Maintaining The Calium Balance for Athletes

Athletes lead the sort of lifestyle that puts them well on the way to a lifetime of good health. Well balanced eating patterns, regular exercise, plenty of fresh air and adequate sleep are factors which add up to a long, healthy life.

There is a word of caution though, especially for females - don’t overdo it! In the attempt to gain that edge over your closest competitor, the temptation to lose that little extra weight and push yourself harder than your body wants to go could have long-lasting consequences. Some endurance athletes as a result of stress cease production of the hormone oestrogen. This causes increased loss of calcium from the bones and could result in early onset of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis or brittle bone disease affects one in four elderly women and one in six elderly men. Bones lose their density and break during normal everyday activities like lifting and bending. Osteoporosis is painful, inconvenient, requires hospitalization and in many cases is fatal. There are many risk factors which increase your chances of developing osteoporosis and as many preventative measures to reduce the risk.

It is now established that a lifetime of adequate calcium intake and regular exercise is most likely to reduce the risk or at least delay the onset of osteoporosis. This means 800mg of calcium every day for an average person and more during periods of growth, pregnancy, lactation and after menopause. Serious athletes should aim for 1000mg per day of calcium.

For those of us who are not familiar with calcium levels, 800mg of calcium translates to 2-3 glasses of milk. A small tub of yogurt or a 30g piece of hard cheese provide the equivalent amount of calcium to one glass of milk, about 300mg.

Getting this amount of calcium is as simple as having a glass of milk or smoothie for breakfast, a cheese and salad roll for lunch and a fruit dessert topped with yogurt for dinner. For teenagers who require 1000mg of calcium, an extra glass of milk when the munchies strike after training or school is a good safety net. There are other sources of calcium but as most athletes watch their fat intake, milk is by far the best choice, followed by yogurt.

Healthy bones will improve your performance, not only out on the track but for the rest of your life. You have a wonderful quality of life now, why not keep it that way by remembering those 2-3 glasses of milk a day?

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Nutrition Extra

Athlete nutrition is not just about weight loss. It is important to fuel the body optimally before, during and after exercise, as well as stay hydrated.

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