Food & Fitness After 50: Clarence Bass, an Example of Lifelong Commitment to Food & Fitness

Bass age 75Last week, I interviewed Mr. Clarence Bass, an 80-year old fitness enthusiast who epitomizes a lifelong commitment to exercise and healthy eating. Please stop and take a moment to visit his website and bookmark it to go back to and read his thoughtful articles (he has posted an article a month since 1980, so there is a lot of good stuff to read!)

What makes Mr. Bass so remarkable is that he was photographing his fitness long before selfies and Instagram and I encourage you to look at his pictorial documenting his training from age 15 to age 80.

Mr. Bass was born in 1937 in New Mexico and picked up a Strength & Health Magazine when he was a young teen and got hooked on the idea of physical training.

Age 15Bass age 15

He was the only boy in his high school home economics class, learning to prepare healthy meals at a time when the term “healthy meals” was an oxymoron. In high school he was a wrestler and won the state championship in the pentathlon. He turned his sights on Olympic weight lifting and in his 40s started to shift his concentration to body building. He competed, and won, many bodybuilding competitions, including Past-40 Mr. America and Mr. USA.

He didn’t spend his entire life in the gym (as you might image looking at his pictures). He practiced law, wrote a monthly column for Muscle & Fitness Magazine for 16 years, wrote 10 books, and raised a family. But, training also had, and continues to have, a high priority and he rarely misses a workout. These days, at age 80, he does an intense strength workout each week, a high-intensity-interval workout (also called HIIT), in addition to walking with this wife in the hills around Albuquerque.

Bass age 45
Age 45

While Mr. Bass has been in top physical shape his entire life (The Cooper Clinic, a world renown center for aerobic fitness, has been testing him for years and places him in the top fitness category for his age every time he is tested), but I asked him what he says to motivate those of us who want to get fit or improve our fitness in our 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond.

“At age 50, it becomes more and more important to get fit. Without strength training and aerobic exercise, we lose muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness,” he says. But, it is never too late to make gains and improve upon what we have. “When people ask me how long it will take to get in shape, I say that is the wrong question! People defeat themselves when they think like that.” Fitness and healthy eating are lifelong pursuits. “The key is finding something that you like to do and then do it; you’ve got to enjoy your workout if it is to be sustainable. People tend to make exercise too complicated!” He also encourages “finding a goal that is important to you” to motivate you to work to reach your goal. But, once you reach your goal, keep pushing. “I don’t like to hear people say, “train to maintain,’ what motivates me is to make progress. That keeps it interesting.”

Bass age 60
Age 60

When it comes to nutrition, he also keeps it simple. “There is such variety in healthy foods and I enjoy many foods, but I stick to eating whole foods, and less refined, highly processed foods as possible. I tell people that if you can’t tell what plant or animal a food came from, it is probably too processed.” Some easy steps to a healthier diet include his advice to:

• “Learn the difference between refined and unrefined foods.”
• “Steer clear of family style servings; plate your meal and put the extra food away to avoid eating more than you need. If you are hungry, you can eat more, but give yourself time to evaluate your hunger before eating second helpings.”
• “Keep tempting foods out of sight or out of the house. I like ice cream, but I don’t keep it in the house. If I want ice cream, I go out and get a milkshake, but I don’t keep it at home.”
• “Include good fats in your diet. Omega-3s are good fats, and the fats in whole milk are proving to be healthful, too. And, drinking whole milk keeps me feeling full.”
• “Be more mindful about your eating; have fewer distractions when eating (TV, cell phone, tablet) so you can concentrate on the food and how much you are eating.”

Bass age 70
Age 70

As we age, it is almost inevitable that we will have some health issues. Mr. Bass has had two hip replacements, but he says, “don’t give in to deterioration.” After surgery or a health issue, get back to physical activity as soon it is medically safe to do so and ask yourself, “how can you help yourself?”

After my conversation with Mr. Bass, I asked myself, “how can I help myself?” I take aerobic classes 3 days a week, a “boot camp ”class 2 days a week, and yoga twice a week, but am I just “training to maintain?” So, to push myself, I signed up for personal training at my local YMCA, starting today! So, thanks to Mr. Bass for pushing me and to David, my personal trainer. I’ll let you know my progress (but probably not by posing in a bathing suit, like Mr. Bass….sometimes you have to draw a line!)

Bass age 80
Age 80



Photo used with permission of Clarence Bass (

Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray are authors of Food & Fitness After 50, encouraging you to eat well, move well, and be well. The book is available at Amazon.




Food & Fitness After 50: “Get in shape to get in shape.”

EdThis guest post was written by Dr. Bob Murray.

Four years ago, Ed had his third back surgery to relieve pain in his low back caused by spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine.) His prescreening physical showed an abnormality in his EKG and his doctors suggested follow-up testing. Both an exercise stress test and a nuclear stress test done at rest confirmed the possibility that Ed’s coronary arteries might be blocked and an angiogram was scheduled. The angiogram verified the doctors’ suspicion: 70-95% blockage of his four main coronary arteries.

Ed’s doctors wanted to keep a close eye on him in case emergency surgery was needed so he remained in the hospital over the weekend until a surgical slot opened up. Open-heart surgery and a quadruple bypass was required to restore normal blood flow to Ed’s heart. After a few days of recovery in the hospital, he returned home to begin the cardiac rehabilitation process so familiar to millions of men and women who have undergone the same procedure.coronary-heart-disease

Ed’s heart surgery was unfortunate but far from unusual for a man in his late 50s. One unusual part about Ed’s experience was that he couldn’t recall having any of the common symptoms related to coronary artery disease such as chest or arm pain, shortness of breath, unusual sweating, or fatigue. Although Ed has a desk job, he keeps himself fit by lifting weights for 45 minutes four mornings before work and then walking 3 to 4 miles after work at a fast clip while carrying a 10-lb shot-put to stress his upper body, a routine he has kept up for decades. In addition, he spends weekends on construction projects at home and around the neighborhood.

The other unusual part of Ed’s story is that he is very lean and muscular, certainly not a poster boy for heart disease. When he graduated from high school, Ed weighed 165 pounds and has maintained that exact weight for the past 40-plus years. Never one to eat much, Ed now follows a stringent low-fat diet of less than 2,000 calories each day consisting of a Clif Bar, string cheese, whole-grain bread, yogurt, fruit, skinless chicken breast or other lean meat, potatoes, and another vegetable. He only goes out to lunch if business requires it; otherwise, Ed eats only what he brings to work, along with drinking diluted coffee all day long for hydration. He may treat himself to a few cookies on some evenings and a couple beers over the weekend. Ed has conditioned himself to what many would consider to be a spartan diet but he rarely gets hungry, has above-average muscle mass and strength, and has maintained a steady body weight for many decades. There’s no disputing that this approach has worked for Ed.

Ed’s long-term goals include being able to continue his exercise and construction projects for as long as possible. He knows he needs to stay physically active to keep his heart and back healthy and recognizes that walking and biking are critical in that regard, but has learned that those activities have to be supplemented with regular strength training. Ed might also consider increasing the protein content of his diet. As we age, our muscles become more resistant to the protein we consume, so we need more protein—along with strength training—to maintain our muscle mass and strength. A good rule of thumb for gauging our daily protein needs is to multiply our body weight in pounds by 0.50 to identify our minimal protein intake and then multiply our body weight by 0.75 to calculate the upper range of daily protein consumption. For example, a 150-lb person should consume between 75 (150 x 0.50) and 112 (150 x 0.75) grams of protein each day.

Ed’s advice to those who want to ramp up their daily physical activity is to first get in shape to get in shape. When we’re unfit, it hurts to exercise, so it’s a good idea to gradually build up to making exercise a part of each day, rather than just try to jump right into an exercise routine that will inevitably cause fatigue and soreness. Spend a few weeks slowly increasing the duration and intensity of exercise—walking more/faster each day is a good way to start—before trying other fitness routines. In other words, take Ed’s advice and get in shape to get in shape.

For more information on heart healthy diets and exercise to get in shape to get you in shape, check out Dr. Murray and Dr. Rosenbloom’s book, Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon.

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Food for your Valentine

Tomorrow we think of affairs of the heart: flowers, cupid, and chocolate all come to mind. But, this year, treat your special someone to something really good for their heart and brain…seafood and fish. OK, not the most romantic or sexy of foods, but fish and seafood provide needed fats for healthy hearts and brains.

Fish and seafood contain high quality protein (here is an older post on protein for those over 50.)

But today we are focusing healthy fats. For that, fish can’t be beat. A quick look at the alphabet soup of healthy fats:

Fish oil pillsOmega-3s: These are the chemical class of healthy fats; if you want to impress your friends tell them the name omega-3s comes how the fat molecule is structured; the omega end of the chemical fat chain and the first double bond, 3 carbons in…hence, “omega-3s.”

EPA and DHA are 2 types of omega-3s that help to keep our blood vessels healthy (a healthy blood vessel dilates and contracts to control blood pressure and move blood throughout the body; a stiff blood vessel is not a healthy one), helps to lower a blood fat called triglycerides, and helps brains cells communicating (fat makes up a large part of our brain). DHA is especially important in brain health. Dr. Tom Brenna, of the Dell Pediatric Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin puts it this way, “as calcium is to the bones, DHA is to the brain.”

ALA is another type of healthy omega-3 found in plant foods like walnuts, chia seeds, and flax. While we need this type of fat, too, only a small amount of it is converted to EPA and DHA, so it isn’t a substitute for fish, seafood, or fish oil supplements.

Health organizations recommend that we eat fish or seafood twice a week (4-ounce portions) to get the needed 250-500 milligrams of EPA and DHA. Not all fish is created equal when it comes to the healthy fats: fatty fish like salmon, trout, anchovies, mackerel, and sardines have the highest levels, with milder fish like cod, haddock, mahi mahi, and tilapia containing lower levels. However, don’t let that discourage your from eating tilapia or mahi mahi, but consider adding some sea bass or tuna in the mix to boost EPA and DHA intake. For great information on everything you want to know about fish…from omega-3 containing fish and seafood to choosing and preparing fish, check out the Seafood Nutrition Partnership.

A couple of other things to consider:
• Frozen or canned fish is not inferior; it is kind to your wallet and is a good way to eat fish if you can’t find fresh seafood in your local market. I use frozen fish to grill and blacken for tasty fish tacos and frozen shrimp for Pad Thai or a stir-fry.
• Grill it, broil it, bake it, steam it, or poach it to keep the omega-3s from losing their potency. The high heat of frying can break down the omega-3s, so save that cooking method for the occasional fish fry.
fish oil• If you just don’t like fish or have a family member who won’t touch it, consider fish oil supplements. Look at the nutrition facts panel to make sure you are getting EPA and DHA in the 250-500 milligram range. On this label you see value of a 1000 milligrams, but not all of that fish oil is EPA and DHA; you’ve got to look at the actual amount of EPA and DHA in the supplement.
• For vegetarians, consider an algae-based omega-3 supplement.

Take this quiz from the Global Organization on EPA and DHA Omegas.

And, happy Valentine’s Day!  More tips on food and fitness after 50 can be found in our book, available on Amazon.


Food & Fitness After 50: Busting Myths on Fibers

bread-and-grainsI put the “s” on the end of fiber for a reason. While you have probably heard for the need to increase fiber intake, Dr. Julie Miller Jones, a professor and researcher from St. Paul, Minnesota, says, “We should talk about fibers, like we talk about vitamins, because they do different things for our health.” I heard Dr. Miller Jones at a recent conference discussing carbohydrate myths. (The session was sponsored by the Grain Foods Foundation, but I was not asked, nor was I compensated to write this post).

One of the myths she addressed is that fruit and vegetables provide all the fiber anyone needs. Look at these three breakfast choices and guess which contains the most fiber: keep in mind that women over age 50 should aim for 25 grams of fiber a day, and men 38 grams.
12-ounces of Bolthouse Farms Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

Multigrain bagel thin with peanut butter and a small apple with the skin

½ cup Fiber One Cereal, ½ cup Cheerios, ¾ cup milk, and ¼ cup of blueberries

Breakfast #1 has only 2.1 grams of fiber, #2 contains 8.6 grams of fiber, and #3 has 19.5 grams of fiber. The biggest contributor to fiber in the third breakfast is the high-fiber breakfast cereal, not the berries (and, is my usual morning breakfast).

The stats of fiber intake are sad! The average intake in the U.S. is 17 grams with only 5% meeting adequate intake for fiber. But, let’s get back to that fibers comment made by Dr. Miller Jones.

Fiber is defined as the fibrous material or roughage in foods that can’t be broken down in the stomach or intestines, so it passes through the body. Fiber can aid in regular bowel movements, can bind with cholesterol to speed its removal, and help keep blood sugar in check. Fiber comes in basically two types:

Insoluble fiber is the kind found in cereals and other grains and acts like a broom to sweep clean the gastro-intestinal tract.
Soluble fiber is found in fruits and vegetables and helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.

Most foods have a bit of both and we need both, but if you want to tackle the fiber shortage, choose grains. It takes a lot of fruits and veggies to get to the recommended intake of fibers. To illustrate, remember that Fiber One cereal? A half cup has 14 grams of fiber. Compare to 4.4 grams in a medium apple with the skin or 3.8 grams in a half cup of blackberries or a half cup of stewed prunes.

Here is a link to a list of high fiber foods.

Label claims can lead you think a food is higher in fiber than it is. If a food product claims to be a “good source” of fiber, that means it has 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. An “excellent” source means a serving has at least 5 grams.

So, don’t ignore the contribution that grains make to your fiber intake; I’ll be the first to admit that high fiber cereals like Fiber One or All-Bran aren’t the tastiest, but mixed with another cereal, used as a topping on yogurt, or crushed like crackers in soup can give you big benefits. People who eat more fiber have less chronic diseases, like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and have lower body weights (for the complete run down on fiber, check out this position paper on the health benefits of fibers.)

Dr. Chris Rosenbloom, along with co-author Dr. Bob Murray, are the authors of Food & Fitness After 50, a guide to helping you eat well, move well, and be well at 50, 60, 70, and beyond. The paperback on Kindle edition are available at Amazon.