I am 50 years old, a regular exerciser and have never had a weight problem but I'm afraid my luck is running out. I've put on about five pounds in the last year and can't seem to get rid of it. I dread trying to zip my pants this fall! I haven't changed my eating habits and I work out as much as ever. Is weight gain inevitable as we age? What's the quickest way for me to get the weight off –– step up my workouts or cut calories??

ask the trainer, jim beatty

Weight gain is not inevitable as we age. There is, however, a nasty cycle of muscle loss and hormonal change that will eventually lead to extra pounds and increased body fat – unfortunately, it’s a cycle that’s easy to fall into it as we get older.


As we age we naturally lose muscle mass, and as a result, we also lose the positive hormonal balance that keeps us young and strong. The good news is that proper strength training – the kind designed to maintain or even improve muscle quality – will stimulate production of the hormones that build muscle, use fat as fuel and keep us looking and feeling youthful. That’s right – by getting stronger, we can stay younger longer.


Losing weight is not just about working harder and eating less. The quickest way to unload the extra five you’ve been carrying around is to get your workouts right and your nutrition right. Again, it all comes back to the hormonal picture on the inside. If you exercise too much exercise or take in too few calories, the brain will send out hormones instructing the body to hold on to what it already has. The metabolism slows, stress hormones are released, and as a result, we are more likely to keep the fat we have and to store the food we eat as body fat. But when nutrient requirements are met and there is sufficient stimulus to make the body adapt, the brain releases hormones that build muscle and burn fat as fuel.


So what works? It’s the synergy of three things working together –aerobic exercise, strength training and a balanced diet – and it works every single time, regardless of age. If we perform moderate aerobic activity to strengthen our hearts and lungs, maintain or even improve our strength and muscle mass, and eat in a way that is supportive to our lifestyles, which means balanced meals eaten frequently, our hormones will help us. A positive internal environment will show up on the outside – in a healthy weight and a toned and stronger body.