Fitness Over 50 - Nutrition and Meal Planning as You Get Older
Should you eat differently when you're over 50 than
you did when you were in your 20s? Probably. There are specific
nutritional needs when you're older, and, in addition, you can't
get away with eating so much junk as you age.
When you get older, you need fewer calories. You may be less active,
and your metabolism tends to drop along with your muscle mass. This
isn't as pronounced for people who work out regularly, especially
if you have exercised for a number of years. When you get into your
70s or 80s, you may have the opposite problem and have to work to
keep your weight up. This can be due to medical conditions or medications
that depress your appetite. If you have a medical problem, follow
your doctor's directions.
If you're in otherwise good health and feel the pounds creeping
up, it's time to cut your intake, raise your activity level, or,
better yet, do both.
If you have trouble keeping your weight up, or are reducing caloric
intake, you may need to pay attention to protein. If you have a
hearty appetite and indulge it, you are probably getting plenty
of protein, especially if you eat a lot of meat. Be careful not
to overdo the protein, which would be more than about 25% of calories.
Excess protein is just excreted, which can be a strain on your kidneys.
This is no problem if you have healthy kidneys, but the older you
get, the greater the risk of having undetected kidney disease.
This means stay away from extreme fad diets that have you eliminate
carbs in favor of more protein (or any other extreme diets). The
carbs you should eliminate are excess sweets and junk food. The
carbs you should eat are vegetables (all you want), fruit (about
3 servings a day), and grains, in moderation, half of them whole.
Worried about your cholesterol? Cut back on animal products in
your diet. Cholesterol is found only in animal products. The other
dietary culprit is saturated fat, found mostly in animal products
(beef, chicken, pork, lamb, fish, dairy). These can raise your LDL
cholesterol. Exercise raises beneficial HDL cholesterol.
It's a good idea to take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. There
are certain nutrients that you may have trouble getting enough of
in your diet. Some supplements are targeted for people over 50.
Look at what you eat, especially if you eat cereal or other fortified
foods, to see what you may be lacking. You may need to take extra
calcium. If you get a lot of sun or drink a lot of milk, the vitamin
D in your multi may be sufficient. Otherwise you will need more.
Vitamin B12 is poorly absorbed by many older people, and folic acid
is important, but your multi probably covers it. Vitamin E may help
recovery from workouts or injury; supplement no more than 100 IU
a day. Tell your doctor what supplements you are taking.
Look at the new USDA Food Guide Pyramid at www.mypyramid.com. It
has good recommendations for foods and servings. Then take a notebook
with you and write down everything you eat for 3 days. See how close
you get to the recommendations. The calorie recommendations are
approximate because they don't allow for weight or body composition.
Body weight is important to health, but it isn't everything. Keep
your weight down but your nutrition up.