Making healthy eating choices is essential for aging athletes
Properly fueling your body is essential to performing your best, even more so as we age. Many of us not living in a cave have heard, “You are what you eat” and then brush it aside as a little ditty without merit. Stop right there and read it again…slowly. I can now almost count the chips currently residing in various neighbourhoods of my body. Fortunately, there are not many left that haven’t been burned out through exercise, but you get my point. You really are what you eat. For the athlete over 40 there are some recommended healthy food choices to keep you vibrant and less reliant on power workouts to do the job.
Holistic nutritionist Sandra Millward shares some healthy eating tips for the aging athlete.
"We can age gracefully and maintain great health by eating an anti-inflammatory die,”millward says, “There is lots of information out there to follow a diet that lessens inflammation but my rule of thumb to follow is when shopping, to avoid the middle aisles that are loaded with packaged goods and stick to the outer areas of the grocery store."
Eating a well-balanced diet containing the right amount of carbohydrates (carbs), protein, fats, vitamins, and also drinking enough water will keep you healthy and improve your quality of life.
"Always consume a full spectrum of colourful organic vegetables, including lots of all greens! They provide a lot of fiber, are rich in minerals (for all systems to have the coenzyme factors for recovery and building muscle), and loaded with vitamins to nourish the body and skin to maintain its healthy balance through the aging process. Healthy and alive foods create healthy and alive cells in our bodies."
She continues, "Apple Cider Vinegar in the morning to build HCL (Hydrochloric Acid) in the stomach and help protein digestion. My latest pleasure is to drink Kombucha or use fermented foods to build healthy gut flora to improve immune system, plus the glucosamine in Kombucha helps build Hyaluronic acid which helps protect cartilage and reduce joint pain."
For snacks to have pre and post workout, Millward recommends the following simple carbs such as dates, apricots, dried bananas which are high in natural sugar. She says, "So eat enough to provide yourself with energy but not to overload your system with sugar and create a rush of insulin. How much (food intake) will vary depending on the duration of the (workout). For a 30-45 minute run, a small handful will provide enough calories to give you energy. Post workout, studies show that a protein and carbohydrate combination within one hour of training is most beneficial."
If you are a vegetarian or vegan you can have plant based protein rich foods such as peas, spinach, broccoli, kale, beans, and quinoa. TIP: Eating rice and beans within 24 hours of each other is a vegetarian complete protein.
To get the most out of an athlete's performance, Millward says, "In my work with athletes I acknowledge that they have this innate ability to push themselves to get the job done. This is in part due the physiological systems of things like endorphin release which increases their incredible ability to focus and desire to achieve their personal best.
She explains, "Planning out training, strategizing the plays, and setting goals, is often the focus and priority when they are improving their sport. They tend to analyze or measure things like heart beats per minute, oxygen use, distance training, team strategy plays, or how much weight they lift in training. However, what we do day in and day out to create a great machine is also important and although not as sexy to measure how far I ran today, everyday nutrition is the foundation from which to build all of these plans for your sport of choice. Eating balanced and well offers your body more juice to keep going, heal more efficiently and inevitably, provide a stronger base for sport and, for life."
Following a proper exercise program and choosing healthy foods will keep you enjoying your activity. We simply can’t get away with the decadent food choices we made in our carefree youth. You’re going to have to ask yourself, am I the sum of a group of slim wedge apple slices? Or, am I just a large slice of strawberry cheesecake? And if you answered to the latter, you have to ask yourself another question, do I feel lucky? Well, do you?