Eight Age Defying Strategies: How to Stay at the Top of Your Game

Sue Bird is a 17-year legend, one of the WNBA Greatest of All Time point guards, three-time WNBA national champion with the Seattle Storm (including the 2018 championship), eleven WNBA All-Star Teams, eight All-WNBA Teams, four-time Team USA Gold Medal Olympian, three FIBA world championships and four EuroLeague championships, and even more.

In redefining what it means to really mature in the WNBA, or anywhere, we all need to follow the model that Sue Bird has strategically developed. As her High-Performance Nutrition® coach, I can share some of her strategies with you here, and even more in my latest book, The New Power Eating.

1.Train like you mean it, and I’m not kidding. As we get older, many of us slow down for all sorts of reasons. The fact is that unless you can’t get out of bed you can train. Actually, you can even train in bed…that’s how Pilates began.

2. In order to train like you mean it, you need to eat like an athlete. Oftentimes even athletes are not fueling their bodies for optimal performance. Here’s part of Sue Bird’s story from The New Power Eating.

Sue kept a 10-day diet record so that we could get a very good snapshot of her overall food intake. It revealed that she was underfueling her body 1,000 to 1,500 calories a day, depending on the day’s training protocol. She was taking in only about 100 calories above her resting metabolic rate, with a very slight increase on game days. Few things would tear her body down faster than that large an energy deficit.

Sue has put her own stamp on her food choices, but sticks with the Power Eating program template that we designed 3 years ago. At first, she was skeptical of all the carbohydrate supplementation around training, but today she has added more Vitargo for half-time refueling and encourages her teammates to use it as well. And that talk about retirement? No way! Sue is still fully in the game, and I get to watch her championship play all season as the Floor General of the Seattle Storm.

3. You might not need an extra 1,000 calories a day but eating a plant-rich diet with optimal amounts of carbohydrate, protein and high-performance fat so that your body can continue to build itself up rather than tear itself down is important to feel strong and support your anti-inflammatory immune system, another anti-aging secret.

4. Fuel your training to maximize your results. This is where timing becomes critical. It was hard for Sue, and it is hard for most people to eat enough to nourish and fuel your body fully yet still feel empty enough to train.

If you think that fasting before training or not eating afterward is the smartest approach to losing fat and sculpting your body, you’re wrong. By fueling your body beforehand, you maximize your training effect and caloric burn. Refueling after exercise enhances not only your recovery but also the calories that you burn to fully recover. There is no advantage to underfueling training and you’ll love the way you look and feel when you begin to fully fuel your body to train hard and recover. 

The best sports drink choice that I know, and that fuels Sue Bird, is Vitargo.

5. A busy athlete like Sue Bird is focused on her nutrition, but her training and lifestyle typically creates hours between eating times. Research studies are beginning to show that constant eating, or grazing, may not be as healthy for our systems, especially our digestive system, as allowing more time between eating. There may be some added health value to going 10-12 hours without eating overnight on a regular basis.

6. Hydration is enormously important to the health of every cell in your body and brain. Athletes that monitor their hydration with attention to a fluid plan feel better and play better throughout their careers and beyond. The same is true for you.

7. Use a few key nutritional supplements to cover what you know you are not eating. This is doubly true for vegans.* These may range from fish oil, vitamin D, and calcium, flaxseed meal, protein, and creatine for brain health as standard recommendations.

8. You’ve got to have a plan. Flying by the seat of your pants doesn’t work well for financial planning, and it certainly doesn’t work for lifestyle planning. And just like financial planning, it’s never too late to create a plan for exercise and nutrition. Then once you have a plan, you have to plan to follow it.

Also, try adding Vitargo around your workout to fuel your training. It’s easy, it’s proven, and it works to change your game, your mind, and your body. 

*For more information on nutrient needs of vegans, see The New Power Eating.


Dr. Sue Kleiner

Dr. Susan Kleiner is the owner of High Performance Nutrition, LLC, a consulting firm in Mercer Island, Washington, and the Director of Science and Communication for Vitargo, Inc. She is also currently the High Performance Nutrition Consultant to the Seattle Storm.

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