Lifestyle Nutrition for Active Seniors

If life itself is a sport, and I believe it is, then regardless of age we’re all athletes playing in the same game of survival. So the important question is “Are you winning?” Is your physical performance up to speed, and can you meet the challenge of the day, or has your ability to perform declined because of inactivity, poor eating habits, stress or just plain wear and tear?

If you’re not playing up to par, that’s okay. Controlled exercise, coupled with good nutrition and carefully selected dietary supplements will improve your ability to function. The only prerequisite is a personal commitment to get started, to stay on track and to have fun. It’s that simple!

Perhaps you’re familiar with the term “Sports Nutrition”. Well, it’s a bit of a social misnomer, because it implies a special kind of nutrition only for people who play sports. Granted, anyone engaged in sport is a candidate for such an attachment, but “sports” in this context is very broad in its definition. Actually, it’s very much like how people commonly refer to dietary supplements as “vitamins”. Minerals, fatty acids & amino acids are not vitamins, neither is an extract of garlic or echinacea (although technically botanicals do contain such substances). But for ease of reference and understanding, the term “vitamin” is frequently used as a general label.

The same is also true regarding sports nutrition, although the perceived specificity of the name can be very useful from a marketing point of view. Supplement manufacturers often create advertising strategies designed to reach a very specific and narrow range of audience, such as triathletes, cyclists or bodybuilders.

But if you look up “sport” in Webster’s New World dictionary, it’s first defined as any activity or experience that provides enjoyment or recreation. That’s quite a loose translation. Anyway, it goes on to include activity by way of bodily exertion, and then mentions both fun and play as vital components. Now that’s appealing - even to my ninety year old Grandma!

Sports nutrition is not a private club reserved exclusively for kids in sports, elite athletes or the TV pro’s. Of course it does apply to these individuals and it is a specialized field however, on this point I want to express myself with absolute conviction and clarity.

“Sports Nutrition is for anyone who is ultimately concerned about health and fitness and their ability to perform with excellence in life!”

Sports nutrition isn’t prejudice. It doesn’t care about your age or gender, or whether you prefer to hike, cycle, dance, swim or train with weights. It is simply a way of living and eating designed to maximize human function & performance. It recognizes how your body changes over time, and attempts to compensate for these changes through the use of special dietary supplements, and changes in your dietary pattern, like when and what you eat.

Let’s use creatine and coenzyme Q10 as examples. Both supplements are used by athletes to improve muscle strength and tolerance to exercise. As we age, exposure to uncontrolled free radical activity damages our DNA, the master blueprint of our genetic material. Damaged DNA produces damaged copies of mRNA (messenger RNA), which alters and compromises intracellular protein synthesis.

Consequently, the cell’s ability to produce the many enzymes and cofactors needed to produce creatine and CoQ10 on its own can greatly diminish. Without sufficient quantities of these critical materials, energy transfer is limited to levels unacceptable for maintenance of health. Fatigue and depression move in and any motivation to perform additional work or play is gone. Enter the Couch Potato.

At this point, creatine & CoQ10 become “conditionally essential”, meaning they must be obtained from sources outside the body. And it gets worse if you’re taking prescribed medication. Some of the most popular cholesterol lowering drugs for example, devastate coenzyme Q10 production. CoQ10 is vital to energy, thyroid function, immune competence and heart health. And chronic, long-term use of many pain killers can damage the liver, kidney’s or pancreas, where creatine is naturally biosynthesized.

Sports nutrition or “active lifestyle nutrition” is incredibly important for men and women over the age of 50, and they have an excellent reputation for performance and safety. As a matter of fact, I was delighted to see an abstract printed in a recent issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, entitled “Long-term oral creatine supplementation does not impair renal function in healthy athletes” (Volume 31, No. 8, pp. 1108-1110, Aug 1999).

Simply add 2-4 grams of creatine monohydrate powder to your favorite fresh morning juice or protein smoothie. A friend of mine mixes it in his morning cereal. Line-up 60-100mg of CoQ10 (preferably in a base of flax seed oil) with your other vitamins and antioxidants and consume them faithfully. When applied correctly and used in conjunction with physical activity, it’s not unusual to see dramatic improvement.

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

As always, stay well and live free!