Ageless Adventurer: Although regular exercise and a balanced diet with healthy foods is the best way to stay healthy at any age, there are some tweaks you should be making as you age, including to your daily vitamin and mineral supplements.
Here’s some healthy advice about what to eat in every decade of your life, to help prevent bone loss and muscle mass, and help avoid body fat storage that increases with age, especially around the waist or belly, that used to be called “middle age spread”.
The advice is from the editors of Outside Magazine, and from some registered dietitians they interviewed, including Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian and the owner of Pittsburgh-based Active Eating Advice.
While this is geared to hard-core athletes and work-out fiends, these are all common sense suggestions, even rules, for rest of us to follow.
Increase your intake of B12 as you age, because your body becomes less efficient at producing B12, a vitamin often tied to increasing endurance. That can have an especially profound impact on athletic performance if you don’t adjust your nutritional intake accordingly, says Bonci.
And increase Vitamin C intake for good bone health.
Your body is still burning through fuel at a rapid pace. Although your days of eating cupcakes for lunch with impunity may be behind you, your calorie needs have not decreased. You need plenty of protein and fat to support your athletic pursuits.
Focus on high-quality calories, and cut down on simple sugars and processed foods.
Especially in your early twenties, it’s crucial to get enough iron—found in red meat, beans, and dairy—which attaches to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body, thereby improving your endurance.
This is especially important for women during menstruation since you lose iron with your monthly flow.
This is when belly fat begins to increase. Minimize the damage by eating high-fiber, whole-grain carb sources like oats, brown rice, and skin-on potatoes take longer to digest, which keeps your metabolism revved and helps prevent body fat.
You’ll also begin to lose muscle and bone mass, says Mary Ellen Canmire, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine.
Add more lean or plant-based protein and ingredients loaded with vitamin D and calcium, including small amounts of full-fat dairy. It’s also important to load up on anti-inflammatory ingredients like leafy greens, berries, and olive oil.
They speed up athletic recovery, which gets harder as you get older.
In your fifties, according to Bonci, 50 percent of every meal should consist of fruits or veggies to keep you satiated, 25 percent should be lean protein to stave off the rapid muscle decline that comes around this time, and the remaining 25 percent should be a combination of healthy fats to support an aging heart and whole grains to provide an immediate energy source.
That’s a healthy plate at any age, and particularly important now because your appetite and calorie needs have started to decrease significantly, so every bite (or sip) counts, she adds.
Appetite decreases in your 50s because certain hormones trigger the brain to tell you you’re full, even when you aren’t, while your basic caloric needs also decrease since your body’s operating at a slower, lower level. Women starting to go through menopause can pay less attention to iron intake, Canmire says.
Everyone should focus on limiting foods that don’t support cardiovascular health, such as like red meat and alcohol, and adding in omega-3s for your heart. That heart-healthy substance is found in plant-based sources such as nuts and beans, in fatty fish including tuna and salmon, and sardines.
While sneaky sugars are something to avoid in excess for your entire life, they’re harder for your body to process after age 60, thanks to a significantly slower metabolism, Bonci says. Look for them in everything from store-bought almond milk to juice. Sexagenerians should also also eat more protein.
“The classic recommended daily allowance for protein intake—about seven grams per 20 pounds of body weight in a sedentary person—may not be enough to help older adults maintain muscle mass,” Canmire says.
Choose heart-healthy protein sources like cottage cheese, yogurt, fatty fish, poultry, and whole eggs. If you’re still training, guzzle fluids and eat juicy foods like watermelon or tomatoes, because the body struggles to distribute water and balance electrolyte levels with age.