Secrets to Staying Slim Past 40

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., January/February 2008

How to outsmart age-related weight gain.

"It would have been helpful to find out if these people were of slim/normal weights or overweight that they used for this, and what the average height/weight was. I'm petite, in my 40s and of normal weight in terms of BMI charts. I use...

If you’ve celebrated your fortieth birthday, you probably suspect that your metabolism isn’t quite what it used to be. The bad news is you’re right: calorie burn does decrease with age. But there’s also good news: you’re probably burning more than you think. New research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals just how many calories, on average, men and women in their forties, fifties and sixties burn each day. Drum roll… please! According to the study, men aged 40 to 69 expend about 2,900 calories. Women of the same age burn 2,300 calories daily. (These averages vary based on a person’s height, weight and activity.)

These numbers may sound surprisingly high if you compare them to a Nutrition Facts label, which implies the average person needs about 2,000 calories daily. They may seem downright decadent to one who has followed dieting plans where daily calorie caps are set at 1,200 or 1,500 calories. But they’re good approximations for how much energy people of this age group are expending. Janet Tooze, Ph.D., lead researcher and assistant professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and her colleagues used doubly labeled water, a tool that measures carbon dioxide production (an actual marker of calories burned), to determine the energy expenditure of the 450 middle-age men and women in the study.

The reason people of all ages may assume they’re burning less than they really are may be that they think they’re eating fewer calories than they are actually consuming. When it comes to estimating calories, says Tooze, “generally people underreport [their calorie intake] by about one-third.”

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