Weight-bearing activities (e.g., walking, running, tennis, soccer, basketball and strength training with weights) strengthen bones. However, participating in weight-bearing activities doesn’t make up for poor calcium intake which only you can provide your body. Your body needs enough calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly. If your body lacks sufficient calcium it borrows calcium from your bones to make up for the loss.
Athletes in particular need calcium to avoid weakening their bones, which could cause bones to crack, resulting in injuries such as stress fractures.
Calcium & female athletes
Studies have found female athletes training more than 7 hours a week have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Intense training schedules combined with insufficient calories to support training can cause hormonal changes that may prevent a menstrual cycle. This can interfere with bone growth and in turn can hurt an athlete’s physical performance.
Factors leading to insufficient calcium
If you’re an athlete, runner or active individual, you should make sure your body gets enough daily calcium, especially if you’re:
- On a diet or controlled calorie training regimen that may result in a low caloric intake
- Not getting enough calcium-rich foods in your diet
- Prone to heavy sweating (leading to losses of calcium in sweat)
- On a vegetarian diet that may limit calcium-rich foods
- Doing high intensity training without the proper tapering phase
Female athletes, especially those falling under any of the categories above, should be particularly rigorous about getting their daily dose of calcium.
How much calcium do I need?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for calcium in adults is:
- Males and Females between 19 to 50 years: 1000 mg daily*
- Males 51 to 70 years: 1000 mg daily*
- Females 51 to 70 years: 1200 mg daily*
- Males and Females over 71 years: 1200 mg daily*
*It is important to note that adults can only absorb up to 500 mg of calcium at a time, so doses should be divided up over the day. If you take too much calcium at one time, most of it will end up in your kidneys which can cause damage to them over time.
How can I get my daily calcium?
Calcium-rich foods, can help boost your consumption of calcium. But even if you’re drinking a glass of milk a day (300mg of calcium), you may not be getting enough calcium.
Maximize your calcium intake and prevent injury by including some of the following calcium-rich foods and substitutes in your daily diet:
- Cal-EZ (this can be mixed into your tea, juice, coffee, smoothie, protein shake, yogurt and more!)
- Greek yogurt
- Glass of milk
- Fruit smoothie (made with milk, yogurt and/or Cal-EZ)