Becoming a Master's Cyclist
One of the joys of getting older as a cyclist is that at some point you can call yourself a master. This has absolutely nothing to do with skill – it’s all about age.
Across the world masters sport is booming. Cycling is particularly popular. You will find large groups of MAMILS and WILMAS hanging around outside cafes or in parks, racing around crit circuits, in bunches on the road or out on the trails.
When do you become a "masters" aged cyclist? If you are over 30 you are classed as a Master.
I never thought as an adult I would get excited about getting older, until I was racing my bike as a masters athlete. I got to move up an age group away from some seriously fast younger women. Specifically, I was turning 45 where it meant I was moving up an age group to be the youngest in the new category. I felt this gave me the advantage of youth over those a few years older. Was this all in my head? Well, I believed it gave me an advantage, so I think it helped. I was also very focused on looking after my cycling nutrition needs – it’s an occupational hazard. The result of me getting older that particular year was a triple crown for road race, crit and TT at the NSW Masters State Titles.
The results of hard work, dedication and good cycling nutrition :-)
Different Nutrition For Men and Women
Some smart changes to the way you eat will give you an advantage over others especially if you are balancing training with all of the other responsibilities that come with being a master, and help to support some of the systems that wind down as we age.
Guys you get off a little more easily than the ladies! The changes in your hormone production start to gradually wind down compared to almost a complete stop for females. And that change for women can have quite a negative impact on all things, day to day and athletic.
Below are some of the changes that occur as we get older as athletes and some solutions to ease the process:
- We all lose muscle as we get older – it’s called sarcopenia. Injury, illness and inactivity make it happen more quickly. Not eating enough protein will also accelerate this. You can reduce the impact of this by making sure you are eating enough protein each day, with a focus around training and racing in particular. If you are injured or have had surgery, an increase in your protein intake is recommended. For masters athletes this needs to be individualised, especially if there are other medical issues in the background such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or hormone changes (ie. menopause). Try these brilliant protein rich, Peanut Butter Chickpea Energy Balls as a great little protein booster during the day.
- Perception of thirst decreases - so we need to be more aware of how much we are sweating out and how much we are replacing. You can measure your weight before and after training to see what your fluid losses are and not rely on thirst as your guide for when to drink.
- Bone density decreases - for cyclists this is a real issue. Cycling is not an activity that supports the preservation of bone mass. So go and lift some weights. For women who are perimenopausal or post-menopausal the lack of estrogen will potentially lead to further bone loss. I suggest working with an Exercise Physiologist if you have never done strength work before.
- Calcium and vitamin D requirements increase to support the loss of bone mass- so check your intake of calcium and check your vitamin D levels in your blood. If you don’t go out in the sun without sunscreen you may find you do need a vitamin D supplement.
- Magnesium needs may change – this is not necessarily due to aging but more to changes in sleep habits. It might improve your ability to get sleep, which can be problematic for all ages but particularly for women during peri-menopause, menopause and post menopause.
- Requirements for Vitamins B6, B12, and E, folic acid, iron and zinc all change. Systems that these work with are immune function, digestion and appetite. For most the requirements for these vitamins and minerals increase. The exception is for us ladies … when we stop menstruating our daily iron needs drop to a similar level to males.
I know my goal as a master is to be able to keep doing the things that I love - so seek the advice of an Accredited Sports Dietitian if you want help with your nutrition needs around exercise.
Rebecca racing amongst the Australian Eucalyptus trees.
Written by Rebecca Hay.
Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Sports Dietitian. Performance Specialist.
Rebecca has over 20 years of experience in the nutrition and performance space. She specialises in sports and performance nutrition and disordered eating. She has participated and competed in a variety of sports including: netball, athletics, sailing, adventure racing, mountain biking, road cycling and triathlon. Her goal is to help her clients with practical and evidence based advice.
Rebecca works with athletes of all ages and abilities. She has worked with many teams and organisations over her years as a dietitian. Currently works in her own private practice and with the Elite Athlete Program at the University of Sydney.
Have you read Rebecca's other nutrition article - Nutrition For Cyclists: What You Need To Know