You are always 18, the rest is just experience. Or so the saying goes.
Some athletes are living testaments to this statement. Roger Federer, Vince Carter and Tom Brady have managed to play competitively even well past their prime proving that age truly is just a number.
However, when that number crosses 40, you need to take a closer look at your lifestyle in general and your nutrition choices in particular. Age poses several physical challenges such as Sarcopenia i.e. age related muscle loss, lowered bone mineral density and reduced cardiovascular ability, among other health problems. It’s almost as if your body finds some perverse pleasure in letting you know you’re an old has-been way past their prime!
Now, your food choices play a huge role in mitigating these concerns. However, if you REALLY want to make sure your body keeps getting all the nourishment it needs after 40, then the dietary supplements mentioned below are absolute must-haves and must form part of your daily routine.
- A High Quality Protein Supplement
After 30, your body starts to lose about 5-8% of muscle mass every decade. This can cause some serious loss in physical strength, body balance, bone and joint health and overall quality of life.
Add to that the fact that our body’s sensitivity to dietary protein reduces with age, thus making it even tougher to meet our protein requirements. Although resistance exercise is the most effective driver for muscle growth and maintenance, adequate protein intake is critically important if you want to hold onto those hard earned gains and buns of steel.
For older adults, a protein intake of 1.5 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight combined with a well designed resistance training program will help avoid muscle loss and could even promote muscle growth. Since this can be difficult and expensive to consume so much protein from whole foods alone, high quality protein supplements are recommended. The most important (and most commonly used supplement) among them is Whey Protein which is extracted from milk. However, you could also look at egg and plant based protein supplements as alternative sources of protein.
How Much Protein : 1.5 to 2 gms/kg of bodyweight
Best Food Sources: Meat, Eggs, Paneer
Most Common Supplement: Whey Protein
Vegetarian Sources: Pea Protein, Soy Protein
The Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are known to promote heart, joint, skin and brain health as well as immune function and vision.
At the cellular level, telomere – a key indicator of biological age – reduces in length as we grow older which is related to several age-related health problems. Omega-3 rich food can protect and sometimes even increase telomere length.
The best sources of EPA and DHA are fatty fish like salmon and anchovies so go ahead and eat those Fish Thalis or Sushi Platters. However, depending on the availability of these fish in your region, it may become important to supplement with fish oil capsules. Plant based options are also available in the form of flaxseed oil and algae-based oil.
How Much Omega-3: Upto 1000 mg/day
Best Food Source: Fatty Fish
Most Common Supplement: Fish Oil Capsules
Vegetarian Sources: Flaxseed Oil, Algae-based Oil
- Enzymes Probiotics and More
Age causes our bodies and specifically, our digestive systems to respond to food in some surprising and unexpected ways. The same white bread sandwich that was a favorite when you were in school could cause some serious bloating and gas at the age of 40.
Similarly we find that a lot of our regular favorites just don’t agree with us anymore. The reason for this is that as we age, our bodies produce fewer amounts of digestive enzymes (organic substances responsible for breaking down food for digestion).
In addition to being active and adopting a balanced diet, supplementing with digestive enzymes greatly improves our response to food. Also, an aging digestive system results in an unhealthy shift in the balance of pathogenic (bad) and probiotic (good) bacteria. So unless you want to start investing in adult diapers, you better start supplementing with probiotics and prebiotics as they will help improve this balance.
How often: After every meal
Best Food Sources: Curd/Yogurt, Kimchi
Most Common Supplements: Probiotics, Prebiotics
- Folic Acid
Aging affects the brain and nervous system just as much as and sometimes, even more than the body. Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are the more common neurodegenerative diseases today. And yes, Indians too are at risk of developing these diseases, no matter how much turmeric we consume!
Folic acid or folate helps lower homocysteine levels (indicative early signs of Alzheimer’s) and improves blood flow to the brain by preventing clogged arteries. Although folic acid is abundantly found in Dark leafy greens, whole grains and orange juice, it becomes increasingly important, as we age, to start with folic acid supplementation.
How Often?: As required (seek medical advice)
Best Food Sources: Dark Leafy Vegetables, Whole Grains, Orange Juice
Most Common Supplements: Tablets, Tonics (consult a physician before taking them)
- Calcium, D3 and K2
As mentioned earlier, muscle mass and bone mineral density deteriorate with age. Calcium is one of the major minerals and is directly responsible for healthy bones and teeth, brain and nervous system function and muscle contraction. When your body does not receive adequate amounts of dietary calcium, it extracts calcium from your skeleton to meet biological requirements, just like a vampire sucks the blood from its victim.
Also Vitamin D3 aka the “Sunshine Vitamin” is required to absorb the calcium we consume through food, especially if we do not get enough sun exposure. Vitamin K2 is responsible for transporting calcium to target tissues like bones and teeth and removing it from unwanted sites like blood vessels. Supplementation can help reduce risk of multiple sclerosis, improve general health and strength of bones, joints and teeth.
How Often/Dosage : Get tested for deficiency. Consult a physician
Best Food Sources : Dairy, Egg Yolks, Dark Leafy Vegetables
Most Common Supplements : Chewable tablets (Calcium), Capsules (Vit D3)
It is essential to understand that these supplements are only meant to add to and not replace a whole food-based balanced diet. Do consult your physician for the exact combination and dosages of supplements you need. Aging is a natural part of life and it can be a highly fulfilling process, if managed well.
Author credits – Rupesh Choudhury