Got a request for a blog topic from a personal training clients this week and thought it was a good one. It has to do with how someone over 50 can get rid of that last bit of belly fat.
No question about it, whether you just want to get a flat stomach or perhaps even a six-pack, the game is different from when you were in your twenties and thirties.
Here’s the good news…yes, you can most definitely get a lean and defined waistline over 50 if you commit to some disciplines and lifestyle habits. The bad news is it won’t be a quick and easy fix like taking some fat burners and doing a ton of cardio. That may work for the genetically blessed when they’re younger, but all middle age adults will have to take another approach.
No surprises here but your body has simply changed. Your hormonal levels have changed, your metabolism has changed, etc. This doesn’t mean you can’t still have the flat stomach of someone half your age,Â but what it does mean is you’ll have to use a DIFFERENT strategy.
In this post, I’ll explain just exactly what’s happening in your body that makes it harder to lose belly fat over 50, and then get into the most important disciplines to follow if you want to really lean up.
Here’s what you will NOT find in what follows…
- a special ab gadget designed for men and women over 50 (no gimmicky sales pitches)
- a special pill, powder, or potion to help you magically melt away belly fat
- a quick fix remedy, exercise, or product of any kind that promises “fast and easy” results
When you see any of the above in print or media advertising, don’t walk, run away immediately. Stick around long enough and you may be fleeced out of your hard earned money. Look, there’s no easy way to get this done. If there was I’d certainly share it with you. But if that were the case everyone over 50 would be walking around with washboard abs.
Alright now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s look at what makes it harder for men and women over 50 to lose belly fat in the first place. One of the primary reasons I eluded to earlier has to do with hormonal changes. Things such as…
Hormonal changes for men and women over 50
Increases in Cortisol
Undoubtedly you’re familiar with the stress hormone cortisol. Here’s what you may not know. Cortisol levels tend to increase with age as inflammation increases. Why? Because inflammation is viewed by your body as a stressor and the adrenals release it’s own anti-inflammatory in the form of cortisol. There’s a reason why you’re more prone to arthritis, stiff joints, etc, when you get older…inflammation levels are higher.
Cortiosl is doing the job it’s supposed to, but in the process excess levels also increase the accumulation of belly fat stores.
Step one in getting a flat stomach and ridding excess belly fat over 50 is to take all means necessary to reduce inflammation.
More on that in a minute.
Decreases in testosterone (men and women)
As you age testosterone levels naturally decline. The rate in which decline happens is largely tied into lifestyle habits with diet and exercise. The more you maintain and build lean muscle, the better you’ll be at maintaining levels. The reverse of this is also true. When you lose muscle you lose testosterone and increase body fat.
A poor diet can also lead to the body robbing you of valuable testosterone. Processed and refined foods, high amounts of sugars, alcohol, and other toxins to name a few result in inflammation (drive cortisol up and testosterone goes down), poor insulin sensitivity, and a acidic state in the body.
You must work on building a clean, healthy diet and maintaining lean muscle with resistance exercise if you want to optimize testosterone. Hormonal replacement strategies have come a long way with bioidentical hormones and can be a safe and effective means of optimizing levels in men under the guidance of a physician. This can be a consideration ONLY if you’re willing to make the above changes with exercise and diet.
Decreases in the estrogen hormone estradiol (menoupausal women)
When a women enters menopause, one form of estrogen called estrone is maintained in the body. Unfortunately this estrogen hormone slows your metabolism and encourages fat storage. At the same time, women will lose another form of estrogen called 17-beta-estradiol. This is the most abundant type of estrogen made by your ovaries. Estradiol keeps energy up, regulates blood pressure, and helps make sure insulin is properly shuttled into the cells.
Balancing out estrogen hormones is something all women will have to work on. Outside of hormonal replacement strategies which should be considered carefully with your physician, all women can look to support levels with a supportive nutrition diet and exercise.
Specifically, resistance exercise like burst training will be the most effective means of exercise to make an impact. Sorry ladies, but all that aerboic exercise and cardio won’t make much of a dent on reducing belly fat. You’ve got to create metabolic disturbances!
To produce positive hormonal changes you’ll want to incorporate short-duration, high intensity effort through things like metabolic resistance training and interval training.
Decrease in insulin sensitivity
Once again this is a natural part of aging, but the impact is largely tied into your diet and exercise. Poor insulin sensitivity or the progressed insulin resistance is a result of a diet high in sugars compounded with a loss of lean muscle through inactivity and hormonal shift (loss of testosterone).
The worse your insulin sensitivity is the more likely you are to store body fat around your waistline.
The best ways to improve insulin sensitivity is with aerobic and resistance exercise combined with a supportive nutrition diet. Specifically, you’ll want to look at minimizing starches and simple sugars by following a Primal Blueprint type diet.
The most important disciplines for men and women over 50 to follow if they want to get a flat stomach…
Manage stress and REDUCE inflammation…
- Get adequate sleep
- Supplement with Vitamin C
- Supplement with Omega-3′s
- Follow a Primal Blueprint type diet
- Eliminate processed and refined foods
- Eliminate gluten and other possible allergens/irritants
- Eat fermented foods or take a daily probiotic supplement
- Consume plenty of fiber, supplement with psyllium husk powder
- Practice deep breathing techniques or meditation
- Complete burst training style exercise
- Minimize toxins
- Neutralize negative energy
Look to get outside and touch the earth on a daily basis in some way. Take a walk on the beach, work in the garden, play with the kids in the yard in your bare feet, go for a swim in the ocean, a lake, etc. Just look to get in nature and make “contact” in some way. The science is relatively new on the subject of “earthing,” but there’s a lot of intriguing benefits from the energy exchange on a cellular level.
Eliminate toxins and maintain an alkaline state in your body…
- Follow a Primal Blueprint type diet
- Look to consume a third or more of your diet from raw, live foods
- Drink lots of alkaline water
- Move regularly and encourage lymph flow
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Choose organic fruits and vegetables when possible
Watch for hidden liquid calories and excess sugars…
- fruit juices
- specialty coffee drinks
- sweet tea
- soy milk
- cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, granola bars, etc.
Perform “burst training” style exercise
Short burst of high intensity effort to produce a positive hormonal response and create metabolic disturbances.
- free weight exercises
- kettlebell exercises
- bodyweight exercises
- sandbag training
- interval training
- wind sprints
- stair running
Work on developing a strong core, not just the outer abdominal muscles…
Sit-up’s and crunches are not an effective means of reducing belly fat. The above mentioned exercises combined with a proper diet is however. You’ll still want to incorporate exercises that help to strengthen the deeper core muscles. Here are some of my favorites:
- plank variations
- push-up’s (believe it or not this is a great core exercise when done correctly)
- band, cable, or weighted chops
- band, cable, or weighted rotations
- stomach vacuum
- wheel rollouts
- TRX strap suspended knee tucks
- kettlebell turkish get-up
- any dead-lift variation
There are no “magic” abdominal exercises to get a flat stomach at any age. The best way to strengthen and stabilize your core is through ANY functional exercise where you’re moving your body in multiple planes of motion. Forget about the typical health club machines that are done while sitting down. Exercise and train the way the human body was designed to move.
You may have heard that getting a flat stomach is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I agree with this statement but my version for men and women over 50 is somewhat different.
10% lifestyle factors
The older you get the more you’ll have to focus on reducing inflammation and creating an alkaline state in the body. Sure you may get away with lots of cardio and dieting when you’re younger, but not when you hit your forties and beyond. You’ve got to change your habits as your body changes.
The BIGGEST MISTAKES men and women over 50 make with trying to lose belly fat…
Performing the wrong type of exercise
This is a big one. Ditch the repetitive long-duration aerboic workouts on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, etc. Forget about how many calories you’re burning and the such. This isn’t where it’s at. Sure you can do some low-moderate intensity aerobic work during the week, but just don’t expect it to melt away your waistline.
There’s little metabolic disturbance or hormonal response with this exercise. Start incorporating a few burst training sessions each week in some shape or fashion.
The same thing can be said for yoga, Pilates, and other exercise modalities. Now don’t get me wrong these are wonderful forms of exercise and I highly recommend them. The thing is just make sure your expectations are clear.
Each form of exercise has it’s own set of benefits and purpose, don’t expect one exercise to do everything. If you do yoga or Pilates, great, keep it up. Just make sure to incorporate some burst training and possibly additional aerobic exercise for optimal results. Mix it up.
Trying to “diet” away that last bit of belly fat
This is a whole subject itself so I’ll keep it short. This won’t work! How’s that for short? But seriously, you’re not going to starve yourself or diet away that last bit of belly fat. Your body has built in primal response mechanisms to adjust your metabolism and body fat setpoints when you go into prolonged restrictions. You’ve got to EAT to support lean muscle and encourage fat lipolysis.
Trying to use abdominal and core exercises alone to flatten the stomach
No amount of ab exercises will get it done, even the most effective ones. Think of abdominal and core training as a piece of the puzzle, not the entire puzzle. You’ll get more benefit from working the larger muscle groups with higher intensity movement (hence burst training) than any amount of ab exercises.
Getting a flat stomach and even a six-pack is possible for men and women over the age of 50 if they commit to following the disciplines I’ve outlined in this article.
If you live in the Charleston, SC area and would like some assistance with a body transformation, Shaping Concepts specializes in personalized fitness and nutrition strategies for middle age adults. Yes, we use the burst training methods mentioned in this article and Primal Blueprint diet strategies.
This combination has simply worked better for middle age adults than anything I’ve found in my twenty plus years of fitness coaching. Check out our success stories page for examples of real Charleston residents who have transformed their bodies with our programs.
When you’re ready you can sign up for a FREE no-obligations consultation and trail of my programs.
As a last little bit of encouragement and motivation, check out the picture below of Mark Sisson. He’s a mentor of mine and the author of the Primal Blueprint Diet. Proof that a man over 50 can still have the lean and defined body of someone half his age.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and picked up some helpful tips. Feel free to leave your comments, thoughts, and feedback. I’m always happy to hear from my readers.
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.