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 (http://www.cbass.com/index.html).

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: 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 Trends for 2012: Marketing Foods to 50+

Marketers have set their sites on those of us in the 50+ demographic for 2012. Retiring baby boomers want to stay healthy and fit and many new products will be introduced promising better brains, healthier joints, and happier hearts. Leatherhead Food Research notes that glucosamine-fortified foods and beverages for joint health will become increasing available in 2012. The food research group also says to expect more omega-3-fats in foods for cardiovascular and brain health. And, the popular trend of adding the word “natural” to foods and beverages will continue in the New Year.

Sounds great, doesn’t it….but is it really? For years food processors have been adding needed nutrients to food to protect the public health; for example, adding (called fortifying in the food and nutrition world) vitamin D to milk makes sense because (1) milk does not naturally contain vitamin D (even breast feeding mothers have to give infants supplemental vitamin D), and (2) vitamin D is crucial for absorbing the calcium in milk. A more recent example of good, “makes sense” fortification is the addition of calcium to orange juice to increase dietary calcium intake.

However, when it comes to adding glucosamine and chondroitin or omega-3-fatty acids to foods, my response is why? Don’t get me wrong…I think glucosamine is useful for some people with osteoarthritis and omega-3-fatty acids are important for good health, but when added to foods there is usually not enough of the good stuff in the food to justify the cost.

Glucosamine and chondroitin may help rebuild cartilage in damaged joints, especially in the early stages of the disease, and some people report it relieves pain. Here is the catch….you need a lot of the stuff to achieve therapeutic levels and it is very unlikely you will get it in a fortified food. When people ask me about glucosamine and chondroitin as dietary supplements, I suggest they take 1500 milligrams of glucosamine and 1200 milligrams of chondroitin in a divided dose (i.e., 750 milligrams of glucosamine and 600 milligrams of chondroitin twice a day) for about 3 months. If in 3 months there is no improvement of symptoms then it is unlikely that it will work for you.

Same thing goes for omega-3-fatty acids….1000 milligrams (1 gram) may lower heart disease risk but therapeutic doses for triglyceride lowering may be much higher, up to 6 grams per day. And, omega-3 is a general term for a type of fat. What you really want is DHA and EPA and not omega-3s from other sources, like flax seed.

And don’t even get me started on the word “natural.” What is natural is real food; a baked potato is natural, potato chips are not. And no hot dog is ever “natural.” Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration does not approve of the claims natural, all-natural, or pure on a food label.

If you want to stay healthy and active, eating whole foods, cooking your own meals, and choosing a wide variety of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean protein, nuts and seeds is the best way to go. If you want to try glucosamine and chondroitin or omega-3-fats, look for high quality supplements (more on that topic in an upcoming article) or naturally occurring omega-3 foods, like salmon and tuna.