Reducing your fat % from 33%+ to 15% at 47 years? Is it doable?

When you are 47 years of age, overweight at around 200 pounds (90 kgs) with a waist size of 36+ and a body fat % of 33+?  When you have high blood sugar levels and hypertension? Can you get your body fat % to 15% and achieve six pack abs in the process while building muscles?

             Yes, it is doable. This is my journey, which I started in November of 2018 when I was at 200+ pounds with 33%+ body fat with medication for hypertension and diagnosed with high sugar levels.

Currently I am at 15.4% body fat level and 145.3 pounds with a waist size of 28-29 inches.

At my young age, I was very lean and friends used to tease me for that. After my college, I started eating rich unhealthy foods + drinking alcohol and started gaining weight and felt good about it.  I kept moving from 27 inch waist size to 32 to 36 inches and never acknowledged I was overweight. I attributed the paunch to the water retention in my abdomen due to stress (work + life related) related hormone, cortisol. This is due to the reason I would lose weight and 2 inches when I go on a vacation for a week.

              My good doctor warned me about my blood sugar levels and asked me to control the weight in my mid 30s. I tried 2 quick weight loss methods – cutting down carbohydrates entirely, doing weight training + cardio for 1-1 ½ hours everyday and 25 laps of swimming in the gym swimming pool. I lost weight but felt miserable with insomnia and anxiety. I quit after 3 months the first time. The 2nd time, I did follow heavy weight training regime trying to eat healthy with complex carbohydrates but my social life on the weekends with friends – drinking + high calorie foods did not allow me to lose weight. Also there was that wrong notion in me that I will lose weight and get healthy with exercise as I did not want my metabolism to slow down due to reducing calories drastically. Then my career took priority and the stress associated with a management position in the financial sector took its toll.

               At 45 years, in Oct 2017, I adopted my daughter at 3 ½ years of her age. That is when I realized that I did not have the energy to keep up with her but I attributed it  to my age. My first vacation with my daughter to Portugal in June 2018 was a disaster as I fell sick for the first few days and I was struggling to climb up the cobblestone stairs of Alfama in Lisbon. In November of 2018, my physical checkup was the wake up call when my doctor wanted to put me on high dose sugar pill as my blood sugar levels were consistently high. I knew I had to take the bull by the horns.

                I had to workout a plan to lose weight while not feeling miserable like I felt 10 years back. And I wanted it to be a lifestyle change – not something which I wanted to do in the short term. Youtube was my guru while my previous knowledge about weight training came in handy. I worked out a meal plan + workout plan catered towards 40s people. There are some limitations when it comes to 40s people losing weight and that too diabetic.

                 So I worked out a plan involving both diet and exercise  as per my body requirements (will address in detail in a separate article). Around that time, a group of childhood friends from school started a Whatsapp group to discuss health related topics. As we were boys and girls who grew up together and now at the same age group, it made it easier for us to discuss about various topics. Intermittent fasting, weight loss plateau, skin wrinkles are some of the topics we discuss freely. The input from various friends I gained helped me immensely as I got to learn about intermittent fasting.  

From Left to Right – 1st PIc – Dec 2014 at 42 years 33%+ body fat @ 200 pounds weight(90 Kilograms). 2nd Pic – Dec 2018 at 46 years, 3rd Pic – Feb 2019, 4th Pic – Jume 6, 2019 – 15.4% body fat, 145.3 pounds (65.9 Kg)

                  It was not just a lifestyle change for me involving physical changes, it was also a spiritual discovery journey for me as I was able to see lots of good things my mom had taught me about the Dharmic faiths (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism) when I was young. A twitter friend of mine (@maidros78) was very kind to translate article to English about fasting in our Dharmic culture, which helped me provide further insight.

These were some of the examples

  1. Intermittent fasting – Dharmic spiritual practices involve fasting and the elders would attribute to physical/spiritual cleansing. Intermittent fasting is when you abstain from food for  more than 13+ hours in a 24 hour day. My mom would fast for morning till evening for various Hindu Gods at a minimum, two times in a week. I realized that our ancestors had baked in these good things and served it through religious guidelines as people would follow diligently as they were very religious in those days. Over the period, the knowledge was lost and it became a superstition to be mocked by atheists and those with vested interests
  2. One of the Jain practices involve eating dinner before sunset. This would mean people tend to eat before 6 pm in the evening which would give them more than 13-14 hours of  fasting before they have breakfast the next day around 7-8 am.
  3. Meditation and Yoga – Stress busters as they relieve you of the day to day stress which reduces the cortisol in your body.
  4. Yoga – Surya Namaskar will address skin wrinkle issues in the stomach which can creep up when you go for a quick weight loss and your belly size reduces.  
  5. Indian Medicinal practices such as Ayurvedic/Siddha  helps – for example, Ashwaganda is recommended to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, levels

  Limitations of 40s males

  1. 40s males have less testosterone both due to aging and living a life due to stress. Cortisol, the detrimental hormone which stores fat (visceral mostly) is more.
  2. Any overdoing of cardio will only add to an increase in the  stress hormone, Cortisol which will prevent a weightloss.

    The plan for 40s males which I diligently followed?

Weight loss and muscle gain is a process of calorie management, macro management and hormone management.

  1. The focus should be to boost  good hormones in the body – testosterone and Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
  2. Diet makes up 80% of the weight loss plan
  3. Calorie intake  should be lesser than the Calorie expended

I had worked out an approximate 1700 calorie diet as I had a body composition monitor from Tanita which shows resting metabolism. Mine was showing 1700 calories as resting . My deficit would be from Non-Exercise related activities (daily activities like cooking, cleaning, gardening)   and exercise related activities. (weight training etc)

4. Avoid any insulin spiking food – it goes for any food groups – carbs, protein, fat – so the focus should be low glycemic index/low insulin index foods. To give examples – complex carbs, naturally occuring full fat foods (not the fried foods)

  a.  Glycemic index –  focus on blood sugar levels attributed mainly to carbohydrates. I.e. High glycemic carbs will spike the blood sugar levels quickly. Low Glycemic carbs will be slow digesting and would not spike the blood sugar levels quickly. E.g. – Wheat, Multi-grain, Sourdough breads, Basmati rice, many fruits, vegetables etc.

   b. Insulin index – to keep it simple, a food can belong to any food group but can spike the insulin hormone in the body. For the same Glycemic index, 2 foods can trigger different insulin levels. Low Insulin index foods are full fat yoghurt, whole  eggs, whole milk etc. High Insulin index foods are potatoes, fat free milk, yoghurt etc

5. Count the Macros – i.e. how much calories  and grams from different food groups – carbs, fats and proteins. Keep carbohydrates to 200 grams or less. Have proteins around .5 gms per pound of your weight to build muscles. If you are 200 pounds, aim for 100 grams of protein.

6. Weight training  makes up 15% of the weight loss plan – Weight training preserves muscles and also contributes to muscle building. Muscle tissues are active tissues in that it needs calories to maintain them. In short, if your resting metabolism is 1700 calories per day, if you build muscles, then the resting metabolism would go up – for example, to 1900 calories which would mean you can eat 1900 calories worth of food per day without gaining fat.

     7. Cardio contributes to remaining 5% of the weight loss but too much of cardio can spike up cortisol. So the focus should be on HIIT for short duration of 20 minutes or less.

      8. Good sleep keeps stress under control. Take a melatonin or some harmless sleep supplements if you do not get enough sleep

       9. Manage your stress. Take Ashwaganda capsule, an ayurvedic herb, which will reduce the cortisol levels. Yoga and meditation will help.

     10. Intermittent fasting with an effective fasting of 15+ hours per day

     11. Good hydration – Drink enough fluids – not soft drinks or beer but pure water, coconut water etc

Do Notswhich I learnt to avoid in my journey

  1. Avoid sports supplements if  you can. They are not regulated by the FDA and so the formula can contain anything which you are unaware. Whey protein shakes can spike insulin quickly too as it is easily digestible protein
  2. Avoid Cardio as it can add to the stress and also burn muscles along with fat. Muscles are active tissues which need calories for their maintenance. In short, the focus should be on building muscles while burning fat to boost the resting metabolism.
  3. Alcohol is a big no no but I couldn’t avoid it completely and would consume 2-4 drinks in a month
  4. Avoid fat free anything – fat free yoghurt, milk etc

So how did I progress?

          I used Tanita body composition monitor (BC-554 model), Based on the readings, I tracked my weight loss, muscle loss/gain, hydration levels and fat loss %. That provided me a guidance in the weight loss journey. Here is a sample of readings I tracked using Google Sheet.

Fat loss/Weight Loss tracking – Do note that my target weight is taken in the morning while the fat% is taken in the night as dehydration alters fat% in the morning.

As I continue to chug along, here is the diet plan I worked out and followed for weightloss https://randomvoyager.com/diet/

……….Continued………..

27 thoughts on “Reducing your fat % from 33%+ to 15% at 47 years? Is it doable?

  1. very inspirational !! Thanks for the write up … Congratulations too …please write more about diet and intermittent fasting.

    1. Thank you. And for the feedback too. Will write about diet, exercise, intermittent fasting in the next article.

  2. Hi….
    I am Roshan aged 43yrs. Have been exercising for last 2 months for about 45mins to 1 hr a day but not able to reduce much my prime concern is oversized ab which i want to reduce. not concerned about six pack etc but a toned body😊. My exercise routine is warm up with jogging at one place & some jumping stretching exercise & front Bending touching toes. & some cardio but no results was able to loose weight but no reduction on ab. after reading your post felt i was doing somerhing wrong with cardio & food habits. Is there any exercise you recommend mostly to reduce ab.
    Thank you
    Regards
    Roshan

    1. There is no specific exercise for spot reduction like around abs. The first place men gain fat with around the stomach and the last place to lose the fat is around the stomach too. The focus should be on decreasing your overall body fat – say if you are at 25%+ body fat, when you reduce it to less than 16% body fat, the fat would be starting to vanish from around the stomach. Cruches and other ab exercises tone your ab muscles but still the muscles will be hidden under the layer of fat. To lose fat, diet is 85% and do weight training else you will turn out skinny fat instead of the v-shaped physique. Also weights build muscles which are active tissues which needs calories for maintenance – meaning – your resting metabolism goes up.

    1. Thank you. I have updated the article with a link to the google sheet with the diet + exercise plan. (last line)

  3. Extremely helpful article. Sir is there an option for Veg Diabetic person for Whey Protein? Please suggest few brands which are good for Diabetic person.

    1. Whey protein is something I would avoid due to fast digesting protein. There is what is called Insulin Index (wrote about it in the article) for foods. Whey protein’s insulin index, in my view doing some reading, is high. For Diabetic person, you want to slow down the digestion of a particular food to avoid insulin spike (which will signal your body to store fat). Take full-fat milk, peanuts, cheese, full-fat yoghurt etc for protein. Though the fat in these foods are good, fat calories per gram is 9 (whereas carbs or proteins per gram is 4 calories). You need to watch out for the total calorie intake per day and fat can quickly increase the total calorie intake you want to have (to maintain weightloss or just maintain your weight instead of starting to gain weight due to excess calories)

  4. This is really inspiring and talks about the anxiety and other side effects and a better overall planner. The meal plan you shared, is that what you had for each day every day for 6 months and continue to do so?

  5. A very concise and good summary on what to do and what not for real-world results. The meal plan helps greatly. Did you eat the same thing every day for 6 months and continue to do so or that’s just a sample of how you calculated the calorie intake?

    1. I stick to the meal almost 90% of the time. The 10% of the time is when I had to adjust my food intake when I travel. During those times, I err on the side of less – instead of a lunch with basmati rice, peanuts, curd, eggs (full + egg whites), veggies I go for basmati rice (same quantity), dal, veggie salad and tandoori chicken in limited portions. A dinner with the customer would be 1 or 2 drinks of Tequila if i do not have a choice and food with less carbs and lots of proteins and to a certain extent fats and skip the usual suspects – simple carbs, sugars.

  6. Saran,
    You are amazing and a great inspiration. Knowing you and what you have expressed, I felt being a part of some of the journey in the past. You not only amazed me but have shown what can be done if one has the will and a steadfast determination. I so admire you for what you have done and achieved. Proud to be a friend. Hope I can develop the determination and a will as strong as you have.

  7. Can you please give me advise how to start off. I am 36 and 116kg with border sugar and HYPER thyroid issues. I feel sleepy all the time. No exercise no interest types. Although I am spiritual I am very lazy to exercise and this sleepless problem due to thyroid and sugar is making it worse.
    Please let me know how to start with
    Diet or exercise

    Your journey is very inspirational

    1. I would suggest dealing with thyroid issues talking to the doctor but exercise helps – covering it in my next article about the effects of exercise on different hormones. Diet is 80%. Exercise also helps. I would suggest starting with Diet first.

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