Our body has two main sources of calcium – the food we eat and our bones.
99% of the body’s calcium is found in the bones, while a small amount is dissolved in the blood.
This blood calcium is essential for the healthy functioning of the heart, muscles, blood and nerves and is tightly regulated.
Bones act like a calcium bank. When we don't get enough calcium from our food, our body withdraws from that calcium bank (held in our bones) to keep our blood level within a certain tight control. If the balance gets tipped too far in the direction where we're withdrawing more calcium from our bones than we are depositing through our diet, over the long term, bone density gradually declines, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
We reach our peak bone mass in our early 20s. After that, it maintains itself until we hit menopause age as a female, and around 70 our fracture risk increases as a male. It's not a slow, steady decline as we get older because we can't build them up any stronger than when it peaks in our early 20s.
Having really strong bones is super important as a triathlete when we're pounding the pavement – to avoid breaks and stress fractures. So we need to make sure from our early 20s that we are maintaining our bones - every single day!
On our recent Triathlon Nutrition Academy Podcast Episode 40 - A Key Nutrient Endurance Athletes Need Every Day – Calcium, we covered all things Calcium.
Calcium requirements vary throughout different life stages. Requirements are higher in the following groups:
Adults 19-50 years need ~1000mg/day
Unless you’re older or younger and still growing
As a triathlete who needs strong bones – Calcium is an important nutrient to keep on top of - particularly if you don’t consume normal dairy – which has the highest sources of Calcium.
There is a range of other foods that do contain calcium – but you need to make sure you’re getting enough every day. And if taking milk substitutes, make sure they contain the right amount of calcium.
Reading labels is one of the things that we go through inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy - so you know exactly what you're looking for. We also cover on all the essential minerals as well as your nutritional needs throughout the program so you know how to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need as a triathlete to become supercharged!
And between now and then, think about how much calcium you're getting in your diet every day. Even keep a checklist and start to tally up how much you're getting compared to how much you need. Because it's so important that, as an endurance athlete, you do that.