Healthy Meal Plan with Grocery List- Support Your Aging Process
As we age, we experience a wide variety of changes, this can be controlled if you choose to have a healthy meal plan with grocery list.
What is the aging process?
The aging process results in changes in anatomical structure and physiological functions over time. We can divide aging into three main aspects
These three aspects are closely related but usually begin in different life periods and overlap in late adulthood, fast-forwarding the aging process. Most definitions of aging refer to the biological aspect. As we age, we experience a wide variety of changes like a decline in functional status, impaired muscle function, low immune system, and many more. Aging is an irreversible process, you cannot stop it, but you can slow it down. Nutrition is one of the essential factors that affect the aging process. “We are what we eat” - this means that proper nutrition can contribute to a better quality of life and longevity, or vice versa, an unbalanced diet can cause premature aging and poor health outcomes.
It is important to differentiate the two main types of aging.
1. Primary aging is an inevitable loss of functions caused by biological and genetic factors.
2. Secondary aging involves a series of physiological changes caused by environmental factors like nutrition and health conditions. That means that we can actively intervene to expand our longevity and to increase the quality of life.
Also, there is a considerable difference between chronological and biological age. For example, a 60-year-old athlete can have a biological age equal to a 45-year-old. In contrast, a sedentary 60-year-old could have a biological age of 75-year-old. This gap between chronological and biological age largely depends on the lifestyle and its two essential factors – regular physical activity and proper nutrition. These two factors can significantly slow down biological aging. As an endurance athlete, you should pay more attention to your nutrition than the rest of the population, as maintaining optimum athletic performance requires more commitment as you age. Proper planning and acting before you reach the point of no return, both physiologically and psychologically, will not only reduce your biological age, but it will also improve your performance.
Let’s take a look at how aging affects your athletic performance.
Aging and athletic performance
Maximum peak performance falls at different times for different types of sports, but it usually peaks in the early 30’s and declines from thereon. The signs of ongoing changes in physiological functions begin to become more evident, and the effort to stay at the highest levels becomes more challenging.
For example, muscle strength remains stable until 50 years of age, when it begins to decrease by approx. 10-15% every decade. The loss of muscle mass is the main reason for the loss of maximum strength. In cyclists of medium level, passing from early adulthood to late adulthood, muscle atrophy can decrease the muscles’ strength and contraction capacity up to 50%. You also begin to see the decline of endurance athletic performance in middle adulthood because your body doesn’t use oxygen as effectively as it did before. VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can use during maximal training, and it is a predictor of your athletic performance. As you age, your maximal heart rate goes down too, and this is one of the main reasons why VO2max declines with age. You cannot change your maximum heart rate, but with the help of a properly planned diet, you can increase Vo2max and performance. Another essential part of your training plan will become affected as you age – your body’s ability to recover. Aging increases the need for frequent and extended recovery after harsh training and competitions. By improving your training and recovery practices, you will be able to prolong your maximum peak performance even after your 30’s. Several other ongoing changes begin to be more evident as you age, like:
• Reduction in bone mass
• A decline in balance ability
• Reduction of water content
• Reduction in basal metabolism
• Alterations in thermoregulation etc.
Nutrition for the aging athlete
Nutrition is a major environmental factor affecting all aspects of health and longevity. The DNA sequence cannot be changed, and aging cannot be avoided, but you can slow it down. Nutrients can alter the expression of our genes and generate mechanisms that initiate age-related diseases and premature aging. Thus, every athlete should have a healthy meal plan with grocery list based on his characteristics and needs.
Every factor that influences your biological age should be considered. A well-planned nutrition plan should include nutrients in optimal amounts to reduce the negative impacts aging has on your performance.
There is not just one aspect you should concentrate on, as aging is a complex process that influences many body functions. The loss of functional capacity cannot be overcome only by training hard. To maintain the same volume and intensity of training, you will need to make lifestyle and nutritional adjustments. Some of the nutritional adjustments will need to include adding more oxygen boosters to improve your Vo2max, minerals for bone mass to reduce the chances of injuries, nutrients to boost your metabolism, etc. Inadequate nutrient intake in an athlete can lead to:
• loss of muscle mass,
• loss of regular physiological cycles,
• loss or inability to increase bone mineral density,
• increased risk of fatigue,
• increased risk of injury and illness.
Macronutrients are the type of nutrients that must be introduced in large quantities, as they represent the principal energy source for your body.
There are three types of macronutrients:
2. Lipids (fats)
Carbohydrates are essential nutrients used as a primary energy source. They provide glucose, which is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Muscle glycogen can be released more quickly than any other energy source, which is why optimal carbohydrate intake is crucial for endurance athletes.
But as you age, your basal metabolism drops, and therefore your energy needs get reduced too. For males, this rate drop is estimated at about 1% a year after the age of 26 and 21 for females. That means that your training nutrition plan will change throughout the years to avoid the adverse effects carbohydrates have on aging, like developing age-related chronic diseases.
Three types of carbohydrates are:
We can distinguish two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic and is therefore important in supporting gut health. It can also be absorbed and provide up to 5% of the body’s energy needs. Insoluble fibers come out of the digestive system almost unchanged; they bind water and have a laxative effect. They are useful for maintaining regular bowel function. Fibers are crucial for gut health and, therefore, for the aging process too. As we get old, our immune system tends to decline in effectiveness. Maintaining good gut health supports the immune system and reduces the risks of age-related inflammation and upper respiratory infections in aging athletes.
Lipids or fats are vital substances necessary to protect abdominal organs, absorb vitamins soluble in fat, and enhance the feeling of satiety. The reputation of lipids as a nutrient is often underestimated and scorned due to their high-calorie content (1 gram of fat produces 9 calories). But fats should be considered an important part of an aging athletes’ diet because of unsaturated fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Unsaturated fats contain high amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, also called “essential fatty acids” as our body cannot produce them, so it is necessary to introduce them through food. The main issue regarding fats and aging lies in changes in body composition. As you age, fat mass increases and lean body mass decreases. But more important than that is the redistribution of these tissues in your body. Intra-abdominal fat can accumulate to the point of concern, even without being obese. That is probably due to inevitable changes in testosterone production.
The loss of muscle mass will affect your performance, and longer recovery will accelerate muscle mass loss. That is why aging athletes should pay particular attention to their diet and rely on professionals who can create a nutritional plan tailored to their needs. The main point is to eat healthy fats and in the right amounts and at the right time.
Proteins are macronutrients made up of essential and non-essential amino acids. Proteins are not your primary source of energy, but they are important for building and repairing muscles.
The recommended daily protein intake is 12-15% of total energy intake, which is 0.8 g / kg body weight. That is the minimum amount to avoid progressive muscle loss. Endurance athletes should consume between 1.2-1.7 g / kg body weight per day. Some authors recommend a higher protein intake of up to 2g. Your dietitian should calculate your recommended daily protein intake based on your age, gender, and health condition.
It is essential to consume proteins with carbohydrates, which raise insulin levels and promote muscle protein synthesis. You should eat proteins at every meal, feed your muscles, and keep them more active as you age.
Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals. They activate chemical reactions in the body, regulate hormonal function, and prevent health disorders, and unlike macronutrients, micronutrients are needed in small quantities. Although vitamins and minerals are not considered energy sources, these essential nutrients act as inhibitors in various biological processes. People cannot synthesize minerals and most vitamins, so they must be provided by dietary intake. Premature aging may be related to a deficit in micronutrients like antioxidant vitamins and trace elements. Several studies demonstrated that vitamins and minerals could affect the quality of life and longevity. For example, a systematic review concluded that vitamins C and E affect aging by acting as antioxidant agents.
Some of the most important micronutrients for the aging athlete:
• Vitamin C and Vitamin E are potent antioxidants that reduce the risk of oxidative damage.
• Vitamin B12 is important for red blood cell formation which carry oxygen around your body, so its deficiency will negatively affect your performance for obvious reasons.
• Vitamin D is essential for absorption and regulation of calcium metabolism, therefore, for bone health. Vitamin D deficiency is very common among endurance athletes.
• Calcium is crucial for bone health and muscle contraction.
• Iron is an important micronutrient for oxygen delivery to body tissues.
• Magnesium deficiency is also common among aging endurance athletes. It increases oxygen consumption and causes fatigue, muscle cramps, and soreness. Magnesium is an essential micronutrient for converting muscle glycogen into glucose; that is why its deficiency translates into poor athletic performance.
Our bodies are, for the most part, made up of water. It is an essential substance for regulating body temperature, serves as a shock absorber in the joints, intervenes in the processes of digestion, use of nutrients, elimination of metabolic waste, and many more.
Dehydration is often an underestimated problem in athletes.
Correct hydration allows your body to regulate its internal temperature. For example, when your body’s temperature rises due to training, your water needs can triple. If you sum this to being prone to dehydration as you age, you can easily conclude that hydration should be one of the main aspects of your nutritional plan. Correct hydration requires fluid intake before, during, and after training or competition. The consumption of water and healthy snacks after exercise will stimulate thirst and support rehydration. Worsening of dehydration as you age happens for several reasons, such as a decrease in the stimulus of thirst, renal fluid retention, and longer adaptations to changes in temperature. That increases the risk of heat stress, which can have a tremendous negative impact on your performance and recovery. Therefore, proper hydration is a useful ally of physical activity, essential for strengthening endurance and performance, and slowing down the aging process.
Foods for healthy aging
Foods that will support healthy aging should be your priority. So let’s see which foods you should choose?
Oxidative stress is a disturbance caused by an imbalance of prooxidants and antioxidants in the body, leading to oxidative damage. It is considered to play a key role in aging, and many studies confirm that it is one of the leading causes of several age-dependent chronic diseases. Damage caused by free radicals can be controlled by boosting your antioxidant defense system. With a personalized nutrition plan you can promote this effect. Optimal antioxidant intake in the form of dietary nutrients can positively impact life expectancy and quality of life. It could also have a significant impact on athletic performance and recovery at all ages. Dietary antioxidants are substances like vitamin C and E, carotenoids, and polyphenols (anthocyanins, flavonoids, quercetin, and resveratrol). Plant foods are very rich in vitamins and polyphenols. A regular intake of foods rich in antioxidants reduces oxidative stress and the risk of developing age-dependent chronic diseases, which may have a strong influence on your performance. Don’t forget about oxygen boosters! They will support your endurance performance at all ages. Several studies have shown that nitrates can enhance your physiological response to exercise, like oxygenation and muscle efficiency. Choose foods high in nitrates like spinach, celery, Arugula, red beetroot, cress, cabbage to increase VO2max and consequently increase your performance. A healthy eating plan that can help you fight premature aging is based on foods with strong antioxidant power. Your diet should also include food like fish, which is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids like Omega-3. Your body cannot synthesize essential fatty acids on its own, and therefore, they must be consumed through certain foods. Omega-3 fatty acids enhance antioxidant activity and reduce the risk of many age-related diseases. Tuna and mackerel are the most abundant sources of essential fatty acids. Other food types, such as avocado, seeds and linseed oil, nuts, cereals, and some legumes, are also a significant source of these healthy fats. Prebiotic and probiotic foods should also be a regular part of an aging athlete’s diet. A healthy gut is key to a properly working immune system. As you may already know, your immune system is one of the primary keys to your endurance success. It supports your athletic performance and recovery as you age by preventing infections, reducing age-related inflammation, and many other conditions. Also, remember that the excess of sugar in your diet will have a negative impact on your aging both externally and internally. High sugar intake causes inflammation linked to aging, increased cortisol levels in your body, which can disrupt sleep, an imbalance in your energy levels, etc. In other words, processed sugar can cause premature aging and compromise your endurance performance in many ways. Your diet should be varied, and it should provide the optimal amounts and proportions of macro and micronutrients essential for your body.
Although aging will eventually take its toll and you will note a decline in your performance, remember that you have all the tools to slow it down and support your passion.
So, let go of limits and… Eat smarter, Train better, and Race faster!