Should Your Diet Change with Age?

Longevity in any training is incredibly important. The way that you fuel and recover your body in your 20s will set the tone for what you are capable of at 60. Something that you may not have considered yet however, is should your approach to diet and supplementation change as you age? Do a 20 year old and a 60 year old have the same requirements? In this article, we delve into some of the ways that older athletes can ensure that they are giving themselves the best chance of maintaining a high level of sports performance and general health.

Aging can affect dietary needs due to many factors, for example:

  • Immunity is reduced
  • Absorption of nutrients and gut bacteria diversity are reduced
  • Muscle mass decreases, often fat mass increases

Reduced fat free mass (FFM) reduces the amount of calories needed per day to maintain weight. Of course, having a high energy expenditure through exercise keeps energy requirements higher than in sedentary individuals, but it is important to be aware of changes in body composition and training intensity reduction as these make it much easier to gain unwanted fat.

As lean body mass decreases, as does the amount of glycogen stored in muscles. This may mean that carbohydrate needs drop, although a focus on high quality carbs pre and post training is still essential for energy and recovery.

Protein requirements may also be reduced as muscle is lost. Around 1.7g/kg body mass has been suggested as an appropriate upper goal for resistance trained elderly athletes, as opposed to around 2g/kg for younger resistance trained athletes.

Fat digestion is not affected with age, and dietary fats are imperative for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, for example vitamin D which we will discuss later. The general opinion remains the same, that carbohydrates should be prioritised for sporting performance.

 

Supplements

Bone health and muscle contraction

50 y = 1200 mg/day

 

 

Calcium absoption, cell growth and immunity

>50 y = 10μg/day, >70 y = 15μg/day

 

 

Conclusion

In Conclusion, 'knowing your body' is the most important factor in thriving as an older athlete. Regular check ups with a doctor or sports professional (sports scientist, sport rehabilitator, etc) and being more aware of changes in weight and recovery are essential. Focus on making nutrient dense food choices and being aware of overall calories first and foremost before getting too tied up in macronutrient specifics!

About the Author

Savannah Westerby, BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition. IG:@savannahwesterby
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