Performance Nutrition: How Age Changes Nutrition Needs

Andrew Dole, RDN

Everyday Chef & Performance Nutrition Expert, Fruits & Veggies—More Matters Full Bio

Andrew Dole, Everyday Chef, Fruits & Veggies-More Matters

Seeing the same results from exercise or staying competitive as we get older can be challenging. Changes to our body happen whether we like them or not. Some are physiological changes, others are lifestyle and priorities. Nutrition plays a key role in keeping us at our best at all ages, but some special consideration for hydration, protein, vitamins and minerals needs to be addressed as we get older.

7 Ways Nutrition Needs Change as We Get Older

  1. Past age 25 the body’s maximum oxygen consumption (VO2Max) declines. Oxygen consumption measures the body’s capacity for work.
  2. Muscle mass and strength peaks around age 25 and slowly declines as we age, greatly affecting power, speed, and endurance.
  3. A decrease in total body water occurs as we age, reducing hydration capacity.
  4. The sensation of thirst deceases as well making it more difficult to intuitively hydrate.
  5. Kidney function becomes less efficient requiring more water intake to remove waste.
  6. Adequate protein is required to get the most out of the body’s ability to repair and build muscle tissue.
  7. Many vitamin and mineral requirements increase as the body ages. Add the stress of frequent exercise and needs increase even more.

What a list! The good news is, through quality nutrition, overcoming these obstacles is easier.

Where Should You Focus Your Attention?


  • Acclimate to the environment. Take it easy for a week when training in hot or humid environments and slowly work up to full speed.
  • Get your fluids. Make drinking a part of your workouts by training yourself to drink frequently and regularly.
    • 16 ounces 30-45 minutes before activity
    • 8 ounces every 15 minutes
  • Eat your fruits & veggies. A diet high in fruits and vegetables helps. They contain lots of water and can help rehydrate the body after a workout. Watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage, and spinach are 90% water and packed with phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.

Muscle and Strength

  • Include regular strength training in your weekly workout.
  • Get enough protein. Recommended daily protein intake for active individuals over 35 years of age is 1.2-1.7 g/kg.
  • Spread protein throughout the day – one big serving won’t help.
  • Protein is available from many sources. Vegetables provide some protein, with beans (like pinto beans), broccoli, peas, greens, and baked potatoes providing some of the highest amounts.

Energy Needs
Energy needs are based on exercise volume and intensity, not age. Calorie estimation equations take age into consideration and reduce the calories the older we get. The following recommendations for carbohydrate and fat are consistent for athletes of all ages.

  • Carbohydrate
  • 3-5 g/kg/day – low intensity
  • 5-7 g/kg/day – moderate intensity
  • 7-12 g/kg/day – high intensity
  • Fat
  • 1 g/kg/day
  • A minimum 10% of daily calories from fat is recommended for adequate essential fatty acid intake.
  • DYK? Avocados are a great source of mono-unsaturated fat and fiber.

Vitamins and Minerals
Eat a rainbow of colors. Increasing the variety and quantity of fruits and vegetables in the diet provides a wide variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, water.

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