How nutritional needs change as you age

By SDA member, Nic Berlin
Most people would agree that when we age, it feels like everything changes. Many physiological systems shift affecting nutrient requirements and food preferences. Generally, with ageing there are substantial losses of lean body mass (muscle and bone), decreased absorption and utilisation of nutrients, reduced immunity, gastric issues, decreased sensitivity to taste and smell, and reduced thirst.

It is always important to determine energy output (exercise) and energy intake (food) to ensure you are meeting nutritional adequacy and this should be discussed with a sports dietitian about your individual needs. 

The main source of energy for the body and brain, especially during exercise. Commonly found in food groups from breads & cereals, rice, pasta, fruit, starchy vegetables, dairy and sugary items. 

In general terms, wholegrains are slower releasing energy sources and processed/sweeter food items provide energy to the body and working muscle quickly. Those longer duration sports that are less physical such as golf,  require fuel such as wholegrain based and snacks that contain fruit to provide slow release of energy over time. 

This is the main nutrient responsible for muscle maintenance and growth.  As we age sarcopenia (muscle wasting) occurs, where active tissue deteriorates and makes it difficult to generate as much force or power compared to younger population. 

It is important to include quality sources of protein at meals and snacks (meat, dairy, eggs, legumes, tofu etc) to ensure from a nutrient perspective, you are constantly drip feeding your muscles with the right building blocks for growth/maintenance.

This macronutrient is important for a variety of reasons such as cardiovascular health, hormone production, cell structure, managing inflammation and providing fat soluble vitamins. Healthy fats are essential for all of us, and particularly those who have heart health issues like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and they are great to include to help reduce inflammation that can be caused by exercise and training. 

Energy needs are not always straight forward, a Sports Dietitian can help you determine your requirements as well as the types and quantities of foods to eat to ensure you are optimising your health and performance.