How to graze as you age

The colour of your hair and the creak­i­ness of your knees aren’t the only things that change as you get older – your food in­take should too

Trail Running (UK) - - Fast Food -

Ay­our t some point in your teenage years, an un­der­stand­ing of your di­etary re­quire­ments in re­la­tion to your age some­how dis­ap­pears more or less for­ever. For a myr­iad of rea­sons – ad­ver­tis­ing, peer pres­sure, change in taste – we all set­tle into a di­etary rhythm of fam­ily favourites and treats, con­ve­niently for­get­ting what is good for us. Even those of us who don’t for­get how great carbs are, or how to make sure the fat per­cent­age in our diet is cor­rect, al­most never take into ac­count age and how or why our train­ing plate should change as our love for slip­pers and com­fort­able slacks grows. As trail run­ners, we need to un­der­stand that what worked as a 20-year-old won’t nec­es­sar­ily do the job when we get older. And per­haps what’s even more tricky to get a grip on is that what’s per­ceived bad for us as young­sters may ac­tu­ally be good for us as 50-plus ath­letes.

“The truth is that there’s no one op­ti­mal diet for life,” says re­search nu­tri­tion­ist Har­riet Miles. “We all know that a well-bal­anced diet is strongly en­cour­aged. How­ever, emerg­ing re­search sug­gests that our bod­ies re­quire slightly dif­fer­ent nu­tri­ents in dif­fer­ent quan­ti­ties as we age. Our bod­ies are con­stantly chang­ing, so it makes sense that the food we eat should change with it. “For a start, as we age our me­tab­o­lism takes a hit and slows down. The brakes are ap­plied as early as our late 20s and ex­plain why we can put on weight quickly de­spite eat­ing a sim­i­lar diet. There­fore, por­tion con­trol is vi­tal as our bod­ies

re­quire less calo­ries. At the same time, as we age our nu­tri­ent needs will stay the same or even in­crease. Some rec­om­mend smaller por­tions of more nu­tri­ent-dense foods, such as leafy greens, fish, or whole grains to com­bat this is­sue.”


Re­cent ev­i­dence sug­gests that higher di­etary pro­tein in­ges­tion is ben­e­fi­cial in older adults, par­tic­u­larly over 65. Pro­tein is es­sen­tial to main­tain bod­ily func­tion and aid re­cov­ery in dis­ease. Yet de­spite dis­eases com­monly as­so­ci­ated with age­ing plac­ing a greater de­mand on the body, older adults typ­i­cally con­sume less pro­tein than adults in their 20s or 30s.

Not enough di­etary pro­tein will see the body com­pen­sate by los­ing mus­cle mass. Up to 50% of to­tal body weight in young adults is lean mus­cle mass, but this de­clines with age to 25% by the age of 75 to 80. As a re­sult, older peo­ple are at a higher risk of con­di­tions such as sar­cope­nia (loss of skele­tal mus­cle mass) and os­teo­poro­sis (weak­ened bones). In turn, this can in­crease a per­son’s risk of falls and frac­tures. Con­sump­tion of 1 to 1.3 grams per kilo­gram a day is rec­om­mended, with as much as 2 grams per kilo­gram a day in those liv­ing with chronic health con­di­tions.

Bone health

Through­out child­hood and ado­les­cence, good nu­tri­tion is vi­tal to max­imise our ge­netic bone health po­ten­tial. Dur­ing early to mid-adult­hood our fo­cus should shift to main­tain­ing the bone mass that we do have, and pre­vent pre­ma­ture loss. A diet rich in cal­cium, vi­ta­min D and pro­tein with ad­e­quate amounts of other mi­cronu­tri­ents will usu­ally suf­fice in a fit, healthy adult. How­ever, a range of fac­tors such as de­creased in­testi­nal

your body con­stantly changes, so the food you eat should change with it

ab­sorp­tion and sun ex­po­sure in the el­derly pop­u­la­tion can make this harder to achieve. Cal­cium can be found in dairy foods as well as non-dairy, such as tofu, lentils and green veg­eta­bles. Eat­ing eggs and fatty fish such as tuna or salmon are rel­a­tively high in vi­ta­min D, but ad­di­tional sup­ple­men­ta­tion may also be wise in the win­ter months.


How much wa­ter we drink can have a great im­pact on our un­der­ly­ing health. As a per­son grows older, hy­dra­tion be­comes even more im­por­tant for sev­eral rea­sons. Our rel­a­tive to­tal body fluid lev­els de­crease while at the same time our kid­neys be­come less ef­fec­tive; los­ing more wa­ter to main­tain nor­mal func­tion. Med­i­ca­tions com­mon to treat­ing health con­di­tions in older adults can also con­se­quen­tially pro­mote wa­ter loss. Younger adults have greater re­serve; while as we age we can suf­fer the ef­fects of even mild de­hy­dra­tion. Health au­thor­i­ties rec­om­mend eight 8oz glasses/2 litres of wa­ter per day.

FE­MALE spe­cific

The menopause is a sig­nif­i­cant time for women. Usu­ally be­tween the ages of 45-55 years, oe­stro­gen lev­els will drop. These hor­monal changes not only de­crease bone mass, as dis­cussed, but they also in­crease a woman’s risk of heart dis­ease. A Mediter­ranean diet, high in fish and plant-based foods and oils has been linked with good health, in­clud­ing a health­ier heart. Al­though this doesn’t mean an ex­cuse for a glass of wine!

As you get older, you need to drink more to stay hy­drated

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