The word calcium brings to mind a vivid image of our skeletal system, but the role calcium plays in our bodies is dynamic. It has a bearing on how vital organs such as the brain and skeletal muscle work. Our ability to flex muscles is aided by minerals such as calcium and salt, which help spread electrical signals between neurons (brain cells), improving our cognitive function and nervous system.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. An astonishing 99 percent is stored in bones and teeth, giving them strength and structure. This fact, coupled with the mineral’s effect on the muscles and brain, is essential for anyone who is a runner. And when we add menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause to the equation, the need and importance of calcium increases dramatically.
CALCIUM DEFICIENCY AND THE RISK OF OSTEOPOROSIS
As a running woman, you may be at a higher risk of osteoporosis for consistently performing high-impact exercises like running. If you train more than seven hours a week, the chances of developing osteoporosis increase. With each stroke, you apply about three times your body weight to the foot. Osteoporosis makes your bones weak and brittle to such an extent that the simple act of running can cause a bone fracture. You can avoid osteoporosis by consuming enough calcium.
Calcium is also known to attach to the fats in your body, reducing the amount of fat that would otherwise accumulate. It is also known to reduce metabolic syndrome in women, which is often associated with various heart conditions and diabetes.
HOW MUCH CALCIUM SHOULD I TAKE DAILY?
Your body has a reserve of calcium; a bone bank account where you continue to accumulate the mineral for the first 25 years of your life. And when you reach 30, your body starts making money in this bank before it lets you deposit any more. Typical calcium requirements in women are:
- A teenager aged 14 to 18 years needs 1,300 mg per day through diet and supplementation.
- An adult between the ages of 19 and 70 needs 800 mg-1000 mg per day.
- The needs of a pregnant and lactating woman increase during this period to more than 1,300 mg of calcium per day.
- Seniors over 70 also demand more, up to 1,300mg per day.
- As a runner, your calcium needs may range from 1,000 mg to 1,500 mg, which is higher than average, depending on your fitness goal.
If you’re running to lose weight and are on a calorie-deficient diet, you’re probably not getting enough calcium in your daily meals. You tend to sweat while running and therefore lose calcium. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, your meals are less likely to provide enough calcium.
BEST SOURCES OF CALCIUM
Calcium is more needed in women who run because a deficiency can cause injury and force the runner to live a sedentary lifestyle as a means of recovery. Therefore, it is important to zero in on foods that are a good source of minerals.
- Milk, cheese and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium.
- Sardines and salmon (with bones) are the second best sources of dietary calcium.
- Vegetables such as amaranth, bok choy, kale, and broccoli can also help add to your daily intake.
- Fruits such as oranges and figs contain small amounts of calcium. Finally, products like soybeans, tofu, and oatmeal can help increase your calcium supply.
While supplements are a reliable source for avoiding calcium deficiency, they should only be sought if calcium needs are difficult to meet through diet. Always consult your doctor or dietitian before adding any supplements to your diet.