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Is it more challenging to lose weight when you’re over 50 compared to when you’re younger?

Losing weight when you are over the age of 50 can be harder, as it’s often more difficult for individuals so create a calorie deficit – the fundamental of fat loss. This may be due to a variety of reasons:

Muscle mass:

Generally, as we age, individuals experience a loss of muscle mass. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, so if you have more muscle mass you burn more calories at rest. With this, older individuals may not need as many calories as the youth, making fat loss feel harder.


For women, menopause causes a significant reduction in oestrogen. Men, on the other hand, experience a significant drop in testosterone as they age from around the age of 40. A reduction in both these can lead to a reduced total daily energy intake expenditure, independent of changes in body composition.

Less movement and lifestyle changes:

Compared to youth individuals, as we age, we tend to be busier with work and family. This may mean that time at your desk increases and energy expenditure is likely to decrease. As this is the fundamental rule for fat loss, this may lead to difficulties when trying to lose fat.

Are there any foods, food types, micronutrients, or macronutrients people over 50 should actively look to consume more or less of?

Remember, although there may be things that would be good as an addition to your diet, there is no singular food that contains all nutrients your body needs for a healthy lifestyle. Any food can fit into your lifestyle and fitness goals, nothing should be forbidden. Complete removal is how people give up, so embrace imperfect action! Despite this, there are some nutritional factors that could be considered for those aged over 50 to help offset physiological changes and optimise their health and fitness regime:

Up those polyphenols!

Research suggests that long-term consumption of diets rich in polyphenols (found in colourful fruit and veggies!) can help to protect against many lifestyle-related diseases. With fruit and veg being low in energy density, but high in micronutrients, aim for as many as possible throughout the day.

An easy way to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption is to ensure that around 50% of each plate is devoted to fruit and vegetables. Opting for a source of each colour (white, yellow, red, purple, or green) can help ensure a varied whole-food approach full of many micronutrients. Setting reminders up on your smartphone, or ensuring it is included in your daily 'to do' lists, are also great ways to ensure you are not skipping out!


The benefits of protein consumption are well established and are key to optimise strength and power gains, as well as maintaining muscle mass and bone health. As we age, our bone health has naturally shown to decrease. In fact, by the age of 70, bone mass has been shown to decrease by 30-40% through an increase of bone reabsorption without accompanied deposition.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do throughout our lifespan to help keep our bones nice and strong. Cross-linking of collagen molecules in the bone involves the modification of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Protein also helps to optimise levels of IGF-1 hormone, which stimulates bone health through increases in calcium and phosphorus in the gut. With this, aiming for at least 1.2g/kg of protein (e.g., 72g for a 60kg individual) each day can help to ensure optimal bone health, at any age.

Vitamin D

Calcium absorption to promote growth and bone mineralisation is to a significant extent regulated by vitamin D. The majority of vitamin D is obtained from UVB (sunlight) exposure. However, deficiencies may occur if individuals are living during winter months., training indoors regularly, or wearing sunlight-blocking outfits. Aim for adequate levels of this through the consumption of oily fish, mushrooms, fortified plant-based beverages/cereal, or supplementation.

My Top Tips...

Focus on other wins other than scale weight:

Our weight fluctuates so much every day depending on a variety of factors, which is when individuals likely quit their health and fitness regime prematurely. It’s important to try to change our interpretation of this – as results are not always linear. Consider all factors of progress along with long-term averages of body mass, such as performance progression, energy levels, food relationship, sleep quality, progress photos, etc.

Control the controllables:

Individuals again, tend to give up on their health and fitness routine as they believe their situation will negate chances of fat loss (e.g., ageing, menopause, post-pregnancy). As we know, these examples do make it a little more difficult to lose fat, but this does not mean that the mechanism (a calorie deficit) has changed. It’s therefore important to focus on what you can control, rather than hoping a quick-fix solution will come for you.

Don’t overlook the importance of NEAT:

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis: the energy we expend for everything we do when we are not sleeping or exercising. Surprisingly, NEAT contributes to a larger portion of your total daily energy expenditure, when compared to structure exercise (around 10%). However, it is hugely overlooked by many. When looking for fat loss alongside a busy lifestyle, try to up that NEAT by running errands, taking the stairs, parking further away from the shops, getting off the bus a stop early, or implementing a stand-up desk at work! With this, NEAT can be ideal to lose weight.


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