Young Athletes and Older Athletes – Different Nutritional Needs
As an athlete, it doesn’t matter what your chosen discipline is, your size, your athletic ability, or your age, one thing that is for certain is the fact that you need to focus on your diet to get the most out of your training.
As the saying goes ‘you cannot out train a bad diet’ which basically means that, no matter how hard you train, if your diet is poor, you simply won’t reap the rewards or get the most out of your training sessions.
As far as nutrition is concerned, though, age can be a big factor for athletes when figuring out a diet plan that works for them. Younger athletes, for example, will not require the same types of foods and supplements as older athletes.
But just how different are these nutritional needs and requirements? Let’s find out, shall we?
Here’s a look at a few diet and nutritional tips for younger and older athletes.
Higher carbs for youth athletes
As far as macros go for athletes, carbohydrates can play integral role in recovery and physical performance.
Carbs are used by the body for energy, which is why endurance athletes will actually carb load the night before a big race or event, in order to saturate their cells with glycogen which the muscles will then use as energy the next day.
However, the younger you are, the higher your carb intakes will need to be.
This is because, as we grow older, our metabolisms slow down and so we burn fewer calories and convert carbs into glucose at a slower rate. Any excess carbs not converted to glucose will be stored as fat, and as an athlete, that’s the last thing you want.
The younger you are, the faster your metabolism will be so you’ll be able to burn off more carbs at a much quicker pace, and will enjoy increased energy levels as a result.
More protein for older athletes
Protein is a macro which is essential for muscle growth and repair, regardless of your age.
With that said, however, as we grow older, we find that our protein needs will increase slightly, as our bodies will struggle to repair our muscles as rapidly as they did when we were younger.
Aim to consume around 0.6 – 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, aiming closer to the 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight if you consider yourself an older athlete.
Leave more time for digestion as you grow older
Pre-training nutrition is very important for a whole variety of different reasons, yet experts do advise that you leave more time for your pre-training meals to digest as you grow older.
Again, this is simply due to the fact that, as we grow older, our digestion slows and our metabolisms slow, so we find that it takes us longer to digest the food and break it down.
Whereas a younger athlete could eat around one hour before training, an older athlete is advised to eat around 2 – 3 hours before training, to give everything time to digest.
Vitamin D and Calcium for older athletes
Another top tip for older athletes is to consume more vitamin D and calcium.
Calcium promotes strong bones, and as we grow older our bones become weaker and more brittle, so the calcium can help strengthen them and prevent sports injuries.
The vitamin D ensures that the calcium is absorbed into the bones, whilst also helping to boost the metabolism and enhance muscular performance.
Don’t neglect fats as a younger athlete
Finally, despite younger athletes finding it easier to metabolize carbs and convert them into energy, fats still play a key role.
We need fats to metabolize fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin D, and vitamin A.
Not only that, but healthy fats also promote cognitive health and cardiovascular health.
Aim for healthy fat sources such as oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, and nut butters.