As we grow older, we gain a new appreciation for our nutrition and our bodies and senior runners need to pay special attention to their diet, says Nandini Reddy
Beyond the age-related health concerns, senior competitive athletes need to be cautious about their nutrition. The competitive drive can be kept alive not by just training but also a diet that is suitable to the body at that particular age. There are few aspects that need to be understood in terms of energy requirements, slower recovery, adequate protein and hydration considerations.
Post run nutrition becomes very important as you get older. It aids in recovery and recovery is slower as you age so giving it a boost with post-workout nutrition is your best bet. Eating a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein within an hour of your workout is a great idea. Recovery is also enhanced if micro-nutrients are given prominence in your diet. Zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Folate, Calcium and Vitamin E are the primary ones that you can include. You can get these from curd, milk, fish, legumes, whole grains and cheese.
Watch your fluids
Kidneys efficiency is reduced as you grow older. Their ability to decrease total body water, regulate salts and sense thirst will be reduced. Sweating also reduces as you grow older. In tropical climates like India, being aware of water intake is important. As a test during training, drinking 150ml of water every 30 mins will indicate how much water you really need on training days. If it is too hot and humid to run outside, training runs indoors might be more beneficial. If you can’t then just take the day off or run before sunrise, because putting pressure on your kidneys would not be the most productive idea.
Know your energy requirements
When you hit your 60s everything changes in terms of energy requirements and metabolism. For most people activity will decrease with age hence their energy requirements might reduce. But if you are a runner the the amount of calories you require will be different from your younger self. You need to include fibre and fats into your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are the primary need. Fibre rich nutrition sources will also help avoid gut problems. The focus should be on including foods that improve performance. Any good nutritionist will be able to advice you on which performance promoting nutrition is good for you.
Older runners need to manage chronic conditions such as cholesterol, sugar levels and blood pressure. While many may be on regular medications, it is also important to ensure that the micro-nutrients are not compromised as a fallout due to the medication. Your doctor will be able to tell give you additions to your diet to ensure that you do not lose key nutrients such as sodium and potassium.
Adapting to training over the years will continuously feed your competitive spirit, so regardless of your age , if you get your nutrition right you will be running strong.