While the goal is to age gracefully, there's no denying more birthdays can come with some pesky body fat. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, fat starts to accumulate more around your middle after age 30 as muscle mass naturally wanes.
However, by cutting calories, exercising regularly, and sticking to a healthy sleep schedule, it's possible to get a flatter stomach at any age.
Read more: 10 Ways to Reduce Body Fat Percentage Fast
Getting a Flat Stomach at 50 Begins in the Kitchen
Shedding belly fat requires healthy eating choices. Before you look too closely at your protein, carbs or fat, begin by assessing your body's overall caloric needs.
Using your age, weight and height, you can use an online calorie calculator to get a general idea of how many calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. Using this number you can create a safe 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit per day in order to lose about a pound per week, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Once you have determined how many calories you should be consuming each day in order to lose weight, begin to assess the quality of the foods you eat in order to optimize your fat loss.
Eliminate overly processed foods to the best of your ability. Packaged foods like crackers or granola often contain sneaky added sugar and sodium, which can sabotage your belly fat loss, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Foods that are high in fiber and water, like most vegetables and fruits, are low in calories and will keep you feeling fuller throughout the day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Meals high in protein can also stave off hunger and help you develop muscle, which improves metabolism. According to a June 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, meals containing 25 to 30 grams of protein can regulate both your appetite and your weight.
Exercising Your Way to a Flat Stomach
Unfortunately, it isn't exactly possible to target just your belly fat — at 50 or any other age, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. So-called spot reduction is one of the most common misconceptions in fitness. However, building a balanced strength-training routine can still help.
Increasing your lean muscle mass will speed up your metabolism; your body will burn more calories, even at rest. The best way to do that, according to Harvard Health Publishing, is by gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift and the frequency of your workouts over time as your strength and endurance improve.
An ideal strength-training regime for fat loss, according to Harvard Health, consists of eight to 10 exercises to target all of the major muscle groups, such as squats to work the quads or planks for your core. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise and work out around two or three times per week.
Sleep Well to Shed Fat
While most people associate diet and exercise with fat loss, your sleep and stress levels play a big role in your body's ability to lose that belly. According to the American Council on Science and Health, insufficient sleep or sleep deprivation actually leads to a loss of lean muscle mass (which, as mentioned above, boosts metabolism) and a retention of body fat.
In a small February 2018 study published in Sleep, overweight or obese adults following a calorie-restricted diet either got a full night of sleep or got an hour less sleep than usual. After eight weeks, the people who slept the most lost a greater proportion of their body weight as fat.
Stress is another factor that negatively affects your ability to sleep and recharge the body, according to the American Institute of Stress. Stress-induced sleep deprivation can lead to depression, high blood pressure and weight gain.
Shoot for seven to eight hours of sleep a night and try bedtime relaxation techniques such as taking a warm bath or drinking herbal tea, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Read more: 10 of the Most Common Weight-Loss Mistakes
- US National Library of Medicine: "Aging changes in body shape"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Processed Foods: What's OK and What to Avoid"
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight loss: Feel full on fewer calories"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance"
- NASM: "PROGRAMMING FOR PROGRESSIVE CORE TRAINING"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Preserve your muscle mass"
- American Council on Science and Health: "Losing Sleep Makes It Harder To Lose Fat"
- Sleep: "Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction"
- American Institute of Stress: "Stress and Sleep – How To Master Stress And Enjoy Restful Sleep Instantly"
- National Sleep Foundation: "3 Signs You're Too Stressed to Sleep—and How to Unwind"