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The secret to performing well as an older athlete is the same as for younger athletes: train hard, recover harder, repeat. The main difference is that as we age, recovery takes a bit longer than when we were younger. What we eat and how we respond to it can have a huge impact on our recovery process. What we need is a plan or way to master food and nutrition for our best performance no matter what number appears on our birth certificate.

here's some tips that may help.

1. Eat mindfully and consistently. Pay careful attention to what you eat and how you react to it. You might even consider keeping a food journal alongside your training journal. (I'm actually starting this again for more accurate accountability. How to? coming in a future blog but if you need help now message me)

Awareness of your response to foods and meals can be a huge step toward solving ongoing digestive issues. We all eat for various reasons. Understanding the drivers behind your food intake may also provide insight into helping manage your food intake and emotions surrounding food. Keeping a food log can be a HUGE difference in pinpointing the problems if you're struggling losing weight and it looks like nothing else you're doing is working.

2. Include probiotics. The key to feeling well and performing optimally begins at a gut level. Let's face it. NO ONE wants to spend too much time feeling bloated, or uncomfortable, or especially spend too much time in the bathroom. If digestion is poor and you’re continually having discomfort after meals, this will impact pretty much all other areas of your life. Heartburn, bloating, excessive gas, diarrhea or constipation are no fun. Granted there can be many potential causes for these symptoms, but the simplest place to start is with your own gut bacteria. Before you reach for another Tums or other type of antacid (or other medications), make sure you have a good daily source of probiotics in your diet. Kefir, yogurt, fresh sauerkraut and other sources of fermented foods that have live cultures can help repopulate your gut with helpful bacteria. Gut health has many components.

Be SURE to explore all of them with your health care provider.

3. Eat protein throughout the day. I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ONE ENOUGH.

Aging well requires healthy bones and muscles and both depend on protein intake. Bone is 50 percent protein and loss of both bone and muscle with age are very closely connected. While calcium and vitamin D are key bone health nutrients, so is protein. Large amounts are not required but adequate amounts over the course of the day can help prevent bone loss as we age. Endurance athletes need between 0.5-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. An easy rule of thumb: your daily intake of protein in grams is equal to about half your body weight in pounds. So, if you weigh 170 pounds, you need about 85 grams per day. This means eating about 25-30 grams per meal. Now OBVIOUSLY we are not all endurance athletes, and our individual protein needs will vary, but for the most part? The older you are, the more protein amount (and intake) becomes important.

Here are some examples:

(for a more detailed or specific list according to your likes and dislikes message me)

Food Amount of protein

Meat, poultry or fish, 3-ounces 21 grams

(about the size of deck of cards)

Tofu, 1/2 cup 20 grams

Cooked beans or peas (black beans, 16 grams

garbanzo beans, lentil), 1 cup

2 eggs 12 grams

Yogurt, 1 cup (8-ounce container) 11 grams

Milk, 1 cup 8 grams

Peanuts or almonds, 1/4 cup or 8 grams

2 tablespoons of nut butter

4. Choose fiber. Part of keeping your gut bacteria happy is to make sure they have their favorite food: FIBER. You can’t digest it but they (your gut) can, and this not only encourages healthier bacteria to thrive, it provides you with things like butyrate, a short chain fatty acid that is known to promote healthy colon cells. In addition, a diet higher in fiber is linked to lower risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It’s recommended that we eat between 20-35 grams of fiber daily (but probably not on race day! LOL). That’s a lot. And a word of warning: increase fiber intake slowly to allow your system to adapt to it. Here are some simple ways to boost your fiber intake:

  • Eat whole foods (whole fruits, whole grains) frequently

  • Snack on whole fruit, raw vegetables and nuts

  • Include peas and beans often in meals like soups, stews or chili or eat them as a side dish

  • Pay attention to ingredients on cereal, bars, snacks and crackers and go for those with more fiber (5+ grams per serving of cereal, 3+ grams for other snacks)

  • On a side note? Be sure to always have toilet paper in stock/on hand LOL.

5. Eat fruits and vegetables at every meal. Enough said. Fruits and vegetables contain a zillion compounds (many that we haven’t identified yet) that help us stay healthy no matter how old we are. All body systems benefit from the antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber that fruits and vegetables provide. If you have blood pressure issues, regularly eating leafy greens, like spinach, arugula or kale, celery and beets, may even help you lower it.

Its very simple: eat plants A LOT. Eating them plain and simple works well but you can also include them in smoothies, soups, as toppings on pizza or sandwiches, or in omelets and wraps. In the coming weeks we will post healthy recipes and ways you can add these healthy foods into your daily nutrition. As for juices? Although many people count juices as nutritious, they really should not be relied upon for daily goals due to the lack of fiber, increased sugars, and additional calories. There are exceptions and you should either research it or contact me for specifics.

6. Monitor vitamin B12 status and include vitamin D. As we get older, some people lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12, even though it's widely available in foods like meat, milk and eggs. It’s also found in some nutritional yeasts, soy milks and cereals ( not my fav personally). Vitamin B12 is critical for red blood cell formation, brain function and DNA synthesis. Absorption is affected by a lack of intrinsic factor in the stomach (necessary for the absorption of B12), and also by low stomach acid, which releases B12 from foods. (Note: proton pump inhibitors for reflux or heart burn reduce stomach acid.) IMO, It’s a good idea to have B12 status checked after the age of 50 and, if necessary, take vitamin B12 supplements or shots.

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and if you train outside with your skin exposed, you are probably making good amounts of it in your skin, especially if you delay putting on your sunscreen for a few minutes. Older people are less efficient at making this vitamin in their skin so have it checked when getting blood work done. Dairy products and fatty fish are typically rich sources of vitamin D and other foods like breakfast cereals and some types of orange juice are fortified with this vitamin. If you decide to take a vitamin D supplement, be sure to have your levels checked to make sure you are not getting too much.

7. Include omega-3s. If you eat seafood like salmon, sardines or other fatty fish at least twice a week, keep it up. If not, including a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet will help prevent inflammation and promote heart health. As we age, inflammation can become more of a factor. Fish oil and cod liver oil are highly absorbable forms of omega-3s that supply EPA and DHA in the body. Leafy greens, nuts, tofu, flax seed and oils (like canola & soy) are also sources of omega-3s that are partially converted to EPA and DHA. Recommendations vary for daily intake of omega-3s but many scientific groups recommend somewhere between 250-500 milligrams per day is a great starting point. Because it can depend on your health status, further recommendations should be obtained from your primary physician. Eating fish twice a week will supply about 250milligrams per day of EPA/DHA.

Important note: If you take a supplement, check the supplement facts label to see how much EPA/DHA it supplies.

Stay tuned for our next Blog:

GETTING BACK INTO A ROUTINE after a long hiatus (or a Pandemic)

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