• Mar 2024

Why is losing weight after 40 harder? Advice from a Lingo Dietitian

Why is losing weight after 40 harder? Advice from a Lingo Dietitian
  • Some people may notice that it’s harder to maintain their weight and body composition as they get into their 40s or that they are gaining weight even without changing their lifestyle.
  • For men and women, a lot of these changes can be tied to the hormonal shifts that happen as you get older. 
  • Even if it’s harder to lose weight as you age, there are lifestyle factors you can implement to improve body composition such as strength training, eating enough protein, and limiting alcohol and ultra-processed foods.

Why is it that after about age 40, it seems those extra pounds start creeping on and it’s harder to shed extra weight? In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons it may be harder to maintain a healthy weight after 40 and effective strategies to either maintain your weight or lose weight and improve body composition. 

How hormones impact your weight

As we get older, for both men and women, hormones levels such as testosterone and oestrogen gradually start to shift.  

For women, this tends to be more of a dramatic shift. Many women report that it can be hard to not only lose weight but maintain the weight they stayed at for years. This change in body composition and weight is typically associated with menopause when there is a dramatic shift in hormones. 

However, menopause does not happen overnight. It is typically a gradual shift from perimenopause, which is when women first start to see irregularity in their menstrual cycles and may experience other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, to menopause, which is 12 months after a women’s last period (1). Weight loss or even weight maintenance can feel harder during these years, which is typically around age 40 to 55 and lasts on average around 7 years, but can last as long as 14 years for some women. (2,3)

A change in hormones does not just happen to women as they age, but for men as well. While the side effects may not be as dramatic, the gradual decrease in testosterone can also make it more challenging for men to maintain muscle or lose weight. (3,4) 

Why you may struggle to lose weight

One impact of the shift in hormones as you age is a natural decline in lean body mass (aka muscle). It has been shown that the ageing body needs more stimulus to maintain and build muscle than it does at a younger age. (5) What does this mean? There are two main components to building and maintaining muscle: 

  1. Using the muscle (e.g. strength training)
  2. Eating enough protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. 

Does the chicken come before the egg? As people get older, they tend to be less active. Is this decrease in activity because of muscle loss? Or is the muscle loss because we decreased activity? Likely both. 

Hormone shifts can contribute to the loss of lean mass, and the decrease in activity also creates less stimuli for the body to maintain the muscle it has, much less build any new muscle. 

The way our body metabolises protein can change also as we get older. Studies have shown that muscle protein synthesis (MPS), or how much protein our body needs to stimulate muscle growth, increases as we age. (6) To put it simply, you need more protein to stimulate muscle growth than you did when you were 20. 

Because of these changes, not only does it seem like it’s harder to maintain or lose weight, but you also may notice that your overall body composition is changing. If nothing is done to mitigate this, you can start to lose muscle mass while putting on fat mass. 

On top of the physiological changes that happen with age, many adults over 40 may experience lifestyle shifts that can impact weight management. Taking care of children, a stressful job, or other life changes can impact things like sleep, eating habits and activity compared to when you were younger. 

Studies show that poor sleep can impact your metabolic health and promote weight gain. (7) Additionally, chronic stress can impact weight management by disrupting the body’s hunger and fullness signals and a change in eating habits that induce weight gain. (8,9)

So we've covered the major reasons why your weight may change as you get older, or why it may be harder to lose weight after 40, but what can you actually do about it? 

The good news is, there are several strategies that you can use to effectively lose weight no matter if you are in your 40s, 50s, or older.

Tips to manage weight after 40

  1. Prioritise protein

    Eating enough high-quality protein is one of the most important things you can focus on as you get older. Protein will help you maintain lean muscle mass, which burns more calories at rest than fat, meaning you can eat more and maintain your weight. It also helps to keep you full, meaning you are less likely to crave the carb-heavy, sugary, and calorie-rich foods that make weight management harder. 

    Remember that you’ll need more protein for it to trigger all these beneficial effects. Aim for 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of your ideal body weight daily, with at least 30 g per meal to maximise muscle protein synthesis. Some high-quality protein sources include salmon, shrimp, chicken, beef, eggs, whey protein powder, cottage cheese, and tofu.

  2. Strength train

    In combination with eating enough protein, strength training is the other major contributor to maintaining and/or losing weight as you age. Lean muscle mass requires more calories to maintain than fat, meaning you can eat more calories (especially calories from protein) and still maintain your weight. Strength training helps your body use the protein you eat more effectively (5) and can also help preserve metabolic health by increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering blood pressure. 

  3. Stabilise glucose 

    Eating nutrient dense foods that promote stable glucose will help to ensure you are curbing the glucose spikes and crashes that can stimulate hunger and cravings throughout the day. Using your Lingo CGM can help to identify the foods that help you minimise glucose spikes and maintain your energy throughout the day. Check out more information on how to avoid glucose spikes here

  4. Try time restricted eating 

    Sleep and stress can impact your circadian alignment, which may increase your risk for weight gain and metabolic consequences with age. One way to combat this is a type of intermittent fasting called Time Restricted Eating (TRE). TRE means restricting your food intake to specific periods of the day to synchronize your body's internal clock with your external environment. 

    Set a specific time frame, usually lasting about 8-12 hours, in which you will only eat within that period. For example, you may eat breakfast at 9-10 a.m. and dinner around 5-7 p.m. with lunch and/or snacks in between, but limit any other food outside of that window, especially 2-3 hours before bed. TRE has been found to help with weight loss and improve metabolic health such as improved insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. (10, 11)

  5. Cut out or decrease alcohol intake

    When trying to lose weight, alcohol ends up being empty calories that your body must burn before it can metabolise fat or carbs. What does this mean? You may end up storing the food you are eating because your body can’t store alcohol and puts fat and carb metabolism on the back burner. 

    Additionally, depending on the type of alcohol you consume, it can impact your glucose by increasing or decreasing it, which subjects you to the effects of the glucose roller coaster. This can impact hunger, fullness, and your ability to maintain stable glucose. Lastly, alcohol may lower your inhibitions making it harder to choose glucose-friendly food choices. (16) When trying to lose weight, it may be best to limit or cut out alcohol altogether. 

  6. Limit ultra-processed foods and focus on whole foods

    Along with stabilising your glucose, focusing on whole foods and limiting ultra-processed foods can help you manage your weight as you get older. It has been shown that people eat an average of 500 more calories per day when the food is highly processed vs. minimally processed. (12) Not only are you missing out on important nutrients when you eat highly processed food, but this can lead to weight gain in as little as two weeks when compared to eating a diet of unprocessed foods. (12) 

    Focusing on food quality is one of the best things you can do. (13) Keep your ultra-processed food consumption to a minimum, and aim for your diet to consist of primarily whole foods such as:

    - Fresh or frozen meat and seafood
    - Vegetables, especially non-starchy veggies and leafy greens
    - Unprocessed carbohydrates such as beans, legumes, and whole grains
    - Dairy like milk, yoghurt, and cheese
    - Healthy plant-based fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds 

  7. Get quality sleep

    Poor sleep can impact not only weight, but also your glucose, metabolic health and overall mood and energy. (14) The NHS recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults. Having trouble getting quality sleep? Check out our tips for improving sleep and getting a good night’s rest.

  8. Manage stress

    Finding ways to relieve stress can not only help you manage your weight but can also lead to other benefits like reduced blood pressure and more steady glucose. (15) Identify ways you can destress, which may be different for everyone. Find something that works for you: breathing exercises, yoga, walking in nature, journaling, practising gratitude, or taking a warm bath or shower are all things you can implement to reduce daily stress.

 A final note from Lingo

While getting older means your hormones and lifestyle may change, you can still work with them to reach your body composition goals. By focusing on the foods you eat, working to maintain and/or build muscle, and looking at your overall lifestyle including sleep and stress, you can still lose weight in your 40s and beyond.


  1. Santoro N. Perimenopause: From Research to Practice. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Apr;25(4):332-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26653408

  2. What Is Menopause? | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)

  3. Chahal HS, et al. The endocrine system and ageing. J Pathol. 2007 Jan;211(2):173-80. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17200939

  4. Gray A, et al. Age, disease, and changing sex hormone levels in middle-aged men: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1991 Nov;73(5):1016-25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1719016

  5. Burd NA, et al. Anabolic resistance of muscle protein synthesis with aging. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2013 Jul;41(3):169-73. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23558692

  6. Bauer J, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013 Aug;14(8):542-59. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23867520

  7. Chaput JP, et al. The role of insufficient sleep and circadian misalignment in obesity. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2023 Feb;19(2):82-97. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36280789

  8. Yau YH, et al. Stress and eating behaviors. Minerva Endocrinol. 2013 Sep;38(3):255-67. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24126546

  9. Abizaid A. Stress and obesity: The ghrelin connection. J Neuroendocrinol. 2019 Jul;31(7):e12693. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30714236

  10. Goens D, et al. Obesity, Chronic Stress, and Stress Reduction. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2023 Jun;52(2):347-362. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37197878

  11. Jamshed H, et al. Effectiveness of Early Time-Restricted Eating for Weight Loss, Fat Loss, and Cardiometabolic Health in Adults With Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2022 Sep 1;182(9):953-962. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35939311

  12. Hall KD, et al. Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake. Cell Metab. 2019 Jul 2;30(1):67-77.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008. Epub 2019 May 16. Erratum in: Cell Metab. 2019 Jul 2;30(1):226. Erratum in: Cell Metab. 2020 Oct 6;32(4):690. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31105044

  13. Sievenpiper JL. Low-carbohydrate diets and cardiometabolic health: the importance of carbohydrate quality over quantity. Nutr Rev. 2020 Aug 1;78(Suppl 1):69-77. doi: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32728757

  14. Medic G, et al. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nat Sci Sleep. 2017 May 19;9:151-161. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28579842

  15. Pascoe MC, et al. Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Dec;86:152-168. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28963884

  16. Kase CA, et al. The relationship of alcohol use to weight loss in the context of behavioral weight loss treatment. Appetite. 2016 Apr 1;99:105-111. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26792773

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