The 5 Diet Changes You Need to Make to Get More Energy After 50
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Are you eating the same foods you always did, but feel as if you are dragging through the day?

Food gives your body energy, but some foods sap energy and make you feel tired. These are the “lazy foods” we all love to eat. We get a quick boost of energy but end up feeling tired.

How Does Your Metabolism Change After 50?

Your metabolism converts food into energy, but three factors change with age:

  1. Physical Activity. When you move throughout the day you burn energy. Reduced physical activity is the biggest factor that can change your metabolism.
  2. Muscle. The more muscle you have the more energy you burn. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Muscle loss is often part of the aging process.
  3. Digestion. Older adults have a decreased ability to absorb and use the nutrients in food. The digestive system moves food more slowly through the colon. Muscles in the digestive tract also become weaker, stiffer and work less efficiently. Your body gets less energy from food.

Prescription drugs and ongoing health conditions also slow your metabolism.

One of the best ways to safeguard your health is to make sure that you are eating a diet that is high in nutrients. This improves your:

  • Physical condition
  • Brain function
  • Bone strength
  • Eyesight
  • Immune system

What Nutrients Do Adults Need?

Nutritional needs change as we pass 50. Adults 50+ should include these nutrients in their diet:

  • Protein
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Dietary fiber
  • Vitamins B6, B12 and E
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Protein is an essential building block in your diet as you age. When you eat enough protein, you are able to maintain your muscle mass. Muscle is important for every activity, from getting out of a chair to running a marathon. More muscle improves better function and increases metabolism.

Focus on getting enough of these important nutrients every day. Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, lean meats, beans and healthy fats like olive oil. Then you will have less room for foods low in nutrition.

How Does the Body Process Food?

Your body transforms simple carbohydrates into glucose before it enters your bloodstream. This spike in blood sugar signals the pancreas to release insulin.

Insulin returns your blood glucose levels to a normal range. Insulin lets your body know that energy is available. The body uses the carbs for a quick burst of energy. But that energy burns out quickly. Then you feel exhausted.

What Foods Should I Avoid to Have More Energy?

Cutting out these five types of food will provide you with more energy.

1. Processed Grains

Foods that are white, sweet and come in a bag are usually highly processed grains. Grains are a source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a form of energy best eaten with the naturally occurring fiber, but these grains have been stripped of fiber during processing.

Foods that contain processed grains include:

  • White bread
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pasta
  • Rice

Processed grains will cause a temporary spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. You get the momentary boost of energy quickly followed by an energy crash.

Processed grains contain few nutrients and vitamins to sustain your body. Over the long-term, you will find yourself feeling more tired. Your energy levels will be more even if you avoid foods that cause spikes and crashes.

Health Tip: Try cauliflower rice instead of regular rice or snack on fruit instead of cookies or cakes!

Photo: bagels

2. Breakfast Cereals

Is a bowl of cereal part of a well-balanced breakfast? Not necessarily. Breakfast cereals are one of the easiest foods to eat but can set you up for a vicious energy spike and crash.

Breakfast cereals are usually highly processed grains such as:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rice

Often the secondary ingredient in breakfast cereals is sugar. Starting the day with a meal high in sugar and low in protein and fiber will set you up for sugar cravings all day. The high amount of carbohydrates are burned through quickly. Without the presence of protein, fats or fiber, your body is left without any nutrient stores. By lunchtime you are starving and ready for a nap.

Health Tip: Try eggs for breakfast to increase your protein in the morning.

3. Sugary Drinks

Drinks that contain added sugars offer a quick pick me up but will slow you down later. The added sugar results in a high-calorie content. Some examples are soda pop, fruit juices, flavored milks and even smoothies.

Some drinks, like soda pop, are completely void of nutrition and fill you up on empty calories. Fruit juice, milk and smoothies may provide some nutrition but the sugar content might outweigh the benefit of the nutrients. The sugar content without the fiber of the fruit will provide a similar crash and burn effect.

Health Tip: Mix fresh fruit into your water for healthy flavoring.

Photo: Mountain Dew bottle

4. Coffee and Energy Drinks

We all have days that start with “I just need a coffee!” When you drink coffee in moderation, there are positive physical and mental effects. Relying on coffee for that short-term mental boost in brain function can be dangerous. It means you are not giving your body the proper fuel (and rest!) it needs to function.

Caffeine, from coffee or energy drinks, can stay in your system for 5-15 hours. Caffeine travels from your bloodstream into your brain, where it reduces your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The caffeine you drink to keep you awake will also interfere with your ability to sleep later. You will be more tired and drained the next day.

Health Tip: Avoid caffeine before bed and set a sleep routine so you wake up refreshed in the morning.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol is another drink that can interfere with the quality of your sleep. If you are drinking a high-calorie alcoholic drink, such as orange juice with vodka or beer, then you get a double hit to your metabolism. Poor sleep quality slows down your metabolism. The empty calories also spike your sugar levels and then you crash.

Health Tip: Drink sparkling water with lemon instead of a vodka soda so you can still enjoy the bubbles without the negative effects.

Photo: pouring wine into a glass

There are many changes to your metabolism and lifestyle that happen after you turn 50. You will benefit by focusing on meeting your body’s nutritional needs. Cut these five lazy foods from your diet. Instead, replace them with healthier choices so you can enjoy increased energy and a faster metabolism. The next time you’re thinking about what to eat, try the recipe below!

Loaded Chicken and Zoodle Soup Recipe

Nothing is more comforting than a rich bowl of chicken noodle soup. There are many ways to make a soup but starting with a protein-rich bone broth is the foundation for nutritional success. You can make your own using a leftover chicken carcass or purchase one that has at least 9 grams of protein per cup.

The collagen found in bone broth can strengthen bones and teeth and build immunity. Bone broth is also rich in the following:

  • Protein (a macronutrient)
  • Vitamin A (which is good for healthy skin and eyes)
  • Vitamin K (which helps with blood clotting and bone metabolism)
  • Manganese (which helps with blood sugar regulation)
  • Zinc (which helps fight colds and inflammation
  • Calcium (think bone health)

Most chicken soup recipes call for diced carrots but grating them is actually easier and provides

a smooth preparation process. Carrots add a slightly sweet flavor as well as a fair amount of vitamin A.

Traditional pasta noodles usually make up the second half of the soup but since one of the keys to good health is a diet full of an abundance of vegetables, zucchini noodles or “zoodles” have taken its place.

A little miso paste adds the full-flavored umami, which is the delicious, savory taste that is predominant in cooked meats and broths.

It also adds beneficial bacteria, which are good for gut health. Studies increasingly show that better health and diversity of your gut microbes can help prevent and treat conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and inflammation (many which are associated with autoimmune diseases).

Preparation: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Yields: 4 Servings

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

¾ cup finely diced yellow onion (about ½ of a medium onion)

¾ cup grated carrot (about 2 medium carrots)

¾ cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks of celery)

1 tsp chopped garlic OR ¼ tsp garlic powder

1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms

1 tbsp white or yellow miso paste

1 tsp poultry seasoning

8 cups chicken bone broth

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cider vinegar

2 cups spinach leaves

4 cups zucchini noodles

2 tsp grated lemon zest

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large ovenproof pot, add the olive oil and heat over high heat until shimmery.
  3. Add the onions, carrots and celery and sauté for one minute.
  4. Add the garlic, miso paste, poultry seasoning and shiitake mushrooms and incorporate them into the carrot mixture for about 15 seconds then turn off the heat to the burner.
  5. Put the lid onto the pot and transfer the pot to the preheated oven. Cook the carrot mixture in the oven for 15 minutes. The mixture will be soft.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the chicken bone broth. Bring the broth up to a boil and add the salt, pepper and cider vinegar.
  7. Turn off the heat and then add the spinach and zucchini noodles.
  8. Sprinkle or zest part of the yellow rind of a lemon over each bowl of soup. Serve immediately.

Find nutritious recipes for people 50+ on our recipe channel

Read: 6 Tips for Getting More Energy after 60

Resources

Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging

7 Foods that Drain Your Energy

Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats

How Nutritional Needs Changes as You Age

Changes During Aging and Their Association with Malnutrition

Nutrition Concerns for Aging Populations

Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories

Nutritional Information

Servings 2.0

Amount Per Serving

calories 422

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 19 g

30 %

Saturated Fat 6 g

30 %

Monounsaturated Fat 6 g

Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g

Trans Fat 0 g

Cholesterol 108 mg

36 %

Sodium 786 mg

33 %

Potassium 350 mg

10 %

Total Carbohydrate 23 g

8 %

Dietary Fiber 2 g

8 %

Sugars 9 g

Protein 37 g

75 %

Vitamin A

16 %

Vitamin C

20 %

Calcium

15 %

About the Author(s)

Crystal Jo is a Registered Nurse who is passionate about helping older adults live happy, healthy lives at home. As a freelance writer, she enjoys educating and inspiring seniors, and those who love them, to choose a healthy life.

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