I'm a small-town Minnesota dietitian and triathlete.
I help endurance athletes reach their performance and body composition goals through a flexible eating style.
As aging athletes, learning how to properly fuel your body for endurance performance is the key to success.
In my experience as a sports dietitian for endurance athletes, I have seen some amazing older athletes that perform at the top of their game despite their older age.
I’d like to take a second to share this story with you all…
As you’ve likely read, my sport of choice is triathlon. Since 2009, I’ve done about 25 races, ranging from sprints all the way up to the full 140.6-mile Ironman. What I really love about the sport is the diverse range of ages in athletes you see out on the course. There are athletes in their 80’s and 90’s doing triathlon! It’s pretty spectacular to be that age and still be so active.
So I’m dedicating this blog post to the aging athlete and their dedication to staying fit and active. The benefits of exercise are endless, not just physically, but mentally, socially, and psychologically. I recently spoke with a gentleman on a call who was nearing 60 years old, but he reported that he didn’t feel his age, he felt younger and for the people around him they also comment on how they would have never guessed he was almost 60. Moving your body every day should always be at the top of the priority list.
From my perspective as a dietitian, there are some nutrition concerns to consider with being an aging athlete and I want to share them with you today.
Knowledge is power and taking care of your body through nutrition can help keep you going and feeling great for many years to come.
As we age, we naturally will lose muscle mass. Implementing a strength training program into your routine and eating enough protein throughout the diet is a great way to help maintain that muscle.
For many, as we age we are more likely to be put on a medication such as a cholesterol-lowering or a blood pressure drug.
Even those with the healthiest lifestyles can still benefit from a doctor-prescribed medication as family history and genetics are something we can’t control.
It’s important to discuss with your doctor and/or pharmacist about any potential food interactions with medications or nutritional side effects (i.e. specific nutrient losses).
Knowing this and working with a dietitian (like me!) can help make sure your body has all the nutrition it needs and can continue to run like a well-oiled machine.
This is probably the biggest concern. I’ve heard from quite a few older athletes that their biggest struggle with completing long-distance races is staying safely hydrated enough to get to the finish line.
Older adults naturally have less body water. Plus, thirst sensation (the physical signal to take in fluids) decreases with age.
Our body relies on thirst to control our water intake and with a decreased thirst sensation, it can be easy to forget to drink enough.
For most older athletes, it’s exercising in hot or humid conditions that is the biggest challenge.
When exercising in those conditions it’s sooooo important to use common sense, hydrate well and maintain electrolytes and slowly build up your body’s acclimation to exercising in those conditions.
Consider taking electrolyte or hydration mixes with you on your next ride or race! (I like the brand LMNT)
Taking extra precautions can ensure a safe and successful workout!
There are so many amazing aging athletes out there who are truly inspirational and show that age is just a number (seriously, Google “the Iron Nun”).
I very much hope that you continue to be active for as long as you possibly can, and hope that these nutrition tips help you do it successfully!
Looking for additional support with your nutrition as an aging endurance athlete? Reach out to me through my services page and let’s chat!