As you age, the generally accepted “norm” is that your performance will decline sharply once you are through your years of peak performance, usually somewhere between your 20’s and 30’s.
But what if we told you that many of the biological causes of this decline could be prevented, allowing you to maintain much of your stamina, strength, and physique well into your 50’s, 60’s and 70’s?
Well – it’s true. And it has everything to do with your diet, activity level, and managing just a few key physical basics.
If you want proof, all you need to do is look at the hundreds of IronMan champions and athletes who maintain incredible stamina and performance – often beating out competitors half their age. One man from Norway has, at age 80, the cardiovascular health of a 35-year old.
Today we’re going to share some of the best-kept secrets for maintaining your athletic performance for the long term, staying fit, and enjoying the benefits of optimal health well into your golden years.
What Happens to Your Body as You Get Older
The most important age-related changes that occur in the human body are, believe it or not, almost invisible. When we’re talking about athletic performance and stamina, there are six basic factors that produce some of the most significant impacts:
- Changes in hormones
- Dietary changes
- Loss of lean muscle
- Reduced heart strength
- Reduced ability to digest food
- The shift from an active to a more sedentary lifestyle
As a teen and into your 20s, your body’s natural processes can compensate for and repair the damage of unhealthy habits. Younger people can eat anything they want, as much as they want, and still retain washboard abs and athletic stamina.
As you age, this ability fades. The same burgers that you consumed when you were younger now may bring fatigue, weight gain, or health conditions such as diabetes. There is no question that your body requires more care to keep it in peak condition as you age, but it can be done.
Protein – The Key to Maintaining Hormones, Muscle, and Neurological Function
When most people think of protein, they usually associate it with building muscle. And while this is important, it is actually just one of the ways your body uses protein. The word protein is actually derived from the Greek word “prōtos,” which means “first,” and later “prōteios,” which means “primary.” In essence, protein is the first building block the human body needs.
The protein you eat is digested and broken down into amino acids – small building blocks that your body then processes to build molecules, compounds, and cells throughout the body systems.
To give you an example, here is a short list of bioactive and structural substances your body synthesizes from the dietary proteins you consume:
- Digestive enzymes
- Structural proteins, such as collagen, elastin, and keratin
- Functional proteins such as albumin and globulin, which help maintain your body’s fluid balance
- Transport proteins that carry vitamins, minerals, and oxygen to and from your cells
- Cellular tissue
- Antibodies to fight infections and support your immune system
- Nerve cells and neurotransmitters
As you age, your protein consumption and use change in two ways:
- Appetite: Older people tend to eat less due to a reduction in the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite, and an increase in the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite. This hormonal change leads to a reduction in nutrient consumption, which contributes to muscle loss and comprehensive changes in the body.
- Digestion: A common consequence of age is reduced stomach acid levels, which slows the digestive processes and brings about a lower level of protein and nutrients entering the bloodstream.
Your body can also use protein as a backup energy source. One common effect of fasting, or simply not eating enough, is the breakdown of lean muscle mass into the component proteins for use as energy. This is common knowledge with young athletes who maintain their carbs for energy, but this factor can affect any person as they age.
So, here’s the first secret: As you age, you need to increase your protein consumption! Not only will this help retain the muscle you have and continue to build, but it will also speed your natural healing and recovery processes while giving your body the building blocks it needs to maintain overall health.
Now, this might sound a bit odd, considering that your appetite may have decreased, but it’s all about what you eat. You can also supplement your protein intake with a product like PerfectAmino – which provides all eight essential amino acids (the eight building blocks your body must receive from dietary sources) with a 99% utilization rate and ZERO carbs.
Activity and Training
Another critical aspect of maintaining your athletic performance and health into your later years has to do with your physical activity and training. While age-related biological changes do impact your ability to perform, lifestyle choices and training also play an important role.
One of the best indicators of physical fitness and stamina is called VO2 max, and it represents the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize at any given time. It is measured in liters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute, and the higher your score – the better.
Men and women who have an active lifestyle score higher than those who are sedentary, while professional athletes are obviously the best.
It is a known fact that VO2 max scores decrease with age, usually starting in your mid-30s. It is also a known fact that many athletic individuals in their 60s or 70s score higher than sedentary individuals in their 30s. One study focused on a man in his 80s who had a VO2 max score that was that of a 35-year-old athletic man – and he had a pacemaker!
Having a high VO2 score is not only a measure of your ability to perform athletically but also an indicator of heart strength and health. Keeping your cardiovascular system at peak performance through both use and nutrition can help stave off the most common cause of death in the US: heart disease.
So, here’s the next secret: Use it or lose it. Maintain your training regimen, and do not let it drop just because you are “getting older.” Continued vigorous physical activity, especially high-intensity interval training, can maintain and improve your athletic performance and health over time
The Bottom Line
While there are more secrets we are going to share in the next article, maintaining a healthy protein intake and keeping up a training regimen are two excellent ways to sustain high-performance and health into your golden years.