How to get fit in your 50s: the ‘elementary’ guide to losing weight (by a man who took his own advice)

If you want to lose fat and live a healthier lifestyle, take the ‘elementary’ approach, says Chris Zaremba, who was obese at 50 and is a world champion fitness model at 58

I meet a lot of people in my age range (50-plus) that want to both increase their fitness levels and reduce their fatness levels.

And I find there is a wide range of levels of interest from this people. Many of those are happy to take to a detailed level of talking numbers of calories, grams of macronutrients, day-long eating time schedules and detailed resistance workout and cardio agendas.  I call this group the ‘number-crunchers’. I love them and indeed I am one myself.

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The best thing about the elementary approach is that it works

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But there’s another, larger, group who want general guidelines on a healthier lifestyle, they admit they are not as focused as the earlier group, but are keen to have guidelines or rules that will help them achieve their fitness-up and fatness-down goals.

For this group, I have devised some simple rules to follow, designed to be elementary – in more ways than one.  In this article, I’ll describe this ‘elementary’ approach to fitness: Eat Less, Exercise More, Extend Nights To Achieve a Renewed You.

Fat loss and extended nights

The body’s primary fat burning period is overnight, specifically the period between a few hours after eating the last meal up until when calories are consumed again. This period is gold dust to the keen fat-burner. Make use of it by following these guidelines:

1. Create a 12-hour gap between consuming calories. So if you eat dinner at 8pm, don’t have breakfast (or any other calories) until 8am. If you know you have an early start tomorrow and have to eat breakfast at 6am, then tonight’s eating and drinking should be done by 6pm.

2. Get some light to moderate calorie-burning exercise in for some part of the 11th hour of those 12. So once you wake up, go for a brisk 30-minute walk, or do a similar period of cardio at the gym, but nothing too intense.

3. Have some coffee before that morning exercise. No sugar or milk, of course, as they contain calories and that would break the 12-hour no-calorie guideline. But the caffeine in black coffee is fine and acts both as a stimulant and helps the fat cells release fat to the bloodstream for use as fuel.

Eating less

Most of the Western world eats too much, and a considerable benefit would be obtained by many simply through cutting the amount eaten.

1. Within this ‘eating less’ approach, add in a view to ‘eat better’. Cut the total amount overall, but within that, keep your protein and fibre up, and sugars and saturated fats down. Don’t try to eliminate saturated fats completely as the body needs some, but only have those that come with protein attached.

2. Try to plan each day’s eating. This is an ideal activity for you while doing that pre-breakfast cardio. Think of what you are going to eat, and approximately when, over the remainder of the day. And if you have the keenness to do so, it’s best to write that plan down. ‘Plan your eats, then eat your plan’, sums it up.

Chris Zaremba’s 12 healthy eating tips

3. If you decide to eat something that you know you shouldn’t, make it worth it. Quality not quantity is the guideline here. A glass of good wine to replace several of the standard stuff, or maybe a pint of craft-brewed ale with natural ingredients rather than a few of the amber fizzy stuff. The same goes for bread.

Exercising more

The body is happy to accept exercise in any form. But ‘formal’ training sessions aren’t the only form of exercise that counts. Your body actually wants to move, to exercise: it’s only your brain that’s advising your differently.

1. You already have some cardio planned as part of the end of the overnight 12 hours. In addition, later in the day put in a resistance or weight training session on two or three non-adjacent days per week. There are many examples of exercises available, including on my web site, and try to include exercises for the major muscle groups of the upper legs, chest and back.

2. Progress incrementally, but do progress. If you can do ten good repetitions on one exercise for example, then try 11 next time. And if you do that, try 12 the time after.  TRecord your exercise progress, as recording your data is key to the week-on-week encouragement this gives you, as measurement is motivation.

3. Find exercise activities in your daily life. Walk up stairs rather than taking the lift, walk rather than drive for a short journey, and if you are walking, do it briskly.

How to fit exercise into your life: Chris Zaremba’s tips

There’s much more I can say about each of those points, but the above is all you need to get going. Also, if you can’t follow this on every day, then do it on some; the higher percentage of days that you can do this means the quicker you will obtain your results.

The best thing about the elementary approach is that it works. I have a range of clients using these rules, and they have either achieved their targets or they are well on the way to doing so.

Chris Zaremba of Fitness over Fifty is a fitness consultant and personal trainer specialising in the over-50s. He follows his own advice and is the current World Champion Muscle Model and Fitness Model for his age group. You can contact him at Chris@FitnessOverFifty.co.uk 

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