The Changing Nutritional Needs of Masters Athletes


While it doesn’t happen overnight, masters athletes may come to realize that changes to their nutrition plan are needed. While it is possible to supplement with protein powders and vitamin tablets, the sports nutritionists I consulted for this article emphasize whole natural foods and healthy living habits to meet these needs.

While there is no official recommendation, the protein needs of masters athletes increases over time. For instance, research has shown that athletes over 70 years of age need about 40g of protein for post-exercise muscle growth; whereas, younger athletes can build muscle with just 20g of post-exercise protein. As a whole food example, over time this means a shift from 3 ounces (85 g) of lean meat to 6 ounces (170 g).

While more of a healthy living practice, sports nutritionists emphasize the importance of consuming healthy plant and fish oils due to their anti-inflammatory effect. Consuming sources abundant in omega-3 fats like olive oil and salmon helps stave off heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis - conditions triggered by inflammation.

Even though bones in adults stop growing, they continue to release and then re-deposit calcium. However, the ability to absorb calcium decreases with age. That explains why the recommended intake of calcium goes from 1000 to 1200 mg per day for women over 50 and men over 70. Masters athletes can invest in bone health by including calcium-rich sources at each meal (dairy, soy, or lactose-free milk products). Also, muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week is also important for bone health.

Another healthy living practice is eating enough fiber-rich foods which helps move nutrients through the gastrointestinal system, making exercise more comfortable. Also rich sources of fiber, like oatmeal, helps to reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

Sports nutritionists emphasize getting vitamins from natural food sources by selecting from a pallet of colorful fruits and vegetables. These natural sources are more in sync with the vitamin needs of the body than tablets. Also by being active and exercising, athletes can eat more calories – and more vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.

Nevertheless, supplementing with antioxidant vitamins like C and E is popular with masters athletes. Yet, something to keep in mind is that the body responds to extra exercise by making extra antioxidants. Also, masters athletes need to be observant of their vitamin D intake (especially during winter) because it can protect against the loss of muscle strength that occurs with aging.

Sensitivity to thirst decreases with age. Put another way, masters athletes may need fluids but may not feel thirsty. Sports nutritionists recommend drinking enough to urinate every 3 to 4 hours. Also, check the color of your urine throughout the day and adjust your fluid intake accordingly. For instance, a deep yellow color means you should be increasing your fluid intake. For endurance events, like a half-marathon or long bike ride, masters athletes would be wise to have a hydration plan. For example, the athlete having a sip of fluid at every aid station.

Thanks for reading!

As mentioned above, sports nutritionists emphasize getting vitamins by selecting from a pallet of colorful fruits and vegetables. For more, readers may be interested in this post on - Creating a Delicious Sport Salad - readers can also find the recipe for ‘Kenna’s Roasted Chickpea Salad’ in this post.

Hot weather increases the need for athletes to hydrate. Readers may be interested in hydration strategies discussed in - Summer Care for Runners

Other sports nutrition and running posts:



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