Fueling Concerns for Masters Athletes

Fueling Concerns for Masters Athletes

The goal of participating in sport through your lifespan doesn’t’t have to be an aspiration – it can be a reality. It is well recognized that all human bodies change through one’s lifespan. By accepting this, and honoring its evolving nutritional needs, a person has a greater likelihood of maintaining their health and involvement in movement that feels good. The following information offers key nutritional considerations to support the aging athlete.

Changes in Muscle Mass

Aging is associated with a loss of lean muscle mass and strength. To minimize potential strength losses, it is helpful for master’s athletes to increase their net daily protein intake shortly after engaging in sport. There is mounting literature to support that timing and distribution of protein throughout the day is important to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS) in older adults. Prior research has shown that younger, active individuals may need 20-30 grams of protein/meal to stimulate MPS, but older athletes may need 35-40 grams of protein/meal/day to stimulate MPS. The inclusion of proteins that offer a higher biological value, such as dairy, eggs, and animal protein (beef, fish, chicken, etc.) is desirable. If plant-based proteins are consumed, it is generally recommended for a person to consume a greater volume of it to match a net-positive protein balance.

Another benefit of including sources of animal protein into an aging person’s intake is that some animal proteins offer a robust amount of vitamin B12. As a person ages, the body’s ability to efficiently absorb this vitamin declines. Thoughtfulness around increasing dietary sources of B12 may be helpful. Food sources such as milk, clams, egg yolks, and beef are excellent sources of vitamin B12.

Although loss of lean muscle mass may slow metabolic rate, the thought to reduce daily energy intake of a Masters athlete may not be warranted to support weight and health maintenance. As people age, hormones that regulate appetite also change. A normal aging response is a reduction in perceived appetite. For older athletes who are participating in planned activity, they benefit from spreading adequate energy through their entire day, and not dieting. Skipped or inadequate meals and snacks may have a deleterious impact on lean muscle mass.

Supporting Bone Health

Bone loss is associated with the aging process. Prioritizing bone-building nutrients throughout the day, every day, may prevent bone-related injuries and allow for regular engagement in sport. A focus of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and magnesium, in conjunction with adequate daily calories and protein support bone integrity. It should be noted that aging decreases the skin’s ability to create the active form of vitamin D. Without vitamin D, only 10-15% of calcium is absorbed. Therefore, daily vitamin D supplementation of 1500-2000 IU is suggested for athletes 60 years and older, and/or if there is a history of stress or bone-related injuries.

Focus on Fluids

Another concern for the aging athletic population is dehydration. Aging causes physiological changes to sweat rates, thirst perception, kidney health, and fluid/electrolyte balance. Further, some medications commonly used by older adults impact hydration status. Therefore, Masters athletes may benefit from utilizing a hydration schedule, to support euhydration (optimal hydration), especially around training times. Drinking to thirst may promote under-hydration, and further increase injury risk and declines in performance. Older athletes should prioritize non-caffeinated fluids, daily. Generally, they should aim to consume a baseline of half their body weight in ounces of fluid, sip 8 ounces of fluid for every 15-20 minutes during planned activity, and sip 16 ounces of fluid for every pound of sweat loss they experience from activity.

The Benefits of Omega-3 Fats

For many aging individuals, joint stiffness and arthritis are a concern. Prior literature demonstrates that increased inclusion of omega-3 foods or supplementation may help to reduce perceived joint pain and stiffness and improve joint mobility. Further, prolonged supplementation of omega-3 fats in healthy older adults has been shown to increase rates of muscle protein synthesis and therefore, may help to preserve muscle health. Older adults should aim to consume 3-5 grams/day of omega-3 fats. This may be achieved most readily with the inclusion of a daily third-party certified supplement and a few servings of fish/seafood consumed weekly.

Evidence is strong that older adults can maintain an active lifestyle and can continue to participate in sports throughout the aging process. By developing a daily nutritional pattern that is consistent, and optimizing the intake of the aforementioned areas of concern, a Masters athlete can support their health and success in sport.


  1. Oikawa, S.Y., et al. (2022). Application of sports nutrition to healthy aging. Sports Sci Exch, 35(224): 1-6.
  2. Karpinski, C. and Rosenbloom, C.A. (2017). Sports Nutrition. A Handbook for Professionals (6th Edition). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  3. Desbrow, B., et al. (2019). Nutrition for special populations: Young, female, and masters athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exe, 29(2): 220-227.
  4. Strasser, B., et al. (2021). Nutrition for older athletes: Focus on sex-differences. Nutrients, 13(5): 1-34.

2 thoughts on “Fueling Concerns for Masters Athletes”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, I had no idea so many changes come about with aging! Need to focus more on my Omega 3’s

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