The Importance of Calcium for Sportspeople

A low calcium intake in the diet of sportspeople can increase the risk of bone and muscle injuries. This is because it's essential to prevent cramps and maintain optimal performance.
The Importance of Calcium for Sportspeople

Last update: 26 October, 2021

Calcium is an important mineral, for sportspeople in particular, as it’s involved in the transmission of nerve impulses and, thus, directly affects athletic performance.

This nutrient is responsible for depolarizing the neurons, which allows the passage of the electric currents that’ll later innervate the muscle tissue and cause a contraction.

A failure in the activation of calcium channels is linked to the onset of fatigue. This situation can originate from the accumulation of waste metabolites in the tissues or from a loss of this mineral through perspiration.

What are the functions of calcium and why is it important in the diet of sportspeople? Continue reading to find out some answers to these questions and more.

Calcium is part of the bones

This mineral is important in a sportsperson’s diet because it’s part of the makeup of the bones. In fact, the human body contains a lot of it.

A proper intake of this nutrient, together with frequent sun exposure, reduces the risk of bone fracture in adulthood, as stated in an article published in the journal JAMA.

It’s for this reason that a correct intake of foods with this mineral minimizes the problems associated with bone health. This is crucial for sportspeople, especially for those whose activities involve physical contact.

A walking pair of legs.
Calcium plays an important role in the diet of sportspeople because it contributes to maintaining optimal bone health.

Involved in fatigue

Calcium is also one of the minerals involved in maintaining electrolyte balance. Thus, a reduction in its deposits could lead to the onset of fatigue or even to cramps and muscle pain.

It is, therefore, recommended that you take a mineral salt tablet before starting a long training session to compensate for electrolyte losses through sweat.

As you can see, monitoring electrolyte balance is one of the most effective ways to avoid sharp drops in performance. At least this is what a publication in the journal Materia Socio-Medica states.

Nerve impulse depends on calcium

The efficiency of nerve impulse transmission depends on calcium. Furthermore, depolarization of the neurons doesn’t occur without this mineral. Thus, it makes it impossible to generate the potential needed to conduct the electrical signals through the axons. Consequently, the signal doesn’t reach the muscle tissues and tissue contraction isn’t possible.

However, there must be a high level of fatigue to reach this extreme, or, alternatively, the levels of calcium in the body must be too low. This is rare, except in cases of extreme dehydration.

Calcium for sportspeople

The good news is that calcium is present in most common diets. This is because it’s present in most dairy products and several vegetables.

Do keep in mind there are certain substances that limit its absorption, such as phytates. There are also vitamins capable of increasing the bioavailability of calcium. This is the case with vitamin D, whose endogenous synthesis depends on sun exposure.

Also, some foods, like oily fish and eggs, can provide this vitamin, albeit in low amounts.

Various dairy products.
Dairy products have a significant calcium content. However, you must supplement their intake with sources of vitamin D.

Learn about some Calcium and Vitamin D-Rich Foods to Care for Your Bone Health

Calcium is an essential mineral for sportspeople

Calcium is an essential mineral for all the aforementioned reasons. It’s easily found in nature and parts of the human body.

Ensuring the correct levels of this nutrient helps prevent the onset of muscle cramps and fatigue processes. It’s also responsible for ensuring the transmission of nerve impulses.

Finally, a deficiency of this nutrient can lead to the appearance of chronic and complex conditions. For this reason, you must ensure its intake together with that of vitamin D, from the very first years of life.

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  • Zhao JG., Zeng XT., Wang J., Liu L., Association between calcium or vitamin D supplementation and fracture incidence in community dwelling older adults: a systematic review and meta analysis. JAMA, 2017. 318 (24): 2466-2482.
  • Jahic D., Begic E., Exercise associated muscle cramp doubts about the cause. Mater Sociomed, 2018. 30 (1): 67-69.