There are many nutrition considerations for an ageing client. Within this blog, we will explore 4 of the most important components.
These components include protein intake/distribution for functional mass preservation, calcium and vitamin D intake for bone health and dietary fibre consumption for heart health and glucose stabilisation.
The 4 Most Important Nutrition Considerations
#1 Dietary Protein intake
As we age, it’s perfectly normal to experience a natural decline in functional muscle mass. This is commonly referred to as age-related Sarcopenia. You could expect a 5-10% reduction in skeletal muscle every decade after the age of 50 (Rodrigues et al., 2022). Chronic Sarcopenia can cause a reduction in mobility (movement) with an increased risk of falls and subsequent injuries including; muscle strains, joint sprains and bone fractures (Rodrigues et al., 2022).
One of the contributing factors towards age-related muscle loss is impaired mTOR signalling (Zhao et al., 2021).
What is mTOR signalling?
Without getting into too much detail, when we ingest a protein/amino acid rich food source, mTOR senses an elevated amino acids concentration within the bloodstream. It then sends a signal into the cell to form chains of muscle proteins. This response is known as muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
In theory, a more impaired mTOR signal amongst older clients means that they may need a higher daily protein intake compared to younger clients to get a similar response of MPS and preserve lean muscle tissue (Zaho et al.,2021).
How much is a ‘higher daily protein intake’?
Give or take, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of dietary protein for healthy adults is around 0.8g/kg across most countries. However, as older adults are less sensitive to dietary protein, a higher intake of 1-1.3g/kg may be crucial to preserving lean muscle mass (Rogeri et al., 2022).
Based on the current scientific research, coaches and trainers working with clients looking to maintain good general health could suggest an increase in dietary protein by 0.1g/kg above the RDA for each decade after the age of 20.
Over the long term, this higher protein intake may help attenuate the effects of age related sarcopenia.
I have highlighted a practical application bellow.
>30 years= 0.9g/kg
>40 years= 1g/kg
>50 years= 1.1g/kg
For example, you may recommend a dietary protein intake of 1.25g/kg for a 65-year-old male with a body mass of 70kg, which would equate to 87.5g of protein.
#2 Dietary Protein Distribution
After consuming a high protein meal, MPS is elevated to the point where it exceeds muscle protein degradation (muscle breakdown) (Roger et al., 2022; Murphy et al., 2016).
This essentially means you are building and preserving more muscle being in a fed state.
The response of an elevated MPS last around 3hrs. To maximise this response, an older adult would need around 3g of the branched-chain amino acid Leucine per feeding (Roger et al., 2022; Murphy et al., 2016).
This can be attained from a high protein meal or snack by using a formula of 0.4g/kg/feeding (Murphy et al., 2016).
As a practical application for coaches and trainers, the response and length of MPS can be maximised by recommending a high protein meal or snack every 3hrs.
For example: for a 65-year-old male client with a body mass of 70kg, dividing total protein (87.5g) into 3 meals/snacks (29g x 3) roughly provides a sufficient amount to peak MPS.
A fitness app like “Samsung fit” or “MyFitnessPal” can indicate a serving size of a specific food source to get the ‘correct’ amount of protein per feeding.
These fitness apps will also track total daily intake.
If your clients are not fluent with technology, you could help them by writing down the protein content of a selection of protein-based foods. I.e., 100g of lean grilled chicken breast would yield around 30g of protein.
You could suggest some of the protein sources listed below to give your client an idea of foods to observe.
These protein sources have been listed in the order of quality, in terms of Leucine concentration (%).
- Whey (11%)
- Milk Protein (10%)
- Egg protein (8.8-9%)
- Casein Protein (8.8-9%)
- Fish protein (8.3%)
- Beef protein (8%)
- Chicken protein (7.8%)
- Wheat or soy protein (6.8%)
(Wilson et al., 2012)
#3 Calcium and Vitamin D
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that bone mineral density also declines with age, causing frailty and an increased risk of bone fractures. For the most optimal bone health in relation to age, older males>50 years are recommended a daily intake of 1000mg of calcium and menopausal women are recommended 1200mg (Cosman et al. 2014).
Another important micronutrient for bone health is Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be absorbed from the sunlight and also taken up through the diet. The recommended intake of vitamin D is 800IU (Cosman et al.,2014).
Based on this information, coaches and trainers must recommend that their ageing clients consume foods high in calcium and vitamin D.
Foods rich in these micronutrients include; milk, yoghurts, fish, eggs, fortified oats, fruit and vegetables.
Moreover, it’s important to distribute these foods throughout the day to optimise absorption.
As a final note, the UK winter months provide scarce amounts of sunlight, where vitamin D levels are likely to drop. Thereby, it could be ideal to recommend a Vitamin D supplement to your clients, but assess their diet beforehand.
#4 Dietary Fibre
Fibre supports bowel movements, binds to cholesterol and blunts the response of insulin.
This makes fibre an important nutrient to lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It’s crucial for ageing clients to get around 18-22g of fibre in their diet (Rijnaarts et al., 2021).
Coaches and trainers can recommend ageing clients to eat fibre dense foods like; wholegrain, cereals, lentils, fruit and vegetables.
Coaches and trainers could recommend 1-1.3g/kg of protein distributed across 3-4 meals/snacks, distributed 3hrs apart to help preserve functional mass.
Equally important is calcium and vitamin D intake for bone health. 1000-1200mg of calcium and 800iu of vitamin D is sufficient, which can be attained from specific foods and supplements.
Last but not least, fibrous foods should be suggested for heart health and to control blood sugar.
Cosman, F., LeBoff, M.S., Lewiecki, E.M., et al. (2014). ‘Clinician’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis’ Osteoporosis International 26 (7) : 2045
Murphy, C.H., Oikawa, S.Y., Phillips, S.M. (2016). ‘Dietary Protein to maintain muscle mass in aging: A case for per meal protein recommendations’ Journal of frailty and aging 5 (1): 49-58
Rignaarts, I., De Roos, N.M., Wang, T., et al. (2021). Increasing dietary fibre intake in healthy adults using personalised dietary advice compared with general advice: a single-blind randomised controlled trial. Public health nutrition 24 (5): 1117-1128
Rodrigues, F., Domingos, C.,Monteiro, D., et al. (2022). A review on aging, sarcopenia, falls, and resistance training in community-dwelling older adults. International journal of environmental research and public health 19 (2):874
Rogeri, P.S., Zanella, R., Martins, G.L., et al. (2022). ‘Strategies to Prevent sarcopenia in the aging process: Role of Protein Intake and Exercise’ Nutrients 14(52): 1-33
Wilson, J.M., Wilson, G.J., Stephanie, M.C., et al. (2012). Effects of amino acids and their metabolites on aerobic and anaerobic sports. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 34(4):33-48
Zhao, Y., Cholewa, J., Shang, H., et al. (2021). ‘Advances in the role of leucine-sensing in the regulation of protein synthesis in aging skeletal muscle’ Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology 1(9):663
DISCLAIMER: This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be an individualised prescription. No individual can be held liable for any injuries, damaged or monetary losses as a result of this information