Thursday, October 20, 2011

Calcium Power

One huge take away from my biomed classes in college was that calcium is a super element. You pretty much need calcium to get your body to do anything productive. For runners, the obvious motivation to get enough calcium in our diet is our bones.

Let me give you a bit of background - your bones are basically your body’s calcium storage units. When the metabolic processes in your body are lacking calcium, it take it from the bones. When the bones are lacking calcium, bone loss occurs and they become very brittle and are more prone to fractures.

Fractures often mean not running (gasp!)

So, it’s super important as a runner, that I’m getting enough calcium in my diet, but even more so because I’m a female.

fun fact: astronauts in orbit often lose bone density faster than a post-menopausal female.

Female athletes are often also at risk for losing their period, which translates to a low level of hormones that play a role in bone density. TMI? Sorry guys, this is important stuff. That’s why, it’s even more important for runners of the female variety to make sure they are getting enough calcium. Those with no, or an irregular period should be getting about 1700 mg per day of calcium (source). Here’s a fun comparison of daily calcium needs:

WHOA! 7 glasses of milk a day? I sure as shit can’t manage that!

So, here are some other ways for you to get more calcium in your diet from natural, whole food sources (source)

  • leafy green vegetables, 40-240mg per cup depending on what type of veggie
  • figs (uncooked), 300 mg per cup
  • almonds, 80 mg per ounce
  • salmon, 170-210 mg per 3 ounce serving
  • canned sardines, 370 mg per 3 ounce serving
  • blackstrap molasses, 135 mg per tablespoon
  • sesame seeds, 280 mg per ounce
  • tempeh, 75 mg per half cup
  • yogurt, 450 mg per cup
  • amaranth, 135 mg per half cup

Then, there is always calcium supplements and calcium enriched foods. There are also some other things to consider

  • vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium, and vitamin D is a fat soluble molecule - so if you take a calcium and vitamin D supplement, take them with a fatty meal for the best absorption
  • a very high intake of sodium, caffeine or protein can cause an increase in the urinary excretion of calcium (a.k.a. you pee out a lot of calcium) (source)
  • certain types of fiber can interfere with calcium absorption by binding to the calcium molecules and sweeping them right through the intestines

I know it’s a lot of things to think about, but try to think about how easy drinking one extra glass of milk or eating a handful of almonds per day would be. A lot of our training is accomplished out there on the road, but equally important is what we put into our bodies.

Got Calcium?
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