“Health is wealth” may be a hackneyed expression, but there’s no denying its truth—a fact that becomes increasingly clear as we age, when mental and physical health and wellbeing begin to outweigh other priorities.
“A healthy diet and lifestyle are important all life long, but their priority increases after age 50 because of the myriad of changes our bodies go through with age,” says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, Ed.D., R.D., F.A.N.D., professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and founder of Cut to the Chase Nutrition. “Metabolism slows, muscle mass gradually decreases, and chronic health problems crop up or become worse. A healthy diet and lifestyle, though, can not only prevent or delay many conditions but also help you feel much better and more vital well into your senior years.”
For men, in particular, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind in order to protect health and wellness after 50.
1. Include protein In every meal
“Lean muscle mass plays an integral role in keeping men strong and independent—but what most men don’t know is that, as you age, you need increased protein in order to maintain that lean muscle mass,” says Lauren MacLeod, R.D., L.D. “Your body becomes less responsive to protein intake, so you need more in order to prevent sarcopenia (muscle wasting).” Maintaining muscle is also important for supporting testosterone levels, a concern for many middle-aged men.
Studies suggest that older men should aim for at least one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a man that weighs 175 pounds, which is about 80 kilograms, that’s at least 80 grams of protein per day.
To ensure you’re hitting your daily protein goals, MacLeod recommends including a protein-rich food in every meal or snack. “You may immediately think of meat, but other high-protein foods include dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), nuts and nut butters, beans, and protein shakes,” she says. (When you’re on the run, a protein shake comes in handy, too.)
2. Eat more prebiotic foods
“About six million American men suffer from depression every year, but they are far less likely to seek help than their female counterparts,” says dietitian Kara Landau, R.D., founder of Uplift Food.
According to Landau, one major way that men can support their mental health is through nourishing their gut, which often takes a hit as medication use increases and life stressors shift around middle age.
“One of the most important nutrients to support men’s mental health from 50 years of age onwards is prebiotic fiber, which is fuel for probiotics,” she says. “Because 90 percent of mood-calming serotonin is found within the gut, including a good source of prebiotics daily to nourish the gut microbiome is an important step men can take to care for their mental health.”
She recommends incorporating prebiotic-rich foods, such as cooked and cooled grains and potatoes, legumes, and lentils, every day. You can also consider a supplement like The Vitamin Shoppe brand Nutra Flora FOS.
3. Strength train at least three times a week
One of the most important fitness tips for men over 50? Embrace resistance. “As you age, it is important to stay active and focus on exercise, which can help lower health risks, boost energy, and build the muscular strength needed to perform daily activities,” says trainer John Gardner, C.P.T., co-founder of online fitness service Kickoff.
Over the years, the everyday implications of regular movement become even more relevant. “When you’re over 50, you need to make sure your muscles are strong enough to climb stairs, carry groceries, or even push furniture around the house,” Gardner notes.
Part of the equation here: testosterone, which is crucial for everything from muscle mass and strength to libido, and declines as men age. Research suggests that by age 60, 20 percent of men have testosterone levels below the normal range. “Strength training can help boost that, as it has the biggest impact on testosterone levels out of all types of workouts,” explains Gardner.
To bolster testosterone, build muscle, and boost strength, men 50 years of age and older should strength train for 30 minutes at least three times a week. “You can do this by lifting weights (start with light weights and move up gradually), using resistance bands, or even doing bodyweight strength exercises such as pushups and situps,” suggests Gardner.
4. Start Doing yoga
“If I could get every man over 50 to do one thing to positively affect their lives, it would be yoga,” says Trainer Matt Scarfo, C.P.T., a contributor to free online workout platform Lift Vault. Not only does yoga improve mobility and flexibility, but it also helps build strength, which can help prevent joint and muscle injuries. Plus, it promotes healthy circulation, which can ward off stiffness and soreness, he adds.
“All of this is great for men over 50 as, in my experience, they tend to neglect exercises that work on flexibility and, as a result, are always stiff and sore, which impedes them from living as active a life as they would like,” Scarfo says.
5. Get Enough calcium and vitamin D
Think osteoporosis is a ‘woman’s disease’? Think again; roughly 20 percent of osteoporosis cases in those over the age of 50 occur in men. Though a variety of health and lifestyle factors contribute to bone strength over the years, nutrition plays a key role—and vitamin D and calcium are two nutrients, in particular, that older men should pay attention to.
According to Ayoob, the vast majority of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones while vitamin D helps the body absorb that calcium. All adults under 70 need 600 IU of vitamin D per day, while those over 70 need 800 IU. Meanwhile, men over 50 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day.
You can find vitamin D in foods such as UV-treated mushrooms, eggs, fatty fish, and fortified foods, Ayoob says. Dairy, beans, chia seeds, and green vegetables like kale, broccoli, collards, and Brussels sprouts, meanwhile, provide calcium.
While Ayoob recommends striving to meet your needs through food, many people over 50 don’t do so, making supplements a helpful option. Our picks: The Vitamin Shoppe brand D3 Soft Chews and Calcium Soft Chews. Bonus: Taking them together is a one-two punch for bone health.