Bone health is often an area that is ironically neglected during growth phases but given utmost importance in later stages of life.
Bones are in a state of constant flux, continuously breaking down and rebuilding. In the initial eons of life, they rebuild faster than they break down as the skeleton grows. However, as we age, bones take more time to heal and rebuild, which is why keeping bones and joints healthy especially for athletes is critical for enduring performance.
Adolescents who participate in endurance sports, such as running, and non-weight-bearing sports, such as biking and swimming, often have lower BMD. Childhood and Adolescent stages revolve around a critical time for accruing peak bone mass. Inadequate energy intake is one of the major causes of poor bone mass building.
If swimmers practice good nutrition practices from a young age, they can achieve accrue peak bone mass and perform better without any incidents of injuries.
Let us look at some factors that promote healthy bones and joints:
Calcium is important for your bones and teeth and also plays a role in heart health, muscle function and nerve signaling. Many athletes do not consume enough calcium to maximize lifelong bone health. In today’s age, calcium deficiency can be partially blamed for the consumption of popular beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks. In addition to this problem, we also lose calcium on a daily basis through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, and urine. Our body cannot produce lost calcium, so if we do not get enough calcium through our diet to meet our body’s daily requirements, our body begins to leach calcium from our bones. This eventually leads to bone loss, low bone density and an increase in fractured bones. As an athlete, the daily calcium requirement ranges from 1000mg to 1500mg depending on gender and age. Calcium deficiency can manifest itself in muscle cramps and spasms as well
Food that is rich in calcium is as follows chia seeds, sesame seeds, celery, milk and milk products, salmon and sardines, beans and lentil, almonds, fig, rhubarb, amaranth leaves, tofu, and edamame, etc.
In today’s times, many athletes have been found to be Vitamin D deficient. Although sunlight is the only source of Vitamin D, it is not reliable anymore due to smog, disrupted ozone layer and sunscreen use; all of which interfere with the production of vitamin D. Moreover, research strongly suggests that vitamin D plays a key role in injury prevention, improved neuromuscular function, reduced inflammation, reduced risk of stress fractures and stronger immune system. For those athletes that are Vitamin D deficient, Calcium absorption is hampered as well. Vitamin D supplements are therefore required during deficiencies to prevent loss of bone mineral density.
Food sources of Vitamin D include swordfish, salmon, tuna fish, whole egg, liver, nuts, seeds and soya products.
Author: Mihira A R Khopkar
B.Sc. Dietetics, M.Sc. Sports Nutrition
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