Sports Nutrition: The Importance of Calcium

Listen Up! Strong Bones Matter!

Our bones are our first line of defense and they matter! They protect our hearts, lungs, and anchor our muscles. Bone health is a life-long concern and it is very important for active teenagers. Two means to obtain optimum bone health is through smart nutrition and weight bearing exercise.

Calcium is very important to young athletes.
Calcium is the mineral that is found in your body and it plays many roles in keeping your body healthy. It helps cells function properly, is required for muscle contraction, blood vessel regulation, and nerve cell function. The most familiar function of calcium is that it is the mineral that makes bones and teeth hard.

Calcium helps carry the message from brain to your muscles to contract and make them react quickly to make that winning play. Calcium allows your blood vessels to expand for increased blood flow to run the bases faster and it protects your bones when they take a hard hit on the field.

Three servings of dairy every day (i.e. milk, yogurt, and cheese) provide us with all the calcium we need for healthy bone maintenance. Weight bearing exercise such as running and jumping also can help stimulate bone health.

Foods rich in calcium
You can find high amounts of calcium in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Dairy products provide a high quality source of calcium in addition to other essential vitamins and minerals for your body. Calcium can also be found in dark leafy greens, salmon, and tofu.

Active teenagers need approximately 1300 mg of calcium every day. If you do not reach calcium needs through good nutrition every day your body will pull calcium from its storage in your bones to help maintain other normal functions. The end result is weakened bones. Weakened bones don’t help you play hard on the field!

Ways to get more calcium
Here are some ideas on how you can get enough calcium in your diet everyday to perform optimally and stay healthy!

  • Start the day with a bowl of cereal and ice cold milk.
  • At lunch, enjoy an individual sized yogurt with fresh fruit.
  • Refuel with a chocolate milk chug packed full of essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium to help you recover after a long practice.
  • Snack on two slices of cheese the size of dominoes for a calcium punch!
  • Chow down on flavorful salmon and tender green vegetables at dinner.

All servings of calcium rich foods throughout the day add up in the end to help meet your daily needs. These are some examples of calcium rich foods. Look for calcium information on the foods you eat to find out how much calcium is in them to help you consciously meet your daily needs!

Remember: Strong Bones Matter!

Mary Ellen Kolodiej, Nutritionist