AUTHOR: Cliff Harvey, PhD (Clinical Nutritionist & Researcher)
Overall, healthy nutrition is healthy nutrition. What works to be healthy, vital, and perform at your best when you’re young is actually remarkably similar to how you should eat for optimal function as you age! But there are some things that you should focus on to make sure that you are getting the most out of your diet. Read on to learn how to eat according to your age so you can ensure you have healthy nutrition at any age.Some common things change little during your life:
- You should focus on a diet that is mostly natural, whole, and unprocessed.
- You should do some resistance training.
- You should walk more.
- You should get plenty of sleep.
- You should get out in the sun, especially in the morning.
But as time goes on, some things in your diet require a little more focus.
Below is a breakdown of how you should eat according to your age, by decade:
In your 20s: Set up great habits for life, build muscle, and build bone
In our 20s, we are typically still in pretty good shape physically and metabolically. We have come from (hopefully) a fairly active childhood and teenage state, where we might have competed in sports during high school and college, and we generally just moved around a lot more than we tend to do when we enter the workforce.
So, in our 20s, our focus should be on preserving this great state of health and encouraging habits and behaviors that last into later life. And even if you haven’t had a very active life during your teen years, the earlier you start, the greater the impact will be on your lifespan and your health span!
Our 20s are a great time to build muscle, but not necessarily to be like Arnie! (Does that joke show my age?) But rather, building muscle in our 20s will help us preserve insulin sensitivity (which helps us to use nutrients more effectively, with less spill over to body fat storage) and to have a reserve of muscle for some of the inevitable muscle loss that we might experience later in life.
It’s also a great time to increase bone density. It’s been demonstrated that the more bone density that you can build earlier to improve your peak bone mass, the less your risk of osteoporosis later in life.¹
The key to setting yourself up for a lifetime of health is to get on top of your diet in your 20s!
It’s been shown that many different diets are effective for reducing diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease risk, but the diets that do this all focus on natural, whole, unprocessed foods and include real food-based diets, low in processed and refined foods such as whole foods vegan diets, Paleo, primal, and wholefoods low-carb diets.2-8
Exercise in Your 20s
Developing a habit of exercise is also critically important in your 20s. Even if it’s just a 15-25-minute bodyweight or high-intensity style workout in the morning, this will help you to build and retain muscle and support improvement for you bone density. (E.g. Check out the plans we developed at Reconditioned.me)
Nutrition in Your 20s
Example calories and macros:
In your 20s, you will want to consume at least 0.7 g protein per lb body weight per day, 30% calories from fat, and the remainder of your calories from high-quality carbohydrates.
Use protein powder as the base for smoothie meals if you can’t prepare a whole-food meal, and use after training (0.2 g per lb of bodyweight in protein straight after training or approx. 2-4 scoops of Clean Lean Protein).
In your 30s and 40s: Maintain your Leanness
We tend to slow down just a little in our 30s and 40s. Often, even if we’re still pretty active and eat well overall, we can find that it’s just a little bit more difficult to preserve energy and to retain the leanness we did in our 20s, even if we feel we’re doing pretty much the same things.
Exercise in Your 30s and 40s
The reason it’s important to stay lean during this time is simple… you don’t want to let things get too out of hand! While some people can remain healthy even if putting on weight, the reality is that there is a massive correlation between how big we are and how much fat we store, and the health of our metabolic state.
To maintain our leanness and help to preserve energy levels, it’s important to begin to reduce carb intake just a little bit, especially if we are doing less exercise and trying to become that little bit more fat adapted. If we eat a little less carbohydrate, and we focus on reducing or avoiding added sugars and instead focus on a little more protein and healthy fats in the diet, typically we can help to stay a little leaner, without the need to excessively counting calories.
Nutrition in Your 30s and 40s
Example calories and macros:
You might want to boost your protein even higher to at least 1 g protein per lb body weight per day (to improve satiety and help with retaining lean mass and reducing fat), a minimum 30% calories from fat, and the remainder of your calories from high-quality carbohydrate. You can use protein powders in your meals for that extra kick of protein - from smoothies, to oatmeal and plant-based burgers to dips.
Protein bars can also provide a great option for when you're on the go! Clean Lean Protein Bars by Nuzest provide just the right amount of sweet (with no added sugars) and a great source of pea protein to perk you up during your afternoon slump!
50s and 60s: Support Your Brain!
The biggest concern that our patients have as they progress past middle age is the fear of cognitive decline and neurodegeneration. And the biggest factors associated with cognitive decline and the progression of neurodegenerative disorders are a poor diet overall, but also an excessive intake of high carbohydrate foods, but most particularly those foods high in sugar and processed and refined carbs. To support healthy digestion, immunity and absorption, a plant-based, whole-food dietary pattern is a great choice.
To help to support the brain, we should try to become or maintain a high-level of fat-adaptation (the natural state of the body to be able to use both fat and carbohydrate optimally as a fuel) and eat fewer carb foods (especially if we are becoming a little too reliant on processed and refined convenient foods), more healthy fats and oils (like olive oil and coconut oil), and ample protein. We should also think about using some of the ketogenic supplements like MCT oils that can help us to create ketones that are protective against neurodegeneration.
This is also a time that some adaptogens that help support that brain and help us to respond better to stress and varied antioxidants; medicinal mushrooms can also help.
Nutrition in Your 50s and 60s
Example calories and macros:
Keep your protein relatively high in your 50s and 60s and consume at least 1 g protein per lb body weight per day. Boosting fat can often help people to improve satiety, adherence to the diet, and to boost ketone levels. Try a minimum of 60% calories from fat, with the remainder of your calories from protein as above, and the rest from high-quality carbohydrates. Note that most of these carbs will come from vegetables and berries and there are a ton of ways to incorporate a rainbow of these foods into your every day diet.
MCT Oil: Add a tablespoon of MCT to smoothies to boost brain-friendly ketones in the body and top up your MCTs by using functional protein powders like Coffee Coconut + MCTs Clean Lean Protein by Nuzest.
70s+: Ensure Optimal Nutrient Status
As we continue to get older (and wiser) and enter our 70s, we want to continue with the great habits we’ve worked hard at developing throughout the years. We want to make sure that we continue to remain fat-adapted with brain-friendly fuels and ensure that we consistently get enough vitamins and minerals, and secondary nutrients (antioxidants especially) mostly from whole foods, to ensure the body keeps working correctly and our brains stay sharp!
We also need to make sure we are getting enough protein to support our muscle mass, get enough micronutrients to support all of the various chemical actions in the body, and the ongoing support of the brain and central nervous system.
Example calories and macros:
In your 70s, it’s important to keep your protein relatively high; at a bare minimum, this must be at least 0.5 g protein per lb body weight per day. Muscle loss is a very real concern as we age, and it is recommended to take a protein supplement. Some practical tips have been suggested for healthy aging:
- Consume 25-30 g protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (E.g. 150 g of plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, or 1-1 1/2 servings of Clean Lean Protein)9
- Have a protein drink or smoothie with at least 20 g of protein (1 serving of Clean Lean Protein) after exercise.
- Incorporate protein smoothies with berries, kale or spinach, nut butter, plant-based milk, and any other fruits and vegetables as an easy, convenient, protein-rich snack into your diet.
Eating fewer carbohydrates, but more healthy fats and quality protein can often help people to improve satiety, adherence to the diet, and boost ketone levels. Try a minimum of 60% calories from fat, with the remainder of your calories from high-quality carbohydrates. Note that most of these carbs will come from vegetables and berries.