This article’s for my fellow members in our Over 60 Club who are struggling with losing weight.
I’ll share with you 7 simple medical & exercise science-based recommendations to help you lose unwanted pounds that you can start doing today.
7 ways of losing weight after 60
In order to manage your weight effectively, the two areas to focus on are boosting your metabolism and making simple changes to your diet.
Here are four easy ways to boost your metabolism:
- Start strength training;
- Start doing HIIT;
- Drink more water;
- Insure your sleep quality is excellent.
And here are three basic diet changes to make:
- Eat more protein;
- Eat less simple carbs and less sugar;
- Make more of your own meals.
In the upcoming sections we’ll look at why medical & nutrition experts endorse these diet & lifestyle choices, and we’ll get into the simple how-to-do-it for each of them too.
Science resources included
As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant medical & sports science resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.
How to increase metabolism after 60
Transforming your body at 60 is no pipe dream.
It’s a simple process of adopting a few good habits and cleaning up your diet.
It won’t happen overnight, but what worthy goals ever do?
We’ll start by doing things that will boost our metabolism.
This will enable our bodies to burn more calories and give us more energy too.
First off though, let’s look at what we’re up against trying to lose weight after 60, and get the lay of the land.
Cue “Slow Ride”
I’m sure all of us older folk here have noticed our bodies slowing down in one way or another over the past several years.
They don’t burn calories as well as they used to, and it can be harder to be as active as we once were too.
That’s a double whammy that makes gaining unwanted weight seem a heck of a lot easier to do than trying to lose it.
And some of us just have slower metabolism than others, thanks to our genes, our age, our gender, or a thyroid that’s not in good shape.
And on top of that, there are actually very few things we can do to increase our metabolic rate ourselves.
Supplement buyer beware
Unscrupulous supplement makers often take advantage of these facts.
When the next magic diet pill hits the market, I betcha one of their marketing claims is that it will somehow boost our metabolism, which just isn’t true.
Still, you can fight back a little against the relentless march of the aging process by adopting the following four routines into your lifestyle.
I know it’s only anecdotal evidence, but I want to tell you that I’ve been doing all 7 of the recommendations (these 4 on metabolism and the 3 diet habits) that I mention in this article for some time.
I feel that I’m now at an excellent weight and in pretty strong & vibrant health considering all that my 60+ body’s been through 😉.
1. Start strength training
Start doing resistance training (AKA strength training), regardless of whether it’s by lifting weights, using resistance bands, or using your own bodyweight.
We start losing muscle mass around age 30, and that process accelerates with each passing decade.
Medical research has shown that unless we re-build that lost muscle, it will be replaced with fat.
My related workout articles
Want a quick start?
I’ve put together a few different strength training programs specifically for people over 50, from beginners to more advanced weightlifters.
You can read them here on heydayDo.com if you’re interested:
* 9 Muscle-Building Dumbbell Exercises for Seniors – Full Body
* The 5×5 Workout for the Over 50 Year Old
* 7 Dumbbell Exercises for Flabby Arms After 60 (or any age)
More muscle = more calories burned
Strength training can give your metabolism a helpful boost.
It does this by increasing the size of your muscles.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn.
Medical research has also determined that a resistance training workout provides a higher calorie burn rate that can stay elevated for hours after your workout.
This metabolism boost goes after belly fat too
The increase in metabolism for older adults that regular strength training provides has been shown to target & reduce belly fat.
In this weight loss study with older women and in a weight loss trial using men over 65, researchers noted that belly fat had “decreased significantly”, thanks to the resistance training programs these senior adults participated in.
Benefits of strength training
There is a mountain of evidence proving several other strength training after 50, and here are a few of those.
Resistance training can:
- help slow age-related muscle loss
- build bones & help reverse osteoporosis
- improve your balance & coordination
- reduce falling injuries
- lower blood pressure
- reduce diabetes risk
- lower bad cholesterol
- reduce arthritic pain
- reduce low back pain
They’re strength training after 50…why not?
How often should you strength train?
First & foremost, if you’re not already physically active – make sure your doctor gives you the go-ahead to start an exercise program.
If you’re just starting out, Harvard Medical recommends that you do resistance training at least twice a week, and the Mayo Clinic advises that you go for it 2-3 times per week.
How long should your workouts be?
After allowing for a 5-10 minute warmup and similar stretch/cool down period afterwards, the actual strength training part of a beginner’s workout program should only take you 15-30 minutes.
For some beginner guidelines…
Here are two articles that each have some info on how to get started strength training:
I’d like to humbly offer my 2 cents on the matter as well.
(The following section of info is taken from my article Dumbbell Exercises For Seniors that I mentioned earlier.
Check it out if you’d like a more detailed tutorial along with full-length instructional videos too.)
If you’re a beginner, may I gently suggest that you:
Strength train 3 times a week
- Monday – Wednesday – Friday
- Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday
- Wednesday – Friday – Sunday
Do not lift on consecutive days
Your muscles need to recover for at least 48 hours before you strength train again.
Also, your muscles grow when you’re not working out.
You can do your cardio on any of your four off days.
Do all 7 of your major muscle groups
If you’re a beginner…
…on each of those three workout days, work your entire body (AKA a full body workout).
In strength training terms, this means work your 7 major muscle groups.
These are your:
- Legs (including your glutes* & your calves)
- Triceps (muscles on the back of your upper arm)
- Biceps (muscles on the front of your upper arm)
- Abs/Core (muscles in front of your stomach/belly area)
*Glutes = your butt
What exercises should I do?
There are dozens of exercises for each of the muscle groups I listed above, but don’t feel overwhelmed if you’re just starting out.
You only need to do the basic tried & true exercises for each muscle, and since you’re starting out with just one set/one exercise, it’s easy to figure out.
See the next section for an example workout.
I put together this series of very short (10 seconds apiece) videos of appropriate exercises for each of the 7 muscle groups, using a pair of dumbbells.
These lifts are considered among the standard bread & butter exercises for their respective muscle groups.
When you click on the links the short 10-second demonstration videos will open in a new tab.
There are helpful written instructions included too.
Back: Dumbbell Bent Over Row
Chest: Dumbbell Bench Press
Legs/Glutes: Dumbbell Squat
Shoulders: Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Triceps: Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Biceps: Dumbbell Biceps Curl
Abs: Lying Ab Crunch
Tip: You can do both the Shoulder Press & Triceps Extension exercises standing up if you prefer.
Many forms of strength training
Remember, these exercises aren’t limited to dumbbells.
A barbell & bench setup works great although you may not have access to one or belong to a gym.
But resistance bands can build muscle just as well as free weights can, when you train consistently & properly.
And you can workout on a compact gym machine, like Chuck Norris’ Total Gym®.
You can also check out equipment at Dick’s Sporting Goods online, and if you have one near you, they’ll arrange for curbside pickup if you like.
Final tip from a grizzled, “40 years of weightlifting” veteran
I have a couple of words of encouragement for you to consider.
You don’t need to join a gym, and you don’t need to hire a personal trainer.
Only do that if you want to.
I think anyone that tries to convince you otherwise is either uninformed, trying to sell you something, or is pulling a power trip on you because you’re a beginning strength trainee.
Don’t buy into any of that. This is not complicated stuff.
I have relatives & many friends who became strong, top-notch athletes, competitive bodybuilders, or well-paid fitness models who trained on their own.
That’s just how we did it back in the day.
Proper form is very important for sure, but
- it’s real easy to learn & do;
- you can Google for all of that very common info;
- you can read any of my tutorial workout articles. 😉
Bottom line: Having a regular strength training program is one of the best things you can do if you want to lose weight.
It stimulates your metabolism to burn more calories, and then as your muscles grow they’ll burn more calories too.
2. Do 1-2 HIIT workouts per week
High-intensity interval training (aka HIIT, pronounced “hit”) has been shown to provide a number of great benefits for adults of all ages, including us 50 & up types per Mayo Clinic.
HIIT for seniors
I’ve written a detailed article on the topic here on heydayDo, & here ’tis: HIIT For Seniors .
In it I provide several workout schedules and easy ways to perform high-intensity interval training, even if you don’t have access to any equipment.
I also share the workouts that I do, and discuss several more of HIIT’s nice health benefits for us older adults that medical research has discovered.
Benefits of high intensity training
Here are just the benefits of HIIT that relate specifically to losing weight and reducing belly fat in older adults.
After these, I’ll explain what HIIT is if you’re not familiar with it, and I’ll show you how easy it is to add it to your weekly exercise routine.
HIIT boosts metabolism even after your workout
HIIT workouts increase your metabolism and then keep it elevated, burning more calories for hours following your workout.
HIIT’s as effective as regular cardio in far less time
HIIT workouts can provide the same benefit as regular cardio in 50-80% less time.
Lose weight & belly fat with HIIT
Regular HIIT workouts have been shown to cause weight loss and “significant reductions” in body fat, especially belly fat.
What’s HIIT, How to do HIIT
Yours truly, doing a HIIT workout on my Xiser mini-stepper
(This info is from my fitness guide HIIT For Seniors I mentioned earlier that’s on this website.)
If high-intensity interval training is new to you, don’t let the fancy name scare you.
It’s a simple concept to both understand & put into use in your weekly workout schedule.
First though: If you have any health issues, go get your doctor’s OK before taking up HIIT.
How HIIT works
HIIT is a workout routine where you perform any exercise appropriate for you (even walking) with all-out effort for several seconds.
How many seconds you can go with high-intensity will vary from person to person, due to our different levels of fitness.
Then you follow it up with a longer recovery interval for several seconds so you can catch your breath.
You rest long enough to get your wind back but not so long that your heart rate drops back down to normal.
You simply go back & forth between the high-intensity interval and the low-intensity recovery interval.
Complete several of these repetitions over the course of 15-30 minutes’ time, and you’re done.
A quick example of how you can HIIT it
For example, let’s use an exercise bike.
First, you pedal as hard as you can on the exercise bike for 15-30 seconds, then you take a longer period of time to recover.
During this rest period you can either pedal slowly or just rest completely.
Important Note: You have to give the high intensity portion a lot of effort, because the goal is to elevate your heart rate to 80-90% of its maximum if you can.
Ratio of high intensity to low intensity
According to the American Council of Fitness (ACE), there’s no single high intensity work-to-rest ratio that works the same for everybody, because we’re all at different levels of physical fitness.
They have a beginning workout on their page that I just linked to. It has a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2.
This means that if you can go all-out for 30 seconds then you rest for twice as long, which would be a minute in this example.
(I do my HIIT with a similar work-to-rest ratio of 1:2; for example 30 seconds high + 60 seconds recovery.)
Don’t copy athletes’ workouts you find online
Some very fit young athletes rest less than their high-intensity work intervals, as recommended to them in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning.
And if you go online you’ll likely come across these types of intense HIIT workout protocols being recommended by various personal trainers.
I strongly suggest you leave them alone.
Note that these hardcore workouts are not intended for use by older adults, especially people who aren’t in good shape.
How often to do HIIT
You do not need much HIIT per week in order to get its benefits, including weight loss.
In fact, sports science & medical experts recommend that you:
- not do a HIIT workout two days in a row
- not do more than 3 HIIT workouts per week
- limit your high intensity portions to 30-40 minutes total per week
Mayo Clinic & the American Council on Exercise both say no more than 1-2 HIIT workouts per week.
Exercises you can do HIIT with
A nice thing about HIIT is that any aerobic exercise that you can do for regular cardio can be used in a HIIT workout. These include:
- Stationary bike
- Elliptical machine
- Rowing machine
- Stair stepper
- Mini stepper machine
- Step aerobics
- Vertical climber machine
Bottom line: High-intensity interval training for older adults is a good idea.
It’s proven to boost metabolism and burn fat for hours after working out, and it takes far less time per week to be as effective as regular cardio.
3. Drink plenty of water
You might be wondering (like I did when I first came across this), how is it that medical experts recommend drinking a lot of water as a way to help someone lose weight?
Turns out, there a few good reasons to bump up your water intake to a ¾ of a gallon for women and about a gallon a day for men, according to the National Academy of Medicine.
Metabolism boost after drinking water
I found a few water & metabolism studies with results similar to this one, which found that “Drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%”.
That’s about 2 cups’ worth, and the researchers determined that the short-term metabolism boost burned an extra 95 calories.
Drinking more water = more weight loss
Several other diet research studies like these here, here, & here have shown that there’s a positive association between weight loss and the amount of water consumed.
Meaning that the more water the dieting person drank on a daily basis, the more weight loss they experienced.
Water before meals = more weight loss
A study of of adults 55-75 compared two groups of people, both of whom were put on the same low-calorie diet.
One group drank 17 oz. of water before dinner and the control group didn’t.
At the end of the 12-week study, the group that had the pre-meal water “experienced a 44% greater decline in weight” than the no-water group.
Replace high calorie drinks with water
I think this last reason to drink more water is one that probably won’t come as a surprise to you.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, studies from both from the Univ. of North Carolina and the Univ. of Nottingham in London observed groups of people on 6-month weight loss programs.
The participants who gave up 2 or more high-calorie drinks per day and replaced them with either water or a zero-calorie diet beverage lost more weight.
Bottom line: Research has shown that drinking more water can help with weight loss – either by increasing our metabolism, curbing appetite, or when used as a replacement for high-calorie beverages.
4. Make sound sleep a priority
Another way to help your weight loss goals is to make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of good deep sleep.
Quality sleep produces beneficial hormones which trigger a metabolism boost, which as we’ve seen increases calorie burning that in turn promotes weight loss.
On the other hand, poor sleep has been repeatedly linked to obesity & weight gain in dozens of medical studies.
Good sleep = more energy = better workouts
On the positive side of things, a great night’s sleep will almost always provide you with a better workout the next day than would a restless poor night’s sleep.
A good workout leads to more of its benefits which include better fat burning and more weight loss.
More sleep = more growth hormone release
Studies show that our bodies produce & release growth hormone most when we’re asleep.
The better our sleep quality the more growth hormone we’ll have, and this is important for us because having the right amount of human growth hormone helps with losing weight and reducing body fat.
Unfortunately, as we age our bodies produce less & less growth hormone, and this makes it easier for us to lose muscle and gain fat.
Tips for better sleep:
- Make sure sleep environment is quiet & dark
- No big meal within 3 hours of eating
- Get regular exercise, but earlier in the day
- No caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime
- No phone/tablet/computer reading before bed
- Limit daily alcohol intake
Bottom line: Getting quality sleep night in & night out is one of our best bets at having good growth hormone levels in us all the time.
Growth hormone boosts our metabolism and helps our muscles grow, both of which stimulate greater calorie burn and help with weight loss.
The best diet to lose weight after 60
OK, so we’ve got our metabolism humming along now, with an excellent workout routine (strength training & HIIT) and a couple of very healthy habits (more water & better sleep).
That’s half of the weight loss equation, and so now we turn our attention to our diet.
The best diet for women & men over 60 is a clean one without junk, and one with enough protein in it so that you can start burning more fat & get stronger too.
Diet needs exercise, but exercise needs diet too
When it comes to weight loss, it’s been proven over & over that diet plus exercise is better than diet alone or exercise alone.
So your exercise and increased metabolism plan won’t be successful at losing weight by itself; your diet has to be on board too.
And if what you eat & drink isn’t in tune with basic weight loss principles, you just won’t lose the weight.
Luckily, it’s very simple to adjust what you put in your mouth every day so that you can safely & quickly lose weight. These final 3 weight loss recommendations show you how.
5. Eat more protein
Protein boosts metabolism & burns calories 24/7
Eating enough protein every day is an essential key for successfully losing weight.
Protein can increase your metabolism if you eat enough of it on a daily basis, and it helps your body burn more calories throughout the day, including while you’re sleeping.
Protein is the building block of muscle. So as you regularly work out and then feed your muscles a high-protein diet, they’ll grow. And as they grow, they’ll increase your metabolism more too.
Build a calorie-burning machine
Now you’ve created an environment in your body that can burn calories at a higher, more efficient rate.
Your strength training, protein intake, & muscles all boost your metabolism and all feed off each other’s contributions: you’ve built a high calorie-burning machine. And this is how you can transform your body at 60 & beyond.
Aging can get in the way
As we age we don’t absorb and utilize the protein we eat as well as we did when we were younger (so what else is new 😄).
This fact could seriously get in the way of our calorie-burning machine I just mentioned.
So to combat this challenge, we need to eat more protein now that we’re older and we’re strength training too.
How much protein to eat every day?
According to Harvard Medical and other nutrition researchers, us over-60 folk need to consume more protein because our bodies no longer absorb it very well anymore.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that active exercising people consume between 0.7 grams – 1 gram of protein per lb. of body weight.
I weigh about 180, so following their recommendation I ought to eat between 126 and 180 grams of protein per day.
The best sources of protein
Here’s a list of the best sources of protein to consume regularly, if not daily.
Since weight loss is the main topic for this article, these protein choices are all low in fat, so that’s why you won’t see things like bacon or filet mignon on the list.
- Fish – salmon, halibut, tuna, cod, haddock, trout
- Skinless chicken breast
- Pork tenderloin
- Very lean beef – 90% hamburger, sirloin tip, top round
- Protein powders – whey, pea, casein
- Low-fat/non-fat cottage cheese & yogurt (unsweetened)
- Lentils & beans
If you’re interested in clean protein powders, I have researched this product category thoroughly and shared my results in my article, Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners.
I use protein powder daily simply because I can’t get my daily protein requirement of protein from regular food anymore.
I simply can no longer chow down on meat, chicken, fish, etc., to the degree that I did when I was younger.
So I whip up a couple of shakes/smoothies every day to make sure I hit my protein number.
Here are the protein powders we buy for this household:
Whey Isolate: Muscle Feast Grass-fed Unflavored
Pea/Brown rice: Folona Solo Organic Pea Protein
Bottom line on protein’s benefits:
Protein boosts your metabolism which increases your calorie burning.
Protein builds your muscles, and they’ll burn more calories as they grow too.
Getting enough daily protein has been proven to be critical to anyone’s weight loss plan.
6. Reduce useless carbs and sugar
Take a look at your diet and get rid of – or greatly reduce your consumption of – starchy or sugary foods high in carbohydrates.
Why sugar & weight loss don’t go together
If you eat a lot of sweet things, losing weight will be difficult.
This is because sugar has been medically proven to:
- slow your metabolism down
- interfere with your body’s fat-burning process
- make you gain weight
You’re trying to speed up your metabolism to help you lose weight, and too much sugar gets in the way big time.
Common things with sugar in them
Get in the habit of reading labels and be on the lookout for hidden sugar.
Its primary use in the processed food industry is to make unhealthy things taste good, and it does its job well.
A little sugar here, a little there, it all quickly adds up.
Avoid things with added sugar in them, like beverages of all kinds, condiments, & any sweet treat that’s been baked, fried, or concocted in some other way.
Eat whole grain carbs, ditch starchy carbs
Here are a few starchy things your weight loss plan could do without:
- white rice
- white bread
- crackers & chips
- pancakes & waffles
- most grocery store breakfast cereals
These foods have all had their original nutritional value literally processed out of them.
They provide you nothing but empty calories, so choose their whole-grain versions instead.
High protein diet helps reduce empty calories
A great benefit from increasing your protein intake is that this will naturally cause you to eat less empty calories.
Empty calories is the name medical experts give to the high-fat, high-sugar, or high-starch foods & drinks that so many of the overweight & obese people in our country consume.
They’re called “empty’ because they have little to no nutritional value; they just make you gain weight.
A high-protein diet helps your weight loss goals because protein keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time than junk food does.
Bottom line: By cutting out sugar & starchy calories from your daily food & drink choices, you greatly improve your weight loss potential.
Eating protein can help with this since it satisfies hunger better than low-quality carbs.
7. Make your own meals
The last recommendation on our How To Lose Weight After 60 list comes from weight loss and nutrition experts, who strongly suggest that you prepare as many of your own meals as you can.
And in doing this you’ll be assisting your weight loss program in a big way.
Cook your own healthier meals
I found a number of related clinical studies they’ve done to support this recommendation: eat more home-cooked meals.
Some focused on the health stats of people who eat out more than others, while others focused on the health traits of people who prepared the majority of their meals at home.
For example, studies like this one all showed that the more someone ate out, either in restaurants or on to-go food, the more fat they had compared to other people.
Then there are the research trials like this one here that studied the nutrition habits of people cooking at home.
These found that the more meals someone ate that they made themselves, the lower their body fat percentage was compared to others.
Researchers from this second group of studies also noted that besides the lower body fat, the people cooking at home were eating healthier and getting better nutrition out of their food choices compared to those dining out more often.
I hope that this article on building a science-based plan for weight loss after 60 and its research is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.