Calories Through the Ages
When age goes up, calories need to go down.
So you've hit 40, and you notice that you've put on a few
pounds. But you're still exercising and eating just as you did in your 30s.
What's going on?
For the answer, WebMD turned to Liz Hill, RD, a nutrition
specialist with the Food and Nutrition Center at the U.S. Department of
As you age, you need fewer calories. Why? Once you reach
adulthood, your muscle mass gradually decreases while the proportion of fat
increases. Since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, you'll need fewer
calories to maintain your usual weight. If you keep eating the same amount as
you get older, those extra calories will turn into extra pounds.
For example, a woman who's 5'4", 130 pounds, and who
engages in light exercise for an hour each day might need 1,980 calories at age
40. At age 50, weighing and exercising the same amount, she might need only
Those are only rough estimates, and they don't take into
account the effect of your particular metabolism and genetic make-up.
The Answer is Simple
What are your options? They're pretty straightforward: either
eat less or exercise more. If that hypothetical woman were to make her hour of
exercise a little more vigorous, she could keep eating the same number of
calories at 50 that she did at 40.
However, remember that calories aren't everything when you're
trying to stay healthy as you age, says Hill. Seniors tend to eat fewer
calories anyway, so they need to make sure they get enough nutrients and
vitamins in their foods. "When you're looking at people who are 80 or 90
years old," says Hill, "the real problem is keeping weight on."