The Aging Athlete: A Case Study October 27, 2019 23:11 Updated Not a Member yet? $25/month Get Purple Patch Education Membership, A complete performance education program for coaches and athletes. SUBSCRIBE You need to sign in to view this page. As we age, we know our needs drastically shift. We might not be able to execute at the same intensity as younger years saw, however, that does not mean the aging athlete cannot be successful. The key is to have the knowledge to know what one can do to provide for the body and mind’s needs. Let’s dive in. As one ages there are 5 key areas that are impacted: Mobility Strength / Muscle Mass Vo2 Max Endurance Recovery The key areas that are Influenced during the aging process are: Hormone Level Changes Nutrition As an athlete ages: Some things Increase: Body Fat Blood Pressure Risk of Osteoporosis Arthritis Propensity to become Injured Inflammation While others decrease: Muscle Mass Strength Heart Rate Bone Density (especially in females) Flexibility Balance Reaction Time However, it is not all doom and gloom, as many of these effects of aging can be countered, delayed, and slowed with action. This includes implementing: A consistent training program Strength work, especially for women who are at a higher risk for bone density loss High-intensity interval training Focus on agility and recovery post-session Mobility as it Affects the Aging Athlete There should be a focus more on mobility than flexibility. This means greater range of motion work and training through multiple planes. Increasing the focus on mobility will allow the aging athlete to approach movement with more resilience. Some ways to remain focused on mobility are: Cross-train implementing yoga and strength Include longer warm-ups and cool-downs Strength for the Aging Athlete Because the aging athlete is at a risk for developing Sarcopenia, or a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, along with other reasons for muscle loss, it is critical that the aging athlete include strength sessions in their regimen. This is even more imperative for women who have lower estrogen levels which leads to a loss of muscle as well as their risk for low bone density. Post-menopausal women need an incredible amount of strength work for performance gains. Strength sessions should not shy away from heavier weights and should always be followed by protein intake (rich in BCAAs). A long-term, endurance master athlete should focus more on strength work for the best return on investment as the cardio system is already well established. A newer, endurance master athlete has the need for strength work but there should be more of a focus on the traditional work of intensity and endurance. Vo2 Max and the Aging Athlete After the age of 30, one’s Vo2 max declines 10% per decade. However, athletes can reduce that by up to ½ of what typically occurs. This happens because max heart rate declines each decade, yet with consistent high-intensity training to train the heart, Vo2 max drop can be reduced. For example, a runner’s VO2 max can lower around 7% per decade between 30 – 70 years of age versus 10%. As an athlete reaches their 60s and 70s if they have been consistently training they can utilize oxygen well and even use less of it. Recovery for the Aging Athlete As recovery now will take longer, it is important to be very intentional about it. We recommend scheduling recovery to include sleep, easy training days, and even complete rest days. Be aware of the dynamic mindset that needs to occur -- know when to go easy or hard based on your body’s signs rather than pushing through. Recovery should always include post-session fueling rich in protein. This should never be skipped or overlooked for its critical impact on health and performance. Recovery also plays a role in injury prevention. This means being aware of the impact of sport on your body. If you begin to feel the onset of injury, do not push through, but rest and take the time to assess what your body is telling you. An Aging Athlete’s Hormone Changes Due to the hormonal shift, the top three areas that are likely impacted are: Mobility, Strength, Recovery As hormones change, it is crucial to be aware of what that means. For men around 50 years and over this will means lower testosterone that leads to slower recovery, more fatigue, and lower sexual libido For Women around 50 years and over this will mean lower estrogen that also result in more fatigue and lower sexual libido, and also more fat accumulation If you are considering hormone therapy replacement, we caution you to review the rules and regulations thoroughly for all competitions, including IRONMAN. It is important for the individual to understand what is important for them personally. The Aging Athlete’s Nutritional Needs Another area affected is nutrition and might take a new approach than what traditionally worked when younger. Protein is critically important and their diet should be rich in: BCAAs (leucine) sometimes pre-workout, but always after a session. Leucine is found most readily in animal protein. Men & Post-menopausal Women need on average ≥1.6 - 1 g per kg of body weight per day Protein should be taken in over the entire day, not front or back-loaded. Carbohydrates – Decline in carb absorption Insulin sensitivity is the reasoning behind older athletes not processing carbs well. The focus should be on low Glycemic Index foods. The challenge becomes the need for carbs due to training intensity. The solution is timing carbs directly prior to or after a session. Let’s Bring it All Together There is no easy way to say it -- as we age we naturally become more prone to weight gain and injury as well as more lethargic and stiff. But wait! We can delay and reduce aging’s effects with action paired with adequate recovery You can delay aging’s effects by focusing on: Serious strength work Higher intensity training Consistent training Cross-training for agility and fun An emphasis on recovery Easy days, days off, good sleep, and proper nutrition And, being aware of risk for injury There are many examples of AARP Anarchists still living life fully and competing to late in life. It is up to the individual to be educated on the ways to ensure they are educated on the many ways to naturally combat the effects of aging and to harness the power of a dynamic, healthy mindset. REFERENCES: The Physiology and Biomechanics of the Master Runner Richard W. Willy, PT, PhD and Max R. Paquette, PhD Nutrition for Special Populations: Young, Female, and Masters Athletes International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2019, 29, 220-227 Ben Desbrow, Nicholas A. Burd, Mark Tarnopolsky, Daniel R. Moore, Kirsty J. Elliott-Sale The Conversation: How does aging affect athletic performance https://theconversation.com/how-does-aging-affect-athletic-performance-36051 The Vice.com: The little-known advantages of being an older athlete https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ne985g/the-little-known-advantages-of-being-an-older-athlete Related articles My Top 5 Thoughts on Swimming in Triathlon Avoid These Pitfalls of Posteason Today's Plan Toggle Feature Guide Hunger Crushing Breakfasts ERG mode vs FREE-RIDE Mode on Trainer+App. Which to Choose?