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Sports nutrition for masters athletes: balancing chronic lifestyle conditions with performance


Exercise & Sport Science, University of Sydney, 75 East St, Lidcombe NSW 2141, Australia


Masters athletes include adults who have a history of lifelong activity in addition to those commencing competitive exercise in middle to later life. Although regular physical activity is central to the prevention and management of chronic metabolic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, masters athletes may undertake competitive sport to combat their onset and deleterious effects. This article will address the key nutritional interventions to assist masters athletes in the prevention or management of lifestyle diseases in a manner that is also consistent with optimising athletic performance. Provided that carbohydrate requirements are met for the specific activities being undertaken, nutritious dietary patterns like the Mediterranean diet are usually ideal and are compatible with the risk reduction and management goals for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and CVD. Professional guidance from a sports dietitian/nutritionist will assist with the optimisation of training/competition and health outcomes.


Masters athletes include adults who have a history of lifelong activity as well as those commencing competitive sport in middle to later life. The training background and motivation to compete in masters events may vary widely (1) so the relative health within this group can differ substantially. Although prevalence data on chronic metabolic disease such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) is limited in masters athletes, the available evidence indicates that they are healthier, are less likely to suffer from lifestyle diseases, and have decreased all-cause mortality (2, 3). For example, Walsh et al found that in a sample of over 6,000 masters athletes aged 25 to 91 years, the usual trend for prevalence of higher BMI with increasing age was reversed (4) and in swimmers, incidence of obesity was significantly reduced in this cohort compared to adult Australians (9% versus 21%) and other represented populations (Canada, UK, New Zealand, USA (5). A 16-year follow-up of Finnish masters athletes found no cases of type 2 diabetes versus 9% in controls (2) although this ...

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