Focus on Calcium
We all know that calcium is good for our bones, but have you ever considered other ways this mineral may help support your running?
In this episode we delve into the consequences of suboptimal calcium status on running performance with a particular focus on muscle contraction. We also consider some of the risk factors for poor calcium status before highlighting several key dietary strategies to help optimise a daily intake of calcium.
Calcium is a mineral that is well known to support bone and teeth. But did you know…..
Calcium has many functions within the body including:
But the principle ones a runner would want to focus on include:
Muscle Contraction is complex but put simply; each muscle fibre (or muscle cell) is made up of smaller fibres called myofibrils. These myofibrils contain even smaller structures called actin and myosin filaments. It is these filaments (actin and myosin) that slide in and out between each other that form the muscle contraction. Calcium is crucial to activating this muscle contraction cycle. If there is insufficient calcium available then the muscle contraction cycle slows and the muscle becomes fatigued really quickly.
The hormones Calcitonin and Parathyroid hormone (PTH) alongside the pro-hormone Vitamin D are very important for maintaining blood serum Calcium balance (homeostasis).
The kidneys are also important in maintaining Calcium balance. When stimulated by PTH, they will increase the reabsorption of Calcium, thus less is excreted.
Calcium plays an important role in the REGULATION of the energy cycle by activating various enzymes to produce ATP and as we know ATP is important within the muscle contraction cycle.
Thinking about the runner; if calcium levels are insufficient then it could lead to incomplete muscle contraction and early fatiguing of muscle. It may also increase the runner’s risk of developing a stress fracture, which could remove them from running for at least 12 weeks to recover.
There are several potential risk factors for suboptimal calcium levels, some of which are within our control and others that are outside of our control. Examples include:
Suboptimal levels of calcium don't always produce symptoms initially, but as the insufficiency develops then symptoms will become apparent. These may include:
But remember, many of these symptoms could be associated with other nutrient deficiencies, so testing would be recommended to ensure the primary cause is being addressed.
There are several nutritional interventions that could be considered to help reverse low Calcium status and encourage optimal levels. These include:
Some of these foods, especially green leafy vegetables contain oxalates so cook them before eating.
1) Calcium is classed as a mineral of which 99% is found in bone and teeth, only 1% is found in blood serum
2) A maximum of 35% of the calcium we ingest is absorbed from the GI tract and of the 35% absorbed…approx. 50% is excreted via the kidneys….so an optimal daily intake of calcium is essential to help maintain appropriate circulating levels to help prevent the leaching of it from bone
3)Calcium has MANY functions in the body, however the key ones for a runner include:
4) Although vasodilation i.e. the widening of blood vessels would also be importantThere are several ways the body controls calcium levels in bone and blood:
PTH is the master controller of vitamin D and the kidneys actions on Calcium
The thyroid gland controls Calcitonin synthesis and function
5) Some symptoms that may suggest Ca levels are suboptimal include:
But there are many more and remember, many of these symptoms are also associated with other nutrient deficiencies, so best to test to ensure you are addressing the primary cause.
6) There are many risk factors for low calcium levels, some of which are outside our control and some that are within our control. Examples include:
7) Finally, there are many foods that contain Ca….it is not just dairy products. Examples include:
But remember some foods contain oxalates that may inhibit Ca absorption, but they can be disarmed by boiling or steaming the foods
8) Finally, finally, as long as you are healthy and you keep your meals healthy and varied it is possible to achieve your daily Ca needs via the diet, even if you are vegetarian or vegan.
The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and
advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment.
If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact
your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.
Aileen Smith and Karen Campbell met at as nutrition students (Institute for Optimum Nutrition, London) and became lifelong friends and nutritional buddies! Both have a love of running and a passion for nutrition, delicious food and healthy living.
Together they host RUNNERS HEALTH HUB. A place for like-minded runners who are looking for simple ways to support running performance, energy, endurance, and general great health.
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