Running is one of the easiest and most accessible exercises. Its benefits are dynamic, with a positive impact on the heart, brain, muscles, bones etc. It also serves as a means to lose weight, feel energetic or simply have a good time, making it a great exercise for one’s overall health.
But, as with any new habit that involves a lot of physical activity, runners also need to make certain dietary modifications that not only help sustain the habit, but also boost performance. Running is recognised as a high-impact exercise, which means that when you run, your foot bears around three times your bodyweight through every stride, which puts stress on your bones.
One way to mitigate such stressors is to fulfill your nutritional needs by getting adequate amount of calcium in your diet.
Bone health in women runners
Almost all or 99 per cent of all calcium is stored in bones and teeth, highlighting the significance of calcium in bone health. Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause add a greater significance to calcium needs, which tend to increase as you age or work towards improving your performance.
There is also a higher risk of osteoporosis in those regularly performing a high-impact exercise like running. Osteoporosis indicates compromised bone health, in which your bones become weak and brittle to a degree that a simple act of running can also cause a fracture. And the probability of developing osteoporosis increases if you are training for more than seven hours per week, said Singh.
Women runners and calcium needs
Your body stores calcium by depositing the mineral during the first 25 years of your life. However, this ‘bone bank’ stops depositing calcium as you turn 30 and starts cashing in on the stored calcium.
Calcium requirements in women:
*A teen, aged between 14 and 18, needs 1,300mg of calcium per day through daily diet and supplement.
*An adult, aged between 19 and 70, needs 800mg-1000mg of calcium per day.
*A pregnant and lactating woman’s calcium needs spike during this period to more than 1,300mg of calcium per day.
*The elderly, aged over 70, demand greater amounts of calcium, too, upto 1,300mg per day.
As a runner, your calcium needs are likely to be higher than the average — between 1,000mg to 1,500mg — depending on your fitness goal.
*If you are running to lose weight and are on a calorie-deficit diet, you are probably not getting enough calcium from your daily meals.
*As you run, you tend to sweat and therefore lose calcium.
*If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, your meals are less likely to provide adequate amounts of calcium.
Which foods are good sources of calcium?
Of all the ill-effects that are associated with calcium deficiency in women runners, injury is the most notorious and hurtful. Greater need for calcium is imperative, therefore let’s dive into foods that are rich in the mineral.
Milk, cheese, and yoghurt are excellent sources of calcium. Sardines and salmon (with the bones) are the second-best sources of dietary calcium.
Vegetables like amaranth, agathi leaves, Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli can also help contribute to your daily calcium consumption. Moreover, fruits such as oranges and figs contain small amounts of calcium. Lastly, items like soybeans, tofu, and oatmeal can help boost your calcium supply.
Resort to supplements only if you are unable to meet calcium needs through your diet. “Supplements can be a reliable source, but it is recommended that you first consult your physician or dietitian,” asserted Singh.
*Consider calcium carbonate, as its absorption doesn’t depend on food.
*Avoid taking calcium supplements with a large serving of salad, as large amounts of oxalic acid in greens can impair calcium absorption.
*Another compound that can reduce calcium absorption is caffeine, so avoid taking your supplements right after your cup of coffee or tea.
*Don’t club your iron supplements with calcium. Both minerals use the same binding site, and this can impair iron absorption. Take them at least two hours apart.
Consumption of adequate amounts of calcium through diet is often overlooked, partly because the deficiency is only felt later in adult life, when the body starts using the calcium stores from the bone. It’s therefore important to have a balanced diet and start meeting your calcium needs today!
The author is CEO and Founder, Fitpage