The reality for the majority of athletes is that endurance and strength capacities decline with age. In general, you’re more likely to have decreased cardiac output, increased resting heart rate, and an overall diminished heart function.
But consistent training can offset some of the effects of age. In fact, many of them are the result of decreased physical activity. Even more encouraging is that exercise has the added benefit of increasing one’s psychological well-being and decreasing the risk of chronic health problems with age (1).
Advancing in age doesn’t mean you have to slow down or back off. The key to success is adapting your training, nutrition, and recovery. Here we have a few suggestions for keeping your body in top shape at any age.
Train for Intensity
Endurance is lost as we have a more difficult time delivering oxygen to working muscles. We can actually help turn this around with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Many older athletes tend to avoid HIIT due to a perceived risk of injury and the immense effort it requires. However, HIIT can be performed safely by using a spin or recumbent bike, swimming, or jogging briskly.
HIIT allows you to get maximal benefit with minimal time so you can spend more time recovering. When it involves resistance training, HIIT helps to provide the stimulus needed to better maintain and rebuild muscle with age.
Key Tip: Incorporate three to four workouts including HIIT and resistance training per week for ideal muscle maintenance.
Nourish Your Aging Muscles
Older athletes need to pay special attention to nutrition to aid in muscle building and keeping body fat within range. As we get older, we have higher needs for protein than younger adults.
Some athletes think they need to reduce their calorie consumption to account for supposed declines in metabolism. But interestingly, the studies that suggest metabolism slows with age do not include vigorously active individuals.
In addition, there are only a handful of studies available that have looked at the energy needs of older athletes. The ones that are available have found that across the age groups, the energy needs of active older individuals do not vary all that much. However, you might need to curtail calorie intake to offset unwanted weight gain if you reduce your exercise and intensity.
Key Tip: Use products like IsaLean® PRO Shake (containing 36 grams of protein) to achieve the right amount of protein for older individuals while controlling total calorie intake.
Recover With Better Sleep
At night your internal clock starts the release of melatonin from the brain. This increases drowsiness and starts the sleep cycle. Like most hormones, melatonin production decreases as we age (3).
This is the reason quality sleep becomes more important as we get older. The purpose of sleep is the growth and regeneration of the body including the muscular, skeletal, immune, nervous, and other systems. Furthermore, sleep is the primary means of recovery from training stress (4).
There’s also nothing more important than sleeping well to help you recover faster and more completely. During the deep sleep stages tissue-building hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone are released to aid recovery (5).
Key Tip: To improve your sleep, avoid caffeine late in the afternoon, do not work out intensely four to five hours before bed, maintain a calm and quiet environment, follow a regular sleep schedule, and keep a cool and dark room. Taking a quality melatonin supplement such as Sleep Support and Renewal™ can also assist with having a more restful sleep.
- ASCM. Selected issues for the master athlete and the team physician: a consensus statement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Apr; 42(4):820-33.
- American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine, Rodriguez NR, Di Marco NM & Langley S. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Mar; 41(3):709-31.
- Sack RL et al. Human melatonin production decreases with age. J Pineal Res. 1986; 3(4):379-88
- Ferrie JE et al. A prospective study of change in sleep duration: associations with mortality in the Whitehall II cohort. Sleep. 2007 Dec; 30(12):1659-66.
- Lindseth G, Lindseth P & Thompson M. Nutritional effects on sleep. West J Nurs Res. 2013 Apr; 35(4):497-513.