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How much calcium do I need?

We all know calcium is important for bone health, and that we can get plenty of it from milk, but there are many things athletes tend to overlook when talking about calcium and the potential need for supplementation.

What does calcium do?

Calcium plays a major role in building and strengthening bone tissue while also preventing bone loss as we age. Calcium also plays a role in muscle contraction, nerve function, blood clotting and heart beating.

Recommended calcium intake:

Age

Recommended

Daily Intake

9-181,300 mg   
19-50   1,000 mg   
51 and up1,200 mg

 

Note: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need the same amount as their respective age group. Individuals who exercise outside and are heavy sweaters may need slightly more due to calcium lost through sweat.

What happens if we consume too much or too little?

If your diet is lacking in calcium some significant issues can occur. Poor calcium intake can hinder athletes reaching their full growth potential and puts them at risk for poor bone density. Excessive calcium intake, greater than 2,500 mg/day, can lead to increased risk of kidney stones and decreased absorption of other important minerals, such as iron.

So, calcium comes from milk and…?

All dairy products, not just milk, are great sources of calcium. Try adding cheese as a snack, or yogurt or flavored milks to breakfast. 

Additionally, other non-dairy foods are valuable sources of calcium. Examples include:

  • Orange juice fortified with calcium
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli and bok choy)
  • Almonds
  • Tofu fortified with calcium
  • Salmon with edible bones

Is a calcium supplement necessary?

As with other vitamins and minerals, athletes are typically able to meet their calcium needs without supplements, due to their high volume of food intake. While more research is needed, recent studies have linked calcium supplementation to potential cardiovascular issues such as heart disease and heart attacks. If it is possible for athletes to consume three servings of dairy or a well-balanced diverse diet rich in calcium-containing foods, calcium supplementation should be avoided. As with any supplement, talk with a dietitian and your physician before taking a calcium supplement to ensure it is right for you.