Here are some intelligent, useful ideas for creating your healthiest body yet – even in your fifties and beyond.
People can look beautiful in a variety of shapes and sizes; however, science is helping us to understand that inflammation accelerates aging – and therefore it’s usually healthier for people to keep their overall percentage of body fat at lower levels.
Here, I explain exactly how I stay lean, strong and flexible in my fifties.
I outline – specifically – how you, too, might reduce your own body’s fat stores and create your healthiest body yet.
I usually keep my body fat anywhere from a 9% ratio (during cutting phases) and up to 14% (during bulking phases):
- Cutting phases are when active people reduce their calories to lose fat, even though they know they might lose a bit of muscle, too.
- Bulking phases are when active people up their calories to increase muscularity, even though they know they might gain a little bit of fat, too.
In my opinion, many athletes stay a bit too long in their bulking phase (their cutting phases tend to be very brief periods once or twice a year).
This goes against much of the latest science I have read, which asserts that genes respond positively when we eat fewer calories, less often.
My primary motivation for working out and eating right isn’t to benefit my appearance – although, that’s a positive side-effect. My motivations are longevity and health-span – to extend the number of years that I am healthy, happy, and mobile.
For this reason, I usually keep my body fat at around 10 to 11%.
Women, however, can do quite well keeping their fat percentages as high as 19% (more on this below).
Highly Strategic Nutrition
Because of the negative impact of inflammation on the body’s cells, it is sometimes healthier for people to have a smaller waist size.
Typically I’m asked several times a week, “How do you stay fit?”
I usually answer, “It’s what I don’t eat.”
My answer is the most honest one I can give; however, it usually surprises the asker.
People seem to expect me to say something more like “I do 100 crunches every morning.”
But, really, one’s daily diet is the most significant lifestyle factor for improving health and appearance.
It’s not the only factor, but it is the biggest.
To become fit in my fifties, I’ve relied on fundamental principles based on recent advances in scientific research:
- genetics is not always inevitable; genes – beneficial genes or harmful genes – can be turned on or off simply by following specific lifestyle protocols.
- inflammation is a primary cause of accelerated aging and disease; among the easiest ways to reduce inflammation is via key nutritional habits.
- for purposes of cellular health and DNA repair, the human body can benefit by daily consumption of up to 9 (loose) cups of vegetables a day (both cooked and raw) – a combination of leafy greens, cruciferous, and rainbow colors.
- almost everything you eat either encourages or discourages inflammation.
- cancer cells can feed on carbohydrates (particularly simple sugars) and excess protein; cancer cells appear unable to feed themselves on ketones – the caloric energy from healthy fats.
- an anti-inflammatory diet is even more about what you don’t eat than what you do eat.
- the quantity and quality of daily calories matter; most people underestimate the quantity and overestimate the quality; the ratio of macronutrients (daily grams of fat, carbs, and protein consumed) also matter.
- after making sure the number of calories and ratio of macronutrients is within ideal ranges, what matters next is increasing micronutrients while decreasing anti-nutrients; usually, that means finding out which foods your body finds uniquely irritating and avoiding them.
Eating for Lean Strength in Your Fifties
It’s important to track your calories a couple of times a year.
But only tracking your calories is old-school.
This isn’t 1972. To optimize your wellness, you’ll also need to periodically track:
- your macros (ratio of fats, protein, and carbs)
- and inflammation (which foods inspire an inflammatory response inside your body versus foods that enhance your health).
As always, ask your own medical doctor before making any significant changes to your eating or movement patterns.
Water and Hydration
My hydration water contains electrolytes, sea salt, and trace minerals.
I make this right before I go to bed each night, and keep it on my nightstand so that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can have a drink.
Whatever is left in the morning when I wake up, I finish off right away.
In “Silver and Strong: Getting Fit After Age 50,” I explain exactly how to craft a Fitness Comeback Plan that specifically meets the needs of your unique body and lifestyle.
Among the biggest mistakes people make when attempting keto or a lower-carb diet is forgetting to replenish electrolytes:
- When you don’t eat a lot of carbs, your body will probably not retain the amount of water you’re accustomed to – which is a good thing, as long as you remember to replenish lost minerals.
- Believe it or not, consistent clean-eating can sometimes result in not having enough salt, which can cause problems – cramping in the legs, feet, or neck, for example.
- We’re conditioned to think of salt as the enemy, but if you’re no longer eating the Standard Modern Diet, then salt becomes your friend – not your enemy.
The solution is fairly simple – I recommend having two bottles in your kitchen – Pink Himalayan Rock Salt and Redmond Real Salt – a cleaner sea salt that comes from a dry seabed in Utah (created before modern pollution existed).
I also add to my hydration water a drop or two of Biotics Vitamin D (for those weeks I haven’t had enough fresh air and sunlight) and I sprinkle in some Muscle Feast Hydrate, an unflavored powder.
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It’s been fashionable over the last decade for people to have warm lemon-water or lime-water upon waking.
However, when you eat an anti-inflammatory diet you’re already eating a lot of alkaline-foods, so there’s probably no need to extra-alkalinize yourself with lemon-water.
Ironically, if anything you might need to be more acidic to help you digest those healthy fats you’ve started eating.
Also, I’m a bit skeptical that the human body was intended to consume citrus every single day for years upon end.
If you love your morning lemon water, you might consider switching to every other day – or perhaps alternating with apple cider vinegar, which has been proven to reduce fat stores in certain situations (see sources at end of article).
Homemade Tea Latte
The good medicine that tea provides has been relentlessly proven. I like to start out my morning with a big tea latte, made from:
- decaffeinated green tea
- a tiny bit of melted, grass-fed clarified butter (healthy fat calories to fire-up my brain)
- a 1/2 teaspoon each of rice protein, Thriv protein, and MCT oil powder
- all mixed together in some unsweetened coconut milk inside my kitchen blender.
Small Green Smoothie
Most people radically underestimate the number of vegetables they consume in a typical week. Green smoothies provide a simple solution. I make my own.
Coconut “Yogurt” with Sprouted Seeds and Nuts
Cultured coconut milk is a highly effective, non-dairy way to deliciously get your non-dairy, fermented, probiotic food in each day.
Get it unsweetened and tart, then add some sprouted nuts and seeds, blueberries and cinnamon as a topping.
My favorite brand of coconut “yogurt” is So Delicious. But if you want to save money, you can make your own in your InstaPot pressure cooker.
Sweet Potato with Ghee
Once a week, I peel a few big sweet potatoes, chop them up, and steam them. Only takes a few minutes.
When you refrigerate cooked sweet potatoes they become a beneficial prebiotic resistant starch that’s not digested in the stomach or small intestine and therefore reaches your colon intact where it can feed the good bacteria.
Healthy gut biome, for-the-win!
For me, sweet potatoes are helpful in so many ways that I no longer think of them as regular food, I think of them as medicine.
Strategic Snack Bars on Heavy Workout Days
On heavy workout days you might need an extra 200 or 300-calorie bump and – if you’re out on the road and don’t have the time to stop for fresh, whole foods – a snack bar can be a logical choice.
Though I like to limit the number of processed foods I eat (to me, processed foods are anything that has previously traveled down a conveyor belt in a manufacturing plant), I will sometimes have a snack bar.
However, I choose my snack bar carefully.
Most snack bars are just candy bars in disguise. But some can really help you out in a pinch – No-Cow Bar or Bulletproof Bar, for instance. My current favorite, though, is 22-Days Plant Protein Bar (salted caramel) because it’s made without pea protein or cashews (ingredients that can inspire an inflammatory response in some people).
The No-Frills Dinner
For dinner, I typically have super salads.
My super salad is usually a giant bowl of greens topped with diced vegetables (including avocado) and meat – grass-fed bison or free-range turkey.
The dressing is simple: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt.
My Weekly Workout Regimen
I exercise every day. However, most days I exercise only lightly.
Two or three days a week are my “big” days, where I push myself a bit harder than what is comfortable.
I have a few secrets for getting the most results from my workouts:
- I pay attention to my breathing.
- I don’t scroll through Instagram or send texts on my phone while I’m working out. (That’s weak sauce, people.)
- I set an intention for my workout, and try to stay connected to that intention throughout my session.
- If I’m training with weights, I visualize – in my mind – the muscle group I’m targeting.
- If I’m running outdoors, I leave my Air Pods at home. I remain mindful, paying attention to my own body while also allocating a bit of awareness for dogs, cars, and potholes.
- I cross-train! (This is my biggest secret). I do a different type of workout each day. Pilates, walking, swimming drills, weights, running, yoga, or high-intensity interval training. By cross-training, my body is less likely to acclimate and I stay in the results zone. This way, my body is always responding.
- I take recovery more seriously than the workout itself. Sleep, prioritized-nutrition, and a low-stress lifestyle are my keys to recovery.
How to Determine If Your Current Weight Is a Healthy Weight
What is the exact healthy weight for your body?
Reaching your ideal weight is often a result of making small changes to your daily habits.
But how do you figure out how much you’re supposed to weigh?
If your intention is to become leaner than you are right now, it can be helpful to first understand from where – exactly – you’re starting.
Also important is to understand where you want to end up – by determining what the healthy weight for your body actually is.
“What Is a Healthy Weight for Me?”
By knowing how much fat is on your body today, you’ll then be able to determine what weight loss techniques are working for you and which are not moving the needle. Knowing this will better assist you in reaching a healthy weight.
Tracking your weight, BMI, and body composition are a lot smarter now thanks to affordable advances in technology. Available today are 2nd-generation wireless smart scales and full body analyzers – that are compatible with iOS and Android Devices.
The Body Mass Index or BMI is a system used to measure your percentage of body fat, and to determine if you are at a healthy weight – using your height, weight, age, and gender.
The results of the index will tell you, generally, if you’ve got a healthy body fat percentage and what your ideal ratio of fat-to-muscle probably is.
Though other methods are more accurate for learning what your current percentage of body fat is, the body mass index formula can still be a convenient way to get a quick, general idea (if you want to know exactly what your body fat is, you can visit a scanner x-ray service, such as Body Spec, and they will provide you with the most accurate figure available).
It is important to remember that each human is different, and your ideal weight is whatever ratio of fat to muscle helps your own body perform uniquely well.
In other words, your healthy weight might be very different than someone else’s.
“How Much Fat Do I Need to Lose?”
There are plenty of free BMI calculators on the web that will tell you your approximate Body Mass Index, but you can even do the math yourself:
BMI = Weight-in-pounds / (Height-in-inches x Height-in-inches) x 703
You can then compare your BMI number to the list below:
- 18.4 or lower: Underweight
- 18.5 to 24.9: Normal weight
- 25 to 29.9: Overweight
- 30 or higher: Obese
…when my local gym was offering a free Body Mass Index test I jumped at the chance to get tested”
Of course, our bodies are all different genetically, and this calculation doesn’t take into account how much of your body is actual fat and not muscle (and it it is therefore not always suitable for athletes).
The Mirror Deceives – Here’s How to REALLY Tell if You’ve Become Thinner or Heavier
It’s important to keep an objective eye on one’s body fat. The mirror deceives. Many of us think we’re thinner than we really are, while others see fat where there is none.
Excessive belly fat can be a sign of toxicity, inflammation, and potential future health challenges, so it’s good to know where you really stand in terms of your fat-to-muscle ratio.
Trying to determine the exact number of pounds that you should weigh is tricky.
Standard bathroom scales weigh your muscle tissue as well as your fat tissue – even though a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat (and looks a whole lot better).
Though many people use the BMI as an indicator (check out your Body Mass Index with a free online fat calculator or contact your gym to see if they offer this service), the BMI method is often not good for people of extreme heights or people who strength-train at the gym – because it doesn’t account for muscle tissue or bone mass.
How to Figure Out Your Ideal Weight in Your Fifties
The absolute best way to determine your ideal weight is, oddly, not to focus on pounds at all but rather your body’s percentage of fat:
- in most cases, it’s healthiest for men to have body fat between 6% and 17%
- for women, it’s usually best to have body fat between 14% and 24%
More important than which method you use to determine your level of body fat, is that you stick with the same measurement method.
For example, if one method reveals that you are at 28% body fat, well, maybe you are really 27% or maybe 29%, but what will probably be accurate is how much you’ve gained or lost.
If it says you’ve lost 6% or gained 6%, that number will probably be accurate if you’re using the same measurement method as you used before.
- Previously, I shared how there is a fairly simple formula for figuring out how to lose a pound each week permanently
- and I’ve also explained how preparing internally for change can help to easily make external changes to our appearance, including helping us to lose fat and get into shape
- I’ve also previously revealed that certain menu items, such as freshly made green smoothies, can be startling in their ability to reduce belly fat specifically.
There are two tools that you’ll need to help you track your fat loss. One costs about $50, the other costs about $1.
Get a Bathroom Scale with a BIA Feature
In the old days, we could only use calipers – or special scales that weighed us in water – to determine our true percentage of body fat.
Fortunately, today we have other options. Many bathroom scales that you can buy today at your home-accessories store include a BIA feature (Bioelectric Impedance Analysis) that reveals your current level of fat.
Your hydration levels may create a margin of error in the figure, but if you measure at the same time of day (such as when you wake up in the morning after using the bathroom), that can help to minimize the already-small risk of error.
Get a Measuring Tape
You’ll need to get the cloth or soft-plastic kind of measuring tape that tailors use (not the metal ones that handymen use) in order to measure your waistline.
The measuring tape won’t tell you your percentage of body fat, but it will tell you how many inches you’ve gained or lost in your waist, and in some ways, this can be even more important.
When I measure my waist area, I measure in two places:
- the skinniest part of my waist, right underneath my bottom rib, when I suck my stomach in as hard as I can
- the widest part of my waist – I run the tape over the center of my belly button and then around the widest part of the “love handle” area
Write down both numbers each time you measure and you will have an accurate idea of whether or not you’re gaining or losing fat in your waistline.Follow me on Instagram for fun exercise ideas to keep your workouts interesting:
Research reveals that a slimmer waistline means a longer life, so this is an important area to track meticulously.
You’ll perhaps think I’m kidding, but sometimes what’s also helpful is to keep one pair of your favorite skinny jeans in your closet.
When you pull those jeans on, how well those jeans fit – or don’t – will give you a fast indication of your current fat percentage that is strangely more accurate than what the most expensive lab equipment would tell you.
Do Smoothies Make You Fat?
As many of my readers know, I had significant success permanently losing body fat by added freshly made green smoothies to my daily diet.
Whether smoothies make you thinner or fatter, depends on the smoothie.
A freshly made green smoothie can help you reach your perfect weight.
On the other hand, when some people say “smoothie” what they really mean is some low-quality, overly sweetened powder from a can they got at the grocery store, mixed with milk and a banana. Those kinds of smoothies can make you fatter. But a daily fresh green smoothie made correctly can help you get leaner, stronger, and healthier.
Do Quantity or the Quality Matter More in Your Calories?
There are so many differing opinions on whether the number of calories or the quality of calories is more important for losing fat and achieving a healthy weight.
The truth is, simply: both.
People who still believe that only the number of calories matter do not understand about inflammation.
Many of the modern world’s most common diseases are linked to chronic inflammation.
Yes, excess calories can convert to fat, but what is also true is that the healthier you are, the better and more efficiently your metabolism works.
To keep your body’s various systems running optimally you need to stay out of their way and let them do their job. A diet full of inflammatory foods can impede your systems’ optimal functioning:
…inflammation is the body’s natural response to irritants. When the irritants don’t let up because of diet… the immune system can spiral out of control and increase the risk for disease. A growing body of research is revealing how abdominal fat and an unhealthy diet can lead to inflammation. Some scientists are investigating how certain components in foods might help. Dietary fiber, for instance, may play a protective role against inflammation” ~ Laura Landro / WSJ
It’s a good idea to, periodically, take a fresh look at your daily habits: what are you eating and drinking?
You have this idea of what you’re consuming each day, but is it accurate?
Free Weekly Update for a Healthier-Looking Body
You can look better and feel better now than you ever have before.
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No matter what your current age, you deserve to live a life that is joyful, meaningful, and as exciting as you want it to be.
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A long and fulfilling life is built one healthy week at a time.
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Small Steps Toward Ambitious Goals
Outstanding health is achieved incrementally.
It’s really the small things you do each day – often without even realizing it – that determine your overall health.
A small improvement here, a tiny adjustment there — after a while, those new small habits, when done consistently, begin to add up to profound health and longevity.
The latest research reveals that it takes 60 to 65 days to implement positive new habits until they become like second-nature.
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In your fifties? My free weekly updates often include exercise ideas, goal-specific workouts, and diet plans.
Make improved health your priority today:
Additional Sources for Creating Your Healthiest Body:
Make Your Own Non-Dairy Coconut Yogurt – https://theprimaldesire.com/instant-pot-coconut-yogurt/
Fruit Chart: Nutrient Profile for Produce – http://www.health-alternatives.com/fruit-nutrition-chart.html
Selection of Superfood Powders – http://navitasnaturals.com/view_category.html
Nutrient Macros Calculator – http://www.freedieting.com/tools/nutrient_calculator.htm
Make Your Own Almond Milk – http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Almond-Milk
Dr. Wahls on Veg Consumption and Disease Prevention – http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/04/08/wahls-veggie-protocol-qa/
What Drives Cancer Cells – https://youtu.be/5x8I-ruwdm8
Free Body Fat Calculator – http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
Volume and Density of Fat VS Muscle – https://plus.google.com/u/0/ DaneFindley/posts/BrKLaMidyfx
Guidelines for Body Fat Percentages – https://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/112/what-are-the-guidelines-for-percentage-of-body-fat
The Deal with Inflammation – http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303612804577531092453590070
The Mayo Clinic on Quitting Smoking – http://www.mayoclinic.org/stop-smoking/
Surprising Research Results Validate the Use of Apple Cider Vinegar for Fat Reduction – http://www.strengthsensei.com/improve-insulin-sensitivity/ and https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/tip-use-vinegar-to-get-lean-build-muscle