As we runners age, staying fit and eating well becomes even more important – and a greater challenge. Selecting healthy options during breakfast, lunch and dinner in order to fuel for or recovery from a workout is a no-brainer. And for good reason. “Eating clean,” one of the most overused buzzwords when talking about a healthy lifestyle, has earned its cliche status because, well, the concept has significance.
But for those 40 and up, there are some lesser repeated secrets about your nutritional needs. Keep the body strong enough to tackle rugged routes this summer. If you’re a fast and fit masters athlete ready to build upon that solid base, we have some golden advice that will keep your menu pristine.
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To make sure masters runners get the best info on fuelling, we contacted Megan Kuikman, an Ontario-based runner and registered dietitian. Pay attention to her wise words this summer and see also the below video brought to you by SierraSil.
Should you take a vitamin D supplement?
Taking a dose of vitamin D in capsule form may seem about as valuable as watering the lawn during a rainstorm. But even though it’s summer, and the sun is at its most generous when it comes to vitamin D, masters athletes should still take a supplement. “We don’t absorb it from the sun as well as we age,” explains Kuikman. She points out that Health Canada actually advises that Canadians over 50 take these supplements daily.
Flip when you eat protein
As you age, you want to think quality vs. quantity when sitting down to meals. If you’re over 40, your body has changed so that it doesn’t require as much fuel as it used to. “Generally with age, our energy requirements do decrease a bit because we have a natural loss in muscle mass as we age,” says Kuikman. When thinking quality, protein and timing are two big considerations for an athlete – and most people don’t eat enough protein early in the day, explains Kuikman. Generally speaking, the rule is 100 to 130 g per day. “Most people are getting that, but just at two meals,” she says. Actually, as she notes, many people in the 40 plus age group don’t eat enough in the morning, period. Then, they put off the protein until lunch and dinner. Fix that by starting the day off with a breakfast containing eggs, nut butters or a protein-rich shake. This idea was also supported by a recent study which suggested that protein should take up 20 to 25 per cent of your daily caloric intake.
Masters don’t get as thirsty, so drink up
“As we age, we have a decreased thirst mechanism,” says Kuikman. The main thing here for all masters athletes is that it’s even more essential to plan proper hydration before, during and after the workout. So drink up.
Schedule meal prep, not just your workouts
“People in this age group have other obligations going on,” says Kuikman. “The biggest obstacle is finding realistic diet recommendations.” Runners over the age of 40 often have a demanding family life and career-related priorities that they must consider along with their workouts. If it already seems that the long runs and intervals are just sneaking their way into a packed schedule, consider this: if you want to get the full benefits of these workouts, you also need to make time to buy and prepare meals that pack a powerful punch. Kuikman suggests that runners in this age group make a point of batch cooking ahead of time. Guilty of eating low-grade on-the-go foods before the morning meetings? Having a fruit bowl overflowing with ripe, juicy goodness gives you and out from succumbing to this habit.
Carbs are not your enemy
Kuikman can think of a couple common mistakes that fit people in the over-40 age group are making time and time again. “The first is not eating enough carbs,” she says. “There’s unfortunately been bad misconceptions around carbs. They have a lot of performance benefits for endurance athletes.” She has a point, how many of us have resolved to go carb-free or at least cut down? Carbs are your friend in prepping for the long run or race. Why carb load? Your body can store 400 to 500g of glycogen, the fuel that your body runs on in a race, between the muscles and liver. Load up to let your body access that fuel as it continues to move. Kuikman’s suggests eating quality carbs like whole grain pastas and breads, rice or potatoes.
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