Up Your Calcium Intake to Improve Athletic Performance

November 14, 2011

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Calcium is one of the most important minerals for female athletes to consume on a regular basis. It serves several essential  functions in the body, including building healthy, strong bones and teeth. But did you know that it might also improve your sports performance?

Calcium plays a vital role in muscle contraction and relaxation. Without it, your muscles cannot function properly. Each time a muscle is about to contract, calcium is pumped into the muscle fiber, enabling it to shorten. When the muscle relaxes, calcium is pumped out of the fiber, which can then return to its resting state.

This process occurs repeatedly every time your muscles contract and relax, so having sufficient calcium in your body is critically important. A calcium deficiency will cause your muscles to suffer from unexpected twitching, cramps and fatigue, all of which degrade your performance.

Suzanne Nelson-Steen, D.Sc., R.D., sports nutritionist for the University of Washington, recommends that female athletes take in about 1,300 mg of calcium per day. Your best bet for meeting this requirement is through a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of calcium-rich foods. Below are some top options.

Low-Fat Milk
Serving: 1 cup
Calcium: 290 mg

Yogurt
Serving: 6 oz. container
Calcium: 258 mg

Calcium Fortified Orange Juice
Serving: 1 cup
Calcium: 350 mg

Spinach
Serving: 100 grams (about ⅓ of a bunch)
Calcium: 99 mg

Almonds
Serving: 1 cup
Calcium: 251 mg

Source:  Suzanne Nelson-Steen, "Sports Nutrition Essentials for the Female Athlete." GSSI: Sports Medicine Tip Sheet.
Photo:  instructables.com

Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
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