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The Importance of Calcium in Athletes

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Not only is calcium essential for the health of your bones and teeth, but it plays important roles in muscle contraction, nervous system function, stabilization of blood pressure, blood clotting and secretion of hormones. It also contributes to normal brain function and helps maintain a regular heartbeat. Wow!

Are you motivated yet to get your daily dose of calcium? If you’re an athlete, you should be.

We know that calcium is an essential part of a healthy diet to help bones and for other health reasons listed above, yet we see athletes at risk of low calcium levels. It’s time to pay closer attention to your daily diet to make sure you get enough calcium-rich foods, especially if…

  • your total caloric intake is low from dieting;
  • you’re controlling calories for weight class and aesthetic sports;
  • you’re prone to heavy sweating (which leads to loss of calcium);
  • you’re on a vegetarian diet that has limited calcium-rich foods; or
  • you’re training at high intensity without the proper tapering phase.

Calcium-rich foods are especially important for female athletes who fall into any of the above categories and are attempting to improve performance – whether you’re prepping for next season or training for a marathon. Studies have shown that female athletes who train more than seven hours per week are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis due to excessive training. Excessive exercise with insufficient calories to meet training demands can cause hormones to drop, interfering with bone formation and inevitably sport or exercise performance.

Fortunately, there are a ton of easy – and healthy – options to augment your calcium levels so you’re ready for every rep in the gym and every shift on the ice.

The recommended intake for adults is 1000-1500 mg of calcium per day. Since calcium is found in a variety of different foods, achieving the recommended amount is not as difficult as one would think. Drinking a cup of skim milk, for example, contains approximately 300 mg of calcium, and a cup of collard greens contains approximately 350 mg. Other calcium-rich foods are yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli, salmon, sardines or fortified foods such as cereals, juices, soy/rice beverages and tofu.

TAKE YOUR SNACK GAME TO ANOTHER LEVEL

Maximize your calcium absorption by including calcium-containing recovery snacks!

  • Greek yogurt and almonds
  • Hard boiled eggs and string cheese
  • Fruit smoothie (milk or yogurt + calcium and vitamin D fortified orange juice)
  • Chocolate milk

The important message to athletes is to incorporate a diet adequate in calories, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fluids to support the physical demands and replenish the physiologic losses incurred with physical training.

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