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There are literally thousands of supplements out there for you to choose from, but which ones are the right ones for you as an active 40+ person? In this post, I’ll talk about the 5 essential supplements you need to take for health and vitality as well as what they’ll do for you.
The aim is to provide you with information, what you do with this information is your choice and responsibility. Please consult your doctor or a qualified nutritionist before making any changes to your nutrition and supplementation.
By the time you hit your 40s you’ll probably have noticed that things are beginning to change a little. Your recovery from sports and training is a little slower, training more often feels a little harder and you aren’t seeing the progress you’d expect to see from all your efforts.
Well, this is nothing serious, just the progress of time: You are getting a little older!
For most of us there’s a lot going on at this time of life. Our 40s and 50s are usually full on career years, full on family years and not a moment in between! So what to do?
This isn’t for serious bodybuilders and top-level athletes. Your requirements are specific and should be personalised via a qualified nutritionist or dietician.
If you are looking at increasing your energy levels, gaining some muscle, losing some body fat and getting yourself fit then you are in the right place; this is for you!
So why can’t you just pop a multivitamin and be done with it? Well, you could but is that enough and do you know what your body needs as it changes with age?
First off, the short version. I’ll then go into more detail with information you should at least be aware of in terms of why you should consider these supplements, what they are and what they will do for you.
First of all protein powders and supplements are exactly that, supplements. Before spending your hard-earned cash online or down at the health food shop make sure that your diet and exercise routine is up to scratch. There’s no point in taking a load of supplements if you live on your couch eating junk food!
As we age our body absorbs less of the nutrients that we put into it. So even if you are taking the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamins, minerals and proteins it seems that this may not always be enough for us older, active individuals.
I would recommend that you take a high-quality multivitamin such as Holland & Barrett ABC Plus or these from Nu U Nutrition, along with following a balanced and nutritious diet as a basic starting point.
Research has suggested that the following are the 5 essential supplements and amounts that can be safely taken. However, I would read the small print and as stated above, that you do so at your own risk.
1: Vitamin B12 – 5 to 10 micrograms (𝛍g): Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin and plays an important role in the body.
- It plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells and DNA
- The proper functioning of your nervous system
- It is naturally found in animal foods, including meats with beef being best, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy
- It can also be found in products fortified with B12, such as some varieties of bread and plant-based milk
Unfortunately, B12 deficiency is common, especially in the elderly. But don’t wait until you are old before doing something about it. You’re at risk of deficiency if you don’t get enough from your diet or aren’t able to absorb enough from the food you eat.
2: Vitamin D 5000iu 125mcg (𝛍g): However, 2-4000iu or 50-100mcg 𝛍g is more widely recommended as is using the D3 variant which is more easily absorbed by the body.
- Vitamin D helps keep your bones and teeth strong
- It is best obtained from sunlight and fatty/oily fish
However, as we are discussing here our ability to absorb these nutrients declines with age and appropriate supplementation is recommended. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases. Overexposure to sunlight carries its own risks too!
3: ZMA’s (zinc 30mg, magnesium aspartate 450mg vitamin B6 10-11mg):
These nutrients play several key roles in your body
- Zinc: This trace mineral is essential for more than 300 enzymes involved in metabolism, digestion, immunity, and other areas of your health. There is also evidence that zinc can boost your testosterone production too.
- Magnesium: This mineral supports hundreds of chemical reactions in your body, including energy creation and muscle and nerve function.
- Vitamin B6: This water-soluble vitamin is needed for processes such as making neurotransmitters and nutrient metabolism.
4: Creatine 5g: Creatine is a vehicle for producing ATP, the only energy source the body can use for muscle contraction. It is naturally produced by the body and supplementation can help performance in high intensity workouts.
- It is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells
- It helps produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise
- It is one of the safest, most widely used and researched performance supplements on the market
5: Essential Amino Acid & Branched Chain Amino Acids 1.5-2g/kg body weight: Essential amino acids perform a number of important and varied jobs in your body.
- There are 9 essential amino acids
- Of these 3 are Branched Chain amino acids (BCAA’s)
- BCAA’s aid muscle growth and repair
So there you have it, a quick rundown on the most beneficial supplements that will aid your training and general health through your 40’s, 50’s and beyond. Nothing can replace physical activity and a well-balanced diet, remember to read the recommendations on taking these supplements e.g. take your ZMA’s at night without food to best aid sleep.
I guess that if you are reading this then you are looking for a little more information on the essential supplements and how they can help you to remain active and healthy in your 40s and beyond.
As I’ve already said, we are living busy lives through our 40s and 50s and as such there’s a chance that we will over extend ourselves physically and mentally. Without adequate rest and recovery i.e. sleep and nutrition, this can start a downward spiral of fatigue and stress.
It is important to understand that you will first need to get your nutrition and physical activity in a good place for you to get the most from your supplements; and remember they are called supplements for a reason!
I’m not going to go into any great detail on overall nutrition other than to say a balanced and varied diet is what you should be aiming for. Make good choices and don’t eat lazily! Below is an idea of what foods you should be eating and in what amount.
Let’s Take A Deeper Look At Your 5 Essential Supplements
This next section will look at each of the 5 essential supplements in more detail. I will discuss why these are recommended and what they will do for you. Please again remember that I am only providing you with information here, what you do with this is your responsibility.
Sarcopenia is fast becoming a national health crisis due to inactivity, poorly balanced diets and a lack of resistance training along with other health complications. We are living longer, but those extra years aren’t always lived with vigor. The loss of muscle mass can lead to other complications in later life associated with frailty and can lead to increased risk of falls, poor healing and a weakened immune system. All of this adds up to an increased demand on our health care system which is already under serious pressure, both in terms of cost and resources.
As we age the ever increasing evidence suggests that we need to remain active, preferably with load and resistance. It would also be beneficial to increase our protein intake through a balanced diet and supplementation as well as consider supplementing further with certain vitamins and minerals.
Aging bodies still respond to training and it is still possible to remain mobile, strong and capable well into old age.
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that is essential for the production of red blood cells and DNA. It also supports the proper function of your nervous system and brain.
Intense, high impact training can damage your red blood cells (this is normal), and it is your nervous system that tells your muscles to contract and relax as you workout. So you can see how important this vitamin is in supporting your body through its various activities.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy with liver and kidneys being the richest source.
If you are Vegan then you will find some foods such as plant based milks, cereals and breads are fortified with B12 with the added fortified vitamin being suitable for Vegans.
You may develop a vitamin B12 deficiency if your body does not produce enough intrinsic factor, a protein found in the stomach that helps with the absorption of vitamin B12, or if you don’t eat enough vitamin B12 rich foods.
People at risk of a B12 deficiency include;
- The elderly
- Those who’ve had surgery that removes the part of the bowel that absorbs B12
- People on the drug metformin for diabetes
- People following a strict vegan diet
- Those taking long-term antacid drugs for heartburn
Unfortunately, symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can take years to show up, and diagnosing it can be complex.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” as it is made by the skin through exposure to sunlight. It is also found in certain foods such as salmon, sardines, shrimps and egg yolks.
The D3 version of vitamin D is more easily absorbed by the body, and as such is a more efficient form to take. Overexposure to sunlight carries its own risks so good supplementation is recommended.
Again, some cereals and plant based milks and yogurts are fortified with vitamin D and are suitable for Vegans.
Vitamin D is essential in regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and is needed in sufficient amounts for the normal growth of your bones and teeth. It also helps immune function and improves resistance to certain diseases. Some studies have also shown that vitamin D may also increase your testosterone levels too, an important hormone that reduces rapidly with age. Men and women both need testosterone and an overall balance of hormones in the body.
If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you’re at risk of developing soft (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis). Many factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through the sun alone.
These factors include:
- Being in an area with high pollution
- Spending more time indoors
- Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight
- Having darker skin. (The higher the levels of melanin, the less vitamin D the skin can absorb.)
These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. That’s why it’s important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.
I will also mention here that no matter your skin colour, using sunscreen protection is essential when out in the sun all year round. Protecting yourself in this way is important for your long term health as well as keeping your skin wrinkle free and looking great!
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in adults include:
- tiredness, aches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well
- severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair
- stress fractures, especially in your legs, pelvis, and hips
ZMAs or Zinc, Magnesium Aspartate and Vitamin B6 play a significant role in the body, boosting strength and endurance, aiding muscle growth and can increase testosterone levels too. ZMA’s are very popular among athletes and bodybuilders for these very reasons.
ZMA’s have also been shown to help improve immunity and blood sugar control, and improve your mood especially if you are deficient in any of these vitamins and minerals.
A deficiency in either of the minerals zinc and magnesium may reduce your production of testosterone, a hormone that affects muscle mass, as well as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone that affects cell growth and recovery.
Zinc is a trace mineral that is necessary for the function of over 300 enzymes involved in metabolism, digestion, immunity, and other areas of your health. There is also evidence that zinc can boost your testosterone production too. Zinc has also been shown to improve your recovery and sleep quality, which is essential when training and working hard.
Magnesium supports hundreds of chemical reactions in your body, including energy creation, as well as muscle and nerve function. Magnesium, like zinc, will also help muscle growth and reduce muscle fatigue. Studies have shown that both of these minerals also help reduce and control blood sugar levels.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed for processes such as making neurotransmitters and nutrient metabolism. Vitamin B6 is also essential for your immune system function and is necessary for the production of bacteria fighting white blood cells.
Typical recommendations for ZMA nutrient dosage are as follows:
- Zinc monomethionine: 30 mg — 270% of the RDI
- Magnesium aspartate: 450 mg — 110% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 10–11 mg — 650% of the RDI
This is normally the equivalent to taking three ZMA capsules or three scoops of ZMA powder. However, most supplement labels advise women to take two capsules or two scoops of powder.
Avoid taking more than the recommended dose, as too much zinc may cause side effects.
Most supplement labels advise taking ZMA on an empty stomach about 30–60 minutes before bed. This prevents nutrients like zinc from interacting with others such as calcium.
Creatine is one of the most widely researched and safest performance enhancing supplements available today. It is used widely by athletes and recreational trainers alike to boost muscle size as well as increase strength and power.
Creatine supplements increase your muscles’ natural phosphocreatine stores. Phosphocreatine is essential in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key molecule your cells use for energy and all basic life functions.
During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy for muscular contractions.
The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity, as you use ATP faster than you can reproduce it.
Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise. This in turn enables you to train harder and for longer, and as such see performance benefits from the increased training intensity and volume. The primary mechanism behind creatine’s performance-enhancing effects.
Creatine can also increase new muscle growth by boosting the creation of proteins that make new muscle fibres. Creatine can also increase the levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) that promotes increases in muscle mass. These are key factors for muscle hypertrophy, strength and power gains that make creatine so popular amongst bodybuilders, powerlifters and athletes alike.
For any individual looking to train harder, gain muscle and improve their athletic performance then this has to be on your shopping list. It is safe for long term use when used as directed and will benefit recreational and performance athletes alike.
Follow this link https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-graphs-power-of-creatine to see further information and graphs showing by how much creatine can boost performance and increase muscle mass.
At the end of the day, creatine is one of the cheapest, most effective and safest supplements you can use. It supports a higher quality of life in older adults, brain health, exercise performance and muscle growth.
Vegetarians, who may not obtain enough creatine from their diet, and older adults may find supplementing with creatine particularly helpful. Creatine monohydrate is the best form to take for most people.
Essential and Branched Chain Amino Acids
There are 9 essential amino acids, 3 of which are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), and they perform many tasks in your body. Essential amino acids are vital in the building of proteins for muscle growth and tissue repair, for nutrient absorption and hormone synthesis.
Essential amino acids perform a number of important and varied jobs in your body and have to be obtained from food or supplementation as our body can’t produce them. Whilst BCAA’s (valine, leucine and isoleucine) are the most important for muscle growth with beef being the best natural source of BCAA’s providing the largest amount per lb of food.
- Valine (BCAA)
- Leucine (BCAA)
- Isoleucine (BCAA)
Unlike nonessential amino acids, essential amino acids can’t be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet. In addition, BCAA’s are thus called because of their molecular structure. They have an additional chain off to one side, hence branched chain.
Leucine is thought to play a larger role in building muscle, while valine and isoleucine provide energy within the muscle and help regulate your blood sugar levels.
The best sources of amino acids are animal proteins such as meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Amino acids are broken down from the proteins you eat, they are then used to help you with various processes in your body such as building and repairing muscle, and regulating your immune system.
Foods such as meat, sea foods, poultry, eggs and dairy contain all 9 essential amino acids and are seen as complete proteins. Vegans can gain their complete proteins from soy, quinoa and buckwheat. Beans and nuts are incomplete plant based sources of proteins as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids.
I will add here that anyone looking to increase their protein intake from food sources should eat vegetable protein sources as well as meat and fish to ensure they have a well balanced diet overall.
However, a vegan diet that contains a variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans will provide all the essential amino acids your body needs to function effectively. The plate below will give you an idea of the variety of foods needed by vegans to ensure you consume adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and proteins.
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