directly related to the chance of developing serious health issues after a 26-year follow-up.
Scheduling your time will ensure you actually DO it. Put it on your calendar or To Do list and make them a priority.
For women over 40, there’s a pretty simple rule when it comes to your muscles: you have to use them or you’ll lose them. While your nutrition is certainly an important part of the picture, in order to maintain, let alone build muscle mass as you age, you need to be lifting weights.
Fire Up Your Metabolism – Pound for pound, muscle burns more than double the amount of calories than fat while you body is at rest so while you may think of cardio as fat burning, putting on more muscle will actually help you burn more fat while you sleep or sit on the couch. This is key for a speedy metabolism because even the most active woman likely spends more time sitting and sleeping than moving. More on how lifting weights changes your body here.
Your muscles are constantly going through a state of being broken down and rebuilt. That’s part of life. Your muscles grow when the amount of protein synthesized within them eclipses the amount that is broken down.
The trick with lifting weights is that it actually causes microscopic damage to your muscle tissue and in order to repair the damage, your body then starts a period of MPS (muscle protein synthesis) that is increased for up to 48 hours. In combination with an adequate supply of protein in your nutrition plan, lifting weights is an incredibly effective means of maintaining and even build muscle mass for women over 40.
People naturally lose muscle after 40, especially women after menopause. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, this can slow down your metabolism and make it harder to shake those stubborn pounds. Strength-training exercises like lifting weights or doing body-weight exercises, like push-ups and squats — at least twice a week can help you keep those muscles.
Relax, Don’t Stress
Causes for stress in your life can be wide and varied. Stress has been shown to make people more likely to binge on unhealthy food, (emotional eating) and makes it harder for your body to break down fat. One of the best ways to relieve stress is to work out. You’ve heard the old addage…“You’re only one workout away from a good mood.” Well, I’m here to tell you it’s true. If you can just get over the hump of starting, you’ll be glad you did. Try yoga, deep breathing, meditation, or lifting. If you can’t bring yourself to get to the gym, going for a walk, or reading a good book can offer similar benefits. Stress relief is different for everyone, so find what works for you.
Get Good Sleep
All kinds of things can keep you from getting the right amount of sleep after age 40 — health problems, kids, stress, medications, and, for women, menopause. But people who don’t get good-quality sleep are more likely to gain weight. If you skimp on sleep because you’re busy or stressed, try to change your habits and settle into a regular routine.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have been asked, does sleep help you lose weight? Trust me, I get it. As a busy mom and entrepreneur, it often seems there are not enough hours in the day. With so many important things pulling you in different directions we often put ourselves last. Which means more times than we care to admit, we are skimping on sleep. The facts can be tough to swallow though. Sleep, it turns out, it just as important as your nutrition and your exercise when it comes to losing weight.
Sad to say, but about 30% of the adults in the US are getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night according to the Center for Disease Control.
Logically, we know that the more tired we are, the lower our will power will be. The times when I am short on sleep, it is way more difficult to turn down a morning donut or to make it to the gym. I remember when my son was an infant. He struggled to sleep through the night which meant, of course that mom was up all night with him. Each time that happened, the next day I found my motivation low and I ended up eating sugary treats and longing for caffeine to help me push through.
More in depth article on sleep and fitness here.
Have Your Thyroid Checked
If you’re eating healthy and your exercise regularly and are still finding you can’t lose weight, your thyroid may not be working as it should. This happens in a small percentage of people, and it’s most common in women and people over 60. In addition to weight gain, it can also cause fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and depression. There are medications that can help, so get it checked if you think that might be an issue.
Melissa Colston is a prime example of a woman who worked through thyroid issues and still achieved her dream of being a fitness competitor.
What Foods Help Women Over 40?
Exercise and diet are both important on your quest to build muscle and make a skinny to fit transformation. As we will discuss below, you have to be engaging in physical activity to see results, but if your nutrition is off track, no amount of training will matter.
Including protein is super important, but muscle is not built with protein alone. You have to have a balance of carbohydrates and healthy fats to give you the energy you need to train with everything you have got. Here is a list of my favorite muscle building foods…
- Eggs (Whole & Egg Whites
- 0 Fat Greek Yogurt
- Lean Chicken Breast
- Lean Beef
- Water Packed Tuna
- Soy Beans
- White Fish
- Cottage Cheese
- Ultimate Muscle Protein
- Lean Jerky
- Pork Tenderloin
- Skim Milk
- Brown Rice
- String Cheese
- Liquid Eggs
- Mahi Mahi
Fit Over 40 Workout Plan
When you are trying to build lean muscle, strength training really is king. I want you to maintain your cardio vascular endurance but this is not the time to be running marathons. I recommend the following exercise splits for a two month program:
Phase I Weight Training
(Weeks 1 – 4)
Day One: Back, Hamstrings, Glutes
Day Two: Chest, Biceps & Abs
Day Three: Delts, Triceps, Abs
Day Four: Quads, Glutes, Calves
Day Five: Delts, Back, Abs
Phase II Weight Training (Weeks 5-8)
Day One: Legs & Chest
Day Two: Delts, Back & Abs
Day Three: Glutes & Arms
Day Four: Delts & Back
Day Five: Legs & Arms
Get Support & Accountability
For many people, it’s easier to lose weight with others than to do it alone. You might enter a weight-loss contest at work, join a walking group in your neighborhood, or take classes at the gym. Other people who share your goals can help keep you accountable and cheer you on as you make progress.
Sometimes it’s just not enough though. Having a trusted coach who cares about you and your goals can impact your ability to stay on track. With my online training program for women, I am my client’s cheerleader, their biggest supporter and when they need it, I’m the one that provides a gentle kick in the pants they need to get back on track. I WANT EVERY WOMAN TO SUCCEED and my mission through my program is to make sure that happens! Let me know if you need a little guidance or go check out what it’s all about here.