As the title would suggest, the main outcome for an athlete is to perform.
But, chasing this without robustness is futile..
When looking at athlete robustness, one area of concern is your bone health. We know that 90% of bone formation/mass is achieved by 20 years and that peak bone mass is achieved by 30 years.
However, nutrition, alongside many other factors such as; genetics, race, age and mechanical loading can impact bone health.
If bone health is poor, you’re more likely to pick up stress fracture injuries and miss vital training sessions and competitions.
Good news is upon us as there’s numerous ways we can increase our bone health as outlined by Sale et al (2019)…and it all surrounds not being deficient:
1) Calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin D, potassium and fluoride directly support bone formation.
2) Silicon, manganese, copper, boron, iron, zinc and vitamins A, K, C, B to should be adequate to support other metabolic processes and support bone health.
3) Recommendations are to consume ample amounts of dairy, fruit and vegetables (particularly leafy green veggies) to ensure the above needs are met.
4) Don’t go too low with your calorie intake. In other words, low energy availability (LEA) is bad. This is defined as the amount of calories left for the body to function properly after it’s catered for the demands of exercise. I.e. if calories are too low, it can cause a reduction in bone mass and strength leading to more bone related injuries.
5) LEA is perhaps tolerated in males Vs females when it comes to bone health, so ladies, don’t to too low with your calorie restriction.
6) Low carbohydrate/high fat diets appear to impair bone health and bone mineral density (BMD) – perhaps due to lower IGF-1 levels.
7) High protein diets most likely don’t cause the bone to ‘leak’ calcium. So keep protein intake high as bone tissue is ~50% protein.
8) Vitamin D deficiency/inadequacy can impair calcium and phosphorous regulation and subsequently bone health/lower BMD.
9) Potentially look at higher calcium intakes surrounding exercise to replace calcium loss via sweat. This will not only support bone health, but many other important cellular processes within the body.
10) In a similar vein, replace sodium loss through sweat as it appears that low sodium levels (hyponatremia) might negatively impact the bone.
11) Consuming protein and carbs post exercise Vs nothing at all favours bone health along with overall recovery from exercise.
So, long story short…
If you want strong bones from a nutrition perspective, don’t be deficient in anything. Just meet the body’s demands.
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