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What Every Athlete Should Know About Supporting Their Bone Health

What Every Athlete Should Know About Supporting Their Bone Health

When you’re involved in competitive sports, your overall health is critical to your success — and that includes your bones. Between grueling practices and the intensity of your games, your body uses and loses vital nutrients, which can ultimately take a toll on your bone health. However, taking the time to optimize your nutrition, calcium intake, and overall strength helps you stay on top of your sport for the long haul.

At 360 Orthopedics in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, and Venice, Florida, our team specializes in orthopedic care, which is important when you’re an accomplished athlete. Our orthopedic specialists diagnose common and serious sports-related injuries and tailor your treatment specifically to you, which gets you back in the game quickly and efficiently.

What is bone health?

Your bones are growing, living organisms that constantly break down and rebuild themselves. When you’re young, your bones remodel themselves at a higher rate — meaning they rebuild faster than they break down. This keeps your bones strong and dense, which protects them from injuries.

You reach the peak of your bone mass around the age of 30. This is the time when your bones are the strongest and when you’ve built up a reserve of bone tissue. The bigger your “bone bank,” the less likely you’ll suffer from issues later on.

As you get older, however, your bones begin to break down much faster than they can rebuild themselves. This decreases your bone mass, leaving them weaker and more brittle.

Consequences of poor bone health

Taking care of your bone health is essential to staying healthy and competing in sports. If you don’t take care of your bones, you can end up with a number of different problems later on.

Osteoporosis is a long-term effect of poor bone health. It’s a disease where your bones become very porous, making them prone to fractures. While this condition often affects older adults, poor bone health when you’re young can put you at a higher risk. 

Female athletes are especially prone to this condition because of the female athlete triad, a combination of issues that result from insufficient energy, menstrual irregularities, and bone loss. As a female athlete, you may experience only one, or all three, of these issues.

Sports and vigorous physical activity put excess pressure on your body and can lead to fractures when you don’t take the time to properly nourish your body. This is even more likely when your nutrition isn’t in sync with your activity levels.

Being involved in a sport means your body is working hard through every practice, workout, and game. In order to avoid an injury, you need to support the extra exertion through your nutrition. This means adequate caloric intake, proper protein consumption, and nutrient-dense foods.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, athletes should be taking in 0.7 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This essentially comes out to 126 to 180 grams of protein per day for an 180-pound athlete.

How to keep your bones in good shape

When you’re a serious athlete, keeping your bones and muscles in great shape is one of the keys to your success. While training and conditioning are very important to your skillset, paying close attention to your nutrition is principal to optimal bone and muscle health. This means you need to take the time to figure out your personalized nutritional needs in order to prevent injury and exhaustion.

The first step in optimizing your overall athletic performance is to hone in on your body’s needs. Here, our specialists advise about how to optimize your bone health as an athlete. A few of the ways to do this include:

Get plenty of calcium

Calcium is a crucial nutrient in the formation of your bones. Your bones also store your body’s reservoir of calcium and help regulate the amount in your blood. So when you don’t get enough calcium through your diet, your bones begin to release stored calcium to make up for the deficit.

As an athlete, you’re also at risk for calcium loss through sweating. When you sweat, your body secretes essential nutrients, meaning you need to stay on top of your calcium intake, more than someone who isn’t involved in sports. Shoot for at least 1000mg of calcium per day, but don’t exceed 2000mg.

Eating foods that are high in calcium when you’re physically active is one of the best ways to keep your bones healthy. Dairy products like milk and yogurt are great ways to get calcium in your body.

Don’t forget vitamin D

Vitamin D is important because it enables your body to absorb calcium. The best way to get vitamin D is through direct sunlight — which can be difficult when you play sports indoors or are covered from head to toe in a uniform or sunscreen. You can, however, ramp up your vitamin D intake through foods like orange juice, egg yolks, and salmon. If you still can’t get enough vitamin D naturally, Dr. Osmani may recommend supplementation.

Weight-bearing exercise helps

Weight-bearing exercises are those that put excess pressure on your bones and muscles against the force of gravity. These exercises cause your bones to work harder, making them stronger and less prone to injury. Examples of this type of exercise include running, basketball, and tennis.

Although protein is important to your body when you’re active, too much can actually be a bad thing. It creates an acidic environment that your body needs to neutralize, which it does with calcium. This takes the stored calcium out of your bones, which leads to decreased density and an increased risk for osteoporosis.

If you’d like to learn more about keeping your bones healthy, don’t hesitate to call our team at 360 Orthopedics or book an appointment online today.

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