Eating well is important for everyone, but if you are over the age of 55, it's even more important to make sure whatever you put into your body is fueling you correctly, and not causing any harm. Don't listen to those who say: “Eat whatever you want, we're all going to die from something!” but also don't subscribe to the thought of: “I can't eat anything that isn't 100% healthy for me,” either. Moderation is key, and so is know a bit about nutrition.
You can't exercise without making sure you body is being properly fueled. If you've started on the path of regular physical activity for your health, good for you! Here are some guidelines for making sure what you are eating is supporting your new workout routine, as well as your health as a senior, specifically.
How many calories should I consume in a day?
Too many will cause you to put on weight, while too little will leave you feeling tired and grumpy, and unable to exercise and reap the benefits. How many calories you need depends loosely on whether you are a man or a woman, and just how physically active you are. The following numbers are according to the National Institute of Aging.
A woman over 50 who is not physically active at all needs around 1600 calories a day. If you are a somewhat physically active woman over 50, you will need around 1800, and if you are very active, 2000 a day.
A very physically active man over the age of 50 will need no less than 2400 and no more than 2800 calories a day. If he is only somewhat physically active, he will need between 2200 and 2400. If he is hardly physically active at all, he will only need 2000 calories per day.
You shouldn't obsess over calorie intake, but this will give you a good idea of how much you need to keep you going when you are exercising.
Consult the Food Pyramid
The best fruits you can eat while exercising are dark berries and melons. Bananas are needed, since you can get muscle cramps from a lack of potassium, and your muscles will be working overtime. You should get 1 ½ to 2 servings of fruit per day, the fresher and more organic the better. Clean your fruits and veggies with a little bit of vinegar mixed with water to wash away any bacteria and pesticides. You will get more vitamins from whole, fresh fruits and vegetables than any other kind.
Get your antioxidants and vitamins with 2 to 2 ½ servings of fresh, dark and colorful veggies. The more colorful and darker in color, the better. Kale, spinach, squash and yams are some of the best to eat if you are working out on a regular basis.
The aforementioned kale will also provide you with calcium, but you will need to make sure you are getting at least 1,200 mg of calcium to keep your bones strong and healthy. Eat more yogurt, tofu, broccoli and drink 2% milk.
You should eat 6 to 7 servings a day of mostly whole grains, which provide you with nutrients like folic acid and fiber. Process white breads and pastas are mostly just empty calories.
Lean proteins are important, and you don't necessarily have to eat meat to get it. Fish, beans, nuts and seeds (not the salted and oily kind) and eggs are packed with it. Try to limit red meat intake, and vary your protein sources from day to day. For example: don't eat eggs for breakfast every day.
Be sure to drink plenty of water and bring some with you when you work out. Once you become thirsty, you've already started to become dehydrated! You should drink no less than 32 ounces of water per day to stay healthy.