Why is the need for calcium increasing among athletes? And who is at high risk for injuries?
Athletes and trainers certainly know that nutrition is of great importance when it comes to achieving athletic goals (no less than the training itself). Studies have shown that proper nutrition before, during and after training affects performance and recovery, and is also important in injury prevention. Although many athletes and trainers place an emphasis on nutrition, most attention is still directed towards energy and protein consumption. Despite the willingness to invest money and resources in dietary supplements and snacks, many athletes are often unaware of the increasing need for essential nutritional ingredients such as calcium to help prevent injury, recovery, and improve athletic performance.
Calcium and sports injuries
In recent years, more and more can be heard from athletes and coaches about the benefits of calcium when it comes to preventing stress fractures. These fractures are typical of athletes, people who trainers, soldiers and more. The main cause of stress fractures is a repetitive and slowly weakening bone (as opposed to fractures caused by a lump injury such as a fall). Calcium is essential for maintaining bone strength, and therefore in a repetitive effort, bone erosion will be greater in a calcium deficiency that may result from its insufficient intake. Correspondingly, as age increases, the odds of stress fractures increase as insufficient calcium increases the chance of low bone density.
Why is the need for calcium increases in the state of regular exercise?
Athletes are exposed to higher physiological pressures than people who are physically inactive. Regular and intense physical workouts may increase a trainee's need for vitamins and minerals - with emphasis on calcium, which participates in the chemical-electrical transmission from the nervous system to the muscles to contract during activities such as breathing, lifting, walking, and so on.
The following is a list of factors that increase the need for calcium among athletes and trainers:
- Loss of calcium in sweat and urine
- Prevention of joint pain
- Preventing bone pain
- Increasing bone-related maintenance needs
If calcium cannot be reached through the food, calcium supplements can complete the deficiency.
Exercising? You are part of the main risk group for osteoporosis
Athletes, and especially women athletes, are at high risk of low bone density if their energy consumption is low or low in calcium. Women who exercise to tweak their bodies and reduce their fat percentage often resort to dietary changes that may increase the potential for calcium deficiency - and thus increase the risk of osteoporosis.
So, what are the symptoms? You may feel a change in menstruation, and the cycle may even stop completely. This is due to a reduction in ovarian estrogen production - which increases the chance of osteoporosis. Of the athletes, the biggest risk group for osteoporosis is long-distance runners, gymnasts, and athletes who train intensely for an extended period.
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Athletes can also have osteoporosis, and the chances of it even increasing.
According to the NIH - the U.S. Government Health Organization - Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue - leading to increased bone fragility and sensitivity to fractures (with emphasis on the hip, spine, and wrist). Although osteoporosis is primarily a mature population, the incidence of skeletal fractures is also prevalent among athletes who exercise intensively without adequate nutrition, which includes adequate calcium. Promoting bone health and preventing osteoporosis are considered essential for athletes and trainers, although this is not always in the minds of trainers and fitness coaches.
The average person's need for calcium intake ranges from 800 to 1,200 mg a day, but he is not always in his daily diet. In contrast, the need for calcium for athletes ranges from 1,000 to 1,600 mg of calcium per day.
When it comes to calcium, two issues of great importance arise:
- Absorption: In dairy products, only about one-third of the calcium is absorbed, and the remaining two-thirds are excreted through the digestive system.
- Competition with other minerals for intestinal absorption: Calcium competes with phosphorus, preventing its absorption in the digestive system