This probably isn't a huge shocker, but as you age, your body changes. Because of this, the best diet for men over 40 may look a lot different than what's on a 20-year-old's plate. A good diet is always beneficial, but when you're getting older, it becomes especially important to your health.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, your diet is directly connected to bone health, eye health, immune health, cardiovascular health and brain health, and your physical abilities, like agility and flexibility — things that tend to go south when you age. As you get older, you also start to lose muscle mass, your metabolism slows down, your calorie needs decrease and your needs for certain nutrients increase.
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While there isn't one particular diet for a 40-year-old male or men who are older than that, paying attention to your calorie needs and getting the right nutrients can help ensure that you stay as healthy as possible.
Why Nutrition Needs Change
As you age, you naturally start to lose muscle mass. While this decline begins in your 30s, it speeds up the older you get. By the time you're 50, you've likely lost about 10 percent of your muscle mass. When you reach 65, that number jumps to 15 percent and by 80, you've lost around 50 percent, according to a March 2017 report in Oncotarget.
In addition to muscle, you also lose bone. Together, this bone and muscle loss presents a major threat to your independence as you get older, according to a November 2015 report in the Journal of Cellular Physiology.
It also makes it harder to manage your weight. When you lose muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate — or the number of calories you burn at rest — also drops. Because of this, older men, especially inactive older men, tend to have lower calorie needs than younger men. That's why if you don't change your diet as you age, you may notice that you start gaining weight, especially around your midsection.
But there's good news: your diet and lifestyle play a major role in your health when you're 40 and beyond. You may have heard the old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and this is especially important when it comes to aging.
Decreasing Calorie Needs
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out that because men typically have more muscles than women and they're bigger in size, they need more calories. While there's no one-size-fits-all rule to exactly how many calories men over 40 need, the number usually falls somewhere between 2,000 and 2,800 calories per day for someone who is moderately active.
However, as you age, your calorie needs go down since your metabolism is slower. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services breaks down calorie needs for men by age in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The chart looks like this:
- Ages 41 to 55: 2,200 to 2,800 calories per day
- Ages 56 to 60: 2,200 to 2,600 calories per day
- Ages 61 to 75: 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day
- Ages 75 and older: 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day
Men who are sedentary, meaning they get little to no exercise, should stick to the lower end of the range, while men who are very active can design their diet around the higher calorie numbers. But while the need for calories goes down, the recommended amount for certain nutrients goes up.
That's why it becomes increasingly important to optimize the foods on your plate to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck in terms of nutrition.
Diet for a 40-Year-Old Male
As you get older, your body becomes less efficient at absorbing and using different types of nutrients. While this is mostly a concern for men over the age of 70, the best targeted nutrition for a 40-year-old male takes into account that it's a good idea to get into healthy habits and start optimizing your nutrition as soon as possible.
The Better Health Channel of the Victoria State Government, Australia, notes that there are some nutrients of particular concern, since most men's diets are lacking in them. These nutrients include:
- Vitamin D: 600 international units per day. You can get it from salmon, eggs, dairy and mushrooms.
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 micrograms daily. Sources of vitamin B12 include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.
- Magnesium: 420 milligrams per day. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach and cashews are good sources of magnesium.
- Potassium: 4,700 milligrams daily. Potatoes, bananas and avocados are excellent sources of potassium.
While a 40-year-old has the same general nutritional needs as a younger man, a man's need for vitamin B6 goes up slightly, from 1.4 milligrams per day to 1.7 milligrams, after the age of 50.
That's because vitamin B6 helps strengthen the immune system, which starts to malfunction as you age, according to a TuftsNow interview with Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD, Senior Scientist and Director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Wild salmon, potatoes, poultry and avocado are all good sources of vitamin B6.
Read more: Vitamins Recommended for a 40-Year-Old Woman
Weight Loss As You Age
If weight loss is your goal, it's a good idea to consider more than just your diet. The best way for a middle-aged man to lose weight is to combine good nutrition for a 40-year-old male with a regular exercise routine. Regular exercise directly burns excess calories and helps keep your weight in check that way, but it has another benefits, too.
According to an April 2017 report in Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, regular exercise can help combat age-related muscle loss by slowing decreases in muscle mass and strength and improving your muscles' ability to regenerate. Exercise also helps improve insulin sensitivity, which can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and help you manage belly fat, specifically, as you age.
If you can, exercise for at least 30 minutes per day and try to stay as active as you can in your daily life, too. While any physical activity is good, make sure to incorporate strength training and resistance exercises in addition to cardio.
- Better Health Channel: "Men's Nutrition Needs"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Healthy Eating for Men"
- TuftsNow: "Nutrition Challenges as We Age"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Nutrition for Older Adults"
- Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine: "Effects of Exercise and Aging on Skeletal Muscle"
- Journal of Cellular Physiology: "Determinants of Muscle and Bone Aging"
- Oncotarget: "Skeletal Muscle Aging: Influence of Oxidative Stress and Physical Exercise"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B6"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"