Bone health is not just an important topic for athletes, but is important for everyone. However, certain groups like female athletes and active individuals are at higher risk for bone health diseases and injuries related to nutrition.
Did you know that bone formation begins before you are even born and continues until your mid to late twenties? By the time you are 20 years old, you have acquired ~90% of your peak bone mass. Along with nutrition, hormones and exercise also impact your bone health. In this blog we are going to focus on nutrition for bone health. For more facts about these other 3 major areas of bone health click here.
Low energy availability (LEA) is one of the most common issues for active individuals that can negatively affect bone health.
Active individuals with LEA are not eating enough to support their activity and normal body functions. One of the body functions that is often affected is the menstrual cycle. Hormonal changes occur as a result of missing or irregular periods, mainly low estrogen levels. Estrogen is essential for regulating bone metabolism. Thus, when estrogen levels drop, bone density decreases as well.
A decrease in bone mineral density increases risk for bone related injuries like stress fractures and also bone related diseases like osteoporosis. To learn more about what happens to your bone health when you don’t consume enough energy click here.
Inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D can also negatively impact bone health.
Calcium is required for bone metabolism and 99% of calcium exists in your bone and teeth. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and also maintains calcium concentrations in the bone. A diet chronically low in calcium and vitamin D, especially for active females, can reduce bone mineral density. This not only increases the risk for development of osteoporosis but also bone injuries like stress fractures.
The first step to ensuring adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D is including foods high in these micronutrients in your diet.
Foods high in calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, almonds, kale, spinach, and fortified soy milk. Although it is great to get calcium from any food source, if you are looking to maximize your calcium intake from food, aim to consume your calcium from dairy sources. These sources contain the most bioavailable form of calcium which is the type your body absorbs most efficiently.
Vitamin D is not found naturally in high amounts in many foods. A few foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, eggs, mushrooms, fortified cereals, fortified milk and soy milk. Don’t forget about the sun! Your body can also make vitamin D from sunlight exposure; it is recommended to get about 15 minutes of exposure per day on your face and arms to meet vitamin D requirements.
If you are not able to meet recommended intake levels of calcium and vitamin D through your diet alone as an active female, supplementation may be necessary for bone health.
There are many different brands of supplements on the market but the ingredients listed on the supplement facts panels are not generally regulated for accuracy. If it is recommended by a health care provider that you take a calcium or vitamin D supplement we recommend that is third party tested for banned substances.
How do you know if a supplement has been third party tested for banned substances? Look for either informed sport certification or NSF sport certification. This will not only help NCAA drug tested athletes who have to be wary of hidden ingredients in supplements but also will give piece of mind to active individuals that the ingredients on the label are what is actually in the bottle.
We do not recommend taking any supplements unless directed by your doctor, sports dietitian, or health care provider.
If you’re looking for a sports dietitian to help you optimize your performance, health, recovery, and sleep through optimizing your fueling and hydration plan, we’re here to help. Check out our performance packages HERE .
If you are looking for a community and resources for building bone strength and health check out what Osteostrong has to offer by clicking the link HERE.