Ok, so you're over fifty, you've got a slow metabolism and a fast-paced career schedule (long hours, travel, inconsistent meals and exercise). Are you destined to be fat and tired, or can you have a successful career and vitality too? The latter is possible as long as you apply sound nutrition and exercise principles to the reality of your life style.
Avoiding body fat deposition (or losing it) is primarily a matter of ingesting fewer calories than
you use. As you grow older, your metabolism slows down and, for most of us, your activity level declines as well. Thus, we typically are burning fewer calories at rest at a time in our lives when we are "at rest" more of the time. The challenge for a "Fifty and Fit" diet and supplement plan, then, is to not only provide the right level of calories, but also the nutrients that will stimulate the older metabolism to operate at an optimum level, promoting energy and vigor along with a slim appearance.
There is no substitute for a balanced diet. Powders, liquids or pills cannot substitute for solid food and yield permanent, healthful results (if God had meant us to live on supplements, we would have been born with a blender in our mouths instead of teeth). A balanced diet should consist of 2500 to 3000 calories a day (more depending on athletic activities) split up into proper proportions of protein (23 to 30%), fat (20 to 25%) and carbohydrates (45 to 55%). Note, that while the "zone" diet, recommending 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrate, is currently getting a lot of publicity, that level of fat is probably not appropriate for the over 50 metabolism. These nutrients should come from a variety of foods spread throughout the day. In fact, it is important to eat often to spur your metabolism. If possible, five small meals a day (compared with two or three) would result in both decreased transit time (going to the bathroom more often) and increased metabolism (burning calories more quickly since your body knows it will be fed again soon). By eating often, we process food faster and more efficiently. When you eat once or twice a day, the body slows down and stores as many calories as possible in fat.
Too busy to eat three meals a day, let alone four or five? This is where recognizing the logistics of your life style comes in and planning to compensate for it. Cut up carrot sticks, celery sticks and apple slices and bring them with you in Tupperware containers for between meal snacking. Similarly, carry the 3 1/2 ounce, easy opening cans of Albacore tuna with you, available at most grocery stores; or keep a blender at work and utilize a good quality protein powder between
meals. If it is difficult for you to find the time for breakfast in the morning (easily the most
important meal of the day, since it is preceded by an eight hour fast), cook up a large batch of oatmeal (not instant) once a week and heat up a small portion in the microwave every morning (add yogurt or a protein shake if you don't have time for eggs as a protein source).
In addition to eating often, it is even more important to drink water often to keep your
metabolism up. In fact, this is the single most important (and least expensive) diet aid available. Frequent hydration promotes elimination, allows optimum absorption of nutrients and maintains a feeling of fullness (thus suppressing appetite). Here again, a busy lifestyle may make it difficult to take in enough water. You need at least half a gallon a day (more if exposed to heat and exercise - professional bodybuilder's typically down three gallons a day). Don't count on yourself to visit the drinking fountain for your "8 glasses a day". Instead, carry those 1 1/2 liter bottles of water, found in all grocery stores, with you wherever you go (in the car, at work, on the plane); make sure you down at least two of them a day (you can always refill them if you are concerned about expense).
The attached sample menu includes choices for each food group based on how different types of proteins, fats and carbohydrates impact our metabolism.
Proteins build muscle and provide the necessary amino acids for metabolic functions. They are harder to digest than fats or carbs, so we use calories in metabolizing them. Most vegetable sources of protein aren't complete (don't contain all the necessary amino acids we require, especially the branched chain aminos), and many animal sources are also high in fat. The best sources for a "Fifty and Fit" diet are egg whites, fish and white meat of poultry (turkey or chicken breast without the skin). You can estimate protein by figuring six grams of protein per ounce of meat or fish, nine grams per ounce of chicken or turkey breast and four ounces per large egg white. Try to get about 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal, not to exceed one gram per pound body weight in the course of a day. Your body will probably not be able to utilize much more protein than this at one time, and any excess will be stored as fat in addition to being hard on the liver and kidneys.
Fats provide a secondary source of energy (after carbohydrates), are easily absorbed and stored (usually in places and quantities not to our liking), but are important in brain and hormone functions and as transport intermediaries in a variety of metabolic processes. Since a gram of fat weighs 9 calories (versus 4 for a grain of protein or carbohydrate), a goal of any diet is to limit fat consumption. Just as important, though, is picking the right fats to consume. Recent research indicates that small amounts of "good" fats lower both insulin resistance and the glycemic index of carbohydrates, avoiding insulin surges and allowing us to burn fat as fuel while encouraging storage of carbohydrates as glycogen instead of fat (kind of like stoking a furnace to get the fuel to burn properly). Fats in the "good" category include mono - unsaturated fats such as olive oil use in cooking and salad dressings); poly-unsaturated fats such as canola or safflower oil (also good for cooking); and fish oils (which provide Omega 3 essential fatty acids, notably linolenic acid, EPA and DHA, necessary for good health) found in salmon, herring and Ahi tuna; and flax seed oil (which provides Omega 6 essential fatty acids, most notably linolcic acid) best talcen as a supplement (liquid or capsule). One other "good" fat related to linoleic acid is CLA (conjugated linoleic acid ) which has been found in animal studies to enhance immune function, support lean body growth and have anticarcinogenic properties (available as a supplement). Fats to avoid (as much as possible) are animal fats, dairy fats, tropical oils (palm and coconut) and any hydrogenated (solid) oils (margarine, shortenings, etc - if it is solid on your table, chances are it will be solid in your veins).
Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy and provide glucose (blood sugar) for immediate energy and glycogen (stored in muscle cells and the liver) for a stand-by energy source. Simple carbohydrates (sugars) from candy, processed foods, fruits and some vegetables, give a boom and bust, yo-yo sugar curve, while complex carbohydrates offer long- term energy because they are broken down more slowly for a longer blood sugar curve. More importantly, large amounts of simple carbohydrates cause sugars in insulin, a condition in which you can't burn fat as fuel. Plus, as we get older, our cells become insulin resistant (insulin normally signals our muscle cells to store carbohydrates as glycogen), resulting in ever larger proportions of carbohydrates to be stored as fat! Clearly, as we get older, we must limit carbohydrate intake and be choosy about which forms we ingest, especially in this fat-free processed food era we live in (the "Snackwell" age) - the fat has been taken out of foods and replaced with sugar. Just remember that the insulin resistance syndrome we experience as we age, if not influenced and controlled by diet and exercise, can lead to Diabetes and an early grave. Sugar Kills!
Strive to use complex carbohydrates in their high fiber forms: oatmeal (thick flakes, not instant), brown rice (not white rice), baked potato with the skin (not mashed potatoes, and no butter on either), barley, corn, celery, figs, prunes, etc. The more fiber, the harder it is to digest and the more calories you will burn in the process. A high fiber diet imparts a feeling of fullness (appetite suppression), provides bulk for decreased transit time and better elimination, while increasing our metabolism to burn more calories. Finally, soluble fiber yields phytochemicals that act as antioxidants and protect against heart disease, such as Betaglucan. Many vegetables contain phytochemicals as well, such as broccoli (sufurafane) and tomatoes (lupein). If you're on the road and cannot get enough fiber, then consider a fiber supplement such as Metamucil, but try to make sure you have some combination of grains, vegetables and fruits at every meal (no, french fries don't count).
For an older, career-oriented individual (short on the time for a perfect nutrition program),
supplementation with vitamins and minerals makes good sense. Far from being expensive,
consider it cheap health insurance. Since vitamins and minerals are catalysts working in
conjunction with proteins, fats and carbohydrates, it makes sense to take them with food. For the sake of convenience, I suggest taking supplements with your morning and evening meal (if your first full meal isn't until lunch, take your morning supplements with lunch).
In addition to a good quality multivitamin / mineral pill, I suggest taking additional antioxidants
including COQ 10 and grapeseed extract, along with increased amounts of vitamin E (800 to 1000 I.U per day) and vitamin C (1500 to 2000 Mg per day).
Supplemental herbs should include saw-palmetto (prostate protection), ginkgo biloba (mental acuity) and garcinia cambogia (taken first thing in the morning with Chromium picolinate and L-Carnitine to stimulate fat metabolism). While MaHuang is an effective thermogenic agent, it may be too strong in nervous side effects to be included for inclusion in this diet plan.
A final "supplement" to discuss is booze. To keep heart-healthy, some alcohol is a good thing (keeping the blood thin, etc). But forget beer (all that stuff about a beer belly is true) and go for wine, especially red wine. Grape skins (which make wine red) contain proanthicyanidins and salicylates, both shown to protect against heart disease. As an adjunct for health, we're talking a glass a day, not a bottle a day.
Exercise is obviously important in keeping our metabolism stimulated and should be balanced between cardiovascular (aerobic) training and resistance (anaerobic) training. While the former will burn fat while the aerobic pace is maintained, the latter will cause you to burn fat after resistance training is over, as the muscles repair themselves. Both are necessary to be "Fifty and Fit."' Fat burning training is based on low intensity, long duration aerobic activity. To determine the correct level of intensity (whether on a stationary bicycle, jogging or on a stair stepper), one must bring his heart rate up to 65% to 70% of aerobic capacity. The standard formula to determine that heart rate is to subtract your age from 220 and multiply by 70% (220-30=170 x 7O% = 119 beats per minute). The accurate and prudent way to determine your aerobic capacity is to have your doctor run a stress test, along with a complete physical to determine your limits, not just aerobically, but in all health aspects. Once your aerobic capacity is determined, you should attempt to maintain that heartbeat level for at least 30 minutes at a time, preferably in the morning before eating to maximize your fat burning potential (since most glucose would have been used
while you were sleeping). The heart rate may be approximated by occasionally checking your pulse or by employing a heart rate monitor. One other benefit of aerobic fat burning training in the morning; is that you "turn up" your metabolic set point for the rest of the day.
Resistance training should be done a minimum of 3 times a week for between 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours per session. Exercises will be done in sets of 8-12 repetitions emphasizing compound exercises (exercises using a combination of large muscle groups) that will stimulate your endocrine gland system to release anabolic hormones resulting in increased muscle and decreased fat. Curls for the girls does very little compared to squats or pullups. The following program assumes one hour of weight training three times a week and 45 minutes of aerobics four times a week (alternate days).
The following are sample Workout Programs and sample Nutrition Plan..