Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body.
99% of calcium is stored in the teeth and bones. While seemingly an insignificant amount, the one percent of calcium that is not stored in your teeth and bones plays a critical role in initiating muscle contraction, regulating nervous system responses, stabilizing blood pressure, encouraging blood clotting, and supporting the release of hormones.
Consuming foods rich in calcium – dairy or calcium-enriched alternatives – daily is important for athletic performance, training recovery, growth and development.
Physical demands during practices, matches and lifting sessions require athletes to jump, land, spike, dig, change directions and make decisions — all of which are made possible through quick reaction times, powerful muscle contractions and a strong skeleton. To carry out these tasks, your body tightly regulates the amount of calcium circulating in your blood.
If you do not consume enough calcium, your body pulls stores from your bones to maintain the necessary level. This compromises the strength of your bones over time and increases your risk of fractures.
Calcium is needed most during adolescence when bone formation and growth is highest; they need 1,300 milligrams of calcium every day, about 300 more than younger children or middle-aged adults. Peak bone density occurs around age 30; therefore, it’s crucial for teens and young adults to consume enough calcium through food sources to support optimal bone mass and strength. Unfortunately, this is also a period when athletes may be at risk of poor calcium intake.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium, so be sure this vitamin is at optimal levels.
Individuals who fall into any of these four categories are prone to increased calcium deficit:
- Limited caloric intake or food restrictive diet
- Heavy sweating (calcium is one of the electrolytes lost in sweat)
- Vegetarian or vegan
- Lactose intolerant
To ensure you’re taking in enough calcium, aim to consume 3-4 servings of calcium-rich foods per day, and remember that calcium is best absorbed in smaller amounts throughout the day rather than fewer, larger servings.
|Mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan, Cheddar||1.5 oz = 300-500 mg||Soymilk, almond mild (fortified)||1 cup = 200-400 mg|
|Yogurt||1 cup = 400 mg||Orange juice (fortified)||1 cup = 300 mg|
|Ricotta||1/2 cup = 300 mg||Tofu (calcium added)||1/2 cup = 250-750 mg|
|Cow's Milk (skim, low-fat, whole fat)||1 cup = 300 mg||Spinach, collard greens, kale (cooked)||1 cup = 20-280 mg|
|Fish with bones (canned sardines, salmon)||3 oz = 200-370 mg||Sesame, chia seeds||1 oz = 200-280 mg|
|Cottage Cheese||1 cup = 250 mg||Soybeans (edamame)||1 cup = 200 mg|
|Almonds||1/4 cup = 100 mg|
Check nutrition labels for calcium content of foods you consume. To quickly determine the amount of calcium, add a zero to the % daily value (DV). For example, if is the DV is 10%, the food contains 100 mg calcium.
High-calcium Meals and Snacks
- 1 cup cereal (fortified with calcium) + 1 cup milk + 1 hard-boiled egg
- 1 cup yogurt +1 cup berries + 1 oz slivered almonds
- Smoothie made with 1 cup orange juice (fortified with calcium) + 1 banana + 1 cup spinach + 1 cup frozen pineapple + optional protein powder
- 1 slice swiss cheese + 1 oz almonds
- 1 cup edamame + 1 oz figs
- 2 cups spinach + 4 oz canned salmon + 2 cups chopped veggies + ½ cup quinoa + 2 tbsp vinaigrette dressing
- ½ cup soba noodles + 1 cup edamame + 1 cup kale + 4 oz chicken
- ½ cup of brown rice + 1 cup broccoli + 1 cup collard greens + 4 oz tofu (processed with calcium salt)
- 2 corn tortillas + 1 oz cheddar cheese + 4 oz ground turkey + ½ cup cabbage + ½ avocado + salsa
- Chia pudding (recipe below)
- 3 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 cup of milk of choice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp honey or sweetener of choice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup blueberries
- Place chia seeds in container with lid
- Stir in milk, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla
- Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours
- Top with berries and enjoy!