Diet Impacts Weight More As We Age

Over the years, your body undergoes hormonal changes to save energy and your diet affects your weight more. To adapt to these shifts, your metabolism slows down and you start to gain weight, so you’ll need to modify your eating habits.
Diet Impacts Weight More As We Age

Last update: 27 May, 2021

Diet impacts weight, especially as we get older — and it’s even harder to lose it. This normal process, which affects millions of people, has at least one explanation. Here are some common reasons why it happens.

Two women who know how diet impacts weight.

More years = more pounds?

Our body continuously evolves and the muscles, bones, and metabolism progressively change. The body of a 10-year-old child doesn’t work the same way as when they turn 25, 40, or 65. During adulthood, we slowly lose muscle mass and the metabolism slows down.

In adulthood, we may have more or less muscle, depending on whether we’re younger or older. It’s normal then to see changes in body weight and how fat accumulates in areas where it wasn’t before and was easier to reduce it.

A woman holding her belly.

Basal energy expenditure over a lifetime

This isn’t the same at each stage of life. We spend more when we’re younger and, as time goes by, the figure decreases. This is due to the physical activity component and the presence of more metabolically active tissues, as stated in an article published in the journal Ageing Research Reviews.

This basal expenditure decreases for two main reasons:

  • Because body composition varies
  • Also, because hormones change

1. Diet impacts weight because the body composition changes

We lose muscle and gain fat as we get older

The body fat percentage of a male between 20 to 30 years old varies between 18 and 21%. Between the ages of 41 and 50, it reaches 25%, and above the age of 60, it’s higher than 26%.

For women, the same thing happens: they have between 22 to 24% body fat when they’re 20 to 30 years old, and reach 27 to 30% between the ages of 41 and 50. Finally, they exceed 31% after they turn 60.

“Fat accumulates naturally as muscles reduce due to inactivity.”

2. Diet impacts weight because hormones fluctuate

This doesn’t only applies to women undergoing menopause, but also to adult men. The hormonal patterns have a lot to do with the weight because they affect whether we eat or sleep more, for example. Also, as we grow older, our hormones work to save energy. This is because we don’t have the same capabilities we had when we were younger. Therefore, we’re more likely to accumulate fat (especially around the waist).

Diet impacts weight more after 30

That doesn’t mean we can eat whatever we want before our 30s. Likewise, body changes don’t only happen in old age.

As we get older, we notice our middle section enlarging and our belly bulging. Additionally, our clothes won’t fit like they used to.

Blowing out more candles on the cake and gaining weight seems to be an indisputable relationship from which nobody escapes. Even if we maintain the same eating habits. However, it’s reversible through exercise and a good diet, according to a study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

A person on a scale.
The battle against obesity and overweight becomes more intense as we get older.

Poor diet, stress, genetic factors and sedentary lifestyle can influence the amount of pounds we piut on, as well as the consumption of medications and hormonal imbalances.

After the age of 30, estrogen, progesterone and androgens don’t work the same way they did before. Because they’re essential for the maintenance of body mass, it’s understandable to see changes in our hips, abdomen or buttocks.

The sources of energy that seemed inexhaustible at the ages of 15 to 20 fade over the years, giving way to a more sedentary life. If we add to that work or more relaxed events (going to the cinema or theater, dining in a restaurant or traveling on an all-inclusive cruise), the result is more weight as we get older. A simple equation: food gets more fattening every year.

Gaining weight isn’t the only change in adulthood

Now, what happens if we have a healthy lifestyle, exercise and eat right? Well, we need to consider how many calories we need.

Two people who know diet impacts weight.

For instance, a 31-year-old woman who weighs 125 pounds, for example, will need to consume 2000 daily calories to maintain her weight. That same woman will only need 1850 calories at age of 45. If she instead continues to eat 2000 calories a day, she’ll have a surplus of 150 that adds up to about 10 pounds over six months.

As you can see, we don’t only have to worry about those extra pounds we put on as we age, but also about diseases and conditions that begin to affect us as adults. This is the case with osteoporosis due to bone density loss, or osteoarthritis due to joint problems.

Thus, in order to prevent weight gain, it’s important to adapt our current habits to our new reality. For example:

  • We should practice more low impact exercises  such as yoga, pilates, swimming, etc.
  • Also, we must reduce our intake of fat, salt, and flour
  • In addition, we shouldn’t smoke or drink
  • And get plenty of sleep

Finally, we need to accept that we’re just not going to have the same body at the age of 50 that we had when we were 25. In addition to more than two decades going by, our habits are different and our body has changed accordingly. As you can see, diet impacts weight a whole lot more as we age …

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  • Wilkinson DJ., Piasecki M., Atherton PJ., The age related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function: measurement and physiology of muscle fibre atrophy and muscle fibre loss in humans. Ageing Res Rev, 2018. 47: 123-132.
  • Moro T., Tinsley G., Bianco A., Marcolin G., et al., Effects of eight weeks of time restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strenght, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance trained males. J Transl Med, 2016.