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Masters athletes are typically older than 35 years and systematically train for and compete in organised forms of sport specifically designed for their age group (Reaburn & Dascombe 2008). Enjoyment, health, fitness, social benefits and competition are the main drivers for participation (Medic 2010; Walsh et al. 2018a). Masters athletes have been categorised into three cohorts: continuers, who have remained engaged with sport since a young age; rekindlers, who played sport in their youth and restarted sport in older age; and late bloomers, who commenced playing sport in their 50s or older. Each cohort has unique motivations for engaging with masters sport (Dionigi 2015).

Over the last 50 years the number of masters athletes competing in masters sporting events has increased exponentially. The first United States Masters Swimming championships, held in Texas in 1970, had only 46 competitors compared with 2378 in 2018 in Indiana. Internationally, the inaugural World Masters Games, held in 1985 in Canada, had 8305 competitors from 61 countries competing in 22 sports compared to 28 000 competitors from 100 countries competing in 28 sports in the 2017 World Masters Games in New Zealand. A substantial increase in older individuals engaging in events was also evident. Physical activity in older people, particularly vigorous activity, decreases risk of chronic lifestyle-related diseases, increases longevity and leads to better health outcomes (for reviews, see Oja et al. 2015; Ito 2019). Participation in sport at any age is associated with a 20–40% reduction in all-cause mortality compared with non-participation (Khan et al. 2012; Oja et al. 2015).

Similar to younger athletes, nutrient requirements for masters athletes, particularly micronutrients, are unknown (see Chapter 12). Because of the limited research on dietary intakes of older athletes, nutrient recommendations for masters athletes are typically based on:

  • the known physiological changes associated with ageing and their impact on nutrient requirements

  • extrapolation from studies on younger athletes

  • reported dietary intakes of older healthy populations

  • population nutrient reference standards for older age groups

  • the presence of any medical condition that requires specific dietary intervention

  • the possible use of medications that may interact with nutrient absorption.


The ageing process, at least in sedentary individuals, is accompanied by many physiological changes that affect nutrient and energy requirements as well as food preferences. These age-related changes include an increased ratio of FM (fat mass) to FFM (fat-free mass = muscle mass and bone mass), with substantial losses of FFM with ageing, decreased absorption and utilisation of some nutrients, reduced immunity, gastric atrophy, decreased sensitivity to taste and smell, and reduced thirst.

Increase in fat mass

In the general population, FM and percentage of body fat increases with ageing to about 80 years (Jackson et al. 2012) ...

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