Your body changes over time, and so do your nutritional needs. Masters endurance athletes have to fuel themselves a little differently from their younger competitors to maximize performance.

Aging is caused in part by free radical damage to body tissues. A diet that contains lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables will slow the aging process and its effects on performance. As the body ages its antioxidant capacity—that is, its capacity to protect itself from free radicals—decreases, and antioxidant capacity, in turn, is linked to endurance performance.

Supplementing a plant-based diet with additional antioxidants may yield further benefits. A study conducted by researchers at UCLA found that three weeks of antioxidant supplementation by cyclists over age 50 yielded a 16 percent increase in anaerobic threshold.

Another issue of concern to masters athletes is recovery nutrition. Older athletes are more susceptible to muscle damage caused by eccentric muscle contractions (muscle contractions wherein the muscle lengthens as it contracts) and are not able to repair this damage as quickly between workouts. You can reduce muscle damage during workouts by drinking a sports drink containing the right balance of carbohydrate and protein. Research has shown that a 4:1 ratio is ideal (such as Accelerade). You can also greatly accelerate muscle tissue repair by consuming a recovery drink containing carbs and protein in a 4:1 ratio within 45 minutes of completing a workout (such as EnduroxR4).

Younger athletes can benefit from the same practices, but if you’re over 40 these simple measures can almost literally turn back the clock.

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