Medically reviewed by Leann Poston, M.D. on 9/24/20
It’s a pervasive but untrue myth that only women worry about their appearance and how it changes with age. Men care just as much about how they look, especially when it comes to weight and fitness. With good reason, both men and women recognize that maintaining or losing weight becomes more challenging the older they get. In the case of men, there are several factors at play that effectively reduce metabolic rate, burn fewer calories in a day, and can lead to adding on the pounds (or finding it harder and harder to lose them or maintain the same size). We’ll discuss some of those factors in our guide to weight loss and diet tips for men over 40 below.
At the same time, there are many steps that men can take to try to optimize their metabolism, decrease caloric intake, increase calorie burn, and remain fit and healthy. Naturally, some of these fall into the category of targeted weight loss or fitness tasks, whereas others are more on the order of modifying diet or eating habits. We’ll cover both of these categories in our weight loss and diet tips for men over 40 below.
For the best results, most experts agree that a combination of regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet is essential – whether your goal is simply to maintain a healthy weight and fitness level or to drop a certain number of pounds from your body weight.
Before we begin, it’s worth pointing out that, as always, each and every individual is unique. The dietary and fitness needs of one person are going to vary considerably from the next. This becomes more and more apparent and relevant as people age, since health conditions, medications, and other considerations all come into play more dramatically than during youth or young adulthood. Therefore, we always encourage our readers to seek out advice from their doctor or healthcare provider before making any dramatic life changes, including a new diet, exercise program, or similar.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at ten of the top weight loss and diet tips for men over 40!
There are many changes that bodies undergo as they age, triggered by both the aging of cells and body systems, alongside decreasing levels of hormones like testosterone. These internal changes are part of the natural cycle of aging, and (at least as of this writing) are unavoidable. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you have to take them lying down, or that there aren’t strategies to combat what we humans perceive as negative effects from these changes. We’ll get to some strategies, weight loss, and diet tips for men over 40 to do just that in a few moments.
External forces in our lives also play a role in explaining why many adults find it easier to gain weight, harder to lose weight, and more challenging to maintain weight after their mid to late 30s or early 40s. Typically, by this point in life, many adults have rather sedentary lifestyles, sitting or standing for much of the day in their jobs, and not getting a ton of physical activity. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions, and parents with young children may be quite active chasing them around and keeping tabs on them. Likewise, working out at a gym or making a point of doing some daily exercise means your activity level may not be as low or declining as those of the next person of similar age. But, on the whole, it does decrease as compared to teenagers, twenty-somethings, and so on.
Further, after our 30s, muscle mass starts to decrease, making it harder to build new muscle. Decreasing muscle mass means a decreasing basal metabolic rate – responsible for much of our passive calorie-burning just from daily activities. In fact, most studies have shown that basal metabolic rate seems to decrease in an almost linear fashion as we age.
Some of our weight loss and diet tips for men over 40 that we’ll get into below focus on this fact and seek to help men maintain or grow new muscle mass and combat the decreasing metabolic rate inherent to losing muscle. The decreased testosterone levels we just spoke about above also play a role in muscle health, muscle loss, and the ease or difficulty in maintaining and growing new muscle mass – all of which combine to make the “40s Flab” a real phenomenon for many men.
Finally, several medications and medical treatments can play a role in reducing metabolic rate, calorie burn, and/or energy levels for exercising or performing life activities. As we age, it becomes more and more likely that we will develop conditions or otherwise require preventative medications and treatments, some of which may have side effects that make it harder to lose weight or even cause weight gain. While medications are typically prescribed to do more good than harm, and we would never suggest avoiding a medication your doctor has prescribed, this can be yet another age-adjacent challenge to your weight, health, and fitness levels that you need to overcome.
The good news is there are habits and changes that you can make if you are a man over 40, to help boost your metabolism, increase your activity level, and make it easier to maintain your weight or even lose weight, boost muscle mass, and remain healthy. Below, we highlight ten of the top weight loss and diet tips for men over 40. Surely, there are some on our list that you can adapt to work well within your life, consistent with your own habits, preferences, limitations, and so on so that you can start improving your health, and fitness, and better manage your weight today!
It doesn’t matter if you are a couch potato or a regular Joe Fitness who hits the gym every morning – exercise is the surest way to lose weight, grow muscle mass, and stay in shape. For men over 40, regular exercise is not only critical to maintaining a healthy weight, but also to preserving and strengthening joints, range of motion, and muscle tone, to combat the effects of decreasing testosterone. Whatever your current exercise routine or regimen may be, you need to either add greater intensity, longer duration – or, if you aren’t exercising at all – start an exercise program.
You don’t need to necessarily join a gym or work out every day to realize the benefits of exercise, either. Find ways to exercise that work with your lifestyle and fitness level. For example, if you’ve never had a workout routine, it’s not realistic to think you’re going to start going to the gym for an hour every weekday morning out of the blue. Rather, take small steps, and start getting more physical activity. Running, jogging, hiking, cycling, and swimming – these are all good places to start. Weight and strength training at a gym will certainly help, especially in terms of muscle mass, but isn’t an absolute requirement to burn more calories and stay in shape – just physical activity, in general, is a move in the right direction.
Most kinds of alcoholic beverages are rich in calories, which can definitely lead to packing on the pounds as you get older. In addition, though there is some evidence that moderate wine consumption has health benefits, drinking beer or hard liquors, especially to excess, is more harmful to your body than good. Long-term damage to the liver, kidneys and other body systems is common in those who drink to excess, and feeling awful the next day from a hangover isn’t exactly thrilling, either.
That’s not to say you can’t get nice and buzzed now and then, but reducing your alcohol consumption is one of the most effective weight loss and diet tips for men over 40. Indeed, those who describe themselves as moderate social drinkers have been found to consume roughly 500 more calories on days they drink than on days they don’t – chiefly from the calories in the alcohol they consume. That’s a quarter of the daily recommended dietary calories adults should consume (2,000) to maintain a healthy weight, and a higher percentage if you are trying to lose weight via a reduced-calorie diet. Cutting out or reducing alcohol consumption, therefore, provides one of the biggest bangs for your buck.
Cardio, aerobics, and any kind of physical activity that raises your heart rate and burns calories is a great start. But to combat the loss of muscle mass, and really supercharge any weight loss you are aiming for, you need to incorporate strength and endurance training into your exercise routine. It’s a well-established fact that muscles require more calories as part of your basal metabolic rate than fat does. Increasing muscle mass will help you to work out longer and harder, decrease body fat percentage, and more effectively burn calories – all good things when you are trying to lose weight.
The best way to undertake strength training and work different muscle groups is through a gym or, failing that, home fitness equipment. There are weight sets and affordable multi-purpose exercise machines available from many major retailers both in-store and online that can aid you in this task. Even doing high impact exercises with small weights or kettlebells, or intense uphill bicycling, can really help with strength training, toning, and muscle building.
There are a variety of health conditions and medication side effects that may make it even more challenging for you to lose weight, maintain muscle mass, and stay fit as you age. It’s vitally important that you go for regular check-ups with your doctor, who should schedule you for routine monitoring tests. If you have specific concerns about metabolism, calories, or weight loss, your doctor may order liver, thyroid, and other metabolic and hormonal panels, to determine if you have an imbalance or disorder that could be causing problems. Unfortunately, as we age, we become more predisposed to develop deficits and conditions, many of which can play some role in fat and calorie metabolism.
Likewise, medication management is important. All the weight loss and diet tips in the world are important, but if you’re on a medication that slows your metabolic rate, interferes with building muscle, alters hormone levels, and so on, you’re already fighting an uphill battle. There may be alternative medication options that don’t have such side effects, and will still manage or prevent the health conditions for which you were prescribed the medication in question. The only way to know and make progress on that front is to talk to your doctor about your concerns, issues, and goals.
Your body requires a vast array of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in order to work at optimal efficiency. Normally, a healthy, balanced diet provides sufficient or nearly-sufficient amounts of these nutrients. As we age, however, it can become harder to absorb as large a percentage of nutrients out of food as it was when we were younger. The result can mean nutrient deficiencies, even with a healthy, balanced diet. Consider taking a multivitamin daily to help ensure your nutrient levels are up to par.
You may also want to take targeted or specific supplements if you know you don’t get enough of a certain nutrient. For example, omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health, and largely come from fish (among a few other sources). If you don’t eat seafood, then an omega-3 supplement pill might be in order. This is, of course, just one example, and there are a variety of supplements and vitamins available from grocery, health, and online stores today.
With all the focus on weight and fitness, it can be easy to forget about emotional and mental health. However, being healthy emotionally and mentally plays a huge role in your corresponding physical health. If you are having relationship issues, mental health problems, feel depressed, isolated, or any of a myriad of problems, then this will naturally spill over into your motivation and ability to work out, stick to a diet, and live a healthy, fit life. Address problems in your relationships, both romantic and otherwise, and tackle any mental health problems head-on with professional help. It’s a weight loss and diet tip for men over 40 that is often overlooked, but critical to effectively deploying the other tips and advice in this and other guides.
Similar to the above discussion of emotional and mental health, many people who are looking to lose weight, gain muscle, and otherwise remain or get healthier often overlook sufficient quality sleep as an important factor on their journey. Sleep is critical for overall health, metabolic rate, energy levels, and more. Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, on average, and most don’t get nearly that much.
In addition to the quantity of sleep, high-quality sleep is necessary. It does no good to sleep for 8 hours if you are constantly waking up, tossing and turning, and unable to get into restorative REM sleep that your body so badly needs. Exercise should help you fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly, but sometimes that’s not enough. Practice good sleep hygiene to maximize your sleep quality – maintain a routine and regular schedule, ensure your bedroom is appropriately dark and the temperature is ideal for you, don’t drink caffeine or a ton of liquids right before bed (so you won’t have to get up), and reserve your bed just for sleep (read or spend time on your tablet or computer elsewhere, not in bed).
If you’ve been eating whatever you want, whenever you want to, and not really following a balanced or healthy diet, then now is the time to start. Since the key to weight loss is taking in fewer calories than you expend, it logically follows that increasing activity and reducing caloric intake (through a healthy diet) are the two best weight loss and diet tips for men over 40. However, anyone who has ever tried a fad or crash diet knows that the only way to consistently maintain weight, lose weight, and keep it off is to change your core diet, rather than embrace a fad. This means eating healthier long-term, in a way that is sustainable for you based on your food preferences, financial status, and similar.
Most experts recommend a Mediterranean-style diet as the healthiest option for aging adults. This diet consists of minimal amounts of red meat or processed carbs and instead focuses on lean proteins, whole grains, lots of vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil. Cutting out mindless snacking, reducing junk food consumption, and in general, working towards a healthier mix of calorie and nutrient sources will help with any diet program, but adopting a healthy diet overall, like the Mediterranean-style diet, will really boost your weight loss and fitness.
ALSO READ – The Best Foods for Your 40s and Beyond
One of the hallmarks of most weight-loss diets and fitness-related dietary changes is a focus on increasing protein intake, while decreasing carb intake. This is valuable for weight loss and muscle building, even absent adopting a Mediterranean or other styles of diet specifically. In terms of weight loss and diet tips or men over 40, increasing protein intake plays a few important roles:
You can’t know how many calories you eat in a day or how many calories you burn from your exercise program or your basal metabolic rate if you don’t track them. Counting calories, either manually or with a helpful app, is a great way to start. Add to that fitness tracker watches or using a journaling app to estimate your exercise-related calorie burns, and basal rate burns can give you an accurate and detailed picture of your progress. Knowing where your calories are coming from, how much you are burning, and the interplay of those two values can help you find ways to cut back on food, burn more in exercise, and modify your habits to get healthier. That’s a critical weight loss and diet tip for men over 40, and really, people of all genders and ages.
There’s no way to stop time or reverse the aging process, which may have a negative impact on your metabolism and energy levels. At the same time, there are many steps you can take, foods you can eat, and efforts you can make to maintain the metabolism you have, boost your metabolic rate, and adapt to the changes your body may be experiencing. Some common tips include ensuring you stay hydrated, balancing your gut microbiome with probiotics, eating a balanced, healthy diet, and getting active with regular exercise.
Every individual has somewhat different dietary needs, possible restrictions, and, of course, their own personal preferences. That means it’s very hard to recommend a single, over-arching diet that’s best or ideal for everyone. Any diet that will work well for you needs to allow you to eat foods you like in moderation, and not feel like you are depriving yourself of something. For sustainable weight maintenance or weight loss, most experts suggest some version of the Mediterranean-style diet. This diet features few refined or processed carbs, instead of relying on whole grains, alongside lean proteins, healthy fats like nuts and olive oil, and lots of vegetables and fruit.
According to the United States Department of Health, male adults over 40, on average, need around 2,400 calories per day. Of course, everyone’s caloric needs are somewhat different, and our metabolisms likewise vary. Depending on your starting weight, activity level, goals of your diet or fitness program, medications, health conditions, and so on, you may need far fewer calories or far more calories in your diet to remain healthy. Just remember the rule for weight loss – take in fewer calories than you burn via exercise! Don’t starve yourself, and make sure you get sufficient nutrients and calories – but don’t overdo it, either!
Gaining weight, finding it harder to lose weight, losing muscle mass, and generally decreasing your overall fitness level may be synonymous with aging, but it doesn’t have to be. By taking the necessary steps, including those outlined in our weight loss and diet tips for men over 40, men can remain healthy, fit, and active through mid-life, and better prepare themselves to remain that way in retirement and old age, as well. It takes a little effort, to be sure, but it’s nothing you can’t handle – and the rewards are well worth it.
ALSO READ – Top 15 Exercises for Men Over 40
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.