Trail Runner’s Book Review: Performance Nutrition for Masters Athletes

High Performance Nutrition for Masters Athletes: Fuel Smartly and Efficiently at Age 35 and Beyond, by Lauren A. Antonucci, RDN, CSSD. Reviewed by trail runner Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian.

At some point during our natural aging process, frustration sets in. Despite following the same old training practices, both speed and endurance levels decline. At first, it seems logically attributable to the accumulation of birthdays, but when faced with sharp nosedives, it appears prudent to seek further answers. In her book, High Performance Nutrition for Masters Athletes, Lauren Antonucci, a specialist in sports dietetics, suggests that dietary habits might provide the missing link. She maintains that as we grow older, our nutritional needs change as we require more protein, more calcium and vitamin D. What we could have gotten away with decades earlier, boomerangs as we continue to challenge our bodies to max effort.

To this end, Antonucci addresses under-fueling as one of the most common concerns for open as well as masters athletes. Although she includes an extensive chapter on eating disorders, she acknowledges that some of the confusion is simply that we have no idea how much food we should be consuming and what the timing should be for sufficient energy needs. She supplies ample tables for adequate protein, carbohydrate, fat and fluid intake, but if the truth be told, my eyes tend to glaze over when confronted with grams, ounces and milliliters. However. her accompanying outlines of typical meal plans make everything clear, especially as they are not all based on a 150-pound male but include all genders and sizes. Truth be told, I am flabbergasted by how much I am supposed to be eating (and am not), especially in the realm of increasing protein needs, not to mention my skimpy post-workout meals.

Dave Dunham at the 2014 World Masters Mountain Running Championships in Austria.

What brings this technical, yet carefully explained discourse to life are the multiple and varied masters athlete interviews, which delineate how runners have turned their performances around by paying increased attention to their nutritional and hydration needs. As a resident of the Northeastern section of our country, I was thrilled to discover how many represented folks hailing from this area. Too often, books and articles tend to focus on Western locales and athletes, totally overlooking the fact that many of us call the Eastern half home. It really helped to learn from these other runners, who had overcome similar struggles and made me realize the importance of adapting my outlook and training as my body ages. These are in-depth examinations, often occupying more than several pages, allowing the reader to fully explore the concepts illustrated. Perhaps because of their length, though, they are not as well integrated within the main text as they might have been, causing the reader to backtrack when the dialogue is over.

For the masters runner who is willing to adapt, Antonucci’s language is hopeful and reassuring, making you feel as if change is a definite possibility. She urges you to introduce small, doable tweaks until you are comfortable with the process. The emphasis is more on Dr. George Sheehan’s “experiment of one” philosophy where you learn how to tune into the individual needs of your own unique body requirements.

And finally, if you have any questions, Antonucci encourages you to contact her at [email protected]. Now how many authors are courageous enough to open the floodgates? I know I took advantage of her offer for some individualized advice, and her suggestions seem to be working!


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