As if losing weight wasn't hard enough already, science says that the older you get the harder it is for you to not only maintain and build muscle but also burn off fat. Even more difficult is the flood of new and greater responsibilities with growing families and job promotions that get in the way of your once routine spin classes and weekly dinner prep.
The thought of going on yet another diet might be seriously daunting, but the good news is you don't have to—nor should you. Processed diet foods and wacky juice cleanses were a thing of your youth, so now it's time to cut your wiser-self a break and start incorporating these easy changes to peel off the pounds post the big 3-0. And don't forget to avoid these 30 Foods You Should Never Eat After Age 30!
Eat More Protein At Breakfast
"We all have a slower metabolism as we age, so what we can do to fight against that is making sure your muscle mass is there. One way to do that is by refueling our bodies with food and nutrition—specifically protein. Aim to get in 20-30 grams of protein per meal. I find that most women especially are not doing that at breakfast," says Jessica Crandall, a Denver-based RD, Certified Diabetes Educator, and National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She recommends turning to eggs or egg beaters, peanut butter on a whole grain wrap, deli meats like lean low sodium ham or turkey, and greek yogurt mixed with nuts and fruit as a breakfast parfait to fit in those grams early in the day. Read up on the 20 Worst Breakfast Habits for Your Waistline so you don't undo your good efforts.
Ditch Artificial Sweeteners
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, consuming artificial sweeteners can actually increase your sweet cravings and lead to excess calorie intake. When you eat something that tastes sweet, your brain thinks it's getting something high calorie. When no calories are provided it causes your body to seek them elsewhere. Common brands like Sweet N' Low and Splenda are actually 300 to 600 times sweeter than real sugar and, as a result, send your brain and body into a sweet-seeking frenzy and may actually cause you to overeat later. Sweeteners are such a hot topic that Eat This, Not That! released this exclusive report on Every Popular Added Sweetener—Ranked.
Eat Every Few Hours
To keep your body burning calories efficiently it's important to fuel up every few hours. "Our metabolism drops 1-2 percent per decade after age 25, so I recommend eating mini meals throughout the day to fight back. When we eat our metabolism revs up because we have to digest and absorb the food, so by eating six small meals a day instead of one big meal a day you can keep your metabolism humming," says Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach.
Lift Heavier Weights
"Studies show that physically inactive people lose about 3-5 percent of their muscle mass per decade. I'm sure it's a lot less in people that are strength training but do bear in mind that we have a physically inactive society," says White. The loss of muscle is one of the biggest obstacles you face as you get older, but one of the best ways to combat that is by lifting heavier weights. According to research from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, dieters who lifted heavy weights lost fat, but retained muscle while those who just did cardio lost fat and muscle. Those heavy lifters also experienced a drop in clothing size. Remember: Bigger weights, smaller pants.
Lift More Often
You've got to lift heavy, but you've also got to lift consistently to see results. "Weight training and cardiovascular training are a must. We need to continue on rebuilding muscle, burning calories and working our hearts. For weight training you should aim for at least 2 days a week," says White. Lifting will help you burn calories even when you step foot out of the gym. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, women who did strength training burned around 100 calories on average in the 24 hours following their sweat session. No time to hit the gym? Squeeze in this Quick No Equipment Ab Workout!
Keep Up the Cardio
Even though you've upped your strength training, it's still important to keep cardio in the mix because exercise increases our metabolism. "For cardiovascular training you need to fit in at least 150 minutes per week, but we recommend trying to get 220 minutes per week based on the physical activity guidelines of America," says White.
Cut Back on Alcohol
From date nights and happy hours to evenings winding down with a glass or two of wine—alcohol always manages to creep it's way into our daily activities and consequently onto our waistlines. "This is also a time where I see a lot of 30-year-olds get stressed. They're at work all day and drink alcohol at night to cope—and we're not just seeing just one glass. A lot of women are drinking 3-4 glasses at night and a lot of men are drinking 4-6 beers at night, which can be one of the biggest calorie pushers in the diet. If you don't drink, don't start. If you do, I would try to cut consumption in half first and then once you've mastered that try to wean off a little more or just drink on the weekends," says White. Not loving this advice? Then at least check out these 20 Eat This, Not That! Tips for Drinkers.
Drink More Water
Less alcohol and more water is one of the simplest ways to supercharge your weight loss results at any age, and can be especially helpful as you get older. According to a study published in the journal Obesity, drinking 16 ounces of water before meals can lead to greater weight loss. The rationale behind this is that the water fills you up and helps increase feelings of fullness, causing you to eat less and curb cravings.
Embrace Fitness Tech
If you just can't seem to get yourself to the gym, then you've got to bring the gym to you. The uptick in wearable fitness technology and applications rips the ever popular 'I have no time' excuse to shreds. "Time is of the essence so I always recommend embracing technology," says White. "People are skipping the gym now and working out on their own throughout the day. Wearables like the Fitbit, the Jawbone or the Nike Fuelband allow people to workout during the day. It all adds up in the long run and could be that extra 3-5 pounds per year that you could be losing," he adds. However, while these steps certainly do add up, White does advise that this should not replace any of your more focused workouts.
Don't Eliminate Entire Food Groups
You may have cut out all carbs or banned dairy in your youth as a quick attempt to shed a few pounds, but now that you're a bit older and wiser it's time to put those kiddie games to rest. When you remove entire food groups from your diet—or make any of these 15 Worst Detox Mistakes for Your Body—you create nutrient deficiencies and actually make it harder for your body to lose weight and maintain weight loss long term because it's not sustainable. Unless you have an allergy to certain types of food, a well-balanced diet and consistent portion control will bring you the longest lasting success.
Eat a Large Breakfast
If you skip breakfast, you're not alone. Over 30 million Americans forgo their morning fuel every day according to a survey by the NPD Group. The bad news is, that skipping your early meal can prevent you from achieving the weight loss you want. A study from Tel Aviv University found that study participants who made breakfast their biggest meal of the day lost nearly twice as much weight as those who ate more at dinner. Mom was right—Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Store the Kid Food Out of Sight
Out of sight, out of mind and really—out of mouth. With a few little ones running around you also have a few more snacks stocked than you used to. Whether it be Goldfish or sandwich bread, you weren't eating those foods before the kids came into the picture (we hope) and there's no reason you need to add them to your daily quota now. So do yourself a big favor and keep the goodies hidden and resist munching as you put together school lunches to avoid taking in unnecessary, excess calories.
Keep Calorie Intake Consistent
It's been established that the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight. While it may seem tempting to take drastic measures and cut way back on calories, it's not sustainable or effective in the long term. A report published in American Psychologist analyzed 31 separate long term studies that examined participants on low-calorie diets (about 1,200 calories per day) and found that within four to five years, the majority of dieters in these studies regained the weight they had lost. If you're sick of starting over again and again then do your best to keep your calorie intake at a healthy amount consistently. P.S. – Here are 20 Ways to Lose Weight Forever.
Put a Premium on Calcium
It's easy to forget that nutrients other than protein play a part in weight loss and muscle growth. According to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, increased calcium intake in participants who did not get enough of the nutrient previously, lead to greater weight loss than just cutting back on calories alone. Researchers speculate that this is because the calcium supplement helped to curb women's appetite for fattier foods.
Try Interval Training
You can jog around the block all you want, but if you're really looking to amp up results then high-intensity interval training is the way to go. Interval training not only burns more fat but it also improves your overall fitness more rapidly in comparison to constant but moderately intense physical activity according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Eat Fat, But Not Too Much
You should not be afraid of fat, but rather approach it with caution. Healthy fats like those found in avocados and nuts have been found to assist weight loss, but specifically when eaten in moderation. "Fat is not something we should cut out completely, but it's important to make sure that we're not using too many high-fat foods throughout the day. Fat does have some satiety signaling effects, which can be beneficial, but once again more does not equal better," says Crandall.
Get Checked for Deficiencies
If you've been doing all the right things—eating well-balanced meals, exercising regularly and getting your eight hours every night—and still not seeing results, then there may be an underlying deficiency holding you back. "I think nutrient deficiencies can really be looked at for why people aren't losing weight, which is why it's so important to work with your dietitian or medical professional. Vitamin D deficiency is pretty common. It's really just making sure your not missing out on any of those nutrients your body needs to maintain a healthy weight," says Crandall.
At this stage of life you've undoubtedly accrued more responsibility, and yet still only have 24 hours in a day. As a result, stress becomes a major influencer on health and weight at this point in life. "We see a huge increase in stress due to greater work and family responsibility, so definitely start to meditate. There are a lot of good apps out there to help—Headspace is one of them. It guides you through a really quick meditation of 10 minutes and it's really easy to do," says White. Melt away your stress and you'll quickly see the pounds follow suit.
Eat Spicy Foods
"Spicy foods have a thermic effect on the body and can slightly increase the metabolism. By incorporating hot spicy salsa and or some peppers into your diet, it could affect metabolism. However, this isn't the end-all on metabolism and weight loss. Here you will experience very mild results but every little bit can help," says White. As with the step trackers, every small bit adds up in the end, so it can't hurt to keep a few fiery foods on hand.
If you don't enjoy it, chances are you won't do it. Workouts too often feel like another item on the to-do list that just keeps getting pushed off. "People can get in a rut in their thirties when it comes to workouts. They've been working out their whole life (if they are working out), fall into the same patterns and lack that zeal that they had when they had a lot of strength and energy when they were younger. I think with this group the key is to try to find entertaining classes like Flywheel or Zumba. By finding fun ways to lose weight we're more easily able to stay accountable to," says White. Not to mention, a study published in the journal Marketing Letters, found that if you view working out as fun you're less like to eat more food afterward.
Enlist a Partner
To continue on the theme of fun, what's more enjoyable than hitting up SoulCycle with your best friend? Research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that people who embarked on a weight loss or exercise program with friends were able to maintain their weight loss six months later versus study participants who took the journey alone.
Hire a Personal Trainer
Sometimes you need to bring in the professionals and hiring a personal trainer is a good place to start says White. If you can swing the bill, enlisting a personal trainer will not only hold you accountable, but they can personalize programs to your specific body and goals, which can help you achieve greater results, faster. No time (or money?) for a trainer? You can still get the ultimate six-pack in six weeks with the new e-book Eat This, Not That! For Abs!
Create a Home Gym
Often at this time in life, your schedule is not your own. When getting to the gym is just not possible, the next best thing is bringing your gym home. "We see a lot of people building home gyms and garage gyms, so if they can't get out of the house they can do it right there while they're watching their kids," says White. You don't need any fancy equipment either. Weights, jump ropes, yoga mats and a treadmill or elliptical will all do the trick.
Be More Mindful of Injuries
As we age our bodies endure more wear and tear, and unfortunately this leads to a greater occurrence of injuries. "We start facing injuries and also see some disease states coming up. Things like high cholesterol or maybe some back injuries surfacing. These may prevent us going to the gym and working out," says White. It's important to be more mindful of your restrictions and also to consult a professional on how to continue working out safely in spite of them.
Workout in the Morning
Rise, shine, and get your butt to the gym. Research published in the Journal Physiology revealed that exercising in a fasted state (i.e., in the morning before you've had anything to eat) causes our bodies to actually burn more fat and prevent weight gain. It takes a few weeks to form a habit, so set your alarm and get going. Keep the fat burning going with these 30 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods.
Keep it Light at Night
Eating a big meal before your hit the hay is not advised if you have any intention of getting a good night's sleep. "Sleep is big when it comes to weight loss. When it comes to getting quality sleep, you don't want to eat too much before you go to bed because that can [make it hard for your body to wind down] and you also don't want to workout right before you go to bed because it increases our body temperature and as a result disrupts sleep," says White.
Turn off the TV
There is a giant laundry list of things that get in the way of good sleep, but nowadays screen time is at the top of the list. "I believe that your metabolism can be slowed down by inadequate sleep. Most people are getting 6 ½ hours of sleep max, when we really do need 8 hours of sleep to not only rejuvenate ourselves but to also help our metabolism to function fully," says Crandall. Too much tablet time can suppress your body's natural production of melatonin (the sleep inducing hormone) and make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Discover the 7 Habits of Highly-Rested People so that you can lose while you snooze!
Try a Meal Delivery Service
The great thing about the evolving health and fitness scene is that if you don't have the time of day to accomplish certain things—like making dinner, for instance—there are plenty of people who can step in and do it for you. "There are a lot of great meal delivery services like Hello Fresh or the Blue Apron that are reasonably priced for people that have a lack of time and can't cook," says White. With diet having such a profound effect on your weight, services like these remove the stress of meal prep and make hitting your goals much more manageable.
Don't Skimp on Spring Cleaning
A balanced diet cannot happen without a balanced life, but after your thirties, that juggling act just keeps getting harder. "Organizing your life can have a really positive impact on your weight loss efforts. I'm really big into setting your schedule, prepping meals, being organized and decluttering. Whether it's the house or your life—[making a concerted effort to get things in line] will help keep you ahead of the game, help decrease stress in your life and makes adherence a lot easier," says White. Do you have a healthy home? Find out if your home is making you fat.
Schedule Your Sessions in Advance
If you've already booked your bike and paid for the class, there's a much greater likelihood that you'll get your butt in that seat. Along with organizing the different facets of your life, booking workout classes and personal training or nutrition sessions ahead of time will ensure that you actually go through with them, regardless of how long your day was at work. Check out these 25 Easy Ways to Lose 10 Pounds for a "pick three, lose ten" plan now!