Nutrition for Older Athletes

There's good news and there's bad new's for older athletes. The good news is that if training intensity can be maintained decrements in performance will be minimal. The bad news is that recovery from hard training takes longer with senior athletes. That's where specially designed nutritional programs may come to the rescue. The right nutrition program may aid in offsetting the decline in mobility and deceleration of recovery from injuries or hard training sessions.

With senior athletes we want to maximize joint health by consuming whole, natural and unprocessed foods, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fatty and sugary products. New research recommends the following be a part of a senior athlete's diet:

*Vitamin C. Vitamin C is crucial for collagen formation, which is a protein forming the basis of connective tissue, such as tendons and discs. It is also a strong antioxident.

*Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These extraordinarily healthy fats exert an antinflammatory response on another fatty acid called omega-6. It's good to keep your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio about 20:1.

*Sulpher Containing Amino Acids (SAAs).Chondroitin sulphate is a sulpur containing compound which is used to synthesize the building blocks of cartilage. Methlysulphonylmethan (MSM) is another sulphur containing compound and is able to donate some of it's sulfate to the formation of connective tissue and has an anti-inflammatory effect. (SAMe) is another sulpur containing compound which not only exerts an anti-inflammatory response but is also used an an antidepressant.

*Bioflavanoids. These are naturally occurring compounds found in fruits and vegetables that appear to possess anti-inflammatory effects. They have demonstrated this in both acute and chronic inflammation.

*Antioxidents. Hard training produces free radicals in the muscle tissue and joints. There are many antioxidents produced in your body which afford protection from free radical damage. These include, selenium, vitamin E, glutathione, and leukotrienes. All these aid in the anti-inflammatory process.

*Zinc and Copper. Zinc activates numerous enzymes in the body including the SAAs. It also functions as an antioxident and protects those important sulphur containing compounds. Copper is needed for important antioxident enzymes and for collagen formation.

In addition to ensuring a good supply of the above nutrients, it important to keep your fat levels down, especially saturated fats as these can lead to other inflammatory processes. The US committee is putting more emphasis on the daily amounts of the SAAs. Not all authoritative comittees agree, but most fall between 1-2 grams per day for the SAAs.

So, senior athletes, we've shown if you can do the workouts at the right intensity you can keep up the pace. You may just need a little help from mother nature in the nutrition department to can keep bouncing back healthy from each workout.
Dr, Lanny Schaffer is an Exercise Physiologist and the President of The International Fitness Academy. For more cutting information on nutrition and fitness go to


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