If you've been looking to lose weight after 50, there are plenty of accessible ways to boost your fitness, increase your metabolism, and drop pounds you can do at home, outdoors, or at the gym.
While you can use the best exercise machines to lose weight, there are other important factors to consider, like your diet, training style, and how you stay motivated.
We've enlisted the help of Lily Chapman, a sport and exercise nutritionist at fitness platform P3RFORM, to provide expert insight on each topic. There's no quick fix, but you can make several lifestyle changes to lose weight after 50 sustainably.
Lily Chapman is a performance coach and nutritionist a P3RFORM with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Nutrition. She previously worked with the Swansea City FC Academy to develop personalized training plans for each of the soccer team's players.
1. Stick to a calorie deficit
You've probably heard that to lose weight after 50, you need to reduce your calorie intake. This is only partly true; you actually need to create a calorie deficit, where you burn more energy than you take in.
It's a weight-loss staple because your body starts to use energy from your fat stores, helping reduce your body fat and drop pounds. But it's vital not to make this deficit too extreme.
Generally, a 500-calorie deficit should help you lose weight without feeling overly hungry or tired, but you can use a calculator like the Mayo Clinic's Calorie Calculator to work out a more personalized target.
2. Eat more vegetables
Chapman suggests bulking out your meals with vegetables, low-energy-density foods with fewer calories per gram. So, you can keep your portion sizes about the same while sticking to your calorie deficit.
Vegetables are also packed with health-boosting micronutrients, while many contain polyphenols. "Research (including this study published in Frontiers in Nutrition) suggests polyphenols can help to protect against many lifestyle-related diseases," says Chapman.
3. Eat enough protein
Protein is an essential nutrient our body needs to repair and strengthen our muscles. It also helps you feel fuller for longer, making it an ideal way to reduce snacking throughout the day.
"Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, so if you have more muscle mass, you burn more calories at rest," Chapman explains. She advises eating at least 1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.
4. Stay hydrated
Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so try to stay in your "optimal hydration zone" to avoid this, Chapman suggests. She advises you to "[drink enough to] ensure your urine is a nice pale-yellow color."
Working out how much water you should drink each day takes practice, but you'll notice the benefits quickly. Plus, keeping one of the best water bottles for gym workouts nearby makes it convenient to stay hydrated.
5. Try mindful eating
If you've ever considered learning how to meditate but sitting still wasn't for you, you can practice mindfulness at any time, including while eating. Bringing your focus to the experience of eating can make a big difference.
"Sit down, slow down, remove all distractions, and enjoy your food," says Chapman. This can help you become more in tune with feelings of fullness and make the meal taste that much better—it's a win-win!
6. You don't have to work out to move more
NEAT, short for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, is arguably the most overlooked yet important factor behind weight loss. It's also a lot simpler than it sounds.
NEAT is any activity we do that isn't sleep or structured exercise, so this can be anything from walking the dog to mowing the lawn. It's responsible for more of your daily energy expenditure (about 10-15% of daily calorie burn) than most people realize.
This makes it a great way to add movement to a hectic schedule when you don't have time for a formal workout. Chapman suggests "running errands, taking the stairs, parking further away from the shops, getting off the bus one stop early, or using a standing desk at work."
7. Do strength training workouts
While high-intensity routines like a HIIT workout for fat loss can help burn fat and boost your metabolism, strength training is also an effective way to lose weight sustainably.
"Strength training comes with extensive benefits, including building muscle, maintaining bone health, and keeping your [metabolism high] so you expend more energy each day," explains Chapman.
"It can also enhance your quality of life by building functional strength for everyday activities, reducing injury risk, and managing chronic conditions. Happy days!"
You don't need to spend hours at the gym either, as these five-minute workouts help develop strength without weights, so you can fit them in whenever you have a spare moment.
8. Keep your B12 levels topped up
You might not have heard of this vitamin, but it is vital to your body. "B12 is involved in the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids," says Chapman. She also notes that it can be harder to absorb B12 as we age.
She advises consuming 2.4mg daily "through fortified foods or supplementation." Check out our guide to the best B12 supplements if you want to increase your daily intake.
9. Don't focus on the scales
The best scales for body fat can be a helpful way to track your progress, but it can also make it harder to stay motivated, especially if the number wasn't what you were hoping for.
"Our weight fluctuates so much every day depending on a variety of factors, which is often why people quit their health and fitness regime prematurely," Chapman explains. "It's important to try and change our interpretation of this, as results are not always linear."
To keep your motivation up, focus on other measures, like whether your changes make you feel happier, improve your wellbeing, or boost your overall health.
For example, consider if you have more energy, sleep better, have a more enjoyable relationship with food, or find exercise easier. These are all big wins, and each one is worth celebrating!
10. Be kind to yourself
This might sound like a social media slogan, but there's some truth to this popular phrase. Inevitably, there will be days you don't hit your goals, but that's okay.
We realize this is easier said than done, but bear with us. "Consciously or not, many older individuals tend to focus on why it may be harder for them to lose fat," says Chapman.
She explains that this increased stress can lead to binge eating or reduced activity levels, which opposes your weight loss goals. Instead, she advises several self care ideas to look after your wellbeing and reduce stress.
Rather than viewing this as a failure, Chapman says it's more important to look at your average behavior over time rather than specific days. This flexible approach is more realistic as sometimes life just gets in the way.
"Focusing on the controllable can provide a solution for this stress. Other methods of managing stress include meditation, yoga, or recording a gratitude journal to help find your meaning."
The aim is to follow these tips to lose weight after 50, but don't panic if you occasionally stray. As Chapman notes: "Don't worry if you don't hit your goals every day; both food and exercise are supposed to be enjoyed."
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Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.
Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.