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  • Writer's pictureMark Edwards

What's the Best Diet for Men Over 40?

Updated: Feb 19


Weight loss before and after


What are the 5 Best Diets for Guys Over 40?

  1. The Paleo Diet

  2. The Ketogenic Diet (Keto)

  3. Intermittent Fasting

  4. The Mediterranean Diet

  5. The Zone Diet


Is There Really a Best Diet for Men over 40?


It goes without saying that guys over the age of forty have different dietary needs than those of younger men. Our activity levels tend to slow as we age, making it more difficult to regulate calorie intake and maintain healthy body weight and muscle mass while keeping body fat in check. And then there's the issue of a slowing metabolism.


(Want to work on upping those declining activity levels and get in better shape? Check out "Unlocking Strength at Middle Age)


Unwanted weight gain is a common refrain among us older guys, and for many, weight loss seems like an unattainable goal. It's a long way from our 20s and 30s.


But paradoxically, while many men gain weight after 40, they also lose muscle (a significant amount). This is known as, get ready for it, age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia).


What a surprise.


And it doesn't help matters that health and fitness websites all seem to say something different, often focusing on weight loss at ANY cost, and even if you can wade through the confusion and bullshit, many companies, websites, and weight loss companies simply want to sell you a never-ending subscription to supplements, over-priced proprietary shakes that are not much more than skim milk powder (think "Isagenix®") and packaged meals that will all purportedly help the customer to "lose weight."


So-called "weight loss diets" with names like "6-week weight loss," "plant-based diet," "vegan diet," "6-week abs," and on and on, ad nauseum, are ubiquitous.


So what exactly is a so-called "healthy diet" that a guy in his 40s or 50s can adhere to without living like a monk? How can we avoid or reverse weight gain? Nutrition for men over 40 can be a veritable minefield of rumors, wishful thinking, fads, and the "next big thing."


Additionally, men's testosterone levels gradually decrease after 30 years old, and then really tank in the 40s and 50s, particularly for guys who are sedentary. This leads to fat gain coupled with muscle loss, making it all the more important to meet individual nutritional needs.


We don't want to lose muscle mass. No way.


So what can be done?


Understanding some of the most popular diets available today is essential for any man in his fourth, fifth, or sixth decade of life.


In this guide, I'll take a look at five popular diets that can be suitable for men over 40 to improve overall health, lose weight, and hopefully gain muscle mass.


Contrary to popular belief, middle age can actually be a time to get in the best shape of your life by making some simple dietary changes.


First things first: losing weight is not necessarily the key to getting healthy. A healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle are all about making the right food and exercise choices that support long-term health and well-being.


When looking for diets geared towards men over 40, focus on eating plans that emphasize nutrient-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein) and healthy fats while limiting unhealthy fats (mainly trans fats) and processed foods.


(Want to see how one client lost 50 lbs in 6 months? Read more HERE.)


Focusing solely on weight loss at any cost is not the way forward.


So, is there really a best diet for males over 40?


Let's get to it.





3 Paleolithic men roasting a pig over a fire
Paleolithic Humans. Aside from the parasites and infectious diseases, they were likely healthier than we are.


The Paleo Diet


Paleo is a very popular diet trend these days, especially in the CrossFit® community, which involves eating only foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors from the Paleolithic era supposedly would have been able to access - hence it’s also known as “the caveman diet”.


So first off, Paleolithic humans were not likely consuming animal milk. The earliest evidence of humans consuming milk 5000-6000 years ago, and in the years after, humans in different geographic regions evolved varying abilities to digest lactose.


This means that processed foods, grains, legumes, added sugars, and dairy are generally off-limits because they simply weren’t available thousands of years ago.



What Should I Eat if I Follow the Paleo Diet?


People who follow the Paleo Diet consume lean proteins, like fatty fish, eggs, and lean meats, especially pastured and wild game when possible, as well as fruits and vegetables (especially leafy greens) and nuts and seeds.


The Paleo approach doesn't obsess over dietary fat either. This can be a plus or a minus, depending on the individual.


The emphasis is on "real" foods. Whole foods. When you think about it, there's nothing really radical about the Paleo diet, but many people don't want to eliminate dairy. For those that decide to include dairy, some people may still consider this a "Paleo-ish" approach.


All essential nutrients can be obtained on a Paleo diet and to be honest, anyone I've ever met who follows the Paleo protocol can maintain a healthy weight.



Is Dairy Really a Problem?


Looking at dairy and calories, dairy tends to be calorie-dense and easy to overconsume. Think about things like cheese. Anyone who loves cheese will tell you that once you get started, it's hard to stop, so reducing or eliminating dairy may help some guys to consume fewer calories.


I'm not a big proponent of banning entire food groups, though. And because dairy is minimized or eliminated, getting enough calcium can become an issue for some guys.


Sufficient calcium is a necessity for maintaining healthy bones as men age.


When it comes to exercise on the Paleo Diet, walk or jog at least three times a week and do resistance training exercises like weightlifting or kettlebell training two times or more per week. High-intensity interval training (or HIIT) can also be done for maximum effectiveness and variation.



Is There Any Other Downside to Paleo?


For some of us, the biggest drawback of the Paleo diet is that it requires a large amount of meal prep to stick with it long-term. Preparing meals without grains or legumes takes more time than just grabbing something quick from a drive-thru window or reheating frozen prepared food.


If you decide to try Paleo, you're in for a surprise the first few weeks that you do your meal prep. A lot of the things we take for granted on our plates contain grains.


For people who are trying to build better habits, banning entire food groups right from the get-go can be a huge stumbling block.


Additionally, although some research suggests that cutting out all grains may be beneficial, there are some studies that suggest incorporating whole grains into your daily routine can be beneficial as well. It’s important to do your research before jumping headfirst into Paleo.



How Can I Get Started with Paleo


If you’re interested in trying out the Paleo diet there are some simple steps you can take to get started.

  1. Clean out your pantry and remove anything containing processed ingredients or added sugars from your kitchen.

  2. Stock up on fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins like chicken breast or fish filets (if seafood is part of your meal plan).

  3. Add these ingredients into recipes you already enjoy while slowly eliminating any other non-Paleo components from those dishes such as white flour or processed sugar.

  4. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Hydration is key to any weight loss program.


Do People Actually Do Well with a Paleo Approach?


Many people, including a lot of CrossFitters, find the Paleo Diet an easy and very palatable way to lose weight and maintain or build muscle. The other side of restrictive food guidelines is that it takes a lot of guesswork out of what you can and can't eat.


For guys over 40, maintaining or increasing muscle mass can be tough to do, but eating a paleo-ish diet can be an effective way to accomplish this.





The Ketogenic Diet


The ketogenic (or “keto”) diet aims to get users into a state known as ketosis in which their bodies metabolize fat into ketones to use as fuel instead of carbohydrates.


To achieve this goal, keto followers must decrease their carb intake dramatically while increasing their consumption of healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil along with higher quality sources like wild-caught salmon and grass-fed beef.


Healthy fats include saturated fats for the purpose of the Keto Diet.


Of course, trans fats should be avoided.


Protein intake should be moderate at 30-35% while fat should account for 55-65%.

Some legumes are usually allowed in small amounts during maintenance stages once ketosis has been achieved.


How Can I Get Started with the Keto Diet?


As I mentioned, Keto isn't easy, so start with smaller changes first.

  1. Instead of completely eliminating carbs from your diet overnight, gradually decrease them until your carb intake reaches 20-50g per day (or lower). This will give your body time to adjust without tanking your energy levels.

  2. High-quality fats are key. Make sure most of your calories are coming from healthy fat sources like avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.

  3. Get plenty of greens. Veggies are low in carbohydrates compared to grains and legumes. Since a Keto diet avoids starchy carbs like bread and pasta, make sure you’re getting plenty of leafy greens like spinach or kale every day.

  4. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is essential when following any type of restrictive eating plan – especially one as intense as the ketogenic diet. Aim for at least 8 glasses per day (more if you’re sweating due to exercise).

Exercise when following a keto diet should predominantly consist of resistance training with weights or other types of strength exercises two times per week coupled with HIIT sessions twice per week for extra fat-burning effects.



What Are the Benefits of Keto?


There are several potential benefits to following a keto diet. First and foremost, it can help you lose weight quickly because your body burns fat instead of carbs for energy.


In fact, for people who manage to stick to it, weight loss is often rapid.

Additionally, research suggests that it may help reduce inflammation in your body and improve cholesterol levels over time.


Finally, the Keto diet has also been shown to be a useful tool in the control of certain medical conditions. If you're one of those individuals, make sure to consult with your doctor.



Is the Keto Diet Hard to Follow?


In a word: Yes.


Carbs are avoided as much as possible and the biggest percentage of calories comes from fats. For most of us, that can be tough. Getting enough dietary fiber can be an issue too.


Following a Keto diet protocol requires significant dietary changes that can be difficult to sustain over time. Keto is one of the toughest paths to follow for weight loss.



What are Some other Drawbacks of Keto?


Some people experience side effects such as fatigue or headaches when starting out on the keto diet due to an electrolyte imbalance caused by cutting back on carbs so drastically.


One of the most common complaints is a lack of energy until the body becomes "fat-adapted," which can take several weeks.


So for active guys over 40 who are used to working out regularly on high-carb diets, it can be hard to keep up with intense workouts (though some people report improved performance in sports and the gym).


The long and short is that the various negatives don't bode well for guys who are struggling to make small, incremental changes toward better health and weight loss. The changes required can be too extreme for many people to manage successfully.


Keto requires a significant level of dedication right from the start.


I've experimented with Keto as a CrossFitter, and once I got used to it, I felt great. But the struggle can be maintaining it, month after month. If you want to go out for dinner or have to eat lunch in restaurants fairly often, it takes a lot of planning to make it work.


The Keto Diet is NOT for guys who don't have their habits down pat. It can be a useful tool for those who have good daily habits and want to experiment a little.


Finally, if you don’t follow the guidelines carefully or track your intake properly (which includes counting macros), then you could end up gaining weight instead of losing it.




Intermittent Fasting


I hesitate to call Intermittent Fasting (IF) a "diet" since it's really more of an eating pattern. IF can basically be combined with any diet plan to lose weight fast and develop or maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Intermittent fasting is not so much about what you eat but rather when you eat it since followers go through cycles where they fast (or don’t eat) for extended periods throughout the day followed by regular meals during designated eating times afterward.


While adjusting eating times can help weight loss if done correctly it can also cause problems such as fatigue. Because of that, timing can be experimented with. There is no single way to approach Intermittent Fasting.


Essentially, Intermittent Fasting works for weight loss for the same reason that any "diet plan" works: caloric restriction. Because the time allowed for eating is restricted, many people find calorie intake easier to manage. Losing weight while doing IF is easy for some guys, but not so easy for others.


Regular exercise should be maintained on an intermittent fasting plan. A typical pattern is cardiovascular workouts three times per week followed by resistance exercises two times each week. Most guys find it best to do their exercise in a fasted state before their first meal of the day.


Training in the fasted state will facilitate weight loss and make workouts more productive.



How Can I Get Started with Intermittent Fasting?


I've written a Guide to Intermittent Fasting that you can read HERE.


Briefly, though, you can fast for 16 hours followed by an 8-hour window during which you'll eat. This basic pattern is known as the 16:8 pattern.


16;8 is the simplest version. So a typical day might look something like this:

7 pm - Eat supper. No food afterward until the next day.

11:30 pm - Go to bed.

6:30 am - Wake up.

11 am to 7 pm - Eat two meals. Between the two meals, eat a high-protein snack if needed.


That's it. There are variations of this pattern that you can read about here and a free downloadable guide that you can access HERE.



What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting? How Easy is it to Follow?


IF works great for people who have varying schedules, often involving shift work. Also, because eating time is limited, it's much easier to maintain a calorie deficit.


Watch out for over-eating and empty calories. Don't use IF as an excuse for bingeing during your eating window.


Another thing to note: any of the other diets discussed in this post can be done using an Intermittent Fasting pattern.


(Want to download my free Intermittent Fasting Quickstart Guide? Access it HERE)





The Mediterranean Diet


The Mediterranean Diet is based on traditional diets from Greece, Italy, and Spain.


The consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is emphasized, replacing most butter with fats such as olive oil to provide unsaturated fats, limiting meat (beef and pork) consumption to several servings per week, eating fish or poultry twice a week, enjoying moderate quantities of red wine, and including legumes, whole grains and nuts in your meals.


What Are the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?


Studies have shown that following this type of diet can reduce heart disease and other chronic illnesses and increase longevity for men over 40.


The food that constitutes the Mediterranean diet also tends to be flavorful while still being low-calorie. Cheese and yogurt are included in small quantities, so you don't have to worry about eliminating dairy.


And besides that, what other diet includes red wine? So considering all of these points, you’re less likely to feel deprived.



What Are the Drawbacks of the Mediterranean Diet?


One potential drawback is cost. High-quality fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, and meat often don’t come cheap. Quality olive oil can also be expensive. Prep time can also be an issue for people not familiar with this diet.


And for those who eat a lot of processed food and processed snacks, the Mediterranean diet can be too much of a sudden change.


The Zone Diet


Popularized in the CrossFit community, The Zone Diet emphasizes healthy eating habits and portion control.


By dividing food into proteins, carbs, and fats, and then teaching the skill of quick portion measurement, The Zone can help the individual become more aware of their portion sizes and food choices.


The basic formula is this: 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fats.

Those are the basics.


Quite a lot can be done knowing this basic formula.


However, for those interested in the minute details, the man who developed the Zone Diet, Dr. Barry Sears, has written several books detailing the ins and outs, and also has a website that you can check out HERE and HERE.



What Are the Advantages of The Zone?


The Zone focuses on balanced meals with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats and encourages followers to make healthier choices when it comes to food.


Additionally, the Zone Diet has been found to reduce inflammation in the body which can help improve overall health in men over 40. This is very likely partly due to the caloric restriction inherent in the Zone, and perhaps partly due to the focus on reducing "bad" eicosanoids in food intake.


One common comment among people who work out (such as CrossFitters) is that The Zone 40-30-30 formula keeps energy levels high throughout the day and throughout workouts.


And one last thing: nothing is forbidden in the Zone Diet as long as you stick to your numbers. So taking "cheat days" to deal with feelings of deprivation is not an issue.



What Are the Drawbacks to the Zone?


One drawback of The Zone is that it requires quite a bit of planning ahead in order to make sure each meal is balanced with proteins, carbs, and fats in the specific proportions that I mentioned (40-30-30). Some people might find this too time-consuming.


However, I have to emphasize that building this sort of awareness is key to long-term success with weight management, so the so-called issue of “planning ahead” is something many clients have to practice and incorporate into their lives anyhow. Planning ahead is a key skill.


Additionally, since this diet incorporates meat-based proteins such as chicken, fish, and lean beef; vegetarians may have a tough time hitting their protein target of 30%.


I’ve found in my coaching practice, however, that maintaining sufficient protein is a common issue for most vegetarians, so I don’t consider this particular issue for vegetarians unique to The Zone Diet.



A Caveat


At this point, some might be wondering where the vegetarian or vegan diet is in all of this.


In my coaching practice, although I emphasize whole foods and lots of green vegetables, for older guys, I don't recommend a vegetarian or vegan diet. Now, this could be an entire blog post or even a short book, but the long and short is that, as I've pointed out, protein intake is critical for older guys, and it's a real struggle on a vegan diet to get enough bio-available protein.


Yes, it can be done. But it throws another dimension into the mix that I think isn't helpful.



Conclusion


So what's the best diet for men over 40?

You might notice that there’s a common thread among these diets: reducing and eventually eliminating most processed foods while eating moderate quantities of everything.


Maintaining a consistent exercise routine is also key, with resistance training forming the core (two-thirds) of an older guy's workout program with cardio/HIIT making up the remaining one-third.


Running 10k five times a week isn't going to stave off muscle loss.


You’ll see these themes in ANY diet that focuses on optimum health and weight management. There is no escaping this core concept.


So the question you might be asking is this: “What actually is the best diet for a man in his 40's, 50's, or 60's?”


ANY of the above diets can produce great results if done correctly and mindfully. The ketogenic diet should be followed with caution. For older guys who might have health issues, it’s definitely best to consult your physician before attempting a ketogenic diet.


The long and short is that the best diet for guys in their 40's, 50's, and beyond depends. What works for one guy may not work for another to lose weight, manage weight, build muscle, and get healthier.


And lastly, part of the process of improving your diet and nutrition involves incremental, positive changes in your daily diet. Download my free Supermarket Survival Guide HERE and get started!


(If you found the information in this post useful, please share!)




Disclaimer: All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. No information provided is to be construed as medical advice. If you have medical issues, always consult your doctor.

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