Thanks to advances in nutrition and exercise science, strength athletes are able to stay strong and functional for far longer than they ever could before. But just as we need to alter our mobility work and exercise programming to accommodate for stiffer hips and ankles, so too do our nutrition goals need to change.
The frustrating truth is that as our number of birthdays rise, our levels of stomach acid can fall, and we generally become a little less efficient overall. This means that many nutrients don’t absorb or metabolize quite as well as they used to. Here are some of the most important nutrients that lifters in particular should be mindful of if they want to stay as strong as possible in middle age.
1) Vitamin B12
Once you’re in your forties, Vitamin B12 should be on your radar. It’s not just important for maintaining brain and nerve cell function, it’s also an essential nutrient for energy metabolism, cell regeneration, and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products, particularly seafood and red meat, and the recommended daily allowance for adults is 2.4 micrograms. But due to a decrease in stomach acid, our ability to absorb it from food may decrease with age, and there’s evidence that up to 20 percent of people over 50 have a borderline deficiency. For these reasons, the Institute of Medicine recommends a supplement for folks over 50. Consider shooting for 5 to 10 micrograms.
L-carnitine is involved with energy metabolism and a related compound, Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), improves blood flow and can improve alertness and cognitive function.
Preliminary evidence suggests that after middle age, ALCAR improves muscular control and fat loss as well. It does occur naturally in the body, but we produce less of it as we age. Because of this, supplementation seems to be more effective in folks over fifty: taking 500mg twice per day is a pretty typical strategy, but ease into it by taking 250mg twice per day for the first week.
An incredibly popular supplement for strength athletes, creatine is typically used for increasing power output and anaerobic capacity. (It doesn’t hurt that it also draws more water into the muscles, making them look bigger.) It may also improve brain function.
Because it improves muscular strength and control, creatine is sometimes recommended as an essential supplement for people over 50, especially because it may reduce the risk of falls. Three to five grams daily is the usual dosage, but try a couple of weeks of two grams per day first if you haven’t taken it before.
4) Vitamin D
It’s not only important for mood and cardiovascular health. Vitamin D has pretty strong links with increased bone density and healthy testosterone levels, which are important for strength athletes but especially important as we grow older.
The issue is that as we age, we get worse at absorbing Vitamin D, and studies have shown that folks over 50 will often experience deficiencies even if they’re meeting their recommended daily intake.
A lot of experts agree that the RDI of 600IU is already pretty low. Shooting for at least 2,000 IU is a better idea, particularly if you’re over 50.
Strength training is a fantastic investment in your health and is linked to not just better physical function, but also to better cholesterol levels, improved mental health, and a lower risk of stroke. Just remember to keep your nutrition on point as well, and you’ll have a long life of lifting ahead of you.
Talk to your doctor before starting any supplement regime.