Although no one can stop the aging process, there are steps you can take to prevent unnecessary damage to your body as you get older. Many of your clients are likely invested in their overall health and longevity, and a desire to slow down the aging process is part of that. Learn how to guide your clients on how to use proper nutrition and exercise to help them age gracefully and build a younger feeling body from the inside out.
- Identify the causes of premature aging.
- Learn how aging can affect how your clients feel and train.
- Recommend lifestyle and dietary factors that can help your clients rebuild a younger feeling body.
The phrase you are what you eat is especially relevant to the aging process. Eating foods rich in Omega-3s, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamins alongside a solid exercise regimen can help your clients rebuild a younger body, and age gracefully. As a fitness professional, your clients may come to you with questions about the science behind why certain foods help promote graceful aging, as well as ideas on how to incorporate these foods into their diet.
Causes of Premature Aging
Before diving in to the delicious portion of this topic, let’s take a quick look at the causes of premature aging. Free radical damage from smoking, drug use, pollution, and UV exposure accelerates the aging process. Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. This may not sound like a big problem but molecules that are unpaired will search for another electron to pair with. In their journey to find another electron, they cause damage to surrounding molecules. Over time, free radical damage leads to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, accelerating aging and affecting overall health. Extensive free radical damage is even connected with the risk of certain types of cancer (Pham-Huy, L., He & Pham-Huy, C., 2008). The best way to fight free radical damage is by consuming a wide array of antioxidants—found in colorful fruits and vegetables.
Inflammation is also closely connected with the aging process. Inflammation is your body’s reaction to stress and injury. While this is necessary, chronic inflammation affects movement, ability to train, and can lead to chronic illness. Increased oxidative stress associated with aging may also be a factor in chronic inflammation, due to declined antioxidant capacity. Incorporating Omega-3s and antioxidants can help with chronic inflammation.
Graceful Aging with Exercise
While your clients come to you for expert advice on exercise for a myriad of different reasons, a beneficial side effect is that physical activity is a key component in achieving a younger looking and feeling body. Regular and moderate aerobic exercise puts the body in the constant regeneration mode. During each workout, cellular tissues break down, giving your client the opportunity to rebuild healthier tissue. When paired with clean eating, your clients will be able to rebuild a younger feeling body. Additionally, when paired with calcium, regular physical activity may help maintain bone health as people age, and limit risk factors for other health issues (Gremeaux-Nigam et al., 2012).
Graceful Aging and Diet
After your clients workout is a prime time to consume foods that contain nutrients that support cellular repair. Your body uses food as building blocks for regenerating cells. After physical activity, your body has broken down muscle and tissue (catabolism). The food eaten afterwards should contain nutrients used for rebuilding the body (anabolism), including protein, healthy fats (especially Omega-3s), low-glycemic carbohydrates, antioxidants, and calcium.
The role of protein in the body includes repairing body tissue, transmitting signals to coordinate biological processes, providing structure and support for cells, supporting the immune system and more. Protein is found not only in meat, eggs and dairy, but also in nuts, seeds beans, and organic soy. Encourage your clients to eat a wide range of protein for variety and enhanced digestibility.
Essential fatty acids help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, produce hormones and keep skin supple. While your clients likely know to avoid trans-and-saturated fats, make sure they are incorporating enough unsaturated fat. Nuts, seeds, cold-pressed oil, and avocados are great sources of healthy unsaturated fat.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, meaning that your body is unable to make this nutrient on its own and it must be consumed in food. Benefits include supporting cardiovascular health (Calder, 2006), decreasing inflammation (Dei Cas, Manerba, & Vizzardi, 2010), and supporting normal brain development, structure and function (Richardson, 2003). Rich sources of plant-based Omega-3s include chia seed, flaxseed, sacha inchi seed and walnuts.
Carbohydrates are a source of instant energy for your brain, heart and central nervous system. While it is trendy to cut carbs, low-glycemic carbohydrates are an essential part of a balanced diet. Encourage your clients to look for whole grains, and incorporate more starchy vegetables and fruit in their diet to gain beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber from their carbohydrates.
Antioxidants are important to fight premature aging caused by free radical damage. To find foods with high levels of antioxidants, look for rich vibrant fruits and vegetables. Dark berries are especially rich in antioxidants: blueberries, goji berries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries (Nile & Park, 2013). Luckily, these are also delicious and your clients can easily toss them into salads, smoothies or just eat them as a quick snack on-the-go.
Vitamins A, C, and E as well as selenium are also antioxidants. Vitamin A and beta carotene (found in carrot, squash, and sweet potato) help to support eye and skin health (Health Canada, 2012). Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin so it is best paired with unsaturated fats or Omega-3s in a meal or snack. Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits and strawberries) helps with the maintenance of cartilage, teeth, gums, connective tissues and bones as one ages (Health Canada, 2007). Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant found in nuts and seeds (Health Canada, 2009). Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds are a good source of trace mineral and antioxidant selenium (Woods, Wilund, Martin & Kistler, 2011).
As we age, bone health can start to deteriorate. Human bones are constantly breaking down and building back up, but without proper nutrition, the building back up becomes less efficient and can lead to osteoporosis. Increased calcium intake and exercise support bone health. Examples of calcium-rich plant-based foods include broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and beans.
As we age, bone health can start to deteriorate. Human bones are constantly breaking down and building back up, but without proper nutrition, the 'building back up' becomes less efficient and can lead to osteoporosis. Increased calcium intake and exercise support bone health. Examples of calcium-rich plant-based foods include broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and beans.
Longevity and anti-aging are ever-popular topics and concerns. Armed with your exercise plan and coaching on which foods contain the essential nutrients that support longevity, your clients will be able to age gracefully.
Pham-Huy, L., He, H., Pham-Huy, C. (2008). Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 4(2): 89–96. Retrieved From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/
Gremeaux, V., Gayda, M., Lepers, R., Sosner, P., Juneau, M., Nigam, A. (2012). Exercise and longevity. Maturitas, 73(4):312–7.
Calder, P. (2006). n–3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 6, S1505-1519S.
Dei Cas, L., Manerba, A., & Vizzardi, E. (2010). n-3 PUFAs and cardiovascular disease prevention. Future Cardiology, 6.3: p343.
Richardson, A. (2003). The importance of omega-3 fatty acids for behavior, cognition and mood. Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition, 47 (2): 92 /98
Nile, S., Park, S., (2013). Edible berries: Bioactive components and their effect on human health. Nutrition, 30(2):134-44.
Health Canada (2012). Natural Health Product Database Monograph: Vitamin A. Retrieved From: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=178&lang=eng
Health Canada. (2007). Natural Health Product Database Monograph: Vitamin C. Retrieved From: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=182&lang=eng
Health Canada. (2009). Natural Health Product Database Monograph: Vitamin E. Retrieved From: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=184&lang=eng
Health Canada. (2009). Natural Health Product Database Monograph: Selenium. Retrieved From: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=161&lang=eng3
Woods, J., Wilund, K., Martin, S., Kistler, B., (2011). Exercise, Inflammation and Aging. Aging and Disease, 3(1): 130–140. Retrieved From. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3320801/