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In this article two-time Olympian and  Professor of Sports Science Greg Whyte explains why we should ensure we use sufficient quantities of the right kinds of protein to aid recovery and muscle maintenance as we age.

 

Muscular strength is an important component of physical fitness with an independent role in the prevention of many chronic diseases. Maintaining muscle mass (and strength) as we age is, therefore, important for both health and performance (including endurance performance!).

Unfortunately, a reduction in muscle mass is a common occurrence as we age due to a variety of factors include: hormonal changes (i.e. Somatopause occurs in men in middle age and beyond leading to a reduction in growth hormone secretion) and; poor, or inadequate nutrition. The rate of decline is around 1% per year from c. 40 years of age.

In order to combat what would seem an inevitable reduction in muscle mass and strength, the older athlete must adapt their training and nutrition to optimize performance (and health). When it comes to training; strength and power training become increasingly important as we age; No, you can’t take it easy as you get older!

Crucially, maintenance (or increase) of muscle mass is as a result of muscle damage (one of the key by-products of training) and repair. The increased muscle damage required to off-set the age-related loss of muscle mass requires a targeted increase in dietary protein to support repair (which is also beneficial for bone health).

Research has shown a beneficial effect of increasing protein intake in older adults. Protein is an essential nutrient in our diet. In other words, at least a minimal amount of protein intake is necessary to support healthy living. However, older individuals are at high risk of insufficient protein intake, closely linked to malnutrition. Therefore, the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein of 0.8 grams of protein per kg body mass per day might not be adequate for maintaining muscle mass as we age. Recent research has suggested an almost 2-fold increase (up to 1.5 g/kg/day) is required.

In addition to increasing protein in the diet, it is important to recognize that the source, and timing of ingested protein, as well as the impact of ingesting other macronutrients at the same time may influence the muscle protein adaptation to exercise. Of importance are the essential amino acids (proteins are made of different amino acids some of which our bodies can produce, others, the essential amino acids, we must get from our diet).

These essential amino acids, in sufficient quantities, should be ingested in the immediate recovery period following exercise. Because of this timing and the difficulty in reaching the required quantity of protein, fluid ingestion of specific amino acids including: leucine (found in higher quantities in animal proteins i.e. Whey protein) is the simplest way to ensure you are optimizing adaptation (scientists like to term this process ‘muscle protein synthesis’ i.e. building muscle).

Overall, increased dietary protein intake combined with strength/power training are important factors in maintaining performance (and improving health) for older athletes. Targeting specific amino acids (i.e. leucine) immediately post-training and spread across the meals of the day (including breakfast) has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis, optimizing muscle mass, strength and performance in older athletes.

Take Home Messages:

  1. Training to improve muscle mass and strength are increasingly important for the older athlete.
  2. Targeted dietary protein is important in supporting maintenance (or improvement) in muscle mass and strength for the older athlete.
  3. Protein, in sufficient quantities (c. 1.5g/kg/day), should be ingested in the immediate recovery period following exercise and spread across the meals of the day (including breakfast).
  4. Specific ammino acids i.e. leucine (found in higher quantities in animal proteins i.e. Whey protein) are important to support muscle mass and strength in older athletes

About Elivar RECOVER

Elivar RECOVER is an award winning Recover drink mix designed to maximise the quantity of protein you consume immediately after training, including specific ammino acids such as leucine.

 

Professor Greg Whyte OBE PhD DSc FBASES FACSM

Prof Greg Whyte is a two-time Olympian, Professor of Sport Science, Liverpool John Moores University  and has published over 200 peer reviewed papers and 8 books in the area of sport, exercise science and medicine . He is Performance Director, Centre for Health and Human Performance, Chair of UK Active Research Institute Scientific Advisory Board and Principal investigator for WADA. He has helped to raise over £35 million for Comic Relief and Sport Relief and is the best selling author of Achieve the Impossible.

 

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In this article two-time Olympian and  Professor of Sports Science Greg Whyte explains why we should avoid excessive consumption of simple sugars, adapt a periodisation approach to our nutrition and focus on complex carbohydrates for improved performance and long term health benefits.

Sugar has recently become Public Enemy No.1. Whilst this could be seen as a media obsession to pin falling public health on a single source, there is some truth in the potentially harmful effects of excessive sugar consumption.

The deleterious effects of excessive sugar consumption impact on both health, including links to obesity and metabolic syndrome (increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes & heart disease), and performance. In particular, excessive consumption of sugar (particularly simple sugars) can have a profoundly negative impact on health and performance as athletes age.

Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. There are various types of sugar derived from different sources. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides and include glucose, fructose, and galactose.

Combining these simple sugars results in disaccharides (2 simple sugars i.e. sucrose which is granulated sugar; maltose from malted grain; and lactose from milk). Longer chains of sugars are called oligosaccharides or polysaccharides (also known as ‘Complex Carbohydrates’).

The longer the chain of simple sugars the longer they take to break down. Of note, sugars provide no nutrition with the exception of energy (why they are often called ‘empty calories’).

Whilst there is a growing trend for ‘Fat Adaptation’ in endurance and ultra-endurance sport care is warranted in adopting a low/no carbohydrate diet during heavy, intensive training and competition. Sugars are not essential in our diet however, high intensity exercise (above the anaerobic threshold) relies heavily on carbohydrates for energy production.

Accordingly, an athletes diet should reflect the demands of the upcoming training session/event to ensure optimal performance. Periodising your diet, in a similar fashion to periodised training, will provide the appropriate fuel for the task at hand. This approach is even more important for the older athlete, particularly in terms of sugar.

Biological and physiological changes as we age can lead to glucose intolerance; and insulin insensitivity. Furthermore, Type 2 diabetes is common in later life. Accordingly, the type, timing and volume of carbohydrate ingestion is important for the older athlete to avoid a range of common problems with excessive simple sugar consumption including: gastro-intestinal discomfort (i.e. bloating, nausea, diarrhea); poorly regulated blood glucose levels; and weight gain. Importantly, excessive simple sugar consumption can be deleterious to health as well as performance.

Ensuring optimal energy availability is crucial for the older athlete however; the focus should be on complex (slower release) carbohydrates rather than simple (rapid release) sugars.

Periodising nutrition to ensure adequate complex carbohydrate ingestion at meal times combined with targeted sports nutrition providing high quantities of complex carbohydrates, will help optimize training and competition performance whilst better protecting health.

Take Home Messages:

  1. Avoid excessive consumption of simple sugars
  2. Periodised Nutrition can significantly improve health and performance in older athletes
  3. Complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars should be the aim for the older athlete.

 

About Elivar ENDURE


Elivar ENDURE contains a complex carbohydrate and protein blend specially developed to ensure optimal sustained energy release during exercise, avoiding sugar peaks & crashes and facilitating fat-burning for weight management.

Buy Now

 

Professor Greg Whyte OBE PhD DSc FBASES FACSM

Prof Greg Whyte is a two-time Olympian, Professor of Sport Science, Liverpool John Moores University  and has published over 200 peer reviewed papers and 8 books in the area of sport, exercise science and medicine . He is Performance Director, Centre for Health and Human Performance, Chair of UK Active Research Institute Scientific Advisory Board and Principal investigator for WADA. He has helped to raise over £35 million for Comic Relief and Sport Relief and is the best selling author of Achieve the Impossible.

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Matt Fisher - Elivar Featured Athlete - spent a few days in Mallorca as a ‘solo training camp’ (also known as a ‘holiday’ to some!).  In this article Matt passes on his top tips for staying save on a solo-training camp.

I love cycling and training in Mallorca, but I was also very aware that there is an inherent risk every time you head out the door and so I wanted to make sure that I minimized the risks of a mishap by following some simple rules. 

* Consider visiting a place you are already familiar with

I’ve trained in Mallorca many times and so I have a good idea of which routes are popular with cyclists, which roads are perhaps a bit too busy with cars and which roads are more or less abandoned.  I also know where the good coffee and lunch stops are! (super important for training camps…).

* Stick to routes that are popular with other cyclists or runners

In the unlikely event that you have a mishap, whether that’s an accident, a puncture you can’t fix or you simply bonk and need to scrounge an energy gel, you don’t want to be left unfound for too long.  As such, I selected routes for my solo rides where I knew there would be other cyclists.   I did try some routes I had not cycled before, but I used Strava Heatmap to check that there was likely to be a decent amount of cycle traffic (I don’t think I went more than 10-15 minutes for 470km where I didn’t see another cyclist). 

* Take your phone

I can’t imagine many of us ever cycle without a phone in our back pocket these days, but the benefits are obvious, from being able to call for help in an emergency to being able to check where you are when lost.  And of course, the obligatory selfies to make everyone at home jealous.

* Carry extra fuel

I started every ride with two full bottles of Elivar (either 2x Hydrate Plus or a mix of Hydrate Plus and Endure) and always had at least one additional sachet in a jersey pocket.  The sachets take up next-to-no space and are a great safety net if you end up being out longer than planned or need the option to refill you bottles with something more calorie-dense than water at your coffee stop. 

* Carry cash

I admit I live in a ‘card economy’ mindset and am used to using my phone to contactlessly pay for coffee stops in the UK.  However, the rest of the world is not always so advanced, so good old-fashioned cash is handy when you have no training buddies to scrounge off!

* Download a map, save a photo or carry paper!

Don’t rely on your phone always having a good data signal.  It’s easy to save a screenshot of a map from your phone when you do have a signal or just go old-school and carry a map! I did this when trying out unfamiliar routes on my solo camp.

* Drink and eat often

This is no different to normal training rules, except you won’t have people around to remind you.  If you have a habit of forgetting to drink or take gels / bars, set an alarm on your watch or head unit.  I tried to remember to take at least a sip of Elivar every ten minutes and a gel or bar once an hour on steady rides. 

* Ride with caution  

I know it sounds obvious, but perhaps a solo training camp isn’t the best time to try to beat your PB on the Sa Calobra descent.  Perhaps take extra care when navigating through traffic (I was stunned at how many Spanish drivers – and even cyclists – turn left at roundabouts from the right-hand lane with no indicating!).   

These rules are primarily aimed at cycling, but similar rules can be applied to both running and swimming.  Running is perhaps the least ‘risky’ whereas any open water swimming always comes with some warnings, such as never swim on your own (which at least means you can be seen by people on the beach who might hopefully be able to help if you get into difficulties) and getting some advice on possible swimming locations as conditions like riptides are not always immediately obvious from the beach.

I had a great time on my solo training camp and had no less fun for being a little bit more cautious in my route selection and cycling behaviour.   So, if you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend a few days training in the sun!
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